ToolsDiary is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more...

7 Best Combination Square Reviews In 2019 - Top Models Compared

Combination squares are a multi use tool used to ensure angles on woodworking, stone masonry and metal working. The quality of the combination square is vital as it gives integrity and reliability to the angles you need to do the best job that you can. Essentially, the best combination square can really elevate the quality of your work.

With so many options available on the market, how do you decide which is the best one to go for? Not all combination squares are equal, and even one with a 2-degree lean can impact the quality of your work and the integrity of joins and angles.

These squares have been engineered for precision and accuracy, this should be a leading factor to take into consideration when you are looking to make a purchase. Below I have reviewed a variety of squares for you to help you make the best decision possible.

Image

Product Name

Size (in)

Item Weight 

Price

Irwin Tools Combination Square, Metal-Body, 1794469

12"

14.4 oz


Empire Level E250 Professional Combination Square

12"

8.8 oz

Swanson Tool TC132 Combo Square

12"

12.8 oz

IRWIN Tools Combination Square, 1794468

6"

4.2 oz

Starrett 11H-12-4R Combination Square

12"

1.22 lbs

iGaging 4R Combination Square

6", 12"

2.27 lbs

Starrett C11H-12-4R Combination Square

12"

1.2 lbs


The 7 Best Combination Square On the Market

 1. Irwin Tools 12" Metal-Body Combination Square

The Irwin 12-inch combination square is cast in stainless steel to ensure a rust free operation. It is a durable well-built tool that will last. It’s a weight tool that feels heavy in hand, but it feels like quality. The natural movement of the head along the blade makes the tool easy to use and adjust.

The blade comes with clear etched markings making the measurements easy to read and ensure precision, even in lower light conditions. I can still make out the markings easily and clearly. The blade also feels thicker than other combination squares I’ve worked with previously. I have the confidence to put it in my work bag and know it’ll come out the same way it went in.

The engineering of the Irwin is good with a smooth movement of the head and a measurement lockable feature. This has helped me numerous times when repeating the same measurement, it means that I didn’t have to set up each time; the lock in feature really is a time saver.

Things We Liked

  • Stainless steel and so easy to clean and take care of.
  • Smooth Head movement
  • Exceptionally flat edges to help accuracy
  • Lockable head feature to help aide precision and accuracy
  • Made from thick steel to avoid warping and denting.

Things We Didn't Liked

  • Not as accurate as other products on the market.
  • To use both metric and imperial measurements, the square needs to be dissembled and it can be difficult to put back together.

 2. Empire Level E250 12-Inch Professional Combination Square

This heavy duty, American made combination square is durable, sturdy and practical. It boasts a fully visible bubble vial to ensure easy reading. This easy to read vial is something a lot of my other squares don’t have. This small addition makes the world of difference; it makes the entire process of gauging levels far easier.

The stainless steel construction means it can be left in a tool bag without fear of damage. It does feel heavy and slightly cumbersome, but the solid cast moulding of the head means that it is a stable tool and I know that it won’t chip in my tool box.

The deep etchings help with reading and the matt finish of the blade ensures the measurements can be seen even if there is glare. I did find that this square needed a little maintenance on a regular basis to make sure that all moving parts kept moving, but if you can spend 5 minutes looking after it, it is a good square.

Things We Liked

  • Matt finish on the blade to ensure you can read measurements in all light.
  • Deep etched markings that won’t fade through use
  • Spring loaded thumb screw to make reversing easy
  • The head stays in place when tightened
  • Stainless steel design

Things We Didn't Liked

  • Can be 1 or 2 degrees off when using the full length
  • Needs regular maintenance to ensure thumb screws stay in place

 3. Swanson Tool TC132 12-Inch Combo Square

With a cast zinc body and stainless-steel blade, the Swanson tool is light weight at only 11.2 oz. In comparison to other squares, it is exceptionally light, but don’t think that a light square doesn’t equate to a good square. The lightness of it means it’s easier to move in hand and you don’t need to worry about it marking ceramics or other fragile materials.

The Swanson tool boasts a simple yet effective design, manufactured with high grade quality material. The simplicity of this tool is what makes it fantastic to use, it isn’t over complicated and doesn’t have multiple functions. It’s a very simple honest combination square.

I liked the finishing touches of this square; the brass thumbscrews and spring-loaded bolts are standard in the 12inch model and give it a professional finish and feel. The simple yet robust design lends itself to durability; the acrylic vial also protects it against impact and general wear and tear.

Things We Liked

  • Quality materials used in manufacture
  • Simple design and impact resistant
  • Brass hardware
  • Impact resistant design
  • Clear etchings on the blade

Things We Didn't Liked

  • May need minor adjustment to ensure it is square
  • Etchings can fade with use

 4. IRWIN Tools 6-Inch Combination Square, 1794468

This tool has been designed to enable it to be put in tool bags and have a rugged life. This is the square to choose if you are exceptionally mobile and take your tools with you. It is a heavy duty square, cast from steel so is pretty resilient to coming into contact with other tools in your bag or box.

