10 Best Speed Squares of 2023 – Reviews & Buying Guide
Speed squares are an essential tool for any carpenter or woodworker. They may be one of your most-used tools, even if you’re a DIYer. Despite their appearance, speed squares have an extended range of features and qualities. They are not all made equal.
Choosing the correct speed square for your situation is essential. It can be the difference between a stress-free project and one riddled with headaches. To help you choose the best speed square, we put together a list of reviews and an in-depth guide to shopping for speed squares. Hopefully, this guide helps you sort through the various speed squares on the market.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites in 2023
|Best Overall||Johnson Level & Tool RAS-1 Rafter Angle Square||
|Best Value||Swanson Tool S0101 7-inch Speed Square||
|Premium Choice||DEWALT DWHT46031 Aluminum Rafter Square||
|VINCA ARLS-12 Aluminum Rafter Carpenter Square||
|Empire Level 2990 Heavy-Duty Magnum Rafter Square||
The 10 Best Speed Squares
1. Johnson Level & Tool Rafter Angle Square – Best Overall
The Johnson Level & Tool RAS-1 Rafter Angle Square is inexpensive and accurate. The solid aluminum body has CNC-machined edges for exceptional durability and precision. The square’s edge is very thick, allowing you to use it to guide your saw. This feature works particularly well for crosscuts and angled cuts. Of course, you can also use the square indirectly by scribing notches and drawing lines on your workpiece.
Like most squares, this one has scales for cutting hip, valley, and jack rafters. The numbers are graduated, so they are effortless to read. Continuous scribing notches are also included, making it possible to quickly rip boards of specific dimensions. The whole tool is covered in a low-glare protective powder. However, we discovered this coating isn’t as durable as we would have liked. Despite that, we still think the Johnson Level and Tools square is the best overall speed square this year.
2. Swanson Tool S0101 7-inch Speed Square – Best Value
This Swanson Tool S0101 7-inch Speed Square has been crafted in the USA since 1925, so the design has been thoroughly tested over time. You can use this nifty tool as a miter square, saw guide, and line scriber. It’s a tool you’ll want to have at your side during every project. This speed square includes the pocket-sized Swanson Blue Book, which is a complete guide to using the tool.
It explains how to make the correct angle cuts for any pitched roof. The blue book is probably worth the low price by itself. There is a diamond cutout for easy rafter seat cuts. You may not use this feature often, but when you do, you’ll be happy that it is there. Graduations are included for making common, hip, valley, and jack rafters.
While this is a standard feature for all speed squares, it’s still a good idea to double-check that the measurements are there. The graduations are also pretty easy to read, which helps ensure that you remain accurate. Overall, the Swanson model is one of the best speed squares for the money.
3. DEWALT Aluminum Rafter Square – Premium Choice
This DEWALT DWHT46031 Aluminum Rafter Square is expensive. However, in this case, you’re getting what you pay for. It is a very well-put-together speed square, which is why the price is so much higher than other options.
The white numbers on the black background are easy to read, though we have seen better designs. Yellow would have been a better option, but we don’t have many complaints. The numbers are etched and stamped on, so they should stay on for quite some time. However, we did notice that the paint tends to chip rather quickly, so they may wear off faster than you’d like.
One thing we didn’t like about this product is that it doesn’t come with any notches. However, not everyone needs notches, so that isn’t necessarily a negative for every buyer. However, beginners would likely benefit from choosing a speed square with notches.
4. VINCA ARLS-12 Aluminum Rafter Carpenter Square
This VINCA ARLS-12 Aluminum Rafter Carpenter Square is quite large, which can be helpful for larger pieces of wood. Not everyone is going to need a square as large as this. However, if you commonly carry around 2-speed squares, this one may eliminate the need to do that. The Vinca speed square also includes multiple scales, eliminating the need to do calculations in your head while measuring.
The numbers are deeply etched to ensure they don’t rub off, and the Vinca is one of the easiest-to-read speed squares we reviewed. The thick aluminum body is very durable and won’t bend. We expect this speed square to withstand quite a bit of punishment. The broader base also provides a more stable grip on your workpiece, preventing slippage and unnecessary mistakes.
Of course, a rafter conversion table is also included. While this 12-inch aluminum square is longer than most, it isn’t actually 12 inches, despite the name. However, we doubt that will be a problem for most users.
