While there may not be much to a combination square, it is still one of the most versatile tools in any garage collection. The best combination square will be built of sturdy materials 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.
Made with genuine cast iron, the Starrett 11H-12-4R is recognized as possibly the top combination square in the industry. It features an engraved, not painted, blade that will endure years of use and weathering and still be clearly legible. Similarly, the materials are built tough, and many Starratt tools like this one end up being heirloom items that are handed down from father to son for generations. It is not enough to make a long lasting tool, either. Starrett combination levels are also known for the accuracy so you can get the job faster and more reliably. You may be apprehensive to spend this much on a square, but anyone who owns any Starrett tool will tell you, the precision and quality is well worth it.
The only real problem you may have to deal with is that the blade has a thin protective coating over cast iron. 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 better made, but the Empire level below is our favorite when you’re looking for value and has features that are not yet available from other brands.
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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?
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 the Starrett above, the Irwin is at a much lower price point and the majority of users will never need that sort of micro-accuracy. Some sites have reported poor machining of the tool, but we were not able to find any reasoning behind such reviews. Overall, this combination square does what it says and does it well.
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