Best try squares | Top 5 for accurate & fast marking reviewed

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  April 10, 2022
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The try square is one of the most commonly used marking tools and, if you are a woodworker, professional, or home DIYer, you will certainly be familiar with this tool and its many applications.

Simple but indispensable – in short, that’s the try square!

Best try square reviewed

The following is a guide to the best try squares that are available, their various features, and their strengths and weaknesses.

This information should help you choose the right try square for your needs. 

After researching the range of try squares available, my top pick is the Irwin Tools 1794473 try square. I chose it for its affordability and its versatility as a combination tool. It fits snugly in your palm, has a solid construction, as well as good readable markings.

But let’s look at my complete top 5 of try squares before we dive deep into reviewing them.

Best try squaresImages
Best overall try square: Irwin Tools 1794473 SilverBest overall try square- Irwin Tools 1794473 Silver
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Best 9-inch try square for professionals: Swanson SVR149 9-Inch SavageBest 9-inch try square for professionals: Swanson SVR149 9-Inch Savage
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Best heavy-duty try square: Empire 122 Stainless SteelBest heavy-duty try square- Empire 122 Stainless Steel
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Most versatile try square for professionals: Johnson Level & Tool 1908-0800 AluminumMost versatile try square for professionals: Johnson Level & Tool 1908-0800 Aluminum
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Most innovative try square: Kapro 353 Professional Ledge-ItMost innovative try square- Kapro 353 Professional Ledge-It
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What is a try square?

A try square is a woodworking tool used for marking and checking 90° angles on pieces of wood.

Though woodworkers use many different types of squares, the try square is considered one of the essential tools for woodworking.

The square in the name refers to the 90° angle. 

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Try squares are typically 3 to 24 inches (76 to 610 mm) long. Three-inch squares are handier for small tasks such as marking small joints.

A typical general-purpose square is 6 to 8 inches (150 to 200 mm). Larger squares are used for tasks such as cabinetry. 

Try squares are usually made of metal and wood. The shorter edge is made of wood, plastic or aluminum and is called the stock, while the longer edge is made of metal and is called the blade.

The stock is thicker than the blade. The two pieces of the L-shape are usually bolted together with rivets.

There may be a brass strip between the two pieces to ensure quality and accuracy.

A try square may also have measurements marked on the edge to assist in marking and calculation.

A try square is smaller than a carpenter’s square and usually measures around 12 inches.

Some may be adjustable, with the ability to change the dimensions between the two edges, but most are fixed.

A try square is designed mainly for scribing or drawing 90-degree lines, but it also can be used for machinery setup like with table saws, and for checking whether an inside or outside angle between two surfaces is exactly 90 degrees.

On some squares the top of the stock is angled at 45°, so the square can be used as a miter square for marking and checking 45° angles.

Try square type tools are also available as double squares or as part of a combination square.

How to recognize the best try square – Buyer’s guide

Because there are so many options on the market, it’s important to identify exactly which features will be the most useful for your specific needs.

This will help you narrow down the options, help you choose a try square that fits within your budget, and helps you get the job done easily and accurately.

Here are some important features to consider when purchasing a try square.

Accuracy

It is always a good idea to check the accuracy of a try square, by using a machinist square which is usually 100 percent accurate. 

Try squares are permitted a tolerance of only 0.01 mm per cm of steel blade length. That means no more than 0.3 mm on a 305 mm try square.

The measurements given relate to the inside edge of the steel blade.

A square can become less accurate over time through both common use and abuse, such as the edges becoming worn over time or the square being dropped or mistreated.

Wooden squares can also vary with changes in temperature and humidity. 

Material 

Try squares are usually made from a combination of materials: steel, stainless steel, brass, aluminum, plastic, and wood.

A common form of try square has a broad blade made of steel or stainless steel that is riveted into a stable, dense hardwood stock, often ebony or rosewood.

Stainless steel is the ideal material for the blade as it is lightweight and rust-resistant.

Wood, brass, plastic, or aluminum can be used for the handle. These materials are not only corrosion resistant but also cheaper than stainless steel.

The inside of the wooden stock usually has a brass strip fixed to it to reduce wear.

