10 Best Framing Squares 2023 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide
Framing squares are a versatile and handy tool to have for almost every construction job. Unfortunately, this tool doesn’t last forever. What’s worse, when you go to replace it, you quickly realize there are dozens of options to choose from. Time is money and scratching your head trying to figure out which square is worth your coin isn’t a good time. If only there was a review you could read to break down the ten best options?
If you landed on this page, we bet you are looking for just that, right? We heard you, and we have all the details you need. We will talk about versatility, durability, useability, and all the other “ility’s” you need to know.
If you want to be Johnny-on-the-spot with all the steel square specs, don’t skip the buyer’s guide below, either. We’ve added some tib-bits you don’t want to miss!
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023
|Best Overall||Johnson Level & Tool CS5 Framing Square||
|Best Value||Mr. Pen- Carpenter Framing Square||
|Premium Choice||IRWIN Tools 1794447 Framing Square||
|VINCA SCLS-1208 Carpenter L Framing Square||
|Starrett FS-24 Steel Professional Framing Square||
The 10 Best Framing Squares
1. Johnson Level & Tool CS5 Framing Square – Best Overall
If you are looking for the best, we recommend the Johnson Level & Tool CS5 Framing Square. This is a 16” X 24” tool that is made of durable aluminum that won’t rust when used under wet conditions. This versatile tool gives you octagon scales, rafter tables, brace tables, and board foot tables, as well.
You will find the Johnson Level framing square is easy to use, plus the permanently etched markings are easy to read. The measurements also graduate in 1/8-inch, 1/10-inch, 1/12-inch, and 1/16-inch increments. At 8 ounces, this is also a lightweight option that can be attached to your tool belt. Overall, this is the best framing square available.
2. Mr. Pen- Carpenter Framing Square – Best Value
If you are eager to save some cash, the Mr. Pen- Carpenter Framing Square is a good affordable option. This is an L-shaped framing ruler that is 8” X 12”. Use the outside of the short leg to measure up to 8 inches, and the inside to measure up to 6.5 inches. On the longer body, the inner side can measure up to 11 inches while the outer will give you measurements up to 12 inches.
This is a carbon steel tool that is not only durable but is lightweight and easy to use at 8.8 ounces. It is also rust-resistant. Not only that, but this option gives you 1/16-inch graduations on one side and metric units on the other. Use this tool for framing, carpentry, roofing, stairs, etc. The only downside that keeps this square out of our number one spot is the lack of table or conversion measurements. That being said, it has high-contrast white on black markings that don’t rub off. Other than that, this precise model is the best framing square for the money.
3. IRWIN Tools 1794447 Framing Square – Premium Choice
If you want the king of all framing squares, the IRWIN Tools 1794447 Framing Square is the one for you. This is an aluminum-bodied tool that is durable, rust-resistant, and accurate. With a 16” X 24” range, you will be able to get precise work done with all construction, carpentry, framing, and stairway projects. Designed with a dark blue background, the yellow increments are stamped deep, so you never have to worry about them rubbing off.
The IRWIN is a good option if you need rafter tables, brace and octagon scales, and Essex board measurements. It has multiple scales available, as well. Depending on your need, you also have graduations of 1/8-inch, 1/10-inch, 1/12-inch, and 1/16-inch. What’s more, you can use the tool as a protractor, saw guide, and ruler. At 12.6 ounces, this is a lightweight and easy to use square. The only drawback is the price. This option will run you a bit more than the top two picks, but if you need accurate and multifaceted functionability, this is a great option to choose.
4. VINCA SCLS-1208 Carpenter L Framing Square
The Vinca SCLS-1208 Carpenter L Framing Square is a 16” X 24” L tool that is made of hardened steel for long-lasting durability. It also has an anti-rust coating to keep corrosion at bay when working in damp areas. Both sides of this tool measure in inches for your convenience. You can use this option for any of your carpentry, framing, stair, and precise jobs where accuracy counts.
One downside to this product is the weight. At 1.71 pounds, it can be heavier to use after an extended period. On the other hand, the permanently stamped measurements make it easy to read, however, it’s not high contrast. Low-light can make it more difficult to read. Finally, you will find this square easy to use and hang off your tool-belt or wall, but it doesn’t feature any tables or helpful conversions.
5. Starrett FS-24 Steel Professional Framing Square
If you are looking for a professional steel square, the Starrett FS-24 Professional Framing Square is a good place to start. This tool is one-piece of tempered steel that has a 24” X 2” body and a 16” X 1½” tongue. It is durable, easy to use, and can be used on multiple projects. You will also find the measurements are easy to read with the permanently stamped markings. It also has measurements on both sides making it easier to work at any angle or side.
