LAST UPDATED: November 9, 2020
The Best Combination Squares (Review & Buying Guide) in 2020
Start with the right combination square for the best fit and finish
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PUBLISHED ON November 9, 2020
Cutting and measuring might sound simple, but it’s rarely as easy a job as it appears. You have to be highly precise and accurate, especially when you’re trying to cut perfect, seamless angles out of different woods. Fortunately, with the right tool for this task, you can turn measuring the perfect angle and cutting accurately much, much simpler. You just need a combination square.
This multi-use measuring tool helps you create perfect 90-degree and 45-degree angles, measure circular objects, and even find depth or distance with ease. With impressive versatility, a combination square can come in handy in countless situations.
Unlike speed squares, combination squares can be used with a variety of materials. Yes, even metal fabricators regularly rely on them. Also, consider that they often feature an interchangeable head that allows you to further the tool's usefulness. Needless to say, you need one in your shop. But which one? That's precisely what we're here to help you figure out.
Overall, an exceptional combination square. The 12-inch body is perfect for most uses in the shop. Its performance is greatly complemented by the pricing anyone can afford.
- Affordable pricing and quality construction
- Stainless steel and zinc components offer maximum resistance to corrosion
- Subpar accuracy prevents this square from being used for more than woodworking and quick jobs
Surprisingly affordable, this 12-inch combination square is perfect for many miscellaneous tasks. Quality construction makes it a must-have for every tradesman.
- CNC machined handle and precision blade
- Affordable pricing despite superior accuracy and a great warranty
- Not ideal for use in professional settings due to some common flaws in production
A professional-grade combination square, the 6-inch blade makes this tool ideal for many tasks, including adjusting and maintaining tools and equipment throughout the shop.
- Premium construction offers superior accuracy
- High-quality materials resist damage and corrosion over years of use
- Premium price point is far more than many other offerings
- Does not include a case or different heads
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Combination Squares
- Superior accuracy. Combination squares allow you to fine-tune the tool’s setting to produce the best possible measurements. While there is room for user error, it does reduce the possibility of poor performance on account of a flaw in the tool’s design. That is also why it is worth investing in the best combination square that is available to you.
- Use with any material. Many squares are available that are intended primarily for use with a dedicated material. Combination squares are designed to allow you to use them for virtually any projects. Woodworkers, metal fabricators, and everyone in between can rely on them.
- Interchangeable heads. Combination squares often feature an interchangeable head. Some require these heads to be purchased separately, while others include them. These heads can measure common angles, custom angles, or identify the exact center of a round workpiece.
Types of Combination Squares
Big vs. Small
The general design of a combination square rarely changes. However, the overall size is subjected to variation. Selecting the proper size will determine how useful and how accurate a combination square is for a particular job. Larger combination squares are better for bigger projects. But, as size increases, the ability to use them for smaller projects begins to diminish. That is why you will need to invest in multiple combination squares to keep in your shop.
Irwin. Headquartered in Huntersville, N.C., Irwin is well-known for supplying tradesmen of all fields with quality tools they can depend on. It started in 1885, and many of its most popular tools include cutting and measuring equipment. Therefore, it’s no surprise the Irwin Tools Combination Square, 12” takes our top pick. For other Irwin tool recommendations, you should check out our review of The Best Screw Extractors.
Starrett. Since 1880, Starrett has focused its efforts on developing precision measurement equipment and cutting tools for any fabrication shop. Today, it is headquartered in Athol, Mass., and with over 140 years of experience, it has acquired the title of the “World’s Greatest Tool Makers.” The Starrett Combination Square is a great representation of their capabilities.
Combination Square Pricing
- $10 to $50: Most combination squares can be purchased in this price range. The overall quality is easy to gauge based on the tool's pricing compared to its size and features.
- $50 and up: At prices above $50, you'll find premium level tools in this category. These are the combination squares industry professionals, and perfectionists will need to consider.
The size of a combination square is incredibly essential. It is what will dictate how the too can be used. Selection depends on the type of work you will perform, but it does pay to invest in multiple sizes. Not everyone has a use for the biggest combination square, but small- to medium-sized squares prove incredibly handy for many jobs in every shop.
Useful Head Design
Most combination squares appear similar, but some variations can exist within the head. Going beyond the ability to record angles, consider those that include a bubble level in their design. This can prove very useful for small projects and reduce the need to frequently switch tools throughout the building process.
Most all combination squares feature an interchangeable head. However, not all suppliers offer different head designs to fit onto the rue. With that said, before making the investment, you should ensure the square you are interested in has these heads available to you. Otherwise, you may need to purchase another tool with the capabilities you need in the future.
