You never really think about a woodworking project being made or broken by a combination square, but the truth is that they are a tool with great responsibility. When it comes to buying anything that has the responsibility of being precise, you want to make your decision very carefully.
You want something good, but you also don’t want to have to spend hours and hours figuring out which products rock and which are duds. This is especially true when it comes to something kind of boring like combination squares.
The good news, for your purposes, is that we’ve done the homework for you. We’ve studied and experimented with hundreds of different products, testing every one for their strengths and weaknesses.
All you need to do is relax and read on for your combination square reviews!
|Irwin Tools 12-Inch|
|Swanson Tool TC132 12-Inch||1 lb||4.6/5|
|Kapro 325M Magnetic Lock||1 lb||4.4/5|
|Stanley 16-Inch||2 lbs||4.3/5|
|Starrett 6-Inch||1 lb||4.1/5|
Irwin tools make good stuff in general, and our top pick today is certainly no exception to that rule. In fact, we feel that the Irwin Tools 12-inch is the perfect combination square for woodworking.
The nice thing about this tool is that it gives you just about anything you could ever want in a combination square all for a very reasonable price.
The measuring edge is made from treated hardened steel which maximizes the durability, supplying users with many years of service. It’s also designed to be rust-resistant, further increasing the durability.
It even comes with a “dual shockwave accessory” for when you are doing hardcore jobs.
Of course, this isn’t all to say that the tool is flawless. As with anything, there is a small problem to look out for. Unfortunately, it is a matter of accuracy. In some cases, accuracy can be a major flaw for combination squares.
That’s not the case here. Relative to hyper-precise options (like the kind you might use for professional engineering) this square produces marginal inaccuracies. Chances are you’ll never notice, but it’s still worth keeping in mind.
This might eliminate it as an option for some people, but most will appreciate the general price and performance value.
Second, we have a similar tool from Swanson. This zinc plated unit is made to be similarly durable, and even features brass bolts to lock the measurements in as securely and accurately as possible.
The blade is also laser etched and marked with black paint to make your readings as distinct as possible.
When you get right down to it, this is a very simple tool, but it does provide the user with plenty to like.
That said, there are a couple of problems. The first thing you’ll want to look out for is a matter of durability. While the strength of the blade itself is sound, the bolting mechanism does grow loose over time.
The longer you use the tool, the more the problem will be exacerbated. The problem with this is that as the hardware becomes less reliable, so to do your measurements.
This isn’t necessarily a disqualifying problem, but it does mean you will need to replace it over time.
Third, we have the Kapro. This is actually the most expensive unit that we’ve seen to this point, but it does come with a unique feature that might market the extra money more worth it to you.
This unit features a magnetic stopping mechanism that allows you to securely adjust the tool with ease. It’s a neat novelty feature that functions in place of the usual nuts and bolts hardware that you see with products of this nature.
Granted, you don’t actually need something like this, but it does make it a little bit easier to use, and yeah, a little bit more fun to use as well.
It’s also made to be pretty durable, with a cast zinc design that will ensure it lasts for a long time.
These things said though, there are a few reasons that this tool is ranked third on our list. For one thing, the magnet seems to pop off fairly easily. Granted, you can re-secure it with ease but it’s still disappointing, and aggravating to see.
It’s also not quite as accurate as some people would prefer. It’s not at all that the tool is unusable, but it may result in some imperfections.
These things aside it’s a nice tool with a cool novelty feature that is worth your consideration.
Second to last, we look at the Stanley 16-inch comb. Square. Stanley actually has a well-established reputation for making good stuff that the average person can afford.
It keeps to that reputation to a certain extent. It even has a couple of standout features that we really like. For one thing, the blade is chrome plated which will make it rust-resistant and a little bit more durable than comparable options.
It also features well-defined measurement numbers and quality brass hardware that should ensure it sticks around for a while.
The problem is that the features read a little bit better than they actually perform. For one thing, the tool is kind of clunky to adjust and work with. This isn’t a disqualifying feature, but it’s also not great.
The etchings also wear off very quickly, which means you will need to replace it after a relatively limited period of use.
The Starrett is the very last tool we will be looking at today. This is the most expensive tool on our list, and to be fair it does have some features that justify the cost.
The extra money is mostly just buying you better materials. The Sliding mechanism is made of cast iron, which is about as sturdy a material as you’re every likely to find.
It also features hardened steel, and quality hardware. The biggest problem is probably one of value. You can get pretty similar, or even better quality for a good deal less money.
Regular cons always sting a lot more when it’s for something that cost a good deal of money, right? The etchings are also likely to fade over time.
It’s not that this is a bad tool, it’s really just that it’s probably not the wisest way you can spend your money.
Now you’ve read the reviews, but perhaps your choice still isn’t clear. Perhaps you aren’t even sure exactly what features you should value. If so, that’s ok. Read on for some buying considerations that might help make your decision a little bit easier.
Price is a buying consideration that pops up with any purchase. The nice thing about this particular tool is that it doesn’t need to break the bank. Combination squares are usually pretty affordable.
That said, with any product, there is always variation when it comes to price. More money might buy better materials, increase durability, etc.
Still, there are plenty of options out there (like our best for the money pick) that will give you the best of both worlds.
You’ll find blades composed of a variety of different materials. However, hardened steel is generally considered to be the gold standard. This is simply for the fact that it is durable without being extremely expensive.
Durability is always a premium on anything that is going to be interacting with a workshop, so it’s always nice to get good materials if you can.
There are also a variety of different accessories available for the combination square. Protractors are one such common additions to the tool. They allow you to rule at more angles relative to the anvil.
But there are other add ons as well, like center finders. Of course, getting a tool that comes with lots of accessories will always cost you a little bit more but to many people, the money will be worth it.
The more accessories you have on hand, the more versatile the tool is.
This is a small thing a lot of people don’t think about, but you want the number etching to be very good on your combination square. After all, when that wears out, the tool is basically useless.
Ideally, you can find something laser etched, and filled in with black paint that is easy to see.
The more visible the better!
Remember the responsibility that this tool has. Its sole reason for existing is to ensure the precision of your work. Wouldn’t it be tragic to do everything right, and have something turn out poorly because your combination square wasn’t accurate?
That’s why it makes sense to buy for quality. If you have reservations about a tool, don’t get it. It’s worth spending a little more on a quality product with a recognizable name, or at the very least, a well-established reputation.
Other squares we’ve reviewed:
The combination square reviews are done, but the time to decide has just begun. Which of the five tools that we’ve seen today are right for your home? Each one will suit a different buyer. However, if you’d like some general recommendations, there are a couple of tools we were partial to.
Buyers that look for the best of the best will probably really like the Irwin Tools 12-Inch Combination Square. It’s just a high-quality tool that would be hard to beat.
That said, if you’d like something with an interesting novelty feature, there is always our third pick, Kapro 325M Magnetic Lock Combination-Square. It provides a great combination of quality and innovation.
But we aren’t here to tell you what to do. Our job is simply to educate, and to that end, we hope that we were successful.
Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!