Speed Square Vs Combination Square – Which One You Should Choose?

When I compare two devices or tools I follow a simple but effective strategy. I think this strategy may come to your help too. In this article, I am going to disclose this strategy.

You have to have a clear idea at least about the basic characteristics of both the tools. If you have clear knowledge about the basic characteristics of the tool you can easily figure out which tool you need.

Ins and Outs of Speed Square

A Speed Square is also called rafter angle square, rafter square or triangle square. It is a multifunctional tool that plays the functions of the combination square, try square, and framing Square.

speed square for roofing carpenters

This multifunctional tool was developed in 1925 by a carpenter whose name was Albert J. Swanson. Later he founded Swanson Tool Co., Inc. Well, this is the history of the speed square in short. His idea of this tool was so unique and was able to create a utility for the carpenters.

If you observe a speed square you will notice a lipped fence, deeply incised numbers, holes, notches, and cut-outs. All of these features made speed square a multi-functional tool that you can get at a cheap rate.

The manufacturers provide a manual book regarding the fine carpentry and roofing trades. With the help of this book, you can translate the measurement of the speed square to certain useful applications. This book provides roof angle calculations referencing the markings on the 45° side of the square.

It is faster, easy to read, lightweight, easily portable tool. Since it is used for marking lines on dimensional lumber and for basic measurements you must give the highest importance on the ease of reading the scale. If the marking on the scale is not written clearly your investment on the tool will totally be a waste.

A good quality speed square has a high contrast between the markings and the backgrounds. Some of the speed squares have anti-glare coatings. The anti-glare coating is applied to the tool for making it easily readable to the user.

Speed squares are made of two kinds of materials – plastic and metal. The plastic made speed squares are more lightweight than the speed square made of metal. But the plastic speed squares are less durable than the metallic one. If you choose the plastic made speed square I would recommend you not to use it around the power tool.

The metallic speed squares also have some disadvantages, for example, the metallic speed square may bend or wrap that may create faulty measurements. But the metallic speed squares are more durable and less prone to breaking compared to the plastic speed square.

Ins and Outs of Combination Square

The combination square is also a multifunctional measuring tool. It is generally used for woodworking, stonemasonry, and metalworking. The combination square consists of a ruler and one or more interchangeable heads.

combination square in use

It was invented before the speed square in 1879. Mr. Laroy S. Starrett was its inventor. One can use this tool in home workshops, construction job sites and metalworking.

In woodworking, you have to make two angles very commonly. One is 90° and the other is 45° angles. Using the combination square you can make these two angles quickly and easily. The combination square has a protractor head. It helps to set the angles easily by making a measurement between the base and the ruler.

If you have a little bit of experience of woodworking you must know that ensuring flatness is very important for making wooden products. The combination square has made this job easier.

To make a circle it is very necessary to find out the center position of the object you are working on. The combination square has made this job easier. By moving the head and fixing its position you can use it as a depth gauge or for transferring dimensions.

Different types of materials are used for making the combination square. But the combination square made of hardened steel is more durable than the others.

Depending on the price the combination square is categorized into 3 categories. The low end, top-tier, and the mid-priced square. While buying the combination square you have to focus on the accuracy, versatility, ease of use and durability.

Which One to Choose?

If you are looking for measuring tools only for woodworking the speed square is better. On the other hand, if the field of your job is versatile and you are looking for a measuring tool that will fit in a diverse type of jobs then the combination square is better.

Final Thought

Both of combination square and the speed square has several varieties. They differ in functionality, design, material, and price. Both of these tools are multifunctional.

Which one will be better for your job depends on the nature of your job. So, the best way to identify the best one for your job is to have a clear idea about the functionality of the tools and also your necessity.

Edited By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989

Woodworking for me is in my blood as a son of a traditional boatbuilder. My Father Malcolm Kett was highly skilled and inventive individual often referred to as ‘Malcolm The Boat’. 

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Well that’s Me

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