- Included Heads: If you know you will need multiple heads, you should invest in a tool that includes them in the initial purchase. Doing so can be a greater investment up front but may reduce the price when compared to purchasing these items separately. Also, consider that manufacturers who bundle multiple heads together will often provide a carrying case to help keep them organized and protected.
- Dedicated Carrying Case: Instruments such as a combination square are very delicate. They also rely on precise machine work to provide you with the most accurate readings. If a carrying case is available, it's worth investing in because it will reduce the likely hood of the tool being damaged and losing its ability to perform.
- Manufacturer Offerings: Any fabrication process is going to require the use of multiple instruments. To improve overall precision and proficiency, it is wise to purchase your measurement tools exclusively from one manufacturer. If you intend to do so, take the time to ensure that the manufacturer of choice can provide you with all the tools you need.
Best Combination Square Reviews & Recommendations 2020
This is an excellent pick for an all-around quality combination square. This handy measuring tool is built to last you a long time, and it can help you achieve the measurements you need with ease. Made out of metal with a durable cast zinc body and a stainless steel blade, this combination square is designed to resist corrosion and rust even after many uses in many different settings. Its ruler features black precision-etched scales that provide accurate 90 degree and 45-degree readings. You can even use this combination square as a gauge for transferring measurements.
Despite being our top pick, we do recognize it’s not the best choice for highly detailed work. Accuracy is slightly off, and this can create big problems for detail sensitive projects.
This particular model is even more versatile than a typical combination square — and that makes this tool extra handy to use in a variety of different settings. Made with a 12-inch stainless steel blade that’s covered in precision-etched black gradations, this combination square also features brass hardware that’s tough and wear-ready. You can use this single handheld tool as a combination square, a depth gauge, a height gauge, a plumb level, a scriber, and a basic level. It’s many different tools in one package. A spring-loaded bolt keeps the blade in place so you can get very accurate measurements whether you’re finding 90-degree or 45-degree angles or another reading. Its durable die-cast zinc body ensures you’ll get great durability, too.
Again, this is not the most accurate option on the market. Even if it is decently accurate, small deviations prevent this from being the tool perfectionists should call upon.
This option is affordably priced, but it offers excellent value in ways beyond its price alone. It’s a tough tool that defies its budget-friendly cost — this combination square is made out of heavy-duty cast zinc with a black chip-resistant e-coating finish for increased durability. The steel blade has stamped graduations, and the CNC machined square head delivers better accuracy. You can put the tool to work in many different settings, including woodworking, stone masonry, and metalworking. No matter how it’s used, the combination square can deliver reliable measurements for both 90-degree and 45-degree angles. This combination square is also backed by a one-year warranty, which ensures you can have the tool replaced or repaired if needed, adding great value for your money.
For the price, this tool offers surprisingly outstanding performance. However, it is a value-based option, and a lack of quality prevents it from being considered a professional’s tool.
This combination square is strong, sturdy, and able to last a long time even with use in different scenarios and settings. This 12-inch combination square is built with durability in multiple ways. It features a rust-proof stainless steel blade that’s marked with precise graduations in inches and centimeters and an alloy base. A spring-loaded brass bolt helps ensure accuracy, and a brass scriber and level allow you to take different types of measurements and readings. You’ll be able to accurately measure and draw both 45-degree and 90-degree angles as well as determine flatness, all with this durable tool. Scale laser calibration, along with wear resistance, ensures you’ll get the right measurements the first time even after many uses.
Slight deviations in the tool’s design prevent it from finding a place in a metal fabricator’s toolbox. However, it is accurate enough for woodworkers or use in small projects.
This combination square might be compact, but it can deliver accurate, effective measurements for even the toughest corners. It’s the perfect size to carry on the go, but it’s equally handy as a permanent addition to your tool kit. Featuring a stainless steel blade that’s tough enough to withstand rugged use and a cast zinc body, this combination square is durable enough for regular use. It has black precision-etched scales that provide accurate 45-degree and 90-degree readings. At six inches long, the combination square is great for smaller corners and measurements. You’ll even be able to take inch measurements on one side of this tool and metric measurements on the other, giving you multiple options in a single product.
This Irwin tool shares the same ailments as our top pick. However, it is still an excellent option for woodworking or other projects that are not extremely sensitive to detail.
Middle of the road tools, such as this, have a special place in every shop. Whether it's all you could afford or something you use as a backup, it's worth the money every time. This combination square offers decent accuracy and useful features that every fabricator will enjoy. It features a 12-inch rue blade and three head attachments. The size is perfect for most jobs you will need to perform, and the different head types only further its value. And though it isn't the cheapest on the market, it certainly is not the most expensive. Especially when you compare it to other similarly inclusive kits. It even comes with a dedicated storage case to help you protect and organize all the pieces in your toolbox.
