Picking the best woodworking square can elicit the same confusing feelings as strolling through the wine aisle at your local liquor store. The market is packed with options, each seemingly the same, but only a few are actually great picks. Our top picks are outlined below, along with essential education to help you figure out the best squares for woodworking.
DIY Gear Reviews’ best woodworking squares:
- Swanson 8-Inch Try Square — Best 8-inch try square for woodworking
- Crown Tools 6-Inch Pioneer Try Square — Best 6-inch try square for woodworking
- Swanson TC130 6-Inch Combination Square — Best budget 6-inch combination square for woodworking
- Johnson Level & Tool 400 EM-S 12-Inch Combination Square — Best budget 12-inch combination square
- DFM Small Carpenter Square — Best mini woodworking square
- Milwaukee 7-Inch Magnetic Speed Square — Best mid-sized speed square
- Dewalt 12-Inch Premium Speed Square — Best large speed square for woodworking
- WORKPRO Rafter and Combination Square Set — Best combination square and speed square set
- iGaging Bench Square Set — Best speed square set
- iGaging Double Square 4R Set — Best double square set
- Woodraphic Precision 8-Inch Square — Best square for marking lines
Woodworking squares at a glance
|Swanson 8-Inch Try Square||Imperial||1/16″|
|Crown Tools 6-Inch Try Square||None||None|
|Swanson TC130 6-Inch Combo Square||Imperial||1/16″|
|Johnson 400 Em-S 12-Inch Combo Square||Imperial and metric||1/32″|
|DFM Small Carpenter Square||Imperial||1/16″|
|Milwaukee 7-Inch Speed Square||Imperial||1/8″|
|Dewalt 12-Inch Speed Square||Imperial||1/8″|
|WORKPRO Square Set||Imperial and metric||1/32|
|iGaging Bench Square Set||Imperial||1/32″|
|iGaging Double Square Set||Imperial||1/64″|
|Woodraphic Precision 8-Inch Square||Imperial||1/32″|
1. Swanson 8-inch Try Square
Best uses: Checking for square, marking precise 90-degree lines, laying out joinery lines, measuring
The Swanson 8-inch Try Square has the build quality you’d expect for double the price or more. The wood handle is layered with a brass rub plate and three brass bindings. It also includes a stainless steel blade with etched markings for durability. Woodworkers can measure precise lines with the 8-inch ruler including both 1/8″ and 1/16″ graduations.
2. Crown Tools 6-Inch Pioneer Try Square
Best uses: Checking for square, marking precise 90-degree lines, setting precise saw blade angles
The Crown Tools 6-Inch Pioneer Try Square shines for accurately checking the square for boxes. Its bamboo, brass plate and steel blade make this a high-quality product you’ll be reaching for frequently. The size also means it’s a good option for setting precise 90-degree table saw and circular saw angles without the need for a digital angle gauge. This try square is built to match British Standard BS3322 with a tolerance of 0.01mm per 10mm of blade length.
3. Swanson TC130 6-Inch Combination Square
Best uses: Checking for square, marking precise 45-degree and 90-degree lines, laying out joinery lines, measuring, checking level
The Swanson TC130 6-Inch Combination Square is a “must-have” tool for budget-conscious woodworkers. It includes brass hardware, a stainless steel blade with etched markings, both imperial (1/8″ and 1/16″ graduations) and metric scales, a scratch awl for scribing and a level. Few products in the market include all of these features at such a competitive price. Plus, its build quality is hard to beat for the price with one of the smoothest sliding rulers we tested out of the bunch.
4. Johnson Level & Tool 400 EM-S 12-Inch Combination Square
Best uses: Checking for square, marking precise 45-degree and 90-degree lines, measuring, checking level
The Johnson Level & Tool 400 EM-S 12-Inch Combination Square packs in versatility on the cheap. With any square at this price, the biggest concern is the build quality and out-of-the-box squareness. Our tests demonstrate that it performs exceptionally well for squareness and overall build quality. The tightening knob and smooth sliding ruler combination stands out as the best of the models we tested. It also includes both imperial (1/16″ graduation) and metric scales, a level, scratch awl and a CNC-machined head.
