Speed squares are quite simply one of the oldest universal tools out there. Human beings have been using these to take and construct to exact measurements for thousands of years. Some of the most ancient structures on the planet were built with the help of more primitive versions of these tools, though using the same concept. As the eons have progressed, they have changed shape, materials, and incorporated new technologies into their design.

They come in a range of different types and sizes, and are straightforward and easy to use. Different models have different features for different tasks. Others have features that are useful for specialized jobs like angled cutting. The below buyer’s guide was designed to ensure you have all of the necessary information possible, as well as a nice product selection to choose from, when buying your speed square.

Key Facts

  • Knowing why you are going to need a speed square is key. If you are working outdoors, you’ll likely want something made to be corrosion and weather resistant.
  • It is also wise to get a model that has easy-to-read numbering and lettering. It makes the most sense to get a speed square that has corrosion-resistant engraving or laser etching. This will keep them readable, longer.
  • Different types of speed squares are designed for different tasks and types of work. You should know what special application you need so you get the right one. This way you can also avoid buying anything unnecessary.

Ranking: The best speed squares on the U.S. market

There is now a huge variety of speed square on the U.S. Market, and finding the right one can be complicated. That is why we have come up with the below ranking section and included some of the best products out there. There is sure to be something on this list that catches your eye and suits your needs.

No. 1: Swanson Tool Co. Tool Kit

Swanson Tool Co. has been around a long time, and their Layout Tools, including the two speed squares included with this product, have been go-to tools for all manner of construction industry professionals and DIY aficionados for decades. This package gives you both a smaller 7 inch, and a larger 12 inch speed square so you have something ideally suited to any job. The heavy gauge aluminum alloy is durable and would stand up to the rigors of any construction site. The matte finish is purposely designed to help prevent glare.

It comes with quarter inch spaced notches to help make scribing lines easier, and it made right here in the United States. It also comes with Swanson’s “Little Blue Book” of roof and stairway layout formulas, tables, and diagrams, so you have accurate and reliable references for everything you do. Since 1925, the speed square has been one of the most important universal tools for any construction job. Anything that requires accuracy should use a speed square.

No. 2: Johnson Level & Tool

Johnson Level & Tool is a professional grade 7-inch speed square made for unparalleled accuracy and durability. A solid aluminum body and CNC machined edges give you near-perfect accuracy on any construction site or in any shop. Whether you want some that works as a saw guide, something to mark cut lines, or need a scale for cutting different kinds of rafters, this 7″ “Johnny Square” does it all. The permanent graduations are extra clear and easy to read on this speed square and the constant scribing notches make marking dead simple.

The matte black finishes also makes reading this square really simple. No more confusing your readings and measurements because the sun was in your eyes. The white and black is unmistakable and is great for carpenters and other professionals whose eyesight isn’t what it once was. This product was made by and for professional tradesmen, and the laser etched markings and numbers are designed to stand up to the elements, and stand the test of time.

No. 3: Dewalt – 7-Inch Aluminum Rafter Square

Dewalt is another name in construction and professional trades that has a long and storied history of excellence. Their 7-Inch Aluminum Rafter Square is no exception. The extra-thick extruded aluminum is built to withstand the most rigorous wear and tear, making it a great tool to use as a saw guide. The contrasting color gradations make this easy on the eyes, and easier to get accurate readings from regardless of the glare or weather conditions. The larger base is also ideal for getting a more secure grip on whatever materials you are working on.

Dewalt makes products that professionals don’t mind paying slightly extra for, and this great universal tool looks like it belongs in any home workshop or professional setting. This lightweight tool is simple to carry and store on almost any belt, and the base lip gives you a more secure fit to the wood or whatever surface you are working on. If you are serious about cutting symmetrical, straight lines, you can’t go wrong with a speed square from a company like Dewalt.

No. 4: CH Hanson – Pivot Square

CH Hanson’s Pivot Square is one of the most versatile version’s of this tool on the market. It comes with a locking mechanism that allows you to set the square at different angles to ensure you get accurate repetitive cuts. It is great for cutting in either degree or roof pitches, and is the ideal roofer and carpenter’s tool. The three UV resistant builtin level vials allow you to accurately and effectively determine roof angles and pitches. They indicate the grade, make miter cuts easy, and make for easy leveling and plumbing cuts.

Like most good speed squares, this product from CH Hanson is made from high quality machined aluminum alloy. This company has been making tools since 1866, and they have become a long-standing favorite of professional tradesmen all over the U.S. This product is robust, precision-accurate, and an indispensable tool for anyone working for themselves, or others. One thing to take note of, however, is that once you set it to a certain angle, you will need to be careful when putting it down, or back into a tool pouch to ensure you don’t lose the setting.

