Johnson Carpenters Square Model CS-1

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Review by Dallas posted 01-25-2013 03:20 PM 3961 views 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Johnson Carpenters Square Model CS-1 No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Yesterday I needed a carpenters square to lay out a large piece on some plywood. My old Empire square gave up the ghost about a year ago after being bent when something heavy, (My Boot with foot installed), landed on it.

I went down to my trusty local True Value Hardware store to get a decent square.

About the only choces they had were an Empire Drywall square, (Those aren’t even close to square), Empire Speed Squares and Steel 16X24” Johnsons Carpenters squares.

I compared several of the carpenters squares and picked out several that seemed to be close to square then wandered around the store looking for a true square edge I could use the ‘Flip’ method to check them with.

It’s actually pretty difficult finding a clear space to do this in a store, but I found a spot to test.

3 of the squares were off a little bit, but one seemed pretty close and that’s the one I bought.

This morning I checked it against the square edges of my benches and it was 5/16” out of square at 12” and a full 11/16” out at 24” using the flip method.

I next got my engineers square out and checked it… using the flip method, it was exactly correct at 12” and at 16” at the same points on the benches.

Even though the Johnsons square is ‘just’ a carpenters square and not really meant for exacting standards, If I tried to lay out a set of drawers or door panels with this thing they would have ended up so far off they would have been completely worthless except as scrap. I wouldn’t even try to lay out a roof or building with this POS.


-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

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3599 posts in 3334 days

18 comments so far

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#1 posted 01-25-2013 03:41 PM

Dallas, I have had similar experiences with carpenter’s squares. I have yet to find one that out of the store was square.

There was an article I read a while back where someone placed a piece of wood on each side of the short leg of the square. The wood was wider than the metal. Using oversized holes in the metal he was then able to adjust the wood to form a perfect 90 degree angle.

I found a different solution, one of my neighbors is a machinist and I send the squares to him for fixing.

-- Jesse, Saint Louis, Missouri

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 3216 days

#2 posted 01-25-2013 06:25 PM

Thanks for the heads up, I will definitely be avoiding these.

Call me old-fashioned, but you know what I think a square should be? Square.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Handtooler's profile


1628 posts in 2979 days

#3 posted 01-25-2013 08:19 PM

I noticed a entry in the right column ads for a “Professional” Model numbered square. Would these be any more accurate than your selection? I purchased a “Craftsman” framing square in about 1974 that seems to be perfectly square on both inside and outside measurements when flipped. Its steel embossed numerals board ft one side rafter measurements on the other. Paid about $6.00 then. Wanna try one of these?

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343 [email protected]

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3334 days

#4 posted 01-25-2013 08:25 PM

Thanks Russell,

I really miss my old Empire square. It was accurate and I used it for countless layouts when I was contracting remodeling jobs.

I think I bought it in about 1980 so it wasn’t much younger than your Craftsman.

I just wonder how Johnson can sell a piece of crap like the CS-1. It really was so far off there would be no way to do any accurate work with it.

I finally used a straight edge and my folding rule to lay out by 3-4-5 method.

Maybe I can find another old square at the flea market next month.

Also, I’m not sure I would trust anything from Johnson anymore.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Hartmann's profile


39 posts in 3736 days

#5 posted 01-25-2013 10:10 PM

This is a good example that not everything made in usa is well made and we can find some piece of crap like the CS-1

View mbs's profile


1685 posts in 3787 days

#6 posted 01-26-2013 01:53 AM

I was frustrated because I couldn’t find an accurate square at any of the local stores.

Woodpeckers made a beautiful framing square in their “one time runs” but it was pricey. I happen to get one of the last ones.

There’s a guy on the Felder Owners Group that machines large triangles when he get’s enough orders. His name is Brian Lamb. His triangles will be pricey too but accurate.

I did a review on the Woodpeckers framing square.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3334 days

#7 posted 01-26-2013 02:15 AM

I had the wife take the square back for a refund this morning on her way to the post office.