Design & features

Some try squares are combination tools and are designed with additional features.

These may include scribing holes for precision marking, a spirit level, and additional gradations for measuring angles. 

Best try squares on the market

Now let’s review my top pick try squares. What makes these so good?

Best overall try square: Irwin Tools 1794473 Silver

Best overall try square- Irwin Tools 1794473 Silver

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The Irwin Tools 1794473 try square offers all the features one looks for in a try square…and more. It is a sturdy design, it is affordable and it is a great combination tool.

The angle gradations allow it to be used as a rough protractor for common construction angles and the built-in spirit level means it can be used to check level and plumb. 

This square has a rust-proof, 8-inch stainless steel blade with black, precision-etched scales that are easy to read and won’t fade or wear over time.

The blade features angle markings for 10°, 15°, 22.5°, 30°, 36°, 45°, 50°, and 60° angles.

The built-in bubble level allows you to check the level and plumb, for accurate readings.

The handle is made of high-impact ABS plastic which is tough and durable. 

Features

  • Accuracy: Highly accurate with black, precision etched markings, 
  • Material: 8-inch, stainless steel blade
  • Design & features: Rustproof and durable, includes angle markings and a built-in bubble-level

Check the latest prices here

Best 9-inch try square for professionals: Swanson SVR149 9-Inch Savage

Best 9-inch try square for professionals: Swanson SVR149 9-Inch Savage

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The innovative design of the Swanson 9-inch savage try square makes it stand out above the other models.

It incorporates a scribe bar, designed for scribing rip cuts, and it offers a rubber-cushioned handle for a safe and comfortable grip.

There is also a retractable kickstand to help hold the square in place. The 45-degree angle in the handle, allows it to be used as a miter square.

All these additional features make it a very attractive tool for the professional woodworker.

The frame is aluminum and the stainless-steel blade features precision etched gradations. It measures 10 inches on the outside and 8.5 inches on the inside. 

The blade scribing bar features 1/8-inch notches for marking rip cuts. The tapered edge of the scribing bar helps you to accurately mark and scribe.

This is a complete tool that comes at an affordable price.

Features

  • Material: Aluminum frame and stainless-steel blade, rubber cushioned handle for comfortable grip
  • Accuracy: Highly accurate with etched gradations
  • Design & features: Incorporates a tapered scribing bar and a retractable kickstand to hold the square in place

Check the latest prices here

Best heavy-duty try square: Empire 122 Stainless Steel

Best heavy-duty try square- Empire 122 Stainless Steel

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Accuracy. Durability. Readability. This is the motto of the manufacturers of this try square and this tool lives up to these promises.

The Empire 122 True Blue Heavy-Duty Square is an excellent tool for both the professional and the weekend woodworker.

The stainless-steel blade and the solid aluminum billet handle, combine to make this a tool of outstanding durability.

These materials are designed to stand up to heavy-duty workplace conditions and harsh weather conditions, without rusting or deteriorating. 

Markings are etched into the 8-inch blade, they are easy to read and won’t fade over time.

The measurements are 1/16 inch on the inside and 1/8 inch on the outside and the smooth steel allows you to use the square as a straight edge to make accurate markings.

Features

  • Accuracy: Highly accurate
  • Material: Stainless steel blade and strong aluminum billet handle
  • Design & features: Doubles as an 8-inch ruler, limited lifetime warranty

Check the latest prices here

Most versatile try square for professionals: Johnson Level & Tool 1908-0800 Aluminum

Most versatile try square for professionals: Johnson Level & Tool 1908-0800 Aluminum

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“We engineer tools that help professionals work faster, safer, and more accurately.”

This statement from the manufacturer is backed up by a limited lifetime warranty for the Johnson Level and Tool 1908-0800 try square.

This versatile and durable tool is a must-have for the professional woodworker or carpenter. It makes assessing angles and marking straight cuts easy and accurate.

This tool has a solid aluminum handle, and the blade is made of high-grade stainless steel. This makes for a very durable tool that is rust-resistant.

Graduations in 1/8″ and 1/16″ increments are permanently etched in black for easy viewing. 

This 8-inch try square can check and mark both internal and external right angles, making it useful for framing, shed construction, stair-making, and other carpentry chores.