No. 5: Irwin Tools – Rafter Square

Irwin Tools is another hard-to-beat name when it comes to heavy-duty professional grade products for the construction and DIY industries. Made from high grade aluminum that is made to be rust-proof and incredibly durable, this versatile square comes with 1/8, 1/10, 1/12, and 1/16 inch scales for highly customized cuts. It also has rafter tables, brace and octagon scales, and an Essex board measure right on the face of the tool for easy quick reference. The yellow markings on the black background pop out and are easy to read, so it’s a great tool for people without perfect vision.

Irwin is a favorite among pros and hobbyists alike, so this makes a great addition to a home workshop, or as gift to a professional tradesperson. At just 0.16 ounces, and measuring 9.2 x 7.5 x 1.0 inches, this is the ideal, lightweight, easy-to-carry universal construction tool that should be on anyone’s belt. For the price, this is definitely a hard product to beat in terms of quality and reliability.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about speed squares

Knowing how to evaluate the different features of the myriad speed squares out there is how you will make a wise purchasing decision. As we noted, there are a lot of different models out there that come in different sizes, and are made from different materials.

Don’t make your life harder than it is! Use a speed square to measure.
(Source: Lightfieldstudio: 72278541/ 123rf.com)

In the following section we have laid out all of the necessary information you will need to have. Continue reading to find out more, and to get the answers to some commonly asked consumer questions.

What is a speed square exactly?

As we mentioned in the opening paragraph of this guide, speed squares have been helping tradespeople take precision measurements and make precision cuts for thousands of years. They are frequently used to ensure the cutting of wood, metal, and other materials is done as accurately and as straight as possible. Some models can be used to measure angles and to draw on tables.

A steel square typically has a wide blade made of bronze, wood, and most commonly, aluminum, and are fixed to a handle of similar materials. A metal strip is then attached to the handle’s interior to ensure that the blade cannot move and remains at a 90-degree angle.

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Many of the newer speed squares on the U.S. market are made from high quality alloyed aluminum

What parts make up a speed square?

Speed squares come in a range of different shapes and sizes. A triangle is almost always isosceles, while carpenter’s squares (which are similar tools) are L-shaped right angles. They both form right angles, and their main function is as an angle checker when mounting or cutting.

As this tool is used for degree measurements, it has to be designed in such a way that it allows to draw angles and vertices. All good speed squares must have a measuring scale (with various fractional inch gradations), while many models also come with angle conveyors. Below we will go over their main features:

  • Angle:The indefinite segment of a plane limited by two lines starting from the same point. Speed squares take the shape of an isosceles triangle, which means it is comprised by a 90 degree angle, and two 45 degree angles.
  • Vertex:The vertex is the name given to the point that marks the union between the segments that create an angle. This is the point where at least three different planes meet (such as the tip of a pyramid).
  • Scale:It refers to the orderly succession of values of the same quality. One side of the speed square features the different measurement values. In the United States, the Imperial system is the norm, but some products give both imperial and metric measurements for convenience sake.

How should I use my speed square?

The type of line you are trying to measure or draw dictates how you’ll use your speed square. You can use it for simple carpentry projects where you just need to draw angles, or you can use it for metallurgy to mark materials that must be cut or welded. It can also be used to lineup cuts with saws.

Many speed squares can be folded and are therefore easy to transport.
(Source: Racorn: 23448630/ 123rf.com)

For design and drawing, you will need to make use of the tool’s various different features. In that case, speed squares generally work with a triangle, and one instrument is used to support the other, just like a straightedge. The speed square will move along the axis created by the supporting instrument.

What is the difference between a speed square and a triangle?

Both are measuring tools, and both form right angle triangles. The primary difference, however, is in the kind of triangle each forms. A speed square is an isosceles triangle, with two equal sides and angles, while the other one is a scalene triangle, with three different sides:

speed square Triangle
Triangle Isosceles triangle (two sides of equal length) Scalene triangle (all different sides)
Angles An angle of 90º and two of 45º  An angle of 90º, an angle of 60º and an angle of 30º
Use Drawing perpendicular lines and lines at an angle It is usually used with a speed square to draw perpendicular and parallel lines
Price Moderate Moderate

It must also be noted that these two tools, when used in concert, make drawing parallel and perpendicular lines much easier.

What are speed squares used for?

The design of a speed square makes it an almost unbeatable tool for drawing straight, 90 degree, and 45 degree lines. These inclinations are particularly used in works requiring cavalier projection. To draw these lines and angles, position the speed square with a reference ruler in order to trace the correct angle.

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Did you know that a speed square is one of the first tools high school students learn to use in Shop Class in U.S. high schools?

You can also use a cabinet projection to draw lines with the horizontal axes at 45º. In that case, you’ll need the support of a horizontal ruler to draw the vertical axis and the two horizontal axes at 45º. The coordinates of the corresponding axes are then placed in this projection.