Like the product above, however, this square is heavier than others at 1.9 pounds. You should also note that it has 1/8-inch graduations, so you will not be able to be as precise with this tool. There are no tables or conversions, either. Beyond that, the anti-rust coating prevents the Starrett from wearing down prematurely. Whether you are working on at-home projects or furniture, this is a great middle of the road option to have around.
6. Swanson Tool T001WZ Framing Square
The Swanson Tool T001WZ Framing Square is five tools in one. This option can be used as a framing square, miter square, angle finder, saw guide, and try square. Plus, it also uses the one-number method to make your work as simple as possible. At 1.2 pounds, it is light enough to be easy to use, yet the anodized aluminum body is durable and sturdy.
You will find this tool has an adjustable, sliding tab that allows you to lock in angles for repetitive cuts, angles, and measurements. You can also mark the top and bottom studs at the same time with this handy tool. Keep in mind, however, the Swanson square is prone to rust if you are using it in damp conditions. What’s more, the laser edged markings wear down over time. Finally, you will need to reposition the square to 90 degrees often, as it falls out of place easily.
7. Stanley 45-300 Aluminum Carpenters Square
Made in the USA, the Stanley 45-300 Aluminum Carpenters Square features easy to read measurements and conversions. This tool is designed to be used by carpenters, contractors, furniture makers, and handymen alike. As the name states, it is made of aluminum, although you should consider that it’s not as durable as some of our other models. It can also warp throwing off measurements.
The Stanley square gives you convenient conversions for new lumber, decimal equivalents, and metric conversions. It is made with deep-set granulations at 1/8-inch. That being said, some jobs may require more increments than this option has to offer. Outside of that, this tool has a 24” X 2” body, and a 16” X 1½” tongue. Something else to be aware of is the corrosion-resistance, which is sorely lacking. At 13.8 ounces, the square is lightweight and easy to hold.
8. Tarvol 12″ Framing Square
The number eight option is the Tarvol 12” Framing Square. This is a heavy-duty option made of durable steel. Essentially, this is a 12-inch ruler with a small 90-degree angle. It has an insert hole for hanging from your workshop wall or tool belt, plus it gives you centimeters on the opposite side.
While the Tarvol is made of hardened steel, it is a flimsy 3.98 ounces that is easy to damage. The painted-on measurements also wear off quickly which makes reading this square difficult. Not only that, but the 90-degree angle is often off by a degree or two. On the other hand, it is powder-coated to prevent rust. Additionally, you have 10¼ inches on the inner line and 30 cm on the outer. This can be somewhat limiting on bigger jobs, keep in mind. Not to mention, there are no tables or conversions on this piece.
9. Empire Level e1190 Framing & Carpenter Square
Our second to the last pick is the Empire Level e1190 Framing & Carpenter Square. This is a 16” X 24” inch tool that comes in either a blue or black anodized aluminum. It has contrasting white measurements that are stamped deeply into the body, so you will always be able to see the etchings. Made in the USA, this tool can be used in a multitude of ways and on different projects.
That being said, you should be aware that this aluminum tool is not as dependable as we would like. First, the overall durability is not great, plus it will rust and corrode after some use. It also has a 24” X 12” body and a 16” X 1/2” tongue. The graduations of 1/8-inch, 1/10-inch, 1/12-inch, and 1/16-inch are not always accurate, though it does have a conversion table. While it only weighs 14.4 ounces, this is another tool that can warp easily. Lastly, the Empire square is not always square. Keep this in mind for precise jobs.
10. POWERTEC 80008 Steel Framing Square
Our final option is the POWERTEC 80008 Steel Framing Square. This is a 16” X 24” L-shaped tool that comes in black with white measurement markings. This option is designed to be used for laying rafters and it has an octagonal index. Unfortunately, it is not as useful for other projects. Made of steel, it is lacking in some important ways.
The POWERTEC has graduations of 1/8-inch, 1/10-inch, 1/12-inch, and 1/16-inch on the front and back. The body is 24” X 2” while the tongue is 16” X 1 ½”. Many customers have found these measurements to be off, however. Not only that, but the contrasting white markings are not long-lasting and will quickly wear away. Additionally, the small numbers make it difficult to read even before they have worn down. You should also note that the 1.25-pound is not always accurate, and it can be quite a bit heavier. Finally, this is not a single piece of steel and the welded joint is often weak. Overall, this is our least favorite option for a framing square.
