A Speed Square (rafter square, rafter angle square, triangle square) is a triangular carpenters’ marking out tool manufactured and sold by Swanson Tool Co., Inc. The Speed Square combines common functions of the combination square, try square, and framing square into one. Carpenters use it to make basic measurements and mark lines on dimensional lumber, and as a saw guide for short 45 and 90-degree cuts.
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.
- This tool uses a 0° reference. This means when a board is squared off the tool reads 0°.
- The angle derived is actually a complementary angle. For example, a 22.5° angle is actually 67.5°. The sum of the angles equals 90 degrees(22.5° +67.5°= 90°). It is obvious from a visual check that where the instrument displays 22.5° is not 22.5°.
- Many of the new slide miters and miter boxes display both angles. Some of the new calculators have a 0° and a 90° reference to do angular calculations. This can create much confusion if the user does not understand this angular calibration.
- To find an angle such as 22.5°, hold the end of the square marked “pivot” against the board and rotate the square until the edge of the board lines up with an appropriate number on the degree scale. Draw a line along the side of the square with the inches (pivot side) to indicate the angle for cutting. Use the “Common” scale to cut for Rise over Run.
- You must be aware of which type of speed square you need. If you are working outdoors, you’ll likely want something made to be corrosion and weather resistant which cant be destroyed due to weather conditions.
- It is also important to get a model that has easy-to-read numbering and lettering on the speed squaring. It makes the most sense to get a speed square that has corrosion-resistant engraving or laser etching. This will keep them readable for a longer period of time as it will not be rubbed or destroyed.
- 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.
The Best Speed Squares on the U.S. Market
If you’re still using a plastic speed square, you’re just cheating yourself. The least-expensive metal speed squares match the more expensive plastic models, but last far longer, and are safe to use around your saw and other power tools. While you probably don’t need more encouragement to upgrade than that, they’re also more durable, and often more accurate as well.
However, it’s not always clear which models are winners and which will end up collecting dust or rotting away in a trashcan when you shop online. Misleading product descriptions written by ad executives can make it hard to figure out which models are worth your money.
Our reviews are designed to take the stress out of the buying process. We cover the good and the bad so that you know what you’re buying before you commit. We’ve also included a buyer’s guide, so you can learn everything you need to know about these great tools, even if you’ve never owned one before.
There is now a huge variety of speed squares in 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.
1. Swanson Tool Co. Tool Kit
You may end up paying more, but it will be hard to find a better speed square than the Swanson Tool S0101 7-inch Speed Square Layout Tool. 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. This model comes with every measurement you would expect to find on a speed square and more. It’s cast from aluminum, so it’s both very sturdy and lightweight. It comes with multiple notches, which are useful for keeping track of measurements and making accurate marks, even if you have to move the speed square around. It also comes with a handle pivot point, which makes marking out angles as easy as you could want.
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 the 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.
That makes this tool a great choice for beginners. We only have one problem with this model, and that’s that it sometimes comes rough-cast or with sloppy paint. For the price, it’s not a bad deal, but you may spend some time cleaning it up.
2. Johnson Level & Tool | Best Speed Square!
The Johnson Level & Tool 7-Inch Aluminum Rafter Square falls squarely into the second category, and while it does some things right, it’s probably not going to be the right tool for most people. In its favor, it comes with good contrast in its lettering, despite the fact that it’s white letters on a black background. Part of this is due to the good anti-glare coat which is put on this tool.
Johnson Level & Tool is a professional grade 7-inch speed square made for unparalleled accuracy and durability. It’s also made from relatively-soft aluminum which can be damaged in short drops. Overall, the quality isn’t high enough for this model to survive more than a few months of regular use before warping or having critical markings rub off. Whether you want something 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 Pros of this model are that it has good visibility, anti-glare coating and has great scribing notches but on the other hand, the negative point is that it is made up of soft aluminum and its paint can be easily damaged. For the price, most people are going to be looking for a model that will last them much longer.
The white and black are unmistakable and are 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.
3. Dewalt – 7-Inch Aluminum Rafter Square
The DEWALT DWHT46031 7-inch Rafter Square is another great speed square. Like the previous model, this one comes with a high-contrast between body color and lettering color. While the white letters on a black background aren’t as visible as the yellow-on-blue found elsewhere, it’s still a better contrast than you’ll find on other models. This model also comes with a larger-than-average base, which makes it good for holding onto larger pieces of lumber and adds to this model’s overall durability. Also included are great scribe-line notches, which make marking lumber for rip cuts surprisingly easy.
While most metal speed squares claim that they’re durable enough to use as a saw guide, this is one that’s definitely going to live up to those claims. With qualities like these, you may be wondering why this model isn’t ranked higher on our list. Unfortunately, this model suffers from inconsistent quality. Most units are fine, but some come with substandard painting or, with less-than-desirable machining along the edges.
This model has good color contrast, large base, great scribble notches and it is durable enough to use as a saw guide.
If you are serious about cutting symmetrical, straight lines, you can’t go wrong with a speed square from a company like Dewalt.
