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7 Best Combination Squares for Speed and Accuracy

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While there may not be much to a combination square, it’s still one of the most versatile tools in any collection. The best combination square will be manufactured from durable materials, extremely accurate, and include the little extras that make it easier to use.

Avoid items with a lot of plastic, and look for parts that are easy to adjust and comfortable to the touch.

Our 7 Favorite Combination Squares

 ProductSizeBladeHeadMade In
best-combination-square-2Starrett 11H-12-4R12"Hardened steelCast ironUSA
precision-combination-squarePEC 7121-01212"Satin chromeCast ironUSA
most-accurate-combination-squareiGaging 34-212-266" & 12"Satin chromeCast ironChina
empire-combination-square-reviewEmpire E25012"Stainless steelCast zincUSA
best-woodworking-squareIrwin Tools 179446912"Stainless steelCast zincChina
swanson-combination-square-reviewSwanson Tool TC13212"Stainless steelCast zincChina
best-small-combo-squareIrwin Tools 17944686"Stainless steelCast zincChina

Combination Square Reviews

#1 – Starrett 11H-12-4R 12-Inch Combination Square

best-combination-square-2Made in the USA, Starrett has an outstanding reputation for making some of the best precision tools in the industry such as digital and dial calipers, protractors, punches, and scribers.

From the durable cast iron head to the high quality hardened steel blade, the Starrett 11H-12-4R is recognized as possibly the top combination square in the industry.

It features highly visible etched, not painted, numbers on blade that will endure years of use and weathering and still be clearly legible. Starrett tools, like this one, end up being heirloom items that are handed down from father to son for generations.

It’s not enough to make a long lasting tool, either. Starrett combination squares are also known for their precision so you can get the job done faster and more accurately.

Starrett 11H-12-4R review

You may be apprehensive to spend this much on a square, but anyone who owns any Starrett tool will tell you, the build quality and accuracy is well worth it.

The only real problem you may have to deal with is that the blade has a thin protective coating over cheaper stainless steel version. Once that coating has worn off, the blade will begin to rust if it is left untreated.

The easy solution is to wipe the blade with machine oil or lubricating fluid after every use, and your tool will remain like-new for many years.

Starrett tools are a better made contractor-grade tool, but if you simply need a square for infrequent use around the house, the Empire level below may be a better lower cost option for you.

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#2 – PEC 7121-012 12-Inch Combination Square

precision-combination-squareWhen you want the best but can’t afford an entire paycheck, PEC is another company worth looking at. Like the Starrett, this USA-made 12″ combination square has a cast iron head but instead has a satin chrome blade.

The blade contains four separate measuring units for quick precision, with the “top” containing 8th and 16th increments and the “bottom” containing 32nd and 64th increments. All four ruler scales are etched for maximum readability and lifespan.

PEC makes some of the best quality precision tools out there, often being comparable to Starrett while often at a lower price. The squares have been tested accurate to within 0.0005” and offer smooth sliding and firm locking. While no square is perfect, PEC comes very close.

Be warned, some third party sellers appear to be distributing factory defective models at full price. It is unclear whether these are actual PEC defects or a knock-off substitution. Please check for any defects upon arrival and always buy from a reputable seller.

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#3 – iGaging 34-212-26 Combination Square Set

most-accurate-combination-squareThis set of 6″ and 12” squares feature hardened, precision ground satin chrome blades for beauty and durability. Each cast iron head locks securely along the blade, and the markings are etched in 1/8, 1/16, 1/32, and 1/64 graduations for readability and longevity.

While not as popular as Starrett or PEC, iGaging squares are precision made to be accurate to within 0.0008” and are a great value as far as professional grade combination squares are concerned. The set comes with a foam-lined storage case to keep it all protected.

Overall, this is a quality set of combination squares. You may need to do a little cleanup out of the box, however. This includes disassembling and removing any burrs. The scribe has also been known to be lower quality than some other models out there, but for the price range, the 34-212-26 set is hard to beat.

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#4 – Empire E250 “True Blue” 12-Inch Combination Square

empire-combination-square-reviewWhen all you’re looking for is a good quality combination square that’s made in the USA and affordable, the Empire E250 is hard to beat. This precision machined tool had rational dimensions built right into the cast zinc head for quick checks and a dual-pitch TRUE BLUE vial for checking one to two degree slopes.

Its 12 inch stainless steel blade has etched, high visibility markings with 1/8 and 1/16 inch increments on one side and 1/16 and 1/32 on the other. With a secure BLADE-LOCK mechanism and onboard scriber storage, this is an excellent all-around tool.

There’s some good precision with this tool, but the head is the main attraction. Its many features allow you to get more done with fewer tools on hand. On the other end of the spectrum, you need to disassemble the tool and remove any burrs before use to get smooth sliding, and some parts have been known to break during this process.

This is a good looking, accurate tool that’s quite popular with DIYers, woodworkers, and even some pros. It’s arguable the best bang-for-the-buck combination square on the market today.

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#5 – Irwin Tools 1794469 12″ Combination Square

best-woodworking-squareIRWIN is one of those household brand names that continues to be equated with quality and affordability. Whether you work with wood for a living or only need to make a few cuts on rare occasions, an Irwin 1794469 will be a reliable addition to your tool belt.

And since the blade on this model is made from stainless steel, there’s no worry about rust farther down the road if you don’t want to worry about maintenance.

Its black, precision-etched scales are easy to read, making it an ideal tool for setting up templates or other work which requires an especially high degree of accuracy.

Measurements are in both standard and metric and the blade locks tight. What more can you ask for in a high quality, budget combination square?

Related:  Best Speed Squares for Woodworking and Framing

The most common negative comment you will find for the Irwin combination square is that it’s not “perfectly” square. While it may not be as accurate as a Starrett or PEC, the Irwin is at a much lower price point and the majority of users will never need that sort of micro-accuracy.

Some users have reported poor machining of the tool, but we weren’t able to find any reasoning behind such reviews. Overall, this combination square does what it says and does it well.

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#6 – Swanson Tool TC132 12″ Combo Square

swanson-combination-square-reviewThis 12-inch cast zinc and stainless steel combination square is CNC-machined for accuracy and includes an impact-resistant acrylic level vial.

Markings on the ruler are etched with centimeter and 1/32 inch intervals on one side and 1/8 and 1/16 inch intervals on the other. 45 and 90 degree angles are also marked. The alignment guides on the inside of the body may be filed to create maximum precision.

There are a lot of good things to say about this square, but the most complaint regarding it happens to be one of the biggest perks of this tool once you realize the way it’s designed.

Pretty much all combination squares arrive a little off. As a result, Swanson made it easy to calibrate the TC132 using a narrow file. Instructions can be found on YouTube, and the process may take up to half an hour. The result is a degree of precision far beyond most other combination squares without risk of losing accuracy during delivery.

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#7 – Irwin Tools 1794468 6-Inch Combination Square

best-small-combo-squareWhile a 12-inch square is recommended for most users, sometimes a small combination square makes more sense. A prime example is this 6-inch cast zinc combination square.

The stainless steel blade has black etched markings for 1/8 and 1/16 inch intervals on one side, centimeter and inch measurements on the other side, and both sides have markings for 45 and 90 degree angles.

Considering the low price point and an accuracy to within 0.0002 inches, it’s safe to say this tool stands up to the Irwin quality expectations of most users.  Meanwhile, the inclusion of metric on only one side has been a major flaw for some, but of no consequence for others, as most comparable squares lack metric altogether.

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