5. DFM Small Carpenter Square
Best uses: Checking for square, precisely marking an array of standard angled lines, laying out joinery lines, measuring, setting precise saw blade angles
The DFM Small Carpenter Square is the best mini woodworking square. Not only does it have excellent build quality, but it also includes several precision features few other products offer. First, it includes scribing holes at 1/16″ intervals. This feature comes in handy when marking long cut lines and for joinery. Secondly, woodworkers can more precisely measure common 22.5, 30, 45, 60 and 67.5-degree angles than with a standard carpenter square. Just drop the included 1/4″ pin into any of the holes and butt the pin up to the edge of your woodworking piece to mark a precise angle for polygons, squares, hexagons and octagons.
6. Milwaukee 7-Inch Magnetic Speed Square
Best uses: Checking for square, marking precise 45-degree and 90-degree lines, measuring, setting precise saw blade angles, using as a saw guide, DIY projects
The Milwaukee 7-Inch Magnetic Speed Square is good for both woodworking and DIY projects. The laser-etched markings means it can take a beating. It includes standard features like 1/4″ scribing slots for easily ripping lumber. But what sets it apart from other products on the market is its three rare-earth magnets. Beyond the wow factor, this feature gives woodworkers versatile storage options. Its size also makes it great for using as a circular saw or jigsaw guide for 90 degree and 45 degree crosscuts.
7. Dewalt 12-inch premium speed square
Best uses: Checking for square, marking precise 45-degree and 90-degree lines, measuring, using as a saw guide, DIY projects
The Dewalt Premium 12-Inch Speed Square has a thick aluminum body with stamped, high-contrast markings for easy readability. Woodworkers will find this square comes in most handy for measuring square on bigger boxes and for using it as a saw guide. It can also do anything else around the home that a standard speed square can.
8. WORKPRO rafter and combination square set
Best uses: Checking for square, marking precise 45-degree and 90-degree lines, measuring, setting precise saw blade angles, using as a saw guide, checking for level, DIY projects
This is the best pick for most beginner woodworkers. Purchase the set and you’re covered for the vast majority of yourwoodworking square needs, plus more. The WORKPRO Square set includes a die-cast, 7-inch aluminum carpenter square and a 12-inch combination square with level, scratch awl and both imperial (1/16″ and 1/32″ graduations) and metric measuring scales.
9. iGaging Bench Square Set
Best uses: Checking for square, marking precise 45-degree and 90-degree lines, laying out joinery lines, measuring, setting saw blade angles, using as a saw guide, DIY projects
Woodworkers that value build quality and versatility will be happy with this purchase. The iGaging Bench Square Set is a speed square built for woodworking. The 4-inch and 7-inch squares come packaged in a high-quality case, along with a mechanical pencil and extra lead. The unique features include scribing holes for laying out consistently accurate lines and a footing that measures 1/2-inch tall with 1/4-inch and 3/8-inch offsets on each side. This makes for consistent, fast tool setups and easy common joinery line layouts.
10. iGaging Double Square 4R Set
Best uses: Checking for square, marking precise 90-degree lines, laying out joinery lines, measuring, setting saw blade angles
The iGaging Double Square 4R Set includes both a 4-inch and a 6-inch double square. It’s clear when you open the fitted case that these are heavy-duty squares built for durability. While they shine in the various uses you’d expect of any woodworking square, the standout feature is the precision graduations that go up to 1/64″. The set is also built to an accuracy of 0.0008 inches per inch of blade length.
11. Woodraphic Precision 8-Inch Square
Best uses: Checking for square, marking precise 90-degree lines, laying out joinery lines, measuring, setting saw blade angles
The Woodraphic Precision 8-Inch Square shines in several areas. First, you can easily establish accurate 90-degree lines. The tool is built to meet level 1 Japanese industrial standards. Secondly, there are few marking squares that can so precisely lay out cut lines. This product has marking holes at 1/16″ graduations. But what really stands out is the marking hole sizes themselves. The holes are perfectly fitted for the included 0.5mm mechanical pencil tip with zero wiggle room (read: no margin for error when laying out cut lines). Woodraphic also offers 12-inch, 200mm, and 300mm sizes.
Woodworking squares and their uses
There are six main types of woodworking squares. While nearly all types are great for checking for square, some perform specialty tasks, such as scribing straight and angled lines. Here’s more on each type so you can find the right woodworking square for your project.
