Be Square and Use This!

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Review by gleasoncraftworks posted 02-25-2015 05:51 PM 4262 views 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Be Square and Use This! No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Hello all!

As a new woodworker, I’m currently tooling up my shop with the happy anticipation of making “great things”. My mantra when shopping has always been to look for the best “bang for my buck”, and I’m pretty satisfied with the results so far.

My latest find: the Empire Level e2992 True Blue 7” Rafter Square, a.k.a. a “Speed Square”. Made in the USA from aircraft-grade aluminum, this rafter square has stamped gradation marks, and a striking blue color. You definitely won’t miss it when you need to find it in a pile of tools. It has a nice feel in the hand and a good heft without being too heavy. I didn’t measure the exact thickness, but I am pleased with how easy it is to follow the edge. Some measuring tools are so thin that my pencil will jump over the edge if I don’t take extra care to avoid this. I picked up the Empire square from my local BORG for about $10.

Now, a square is a square, right? Maybe, but, not all squares are, in fact, square. Manufacturers machine their products to different tolerances. It’s more time consuming—and, therefore, more expensive—to machine a tool to a tolerance of 0.00001” versus 0.1”. The point of this review isn’t to debate the merits of higher tolerances, but to highlight an important fact. When the angle of a square is a true 90 degrees, then it’s square no matter the tolerance. For $10, you can get a tool that will give you the exact same, precise angles as a high-priced machinist square.

I tested the Empire e2992 for true 90 degrees by aligning one side with a known straight edge, and drawing a line against the other edge. Flip the square to the reverse side, and draw another line against the same edge. If the two lines are perfectly parallel then you know you’ve got a true square. The Empire square was 100% accurate. I couldn’t ask for better.

One final note: it’s a good idea to cross check any measuring device with another one prior to purchase. I usually hold two straight edges from the same manufacturer against each other to see if they agree. Next, I will compare one of those against a straight edge from a different manufacturer. If they agree, I can be reasonably confident that the edges are true and straight. The same goes for measuring tape gradations, etc. I’ve checked 60” rulers that are off by multiple 16ths of an inch from one end to the other.

I checked the Empire rafter square following the above method by placing it against the inside corner of a Johnson carpenter square (there weren’t any Empire carpenter squares available). The first one rocked slightly, meaning that one side was not square to the other side. I figured someone may have dropped it. Imagine my surprise when the second, third, and fourth Empire squares exhibited the same issue! I quickly selected a different Johnson carpenter square and rechecked each of the rafter squares. The issue still remained. The last Empire rafter square in the box, however, fit perfectly inside each of the carpenter squares. They all agreed. This one was a true 90 degrees.

My point in mentioning all this is two-fold. First, even manufacturers of quality products can have bad production runs resulting in flawed tools. Second, please cross check your measuring tools prior to purchase. Never assume the gradation marks are accurate or that the angles are true. I actually used a T-square for years before I discovered the ruler was off by almost 1/4 of an inch! At least it was square, which for me was it’s primary function anyway.

Thank you for reading!

View gleasoncraftworks's profile


33 posts in 2090 days

6 comments so far

View Grumpymike's profile


2467 posts in 3171 days

#1 posted 02-25-2015 07:56 PM

I agree that this is a very useable tool for rough cutting. I own three, all of different manufactures, and use them allot. However if you are cutting to the 1/16 or 1/32 ” these guys will throw you for a loop as the stamped graduations are nearly an 8th in wide and during the stamping process, the metal squished out and moved so they are not accurate.
For framing or building a deck you just cannot beat them, but if you are in the shop use your tri square or other known true square tool.
And for the most accurate measuring use an etched rule, not a stamped one.
Good review.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View gleasoncraftworks's profile


33 posts in 2090 days

#2 posted 02-25-2015 08:15 PM

Grumpymike, thank you for your comments! You’re right about precise measurements. I intend primarily to use my rafter square for quickly checking cabinets and built-ins for squareness. I was using a combination square, but that can be a little cumbersome sometimes.
Empire has a laser-etched rafter square which is otherwise identical to this one. I discovered it while I was writing this review! Dang, because I definitely would have picked up that one!

View jshroyer's profile


80 posts in 2514 days

#3 posted 02-26-2015 01:28 PM

its hip to be a square.


View Grumpymike's profile


2467 posts in 3171 days

#4 posted 02-26-2015 06:17 PM

jshroyer … Now that is down right punny … Hip rafter squa… oh never mind.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View Dusty56's profile


11859 posts in 4544 days

#5 posted 03-01-2015 05:03 AM

I’ve been wanting a 6” square for years and I stumbled across this one at HoDepo for under $10.oo a couple weeks ago. It is perfectly square and I have been using it with no issues. It is also an Empire product : ) Thanks for your review on the rafter square : )

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

View Woodknack's profile


13475 posts in 3236 days

#6 posted 03-01-2015 07:25 AM

Good review. I already have 3 speed squares but have been thinking of buying another although I really don’t need one. I bought 3 old (not vintage) Stanley try squares for $1 each intending to use them for rough work and they all turned out to be dead nutz square, lol. All 3 of speed squares are also as square as I can determine.

Fun video: speed square tricks

-- Rick M,

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