What types of speed squares are available out there?

As previously discussed, a speed square can be grouped based on their manufacturing materials, the most common of which are aluminum alloys. Some come with wood or plastic features (either the buffer or handle). These materials are more frequently found in speed squares used for technical drawings like architectural plans and blueprints.

Speed squares are ideal for carpentry work.
(Source: Kappatou: 70019702/ 123rf.com)

We’ve combined all of the most common types of speed square on the U.S. market into the below list:

  • Adjustable bevel:This tool is comprised of two rulers that meet at one end of the instrument and spin freely. They are most commonly used to trace angles and draw convergent lines. Some models are “T” shaped.
  • Try square:They are also referred to as “machinist” or “engineer’s” squares. They are the most commonly found squares on the market. They come in different sizes (usually 7″ and 12″), they are most often made of aluminum alloy and wood.
  • Universal angle:These aren’t as common as the try square. They are multi-use tools that give you several different measurements capabilities. The most distinctive feature is the internal triangle. If it the perfect tool for mapping out holes for hinges.

With what materials are speed squares made?

Historians actually attribute the invention of this tool the Greek mathematician and Pythagoras, one of the most important figures in the history of geometry, algebra, and mathematics. While the ancient models were made of wood, modern versions use things like aluminum alloy which are durable, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant.

Most older models have metal blades riveted to a wood base at a 90-degree angle. Modern ones, as we said, tend to be metal, with some plastic models used for intricate spec and design drawings.

Shopping Criteria

You should know about a number of fundamental shopping criteria before purchasing yourself a speed square. The below section will provide you with all the information you might need to evaluate the different options out there on the U.S. market. These are some of the key factors to keep in mind:

  • Materials
  • Use
  • Size and weight
  • Design
  • Reviews

Materials

Most new models are made with one or more steel and aluminum alloys to make them tough and durable. These are the best style of speed square to get.

Metal speed squares are tough and durable.
(Source: Miragaya: 12902884/ 123rf.com)

There are, however, still models that look more traditional and use wood as well. While they are still meant to be tough, they have a more rustic look. Models made for mark degrees of angles, and to draw typically feature plastic buffers to make the process easier on your hands.

Use

What you plan on using your speed square for will largely dictate what you end up buying. If you work at an architectural firm doing highly specific and intricate drawings, you will need something different than if you work as a carpenter on a construction site. The material, and especially how durable they are, should be factored into your decision.

Stainless steel and aluminum alloy squares are specifically made to be used outside and directly exposed to the elements. If you’re working outdoors, you will want something that has good engraving on it, so that the measurements don’t fade over time. For anything lighter, the material is not as important.

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Did you know that these tools have been used for measuring tasks since ancient times? Furthermore, nearly every famous building and structure in the United States was built by skilled tradesmen using high quality speed squares.

Size and weight

Most speed squares are quite lightweight, but steel and metal ones are going to weigh more than plastic, which is certainly something to consider.

You’ll thank us on the long run if you opt for a lighter, more comfortable model, especially if this tool is very present in your work.

The size of your speed square is important, so pay close attention to the product specifications before buying. Size matters, so think carefully about your needs. While 7.9 inches is standard for speed squares, there are many more options out there. As with any tool, the most important thing is that you get the right one for the job.

Design

It will likely come as no surprise that the speed squares that young kids learn on in shop class and are much different that carpenter’s squares. The former are three-sided triangles, while the latter are usually two perpendicular rulers that form a right angle. The lack of a third side means you can use the inside of the right angle to mark and measure holes better.

There are also universal angles out there which allow you to adjust the vertex of the angle, opening and closing the speed square to measure a wider range of angles. Some high-tech models now feature digital measuring capabilities.

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Reviews

Whenever you buy anything, online or otherwise, it is always wise to take into account what other buyers have to say. In the online world, this is easier than ever. The comment section of most products is filled with useful advice and information you can use to inform your purchase. Being the first person to buy something, with no previous opinions to rely on, is always risky.

You can also take into account user ratings. Products that are consistently rated highly by consumers are so for a reason. People are quick to let the world know when a product, or a company has not lived up to its promises or standards, so evaluate both the negative and positive reviews.

Summary

Speed squares are simple, time-tested, versatile tools that are must-haves in architectural offices, as much as they are on construction sites and wood shops. They are a vital tool for measuring, drawing, and calculating angles. This tool will be invaluable whether you are a DIY handyman, or a professional tradesman.

There is a tremendous variety of product offerings on the U.S. market, and hopefully this guide has given you all of the information necessary for finding the right one for you. You now know how to consider material quality, and use, and you can always refer to this guide when in doubt to make sure you are on the right track.

If you found this article and buyers guide to speed squares informative, then share it with your family and friends on social media. Additionally you can leave us a comment in the below section and let us know what you think!

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