4. CH Hanson – Pivot Square
CH Hanson’s Pivot Square is one of the most versatile versions 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.
This model includes a locking mechanism that sets the square at a specific angle for accurately marking repetitive cut lines in either-Degree or roof pitches.
It has three UV resistant vials that quickly and easily determine roof pitches and angles, indicate grade, facilitate miter cuts and allow for leveling and plumbing cuts.
This model is extremely durable and made from the finest machined aluminum alloy.
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.
5. Irwin Tools – Rafter Square, One Of The Best Speed Square
If you blink, you may think that you’ve gone from black-and-white to color when looking at this model. The IRWIN Tools 7-Inch Rafter Square is nearly identical to the previous model; however, it’s painted in bright blues and yellows which make it easier to read, especially if you’re in subpar lighting. It’s also made from aluminum, so it’s both strong and lightweight. Design-wise, it’s all you could reasonably expect from a speed square, and in some ways.
It comes with a 1/16-inch scale which is missing from the previous model. In case you are looking for the best speed square, this professional tool has permanent deep stampings that are durable. The aluminum body is rust-proof and weather-resistant. The square has multiple scales: 1/8-, 1/10-, 1/12-, and 1/16-inch. It has features rafter tables, brace and octagon scales, and Essex board measure. This model has yellow markings on the blue background that are easiest to read. For the price, this is definitely very hard to beat this product in terms of quality and reliability.
Guide: Everything You Should Know About Speed Squares
In this particular section, we will be knowing what all features we should keep in mind while buying a speed square. There are a lot of different models out there that come in different sizes and are made from different materials. Below are the following features we should be aware of.
Ease of reading
When it comes to buying a speed square, the most important thing to focus on is getting a model that is easy to read. While it may not seem like that’s the most important feature at first, it’s important to remember that this is a tool you’re going to be constantly consulting while you work with it. A loss of even a second across the entire process could cost you minutes every day, and hours every month.
The most-readable models focus on delivering a high contrast between the markings and the backgrounds. Anti-glare coatings can also greatly increase how visible the markings are.
Durability is the next most important area, and a good reason to upgrade from a plastic to a metal speed square. Plastic models are prone to breaking and won’t be safe to use around power tools. Metal speed squares will survive being dropped and run over, and some are even strong enough to use as a guide when you’re running wood through your saw.
However, most speed squares are made from aluminum, and not all aluminum formulations are made the same. Make sure there are no user complaints about bending or warping before you buy, and you greatly increase your odds of getting a model that lasts a long time.
Scribing notches are another area where models can separate themselves from the pack. Most models come with at least some scribing notches, though not all do. If you do a lot of rip cuts, you may want to avoid models without scribing notches, as you’ll lose a lot of value without them.
Of course, there’s some variation from model to model. Some come with around seven notches, while others have dozens that run nearly the full length of aside. Again, this isn’t a feature that will be useful for everyone, but if you do a lot of rip cuts, then you owe it to yourself to get a model that has excellent scribing notches.
Size and Weight
Speed squares come in a variety of sizes, but the most common sizes are a seven-inch triangle and a twelve-inch triangle. Project size and the type of material will determine how large of a speed square you will need to buy.
For instance, if wanting to work with large lumber, the seven-inch speed square would not be a wise choice. You would want to choose the twelve-inch speed square. But for smaller lumber, the seven inches would work perfectly.
In the tile or any flooring industry, a speed square comes in handy to make intricate cuts that cannot be hand-drawn. If you are laying tile or wood flooring around a kitchen island, you can measure the cutting distance with a speed square. Then mark it by laying your speed square on your material (wood, tile, laminate) and make your precise markings with a permanent marker or pencil.
Mostly all the new models are made up of more steel and aluminum alloys to make them tough and durable. These are the best style of speed square to get.
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.
Whenever you are going to buy anything whether online or from the market, once you check the product reviews whether that particular product is good to buy or not, or whether its really worth buying.
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 have a look at ratings whether that product has been given good ratings or average ratings or poor. Online people are always keen to comment about the product in the comment section so that other people will also come to know about the pros and cons of this particular product, or a company has not lived up to its promises or standards, so evaluate both the negative and positive reviews.
How can a single piece of heavy-gauge aluminum with no moving parts attract so many fervent fans? Speed Square’s true secret lies in the dense congregation of information and features packed on its face: a lipped fence, deeply incised numbers, holes, notches, and cut-outs.
It’s these features that make this a highly functional yet very low-cost tool for scribing, marking and cutting. The accompanying 59-page “Swanson’s Little Blue Book” is legendary in fine carpentry and roofing trades for helping to translate Speed Square measurements to real-world applications.
Speed Square does do a couple of things that no other tool can do, but Speed Square’s greatest advantage is as a fast, easy-to-read substitute for other tools that are bulkier or more difficult to pull out and get working. In short, Speed Square is probably the only square you can obtain that will fit within your toolbox. If only for that easy accessibility, Speed Square should be one tool that you definitely own.