The black etched marks allow the user to get 45 degree and 90-degree angles; it offers a more compact solution. With this option, you can avoid carrying around a 12 inch unless you know you are going to need it. I really like the Irwin 6 inch and how compact it is, it’s a good tool that saves the need of bring a 12 inch with me to most jobs.

The Irwin is well made, with the small attention to details that really make the difference when working with these types of tools on a daily basis. The extra thought put into brass locking plugs, ensure that the head stays in place to provide a continuously accurate measurement.

Things We Liked

  • Built to survive rugged working conditions
  • Highly durable and built to be impact resistant
  • High quality machining
  • High quality finishing
  • Brass thumb screws enable secure fitment

Things We Didn't Liked

  • Could benefit from post purchase care, such as lubrication
  • Etchings may fade with extended use

 5. Starrett 11H-12-4R Combination Square

The Starett 11H-12-4R is an American made Combination Square. It is expertly crafted and made using the highest-grade materials available. In terms of reputation, workmanship and quality the Starett speaks for itself.

The Starett’s head is made with solid cast iron, unlike cheaper counterparts, the Starett is built to last. They last so long that people hand them down to children as their inheritance, they are that well-built. The only real draw back to owning a Starett does not want to take it anywhere, I find myself leaving it in a box at the back of my tool station until it is time to use it.

The expertly engineered blade ensures that no matter which function you use the tool in, it remains a true square. Unlike other combination squares the Starett has a reversible lock bolt which allows the blade to be turned over end to end. This saves time and energy and also removes the difficulty of taking the tool apart and trying to remember how to put it back together.

Things We Liked

  • An exceptionally well-engineered tool
  • Quality materials and manufacturing
  • True alignment as soon as it is unpacked
  • Tempered steal blades help lessen wear and tear
  • Reversible lock bolt

Things We Didn't Liked

  • The multi-use function can be difficult to navigate
  • No satin finish on the blade to stop glare

 6. iGaging 6" and 12" 4R Combination Square

The iGaging comes in a set of 6 and 12 inch combination squares, both have machined solid metal bodies and are well engineered with a tapered metal blade. With the iGaging coming in a set of two, it saves time as you don’t have to select which counterpart you want, you get two. The iGaging are well made and accurate, but it is worthwhile double checking when you purchase them and then checking them regularly to make sure they hold their integrity.

Although the brand name does not carry the same weight as the Starett, the combination squares are reliable and durable. The iGaging are precision checked to ensure an accurate square, I checked it against other combination squares I own, and I was happy with the results.

The non-glare surface helps the user see the etchings on the blade; this can be problematic in other squares, as the markings can be painted on and fade rather quickly. The etching means the marks are long lasting and you won’t be straining your eyes trying to see them.The heads of the iGaging’s are sturdy and durable. They’re cast from a single piece so are fairly impact resistant for a precision tool. The iGaging set also comes with a practical plastic case to keep the tools safe. This is great as it means you can put them in the case into your box or bag and know they will come out the same way they went in.

Things We Liked

  • Comes in a set of two, 6inch and 12inch.
  • Non-Glare Blade
  • Solid metal head
  • Accurate
  • Smooth action

Things We Didn't Liked

  • May need pre and post use care such as lubrication
  • The blade can fall out if care isn’t taken when moving components

 7. Starrett C11H-12-4R 12" Combination Square

The Starett C11H-12-4R Combination Square is a heavy yet exceptionally durable combination tool. The total weight of the combination square is 1.22lbs, making it one of the heaviest available. The weight of the tool is an asset when making sure you wants to be as accurate as possible. The weight means a breeze won’t move it off the line or measurement you are working on.

The square head is machined from a single piece of metal, which makes the product long lasting and exceptionally durable. I have no fear that this tool won’t outlast me! The Starett does require upkeep, but this is expected of a quality tool. Make sure it is left clean and well lubricated so that every time you get it out, you are guaranteed the same results as when you first bought it.

The C11 boasts a satin chrome finish on the blade, this finish lessens the friction in the component parts and makes the tool smooth to use, as well as making the measurements easy to read. It also makes the finish look exceptional, if I didn’t use it, I would frame it to look at. The satin finish means that the metrics will not fade over time as the friction is lessened between the components. The metrics are also engraved etchings, so this extends the Staretts life time even further. It really is a quality tool with a stunning finish.

Things We Liked

  • Exceptional build quality
  • A durable and a long-lasting product
  • Satin finish on the blade helps with reading and component movements
  • American made
  • Expertly engineered components

Things We Didn't Liked

  • Requires maintenance when not in use.
  • The Starett is a heavy tool

The Many Uses Of a Combination Square: What Else Can They Do?

Combination squares can be used in a variety of ways, more than just the standard of measuring and checking 45 degree and 90-degree angles.

As combination squares are engineers for precision, they can be used to measure a variety of things. Use your square as a depth gauge. As the bottom of the blade or rule is guaranteed to be flat, you can easily check the depth of any cuts you have made to make sure they are consistent with the cuts you are going to make for the joins.