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing the Best Framing Square
A framing square, also known as a steel or carpenters square, is an important tool to have for furniture makers, laying rafters, building stairs, and many other jobs. Its main use is to provide a definitive right angle where it is needed and create straight lines. Layouts and measurements are the two most important functions, but it can also serve many other purposes.
In the above reviews, we have given you ten options to choose from, but you still may be scratching your head about which one is the right fit for your project. To answer that question, there are several factors you need to consider. We look closer at these things below.
Top Framing Square Questions and Answers
Knowing the answers to the questions below is the best way to ensure you are purchasing the best carpenter’s square for your needs. As they come with different features and functionalities, you should have an understanding of what the different squares are used for.
What is a Framing Square Used For?
In short, a framing square is used for layouts and measurements on right angles and other pitches. That is not all, however. If you are a furniture maker, carpenter, or just a DIYer, you may find many other uses for your square such as miter saw lines, basic ruler measurements, but most importantly, it is meant to give you more functionality in your work.
What Type of Metal Is Best for A Framing Square?
This question depends on your project. Typically, squares are made of either steel or aluminum. In the latter case, it tends to be lighter and better for the DIYer or handyman. On the other hand, steel squares are more durable, and they also tend to be more accurate. Be advised, however, if you are using this tool on the roof or in the hot sun, they can carry a lot of heat.
Why Are Pressed Markings Important?
This is a lot more important than many novice square users think. As mentioned, an important function of this tool is to create accurate angles and measurements. If you are unable to see the numbers or graduations, it renders the tool useless. Many brands will either hard-press or laser etch their measurements into the metal, so it cannot wear off. Not only that, but you will also notice many of them have contrasting metal to number colors to make the square easier to read in low light.
What Kind of Measurements Should My Square Have?
This is an equally important question that also depends on the type of project you need the square to help you with. First, squares universally come with the American measuring format, but some come with the metric system, as well. If you are unsure which one you will need, opt for a square that has both options, so you are not caught without the specific measurement you need.
What are Graduations and Scale Range?
The graduations of a square are the amount of space between each marking. For example, you will see many options range between 1/8-inch, 1/10-inch, 1/12-inch graduations, and so on. How precise you need to be will determine the graduations you require. Be that as it may, scale range is also important, but not so easily spotted when checking out different brands. Scale range is important for creating a square, hexagonal, and octagonal shapes. Look for terms such as square scale and octagonal scale, but again, this need will vary based on your project.
Are Tables and Conversions Important?
In a word, yes! When doing a complex layout, tables and conversions keep you from having to stop and do difficult mathematical equations. The top framing squares will have these tables etched into the metal for convenience. Keep in mind, if you will not be using the tool for difficult projects, they might not be necessary. Although, those that do have them tend to be of higher quality. Popular tables and conversions to look for are decimal conversions, Essex Board Measure tables, and rafter tables.
Are the Body and Tongue Length and Width Important?
Again, yes! Some framing squares will have longer bodies and tongues than others, so it will depend on what your tool is intended for. The width of the body and tongue (also known as the blades) is important for the same reason the choice of metal is important. Thinner blades are easier to handle, yet not as accurate because they can slip out of place easily. Thicker blades tend to stay put and will give you a more accurate reading.
What Is a Tapered Framing Square?
Tapered squares are known to give the best accuracy due to their construction, however, they are not common in this day and age. These are older squares where you typically will not find some of the modern conveniences of tables and conversions. Incidentally, tapered versions of this tool are often sold at a high price as vintage collectibles.
Which Framing Square Is Right for Me?
Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. Based on all of the information above, there are any number of variations of this tool for various tasks. For example, building stairs is a precise job. If you are off by a small amount, it can throw the entire case out the window (excuse the pun). Framing squares are normally used for roofing, drywall, furniture making, trim carpentry, stair construction, and the layout of construction projects. That being said, there is a vast amount of other uses for this tool. Deciding on the right one for you will take some knowledge of your project, and the guide above!
We hope the above reviews have helped you find the right framing square for your needs. For such a simple tool, the number of variations to choose from can be confusing and hard to decipher. In our opinion, the Johnson Level & Tool CS5 Framing Square is the best tool to go for. Whether you need ultra-precise measurements or simple lines, this handy metal piece is worth the purchase. If you want to take things slower with something more affordable, we suggest going with the Mr. Pen-Carpenter Framing Square. This is another good quality square that is a great beginner tool for the newbie user.