This evening I sent an email to the company:

Yesterday I found myself in need of a carpenters framing square and took myself to the local True Value Hardware in our town. The only offering was a Johnson CS1.
I had to search through several to find even one that seemed close to being square.
I took it home and this morning checked it for square using the flip method. At 12” it was about 5/16” out of square. At 24” it was a full 11/16” out of square.
I must say, I have never been so disappointed in a tool made in the USA. This square wouldn’t be much good for anything except as welding filler.

By the way, I posted a review of this tool on,
This is a forum of thousands of wood workers from around the world.

I hope the quality of all your tools isn’t as bad as the example I saw today.

Thank you for your time.

Dal Farnworth

Let’s see if they respond.


-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Tedstor's profile


1691 posts in 3479 days

#8 posted 01-26-2013 03:52 AM

I inherited a berylilum-copper Stanley square from my wife’s grandfather. Probably purchased in the 70s or 80s. Its out of square by ~1/32 over 24”. Given my needs, I can live with that. But I don’t use the carpenter square much anymore. Drafter’s T-squares seem to fill that role a bit better and easier. Heck, drafting tools in general are dead-on accurate, easy to use, and fairly inexpensive. When setting up a tool, I tend to reach for a .99 cent drafting triangle over my 1-2-3 blocks.

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 3322 days

#9 posted 01-26-2013 07:28 AM

Dallas, I don’t know if this trick would work with your square as it seems it is way off square, but if it is to the inside then hit it with a steel guide on the inside corner. If it is out of square to the outside then hit it on the outside corner.

I use a small one mainly for drawer work and I fix it this way compared to my Starret square.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 3334 days

#10 posted 01-26-2013 01:03 PM

Tedstor I usually use drafting or engineers squares also, but I was doing this outside on the deck, crawling around on my hands and knees. I have a bad habit of laying things down and then crawling over the top of them… not conducive to accuracy. LOL.

Jorge I was going to try that method, but this thing was so far out that I figured I’d just end up with a square with a fold at the junction of each arm.

One thing I do have to mention about my local True Value…. They may not carry a large inventory, but usually their prices are on par with the Box stores 40 miles away for construction grade lumber and will order better stuff if I ask them too.
They also have no problem taking back anything I’ve bought that isn’t right.
That’s one of the perks of living in a small town!

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


19525 posts in 4522 days

#11 posted 01-27-2013 04:30 AM

11/16” out at 24” sounds like a lot. I calculated it and it is only about 1.5 degrees. Less than I expected it to be. Not that I’m making excuses. I think my 70s vintage framing square is dead on, but maybe I’d better recheck it ;-) You would think they could set up an accurate, close tolerance operation to stamp these things out.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View derosa's profile


1597 posts in 3682 days

#12 posted 01-27-2013 04:51 AM

I bought their combination square which tested out in the store as the squarest one there, took it home and discovered it was still way out but that the piece the ruler slides through was really square. Turned out the groove wasn’t machined the best and some material was left behind from the machining process, a little time with the file and it came out perfectly square. Slightly disappointing that I needed to spend the time dealing with something that should have been cleaner but at least it was way better then the 4” craftsman combination square someone bought me, that has no hope of being square without a lot of filing that I don’t have the time for.

-- A posse ad esse

View Dusty56's profile


11859 posts in 4535 days

#13 posted 01-27-2013 05:03 AM

Nice , intelligent , helpful review. Thank you so much ,Dallas : )

Topa , think of it this way ,
11/16” over 24” equals a little over 5/16” out of square per foot. Wee bit too much for my use. : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


19525 posts in 4522 days

#14 posted 01-27-2013 05:25 AM

I didn’t say it was good. I expected it to be more than 1.5 degrees.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Dusty56's profile


11859 posts in 4535 days

#15 posted 01-27-2013 05:36 AM

Isn’t that bad enough ? LOL Have a great weekend !

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

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