You can also use the blade to set up other tools and machines that you have on your tool bench. The combination square can be used to ensure that tools such as table saws are parallel, this can be done by measuring the distance from the blade to the edge of the work surface. You can measure the blade across different points, to make sure that the entire blade is parallel.

Use the combination square as a long rule. Forget marking wood or metal with marks at either end and then finding the middle using a long rule, this can be messy and produce inaccurate results. Use the edge of the blade and the head to move along the metal or wood whilst running a pencil next to it. Having the head and blade locked in at the set depth means that you won’t divert from your measurement and you will have a perfectly straight line with the same depth from start to finish.

The blade or ruler on a combination square has been engineered for absolute precision and accuracy. You can disassemble the square and use the rule on its own to check how flat a piece of material is.

Considerations To Make When Buying a Combination Square

Is It Square?

A combination square is all about creating as close to square joins as possible, so if the square you buy isn’t square, you’re not going to be able to get the most precise joins. Look for squares that either come as close to square as possible, or only require a small amount of work to ensure the perfect angle. This means that your work won’t suffer and your joins will look professional and precise.

Resistance And Durability

Does the square come with an impact resistant vial? Is the head cast from hard wearing material? These things need to be considered when making your purchase. Squares often live in tool boxes or bags, make sure that the blade is made from impact resistant material that won’t scratch, so you can still see the etchings. You also want to make sure that the blade is coated in a crack resistant coating to ensure the life of the blade.

The head should be cast from Zinc or high-quality steel, the heavier the better. The heavier the square, the more impact resistant it will be and the long life it will have. Most vials are made from acrylic, this ensures long life and durability, however check the size of the bubble window. If it is too large, it could reduce the durability.

Etchings

The darker and more engraved the etchings, the easier it will be to read the measurements and ensure accuracy. Etched marks are better than marks that are transferred on, they are longer lasting and even with sustained use, can still be seen.

Metric And Imperial

Some squares come with either metric or imperial measurements, you want to make sure that your purchase caters for the metrics that you use. Some products have dual measurements, but this can make the blade cluttered and difficult to use.

Quality Components

When using a combination square, you want to make sure that it holds your measurement, so you don’t have to reset it for every corner. When looking to make your purchase, look for squares with solid locking thumb screws, either made from brass or another sturdy composite. These considerations will save work later on.

Care And Maintenance

Combination squares are procession tools that do require care and maintenance to guarantee the life of the tool. With sustained use, the tool can become dull and may be prone to rust over time. To make sure this doesn’t damage your combination square, steps can be taken.

Clean and Seal The Combination Square

If the blade has become dull and unreadable, you can clean the square with some lubricant and gently use a scouring pad to remove the excess dirt. Once the dirt has been removed, you can seal the blade with automotive wax, this will be available at all good hardware stores. The sealing of the blade prevents more dirt embedding into it, whilst keeping it clean and the operation of the blade seamlessly smooth.

Safety Considerations To Follow

When using the combination square, care needs to be taken to make sure that you don’t hurt yourself or others around you whilst using it. Primarily, squares are often heavy, so when not in use, either place in a tool bag or box, or put it to the back of the work bench. This means that it cannot fall off or be dropped onto feet. The blade on some squares is exceptionally sharp, whilst this can increase accuracy and straight-line capability, it is also a hazard. Don’t handle the tool by the blade, and don’t run your hands or fingers down the blade and be wary whilst cleaning the tool. Not giving the blade due care can result in deep lacerations and wounds.

Spring loaded components such as the thumb screws on some squares can become areas in which fingers get trapped. Make sure that the components are maintained to avoid jamming and entrapment issues.

Editor’s Thoughts

The combination square is a must have in a toolbox or on a bench. When buying a combination square, make sure that you are buying the most accurate one possible. This will lead to an easier life when making joins, as a square that is one or two degrees out from origin can be up to 7 degrees out across the length or the rule. Some may need adjustment when you first purchase them, but don’t let that put you off! You should be checking the accuracy once you have a new square anyway.

Remember to regularly maintain your square! By maintaining your square, you are making sure that you will be able to continue using it for a long time and really get your monies worth. By cleaning, lubricating and sealing your tool, you make sure that it will have a long life of precision and accuracy ahead.

Remember the safety considerations when operating your combination square, this can save from preventable injuries and make woodworking, stonemasonry and other tasks far more enjoyable and free from wounds or lacerations.

When choosing your square, look for all the features mentioned above. Make sure that it fits with your needs. If you need a robust and durable square, make sure it is cast from steel. If you want one that will last in the tool box and be ok with general wear and tear, make sure it has an acrylic vial and impact resistant construction.

Conclusion

A combination square is so much more than a tool for measuring 90-degree angels. You can utilise it in so many ways, so much so that it can take the place of at least 5 tools that you already have on your work bench. Use it as a rule, a calibrator, a long rule, a short rule and a depth gauge just to mention a few. Combination squares are versatile and expertly made to ensure accuracy. Once you have researched and chosen which one to purchase, you will wonder how you worked for so long without one.

Leave a Comment