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I have a much older and much less nice-looking version of the square pictured above hanging around my shop. I use it primarily for metal work, but as I’m sure most Toolmongers will attest, once you start using a tool for one purpose, you’ll pretty much reach for it whenever you need to do anything similar. So mine gets a little woodworking use as well. The one pictured above showed up in an Irwin press release we received last week, and though I’m not sure it’s really updated or new, I still wanted to mention it because at around $8 it’s just a great thing to have around.

The Irwin model lists a couple of basic features, including a cast zinc body, black-accented markings on the stainless-steel blade, and a nice little bubble-level. But honestly, I’d say you could pretty much pick up any model that looks and feels sturdy and solid. Let’s put it this way: I don’t know where mine came from. I found it in my dad’s stuff, and I still use it. I can’t really picture buying a replacement, unless I happened to find a need for two.

Combination Square [Irwin]
Street Pricing [Google]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


8 Responses to Cheap-Ass (and Great) Tools: Irwin’s Combination Square

  1. Barks says:

    Have you ever used the scratch pin included with the square?

  2. hbbowman says:

    This is a very basic tool to go cheap on. I bought a Starrett 25 years ago and its still going strong. I’ve used the scratch pin on metal many times and it is still sharp. Starrett is easily 10 (or 100) times better in quality than this Erwin but doesn’t cost that many times as much. It is $70 to $110 at Amazon. Averaged over the years that’s not cheap, just inexpensive.

  3. ambush27 says:

    +1, Such a Great tool.

  4. PutnamEco says:

    If you really need the accuracy nothing beats the Starrets. For my metal working projects I tend to need to be a lot more accurate than with wood, so I got one of Starrets combination squares with a center and protractor as well as the common combination square. For wood working I have a cheap unbranded combo square that I would not cry over having to replace due to jobsite damage or loss, and more often find myself using a speed square unless I’m doing finish work.

  5. Dean in Des Moines says:

    I have yet to find a combo square for less than $40 that is actually square. What’s more, I find the 6″ versions a better fit for my work.

  6. KoKo the Talking Ape says:

    You SHOULD NOT just “pick up any model that looks and feels sturdy and solid.” A combination square is not like a saw that, if it is a little dull or cheap, will still do its job, kinda. You need this thing to be accurate and reliable and easy to use. If the markings are just printed in black paint, they will rub off. If it isn’t made carefully, it won’t hold its adjustment. On this one, I would expect the threads in the cast zinc body to eventually wear and loosen so the set screw won’t hold tight.

    That said, cost goes way up as precision increases, and you only need so much precision, especially for woodworking. I got a nicely made one from Rockler for perhaps a third of the price of a Starrett, and it works great. Engraved markings and a bead-blasted matte finish on the rule (not that horrible brushed finish that shows every tiny scratch and scuff).

    But always check your squares for actual squareness. Find a good straight edge, and draw a perpendicular line, then flip the square and draw another line with the same starting point. If it isn’t square, and assuming the rule itself is straight (I came across one that was actually curved) either adjust it (read up) or return it.

  7. Fong says:

    This is fine for stuff that only needs to be close enough. Even with something as simple as box building, I wouldn’t trust any combo square to be square enough. I’d recommend a dedicated fixed square. It may amaze you how tolerances will stack up. Starrets are definitely preferred and if you need more precision than that, it’s hard to beat a Woodpeckers.

    Slightly off topic but there seems to be a fundamental lack of large precision squares for use when panel cutting with a tracksaw. Some Twitter followers referred me to one made by Woodpeckers, but was one of their 1-time runs and no longer available. http://www.woodpeck.com/2616squarewp.html
    Haven’t seen another one close to it. Anyone here know of something? If you’re interested in the Woodpecker, they do have an “if you’re interested” link at the bottom. I’m signed up.

  8. Bob Mielke says:

    Tools to a woodworker is like lures to a fisherman. Lures are primarily designed to catch fisherman, not fish. Expensive measuring tools with name brand recognition catch woodworker’s. I buy tools that are accurate and inexpensive, regardless of the name on them. If you’re choosing a nice piece of lumber don’t you go through the pile to choose the best piece? The same goes with squares. Not all are accurate, even coming from the same pile.

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