5. Empire Level Heavy-Duty Magnum Rafter Square
The Empire Level 2990 Heavy-Duty Magnum Rafter Square is another aluminum speed square. As you might imagine, like many of the others we reviewed, the aluminum construction makes it durable and weather-resistant. It is also built for drops and won’t bend and break. The thicker edge is ideal if you plan on using it as a saw guide. Like almost all squares on the market, this one also comes with conversion tables printed on it.
One of the things we didn’t like about the Empire Level speed square is that the measurements are only engraved; they aren’t painted or stamped on. This reduces visibility, which can be a problem for some users. This may not always be an issue for you, but the last thing you want is to misread the numbers while making a measurement.
The edges are also very sharp and can cut you. You have to be careful with this tool, even though speed squares aren’t typically dangerous.
6. IRWIN Tools 1794463 Rafter Square
At first glance, this IRWIN Tools 1794463 Rafter Square looks excellent. It has a blue background and yellow measurements, which are easy to read. The color combinations were a perfect choice. Like most squares, it comes with multiple scales and features rafter tables. It includes everything you would expect a square to have.
However, that’s where the great things about this square end. It is pretty expensive, which we found unnecessary for the features it provides. It isn’t a great square but is nearly twice the price of others. We recommend saving your money and purchasing a square of equal quality for much cheaper.
The pivot point is also tiny. The square says “pivot” on it, with a small arrow pointing towards the hole. However, the hole that is supposed to be the pivot is too small for almost all pencils and other marking devices. You’d need a mechanical pencil with a tiny lead to use it. This isn’t a huge problem, but it can be very annoying.
7. Stanley Premium Adjustable Quick Square
The Stanley 46-053 Premium Adjustable Quick Square has a nifty little arm to help you find angles. This is a unique feature and one that we didn’t see in any of the other squares we reviewed. If this square were well made, it probably would have landed very high on our list. However, it isn’t a quality square and likely isn’t the best choice for most people.
It is made out of aluminum, which is nice. We prefer it to steel since it won’t rust and is much more weather-resistant. The black body makes the yellow measurements easy to read, even in low-light conditions. It features all the measurements you’ll need.
Despite that, we don’t recommend it for a few reasons. It is not very good at helping you make accurate straight lines, though it does angle lines very well. You may end up carrying around two squares, and at that point, you might as well spend your money on a quality, all-in-one square instead of purchasing this one.
8. Mr. Pen Metal 7 Inches Rafter Square
For the price of one speed square, you can get two when you purchase these Mr. Pen Metal 7 Inches Rafter Squares. Both of the squares are the same. You aren’t getting two separate tools but a duplicate of one. However, this can be useful for some situations since speed squares are versatile tools. You may decide to keep the tools in two places to ensure you always have one when you need it, or you may just keep one as a backup.
Both are made of aluminum and are weather-resistant. They include all the features and measurements you would expect a speed square to have. An e-book is included as well, but it’s not very comprehensive. You can find all the information it includes on the internet for free. In our opinion, it wasn’t a significant bonus.
However, neither of these squares is very accurate or precisely square. This can lead to inaccurate cuts and measurements. It is also a bit lumpy and doesn’t seem to lie flat, either.
9. WORKPRO Speed Square
For the price of a higher-end speed square, you can purchase this small measurement toolset that includes the WORKPRO Speed Square. It comes with a speed square and a combination square. This can be a great way to save money, especially if you’re a beginner. However, don’t be so fast to rush out and buy this set. There were quite a few features we didn’t like about it.
All the measurements you need on a speed square are included. However, the combination square is not a high-quality tool. It is not entirely square, making the measurements slightly off. It also has a bit of a bow, which can be a massive problem.
Ultimately, we recommend purchasing a cheaper speed square just as good as this one and then using the extra money to purchase a usable combination square. This set just isn’t a good value for your dollar.
10. Milwaukee Magnetic Rafter Square
This Milwaukee MLSQM070 Magnetic Rafter Square is decidedly less popular than the others we reviewed. After a thorough inspection, we found out why. The white numbering on the red background isn’t as easy to see as some other color combinations. We found it difficult to read in different light conditions. It comes with magnets, which is a nice touch. This allows you to stick it directly to the side of your workbench. However, the magnets aren’t very powerful.