Casting flaws are a significant drawback to this tool in that they impede smooth operation, which can impact accuracy. However, a few minutes with a proper sanding stone cleans the edges up and dramatically improves the tool's function.
A small combination square like this should be kept in every toolbox. That is because they are very useful for a variety of projects and not just recording measurements. Of course, you must also consider that this is a premium option and will provide the absolute best performance you could expect from any combination square. It is just six inches in length, which means it is perfect for use on small projects, like building shelves and cabinets. A square of this size can also be used for making adjustments to tools and equipment throughout the shop. And while it does seem very basic in design, the handle does include a built-in bubble and scriber for use in a pinch. It's also worth considering that hardened steel and cast iron are used to resist the damage impacts that can cause to the tool.
The premium price point is worth mentioning, but it is hard to consider a drawback considering the quality of the tool. However, bundle options are not worth investing in because they do not bring down the overall value of each tool down.
Here we have an excellent value option every beginner needs to consider. This set includes both a speed square and a combination square in a single kit. A speed square or "rafter square" is ideal for a variety of woodworking projects, and the fixed design eliminates any time spent making adjustments to the tool. However, the combination square provides enhanced accuracy for more delicate tasks. The combination square in this set measures 12 inches in length, which is ideal for general use. It also includes a bubble level in the handle and a scribe to help increase the user's proficiency. We know everyone will appreciate that the cost is similar to many listings that feature just a combination square, which solidifies it as a runner up for our pick for the best value.
Of course, you can't consider this a professional-grade tool at such a low price, and they do not feature the accuracy and quality machinery necessary to consider it as so. However, it's still a great set to use for quick jobs.
If you need a quality combination square at an affordable price, this is one to consider. The blade features both metric and imperial increments that are legibly printed for increased accuracy. It's also worth mentioning that the increments are laid out in such a way that prevents the need to switch sides to attain readings in either. Both the ruler and the head are nicely machined, and that makes adjusting the tool extraordinarily smooth and straightforward. The knob for setting adjustments is also nicely sized and easily accessible. Of course, the handle features a bubble level and metal scribe that work to provide convenience when performing quick jobs. This may be a standard configuration for combination squares but is still worth mentioning.
Accuracy is the Achilles heel of this tool, and you should know it's not ideal for use on projects that are exceptionally dependent on high detail. However, for the price, this is something to expect.
We are looking at yet another runner up for the place as the best value. This particular entry features a combination square along with two carpenters pencils at a low-price point. The carpenter's pencils are extremely handy as they can be sharpened to scribe markings on various materials. It's also worth mentioning that they, too, can function as measurement tools you can rely on for many quick projects. The combination square itself measures 12 inches in length and features both 1/8th and 1/16th increments on either side for maximum precision. The knob for making adjustments is also large and thoughtfully placed to make it very easy to use. Of course, this tool's head also has a built-in bubble level and metal scribe for the user's convenience. The use of cast zinc and stainless steel prevent corrosion and protect the tool's performance over time.
There are some drawbacks to such a low-priced tool. In this case, the problem seems to be with fit and finish, impeding overall accuracy. However, it is something you can quickly fix with sanding and oiling.
- Keep it clean. Dirt and dust can collect on the tool's surface and throw-off its accuracy. By keeping it clean, you are ensuring that the tool performs as well as it did brand-new for many years.
- Make use of all the features. Don’t be afraid to implore the use of every feature in the tool’s design. Built-in levels, rule function, and the ability to record angles are all things you can use for any project.
- Don’t forget the scribe. A “hidden” feature in combination squares is a scribe built into the head. Of course, many folks know this but simply forget to use the tool's part in a bind.
Q: What is the best combination square?
The Irwin Tools Combination Square may take our top pick, but we do recognize the likelihood that the Starrett Combination Square is a favorite among professionals. However, which will serve you best depends on your budget and the delicacy of the projects you are working on.
Q: What are the parts of a combination square?
Combination squares are typically constructed of two parts: the head and the rue. However, the head, or handle, is interchangeable, and the design will dictate which features are included and how they will function.
Q: How do you use a combination square protractor?
To use a combination square as a protractor, you will need the Projector Head. If you are going to rely on this function, you must purchase a tool that has the necessary attachment available to it.
The Irwin Tools Combination Square takes our top pick and the Johnson Level & Tool 12-Inch Metal Combination Square is what we consider to be the best value.