In need of a new combination square, help please...

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Forum topic by gr8outdrsmn posted 12-14-2008 04:20 AM 5801 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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60 posts in 4062 days

12-14-2008 04:20 AM

Topic tags/keywords: combination square

I have an older combination square, but it is not the best. When you tighten it down the ruler is slightly angled, haha. So, I am in the market for a new one. Can anyone reccomend a decent & reasonably priced (don’t really want to spend $60+ on this right now) combo square? Would one from Lowes be good enough? It does not have to be perfect, but I don’t want a piece of junk either. Know what I mean? Thanks


-- Don't take life too seriously, you'll never get out alive.

26 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16284 posts in 4828 days

#1 posted 12-14-2008 06:01 AM

I got a set in a wood box from Harbor Freight for about $20. I wouldn’t tell you it’s as nice as a Starret, but it’s pretty tight and accurate.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 4495 days

#2 posted 12-14-2008 07:15 AM

I can’t remember where I got it, maybe Woodcraft, but I have a 6” Swanson combination square I really like. Got the son one for Christmas because he said he liked mine so much.
Here’s where I got it:

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View gizmodyne's profile


1784 posts in 4699 days

#3 posted 12-14-2008 08:20 AM

Second the 6” Starret. Best tool ever.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 4373 days

#4 posted 12-14-2008 08:28 AM

Craftsman still makes or sells some pretty good hand tools, the combination square I bought just a couple years ago seems pretty nice. Also EmpireLevel makes a TrueBlue Pro lineup of combination squares that appear to be a good value, they offer guaranteed accuracy, and a lifetime warranty. Amazon sells the model e250 12” Heavy-Duty Professional Combination Square for $14, they also make a 6” and 16” version.

View GuyK's profile


356 posts in 4689 days

#5 posted 12-14-2008 01:00 PM

I have to agree with 3fingerpat and Giz, there is no other combination square like Starret brand. These are the ones that all other are compared to. If I had to list the top 5 tools in my shop, these would be right up there. The investment is well worth it.

-- Guy Kroll

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4734 days

#6 posted 12-14-2008 04:44 PM

I spent $50 on one that wasn’t a Starrett, but the difference between that and the two cheaper ones I’ve had makes the extra bucks well worth it. And if you think about this as a tool that you’re gonna have for a few decades, is it worth a penny a day?

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View CharlieM1958's profile


16284 posts in 4828 days

#7 posted 12-14-2008 04:45 PM

While I agree with everyone’s recommendation of Starret, keep in mind Brian said he did not want to spend $60+ on a combination square.

Also, woodworking is not the same as machining metal. While a couple of thousandths can make all the difference to a machinist, wood just can’t be worked that precisely.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View snowdog's profile


1167 posts in 4592 days

#8 posted 12-14-2008 05:23 PM

WOW just did a search and $60+ for a Starret 6”? Maybe I am not as square and I thought I was <laugh> and that might be ok with me.

-- "so much to learn and so little time"..

View TheCaver's profile


288 posts in 4449 days

#9 posted 12-14-2008 05:37 PM

I’ve bought a few squares and combos and I can tell you that the low end ones are crap, the marks on them themselves are 1/32th due to the stamped steel! The mid range ones from woodcraft are ok, but the marks are filled with paint that likes to chip away, leaving you with nice marks, but the same color as the rule, not so hot.

While I’m not rich, I believe that spending money on fundamental tools like calipers and Starret rules/combos is something you will never regret.

People say that woodworking is not worth going to 1/64th or whatever, and that may be somewhat true, however I believe that what you start with is critical as any mistakes or slight inaccuracies build up over the project. If you start with precise dimensions, you’ll life will be easier later in the project, so maybe instead of that drawer being 1/8th out of square, its only 1/32 or 1/16, and thats a big difference in quality my friends. And it sure is nice when you pull that tape out to measure square and stuff is right on the money.

$60 or $100 is a small price to pay over the life of all of your future projects.

-- Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. -Carl Sagan

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 4283 days

#10 posted 12-14-2008 05:49 PM

The Empire squares that are mentioned above are very nice for the money. I also believe they are Made in the USA. Or at least that’s what I remember on the packaging when I just looked at them at Menards.

Either way they are great for the money.

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4370 days

#11 posted 12-14-2008 05:54 PM

While I love my 12” Starret, I can certainly appreciate one’s interest in the “budget”. That being said, I have discarded most of my cheaper combination squares as none of them were square. This past summer I discovered that the “Pro” model combination squares made by Empire are exceedingly accurate and with modest cost. Their 6” combination square only cost $7.78 at Menards. (a Northern “big box”) This square has a permanent place in my shop apron. Empire also has a 16” Pro model combination square that costs around $12. These squares are accurate enough for general woodworking and even for machine set-ups. They are made in Milwaukee USA which ain’t too bad either.

Check out their web site;

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Doug S.'s profile

Doug S.

295 posts in 4317 days

#12 posted 12-14-2008 05:56 PM

I got a good deal on a lightly used 12” Starrett a month or so ago and should have done it sooner even at new prices. I’ve also got both a Starrett and Bridge City 6” combo square and both are excellent. This is one of those tools that you’ll only notice how good it is if you deal with the hassles of a poorly made one first. Keep an eye out on eBay. There are often listings that can be had for decent prices. Starrett, Brown & Sharp, Mitutoyo, Bridge City, etc. are all worth a few bucks more.

-- Use the fence Luke

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 4354 days

#13 posted 12-14-2008 05:59 PM

I have an older, cheaper square, and I remember it required a little “tuning” to get it square. Mine had a burr or casting slag on one side of the slot where the ruler goes. I filed that down flush and it’s square now. I had also looked into a new square and couldn’t believe the prices. Doesn’t really matter to me what the name is on it, as long as it’s square.

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4425 days

#14 posted 12-14-2008 06:29 PM

Things you want in any combo square.

  1. Must be square <g>
  2. 45 degrees must be 45 degrees.
  3. Blade must lock tightly to maintain repeatable measurement.
  4. Edges ground smooth (ends too)
  5. Graduations etched (not stamped)
  6. Scale must start at zero (I have seen scales whose ends are ground too short in the middle of the first graduation)
  7. Matte finish blade so it’s easy to read in any light.

Find a combo like that and you will be happy regardless of manufacturer.

For me, accuracy is most important for tool setup. Blade hight when cutting dados or making tenons etc. is very important even to the 1/64th inch.

Repeatability is the most important though.

For instance, when making a panel all the stiles and rails must be EXACTLY the same size or the panel will not be square. Now take that one more step to an assembly. If you are making two side panels do all the layout/milling at the same time so both panels come out exactly the same.

Constructing projects in such a way that all the like parts are milled at the same time with the same setup makes perfect measurement less important.

Also, whenever possible use a part to make tool setup. For instance, when I want to cut a tenon I will cut the mortise first then lay one of the parts on the saw to get the blade hight.

Just my .02

P.S. I have a 12” Starrett Combo square for the shop and a cheap one for making fences and general construction work.

-- Scott - Chico California

View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 4709 days

#15 posted 12-14-2008 06:52 PM

I am a remodeling contractor and I use both Starret and Swanson. Here is my experience…

Starret offers me a guaranteed high level of accuracy on projects when the measurements are critical. They usually do not leave the shop and I trust them implicitly.

I keep cheaper ones like Swanson in the work truck. I protect them and treat them well but they all seem to break within a couple of years. When I tighten the nut to lock the blade in place, the nut breaks in half or the cast body breaks.

The overall accuracy of my newest set (just purchased) seems to be good because I checked them against my Starret (the standard for accuracy) but I still view them as disposable tools. Only time will tell if they hold up.

My experience with Starret is a far different one. When I used my first one I realized the absolute value that it was and so I bought another. That gave me an inventory of two 12” combo squares. I liked them so well I bought a 6”, a 4”, and a 12” protractor combo square.

I use all of them all of the time. And they were worth every penny.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

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