best woodworking squares

Best Woodworking Squares (6 Must-Have Squares for Your Toolbox)

A couple of my favorite squares in my workshop are my 7” and 12” speed squares. I use them for drawing shorter lines across different sized pieces of lumber, and sometimes (when using my circular saw), I will use one as a guide for the cut. There are a handful of different types of squares available to the woodworker. If you use the right one for the right job, you end up with excellent results. On the other side of that, if you use the wrong square for the improper application, you end up with poor results. 

What is the best woodworking square?

The best woodworking square will depend on the job you require the square. A sliding t-bevel square is best for moldings. Cabinetmakers commonly use a try square. A framing square is best for marking sheets of plywood and other framing related duties. And a speed square is best for marking lumber for quick cuts as well as angles on stairs, etc.

As you can see, there are multiple types of squares that all have different primary purposes but can overlap and are interchangeably (sometimes) to get the job done. It’s not only good enough to know the use of a square but having some knowledge on which brands of squares are better than others is also beneficial. If you purchase correctly in the first place, your squares can last you for many years, so why not get it right in the first place?

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ProductSize Of SquareFeaturesRating (out of 5) 
Dewalt 7" Speed Square
Dewalt 7" Speed Square
7"

  • SAE

  • 1/4" scribe notches

  • Common rafter cut markers

  • Durable Aluminum construction

4.7Check Price
Swanson Speed Square
Swanson Speed Square
7"

  • SAE

  • 1/4" scribe notches

  • Common rafter cut markers

  • Durable Aluminum construction

4.8Check Price
Swanson Speed Square Combo Pack
Swanson Speed Square Combo Pack
7" & 12"

  • SAE

  • 1/4" scribe notches

  • Common rafter cut markers

  • Durable Aluminum construction

  • Convenient combo pack

4.8Check Price
Dewalt 7" Speed Square
Dewalt 7" Speed Square
7"

  • SAE

  • 1/4" scribe notches

  • Common rafter cut markers

  • Durable Aluminum construction

  • Refurbished for cost savings

4.7Check Price
Johnson Framing Square
Johnson Framing Square
24" x 16"

  • SAE

  • Body: 24" x 2"

  • Tongue: 16" x 1-1/2"

  • Graduations: 1/8", 1/10", 1/12", 1/16"

  • Steel Construction

4.2Check Price
Irwin Combination Square
Irwin Combination Square
16"

  • SAE

  • Built-in level

  • Accurate 90-degree and 45-degree angles

  • Durable cast zinc body

  • Stainless steel ruler

4.5Check Price
Johnson Combination Square
Johnson Combination Square
16"

  • SAE

  • Built-in level

  • Highle accurate 90-degree and 45-degree angles

  • Durable cast zinc body

  • Stainless steel ruler

4.5Check Price
Starrett Combination Square
Starrett Combination Square
12"

  • SAE

  • Built-in level

  • Highle accurate 90-degree and 45-degree angles

  • Durable cast zinc body

  • Stainless steel ruler

4.9Check Price
iGaging Combination Square Pack
iGaging Combination Square Pack
6" & 12"

  • SAE

  • Built-in level

  • Highle accurate 90-degree and 45-degree angles

  • Includes storage case

  • Satin chrome ruler

  • Convenient combo pack

4.4Check Price
General Tools Digital T-Bevel Square
General Tools Digital T-Bevel Square
8"

  • Digital readout

  • Impact resistant ABS handle

  • Reversible display for easy
    reading

  • Auto shut off to save battery

  • Stainless steel blade

4.2Check Price
Swanson Try Square
Swanson Try Square
8"

  • Stainless steel etched ruler

  • Easy 90-degree and
    45-degree angles

  • Built-in level


4.4Check Price
Woodpecker 12" T-Square
Woodpecker 12" T-Square
12"

  • Accurate to 0.001"

  • Guaranteed for life

  • Beveled edges for easier reading

  • Includes fitted wooden case

4.8Check Price

Best Speed Squares and Their Uses

Speed squares are my ‘go-to’ in my workshop when I am building things out of wood. I use mine for marking lines and as a fence for when I need to use my circular saw to cut 2×4’s and other similar lumbers. 

Speed squares have one edge that has a flange to place up against the wood as you measure or check for ninety-degree angles. Once your skill level increases, speed squares are excellent for using when building rafters or stars. 