It may also be used to examine the angles of bench saws and other cutting machines.

Carries a limited lifetime warranty against defects in material and workmanship of mechanical parts.

Features

  • Accuracy: Highly accurate with permanently etched measurements
  • Material: High-grade stainless-steel blade & solid aluminum handle
  • Design & features: Carries a limited lifetime warranty

Check the latest prices here

Most innovative try square: Kapro 353 Professional Ledge-It

Most innovative try square- Kapro 353 Professional Ledge-It

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The Kapro 353 Professional Ledge-It Try Square stands out from the other models with its innovative design which incorporates a unique retractable ledge.

This support is extremely useful for stabilizing the square on any surface and is an advantage for professional woodworkers. 

The blade has marking holes at 10°, 15°, 22.5°, 30°, 45°, 50°, and 60° for angle marking and includes openings every ¼ inch for fluid and parallel pencil markings.

These permanently etched markings offer durability and accuracy.

The first 4 inches are incremented at 1/32 of an inch for fine and accurate measurements, extending to 1/16 of an inch for the remainder of the blade.

The handle is made of cast aluminum with three precision-milled surfaces, 45° & 30° cast-in handle platforms. 

The strong stainless-steel blade, together with the aluminum handle, can stand up to harsh workplace conditions without rusting or deteriorating.

The handy hole at the end of the blade ensures easy storage on your tools pegboard.

Features

  • Accuracy: Highly accurate, permanently etched markings
  • Material: Stainless steel blade and aluminum handle offer strength and durability
  • Design & features: Innovative design with retractable ledge, marking holes for angle marking, fine increments for accurate measurements

Check the latest prices here

Frequently Asked Questions

Now we have seen some of the best try squares around, let’s finish off with some questions I hear often about try squares.

What is the accuracy of a try square?

Try squares are permitted a tolerance of only 0.01 mm per cm of steel blade under British Standard 3322 – i.e. no more than 0.3 mm on a 305 mm try square.

The measurements given relate to the inside edge of the steel blade.

What is a try square used for in woodwork?

A try square or try-square is a woodworking tool used for marking and checking 90° angles on pieces of wood.

Though woodworkers use many different types of squares, the try square is considered one of the essential tools for woodworking.

The square in the name refers to the 90° angle.

What is the difference between a try square and an engineer’s square?

The terms try square and engineer square are often used interchangeably.

Usually, the engineer’s square is made entirely of carbon steel and the try square is made of rosewood and steel and brass rivets and facings.

Can I make angles more or less than 90 degrees?

Some try squares have a feature to make angles more than 90-degrees, by having some line on the blade.

With this kind of tool, you can make some specific angle rather than 90-degrees. 

Otherwise, you are better off using a protractor with rulers for precise angle measurement.

How do you use a try square?

Place the try square blade across the material you want to test or mark.

The thicker part of the handle should extend over the edge of the surface, allowing the blade to lie flat across the surface.

Hold the handle against the edge of the material. The blade is now positioned at a 90° angle compared to the edge.

See this video for more instructions:

What is the difference between a try square and a mitre square?

A try square is used for checking right angles (90°) and a mitre square is for 45° angles (135° angles are also found on mitre squares because they are created by the 45° intercept).

When using a try square, what does a light test indicate?

To test a piece of lumber or check edges, the inside angle of the try square is placed against the edge, and if a light shows through between the try square and the wood, the wood is not level and square.

This inside angle can also be used in a sliding motion to check both ends of the material quickly.

What is the difference between a try square, an angle finder, and a protractor?

A try square allows you to mark and check 90° angles on pieces of wood. A digital protractor uses a liquid-filled sensor to accurately measure all angles in a 360° range.

A digital angle finder is a multi-functional tool for many measuring applications and usually includes a protractor as well as a number of other helpful features including a level and bevel gauge. 

Conclusion

Now that you are aware of the various try squares available and the features they offer, you will be in a better position to choose the tool that best suits your needs.

Whether you’re a professional woodworker or just want to do some DIY at home, there’s an ideal tool for you and your budget. 

Next, find out which T-squares are best for drawing [top 6 review]

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.

Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.