While the measurements are laser etched, the etching is very poor. The Milwaukee square is not durable compared to the others we reviewed, so don’t expect the numbers to stay readable for long.
Buyer’s Guide – Choosing the Best Speed Square
Despite their simplicity, these tools vary quite from model to model. Luckily, only a few key features matter when it comes to these tools. If you can keep your eye out for them, you can easily choose the best speed square for your situation.
Below, we’ll go into some of the essential features to keep in mind while shopping.
The material a speed square is made out of will have a direct effect on its durability. These versatile tools get used a lot, so they take a lot of wear and tear. They can wear down and become unreadable after only moderate usage if made of low-quality materials.
Aluminum is the best material a speed square can be made out of. It won’t rust and is weather-resistant, and you can use it in various environments. At the same time, it is durable and can withstand most drops. Aluminum doesn’t bend easily in most circumstances, and it is also very lightweight.
Luckily, most squares are made out of aluminum today. So, in all likelihood, you can find an aluminum square for your situation. We recommend skipping other materials in most cases.
Speed squares are designed to provide you with measurements very quickly. They can’t do this if they aren’t accurate, turning them into useless hunks of metal. Being accurate is one of the essential features of a square. Without accuracy, none of its other features are going to matter.
Most speed squares are pretty accurate, but the average homeowner does not need absolute perfection for every project. However, detailed work requires accurate tools. For example, most woodworking requires complete accuracy.
Even if a speed square is accurate, it isn’t useful if you can’t read the numbers. Because of that, many companies etch the numbers into each square on top of painting them. This makes them easier to read and keeps them readable for a long time.
Still, though, some colors are easier to read than others. Many companies use a darker background and lighter numbers on their squares. This is typically pretty easy to read, making it an excellent choice for most people. Other color combinations, such as red and white, are more difficult to read.
One significant factor of readability is how durable the etching is. The last thing you want is for the numbers to wear off, making it completely unusable.
The most accurate, easy-to-read square will not be useful if it gets bent. Bent squares can not accurately measure anything. They can’t even be used as a saw guide. You should only purchase durable squares that can withstand a few drops. You will drop your speed square at least once. You don’t want it to bend when that happens.
You also don’t want the speed square to get rusty or wear down due to the weather. This can warp it and make some of the measurements unreadable. Once again, a rusty square is not going to be very useful.
It can be challenging to determine how durable a particular square is before buying it. The material it is made out of gives you an idea of its durability. Preferably, you want it to be made out of the most durable material possible, which is usually aluminum in most cases.
Here is a list of some of the most common questions about speed squares.
Why is it called a speed square?
Albert Swanson invented the speed square. It was called a speed square because it is designed to allow you to measure things quickly. It is a very straightforward name, to say the least. After deciding that his invention could be worth something, Swanson made the Swanson Tool Company. Speed Square is a trademark name, so you won’t see other brands using it to describe their products. However, this term is often used in conversational situations to describe the whole class of tools.
What is the use of a speed square?
Speed squares help you get to make measurements and cut very quickly. It is like a combination square, try square, and framing square all in one. They are primarily used by carpenters to make necessary measurements and marking lines. However, they are pretty useful for all home DIYers. You can even use them as a saw guide for specific angles.
How thick are speed squares?
It depends. Many have different thicknesses on different sides. One side is often designed to work as a saw guide, meaning it has to be thicker. The other sides are often thinner. Some are so thin that they can be sharp. While safety is always essential in the workshop, no one thinks to be extra careful with the benign speed square until it slices your hand.
We also recommend reading:
- Reviews of combination squares – Which are our top picks?
- Reviews of framing squares – Which are our top picks?
- Reviews of woodworking squares – Which are our top picks?
Speed squares are vital for carpenters, woodworkers, and DIYers. They are incredibly simple to use and affordable. However, they can come with various features, which can make it challenging to choose the best one for you. Out of all those we reviewed, the Johnson Level & Tool RAS-1 Rafter Angle Square was the best overall. It is accurately crafted, and the numbers are pretty easy to read. Overall, this speed square should serve you well for several years.
For those who need to spend a bit less money, the Swanson Tool S0101 7-inch Speed Square is an excellent choice. It is the original speed square and is incredibly durable. We hope our guide and reviews help you select a high-quality speed square.