A tip for you is to spend the extra money and purchase a metal speed square if you can afford it. Plastic speed squares are great for the odd job Bob kind of hobbyist, but if you want something that will last, invest a few more dollars into a metal version. Chances are it will last longer. There are so many brands for you to choose, including Swanson, Dewalt, Irwin, Stanley, Milwaukee, and many others, but I am the most familiar with these. 

I have to say that I am having a tough time deciding between a Dewalt and a Swanson Speed squares, as both are very durable and accurate. I have used both, and the Swanson with its layout bar attachment is an excellent choice, as is the Dewalt, if anything, just for its affordability alone. 

Dewalt 7" Speed Square
Dewalt 7″ Speed Square
Swanson 7" Speed Square
Swanson 7″ Speed Square

**I am declaring this one a tie between the Dewalt and Swanson Speed Squares** 


Swanson Speed Square Combo Pack
Swanson Speed Square Combo Pack

If you want to save some money and you know you have no need for a layout bar, this Swanson Combo pack includes a 7” and a 12” speed square for a very reasonable price. Available on Amazon. The manufacture is fantastic, from heavy gauge billet aluminum, and this set includes a blue book explaining how to mark out stairs or rafters using these squares. It doesn’t get much easier than that. It is an outstanding deal!

Refurbished Dewalt 7" Speed Square
Refurbished Dewalt 7″ Speed Square

For a Dewalt option, I would recommend this 7” sized speed square over on Amazon, assuming you don’t need a 12”. This version is a refurbished unit. Thoroughly tested before sale, for functionality, this square is an essential component of your toolset. You get this square at a decent price and help the environment all at the same time. That’s something to be proud of, for sure. Made from aluminum and very sturdy, this Dewalt square displays easy to read markings to do the job that much easier to accomplish. 


Best Framing Squares and Their Uses

I have a large framing square that is 2’ on one end and made from aluminum that must be more than 25 years old. My grandfather, who was a carpenter, passed it down to me about 20 years ago. 

Framing squares are typical “L” shaped and will have measurements etched into both ends and sides of the tool. It makes these squares very versatile and ready for action when you are in full-on job mode. They are used for marking larger pieces or woods, like plywood and subfloor, among other uses by carpenters. You will always find one of these squares on the job site. From checking the inside square of a wall you have just installed to marking some sheathing to cut, they are valuable on the job site. 

When it comes to the best framing square, just make sure the one you choose is a metal one. I don’t know offhand if there are plastic versions, but I wouldn’t be surprised. The great thing about framing squares is they are reasonably priced, so you don’t need to break the bank to buy one, and if something happens to yours, it’s easy enough just to grab another at your local home building store. If you are like me, though, you will most likely order one through Amazon for convenience. 

Johnson framing square
Johnson CS9 framing square

“I own this Johnson framing square and have no issues with it for my purposes. Check it out!”   


Best Combination Squares and Their Uses 

Every woodworker should have one of these handy squares in their tool chest. I don’t think you can purchase these in plastic versions, regardless of whether (or not) you may have seen one that’s plastic in the past. Do not waste your money. Always opt for metal. 

Combination squares intended for marking 90- and 45-degree angles are also great at transferring angles to your wood that needs cutting on the job. They have a sliding body that moves along a ruler that displays the measurements. There is usually a level built into the body so you can not only square up your project but check it for level as well.  

I think based on how accurate your cuts need to be and how often you need to use this square will determine which one you should purchase. When I say which one, I am referring to the price point. If you are an average Joe that uses it the odd time, then purchasing a cheaper model will serve your needs., however, if you use the tool daily and require precision measurements, then spending the extra money is the way to go. When you are looking for a reasonably priced combination square, I feel this Irwin brand square will do the job just fine for you. If you have the money and you need “the best,” then check out this Starrett brand combination square.

For more reasonably priced combination squares, you can’t go wrong with Irwin or Johnson brands, and if you require top of the line, then, as I have already recommended, make sure to check out the Starrett brand.  

Irwin 16" Combination Square
Irwin 16″ Combination Square
iGaging Combination Square Set
iGaging Combination Square Set
Johnson 16" Combination Square
Johnson 16″ Combination Square
Starett 12" Combination Square
Starett 12″ Combination Square

Best Sliding T-Bevel Squares and Their Uses

If you don’t know what this square is, you might have already seen one but didn’t realize what it was. T-bevel squares should be your ‘go-to’ when you need to copy an angle that isn’t a 90- or 45-degree; however, it will work just fine for those angles as well. 