Combination squares are one of the most versatile squares to keep in your woodshop. This explains why they’re an essential tool for beginner woodworkers and the first square to put on your shopping list.
Combination squares allow you to strike 45-degree and 90-degree lines with a pencil or marking knife, in addition to checking for square. They include an adjustable knob to lock in a ruler for consistent measurements. Many combination squares also include a bubble level and a removable scratch awl. The most common sizes offered are 6-inch and 12-inch combination squares.
Try squares consist of a metal blade attached to a base at a 90 degree angle. Some try square blades are rulers, while others don’t include measurement markings. We think it’s generally best to get a try square with a ruler for the extra versatility to lay out precise lines. This gives you flexibility beyond just checking for square or setting saw blades at 90 degrees.
Unlike combination squares, try squares don’t have adjustable blades. This limits their overall versatility.
Speed squares, carpenters squares and rafter squares are all different names for the same tool. A speed square is a triangle-shaped tool that is commonly used in woodworking.
Speed squares are useful for woodworkers to strike 45-degree or 90-degree lines, to measure angles, to use as a circular saw or jigsaw blade guide for 90-degree cuts and to scribe consistent lines.
But speed squares shine beyond just woodworking. Most handyman’s tool belts have a dedicated spot for this tool. It’s rare to complete a project without needing to use a speed square multiple times.
Speed squares come in an array of sizes from 4″ on up to 6″ and 12″.
Double squares are a specialty square that combines features of a try square and combination square in one. They consist of an adjustable metal ruler attached to a handle at 90 degrees. Double squares can’t mark 45-degree lines like a combination square.
These hand tools come in handy for checking square, setting up saw blades and locking in the ruler to measure consistent lines. Beyond that, double squares have limited uses in a woodworking shop.
Marking squares are a catch-all category. The common theme that marking squares share is that they all include holes to insert a mechanical pencil tip to scribe consistent lines. Many marking squares come in graduations of 1/32″ and even 1/64″. This explains why they’re used in fine woodworking where precision is critical.
What woodworking squares do you actually need?
Beginner woodworkers will be well prepared for most woodworking projects with a 7-inch or 8-inch speed square and either a 6-inch or 12-inch combination square.
But it’s important to find a speed square that is built for woodworkers’ needs. The most common speed square available is the Swanson 7″ Speed Square, but it’s not a great fit for woodworkers. The rounded metal edges won’t lay flat on your workpiece, which can lead to inconsistently-measured lines. Hold your pencil or marking knife at different angles, and you’ll get different results
Speed squares, such as the iGaging bench squares we recommend, are specifically designed for woodworking.
Try squares, double squares and marking squares are all nice-to-have tools that will make you more efficient and accurate in the shop. Buy one, and you’ll likely be happy you did. The reality is these are specialty tools that do many of the same things as a combination square or a speed square.
Features of the best woodworking squares
Picking the best woodworking square comes down to squareness, build quality and price.
First, a good woodworking square needs to be accurate. All of the picks we recommend were tested for squareness that would be required in fine woodworking and measured against a reference ruler for accuracy.
You can check if a square is true by holding the base against a piece of wood and striking a pencil line at 90 degrees. Then flip the square to the other side, line it up to the first line, then strike another line at 90 degrees. The two lines should overlap each other, otherwise your square isn’t truly square.
One reason why a woodworking square is a great beginner’s tool is that you can typically get a good build quality at a low price. In fact, some of our recommended picks are under ten bucks and are dead accurate.
One other item you’ll want to consider is durability, particularly for squares with rulers. Etched markings are generally more durable than stamped markings. That’s not to say stamped markings are bad. It’s more a matter of buying an heirloom-quality tool that’ll last for decades or a choosing high-quality tool with stamped markings that will still last a while with heavy use.
How we tested the picks
We first reviewed popular woodworking sites and forums and read user reviews to narrow down the list of woodworking squares to review in house. After purchasing each, we first tested them all for the squareness that would be required for fine woodworking. Every square we purchased passed this test with flying colors, even the cheap options. Then each square was inspected for build quality by reviewing the quality of the adjustable knob, ease of removal for the scratch awl, ease of slide for the ruler and whether the ruler markings were highly visible or not. Each square was then used in an array of applications to find the best balance of quality and price.