You might also hear the terms’ false square’ or ‘bevel square’ when more experienced tradesmen talk about this tool. T-bevels typically have a wooden handle, and at the top end, you will find a wing nut used for loosening and tightening the slotted metal blade. 

This tool is intended for when you want all joints to be extremely accurate, which should be most of the time, I would hope! Loosening and adjusting the t-bevel blade to transfer angles will ensure you get the best results possible. It is one of those tools that once you find out about it and then purchase it you will wonder how you ever lived without it. 

I would recommend this General Tools model, as it has digital readouts and a stainless steel blade. I know I mentioned most t-bevels have wooden blades, but here is another excellent option for you to try. 

General Tools Digital T-Bevel Square
General Tools Digital T-Bevel Square

Best Try Squares and Their Uses

This tool is somewhat like a framing square in that it doesn’t have moving parts. It is much smaller in size, though, and is essentially a handle and a ruler positioned in a 90-degree angle. The primary job for a try square is to check for right angles. You could also use it to mark across smaller boards instead of using a speed square. 

The main thing to look for here is a brand that is known for manufacturing try squares that are accurate right angles. There is no sense in purchasing one from a company that builds inaccurate measuring tools. 

As previously mentioned, companies such as Irwin, Johnson, Starrett, among others, all make decently accurate and priced models of this square. If I were shopping today, I would probably go with this Swanson try square model as it is the right price and comes with a level. You can never have too many tools with levels built-in. 

Swanson Try Square With Level
Swanson Try Square With Level

Best T-Squares and Their Uses

I must admit that my gypsum T-square is one of my most prized squares of all. I have a 4’ aluminum T-square I use when marking gypsum as well. It also comes in handy if I need to score along the width of a sheet of plywood. There are other sizes and uses for T-squares, such as drafting. This use often requires the T-square to slide up and down the drafting table as needed. 

You can identify a T-square quite easily by the way it looks. The shape is like the letter T. The long part of the T has measurements marked on both sides, and the top of the T will have markings on the bottom side. There are some models where the top piece slides; however, most will come fixed in place. 

The best T-square available will be one that provides you with the length you need, such as my 4’ square and, of course, the price should be right. I don’t think it matters too much what material these are made of as they are mostly a large ruler and not checking for angles. 

If I were going to recommend a specific brand or model to you, I would have to choose the Woodpecker T-Square for its precision and the fact it should last you a lifetime of use. Sure, you could purchase something cheaper, and that’s fine, just know the quality won’t be quite as good as the Woodpecker brand. 

Woodpecker T-Square
Woodpecker T-Square

Final Thoughts on the Best Woodworking Squares

That’s 6 helpful squares we just went over. I want to point out that you don’t need to purchase every single one as one square might be able to be used in a different type of application than its original purpose. That doesn’t mean, however, that eventually, you shouldn’t buy every single one that you need. I am trying to save you a few dollars upfront. 

If you are earning an income from woodworking, I would expect you would want to invest in as many affordable tools as possible, not just help you get the job done to the best of your abilities but to help you when it comes to tax time. 

I have a tip for you if you are not familiar with rehabilitation stores. We have one in my city, and they sell all kinds of building materials and, a couple of years ago, started selling used tools. It is a place that the home handyman or small renovation company will go to drop off materials and sometimes donate old tools that are still in great shape, but they just purchased new ones.

Of course, another place to get tools decently priced is your local pawn shop. I have picked up all kinds of small hand tools at these convenient little stores. 

When you do purchase your supplies, don’t feel bad if you don’t buy the most expensive at first. As you gain experience and knowledge in woodworking, you can start to upgrade your hand tools for more durable and precise options. 

In this article, I tried to give you some good options with high-level explanations on what the intent behind the tools is. As well, I’ve provided some reliable recommendations. These aren’t power tools, so your investment is somewhat minimal. Get what you think will work for you then, as I have already mentioned, just upgrade when you can.  

Conclusion

In conclusion, just remember these six convenient tools you can add to your tool chest to help you get the job done correctly. Also, remember that a framing square, speed square, combination square, T-bevel square, T-square, and a try square might all sound very familiar, but they all have different uses. 

Now, off you go to build something great! 

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