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Boogalee's picture

I am looking for a framing/rafter square that is actually square. Every thing that I have purchased in the past is far for square. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

northhouguy's picture

I know what you mean. My (post #146216, reply #1 of 27)

I know what you mean. My purchased "squares" are anything but, (Craftsman, bought 4-5 years ago. Never square out of the box.)

I saw an article on using a centerpunch to adjust them, punch on the inside of the 90 degree to increase the angle, on the outside to decrease. But I never could get this to work for me. Perhaps mine were too far out.

Have you thought about making your own? I know there is an article out there somewhere, perhaps in Shop Notes, that explains the procedure.

Good luck.

Best regards,


RalphBarker's picture

FWIW, the This Old House site (post #146216, reply #2 of 27)

FWIW, the This Old House site recommends squares from Swanson Tool Co.

Jammersix's picture

Framing squares can be (post #146216, reply #3 of 27)

Framing squares can be adjusted.

One uses a punch on a diagonal in the corner, and then test the square against itself by drawing a line, and flipping the square.

The procedure is simple, fast, free and everyone who uses a square should learn it.

The square serves the Carpenter, not vice a versa.

"A few of us went down to Gettysburg. Some of us didn't come back.

If you weren't there, you'll never understand."-- Unknown Infantryman

Mervyn's picture

About 6 months ago I bought (post #146216, reply #4 of 27)

About 6 months ago I bought an Empire rafter square from Harbor Freight. Its about 8" long. It was bought with some hesitation, but I took two of these squares off the shelf, put them on a flat surface, and the two verticles lined up dead flush. I've not had any problems with it being out of square.

gdblake's picture

Boogalee: Lee Valley claims (post #146216, reply #5 of 27)


Lee Valley claims good accuracy with their framing square, here's the link.,42936,42944&ap=1

Starrett also has a framing square. I have an old steel Craftsman and a steel Sands brand from a big box store. When I bought the Sands I took a two foot square piece of MDF and a drafting pencil with me. I used the MDF and pencil to test the squares until I found one that was truly square. The sales guy laughed at me and said I must be a woodworker since you didn't need to be that particular framing a house. I acknowledged he was correct on both accounts and went on my merry way. Keep in mind that once you find an accurate framing square, if it is ever dropped you'll have to do the punch trick to get it back into alignment.


We're all here because we're not all there.

Eef's picture

gd, "...used mdf and drafting (post #146216, reply #6 of 27)

"...used mdf and drafting pencil..."
as in draw a square line, flip the square and draw a square line next to line #1? i have always felt uneasy about this method, i wonder how accurate it is.

gdblake's picture

Eef: It's the only way I know (post #146216, reply #7 of 27)


It's the only way I know of to test one. Maybe somebody else knows of a better way.


We're all here because we're not all there.

Eef's picture

gd, yeah, me too. just gotta (post #146216, reply #18 of 27)

yeah, me too. just gotta keep a fine line-huh?

can't wait to get going with the finck book. it's shipping out of san diego, a 2 hour drive from me. place is called craftsman studio. great website and the next time i am down that way i'll have to check it out.

Mackwood's picture

Don't be uneasy about this (post #146216, reply #9 of 27)

Don't be uneasy about this method, it works quite well. Seeing parallelism is what the human eye does best!



"Close enough for government work=measured with a micrometer, marked with chalk and cut with an axe"

philip's picture

Eef, It is very accurate and (post #146216, reply #14 of 27)

It is very accurate and just ordinary applied geometry. Certainly 100% accurate for carpentry purposes.

Philip Marcou
Eef's picture

hi philip, i tend to call (post #146216, reply #25 of 27)

hi philip,
i tend to call into question most of the methods towards perfection that i have been taught. sort of stick-in-the-mud thinking on my little part. i trust all who trust this way and have no intention of demanding a finer way. perfection is the goal and i do not mind being reminded. time-tested and i'm ok with that. thanks for the data.

sid works's picture

on a framing square you won't (post #146216, reply #16 of 27)

on a framing square you won't get any better than parallel line, for any square as far as that goes. parallel is parallel, 0 degrees

jako17's picture

Years ago i bought a L-V (post #146216, reply #8 of 27)

Years ago i bought a L-V square and it was off.I needed it then. So punched the inside to get that square and filed the outside.The width was not even, by 1/32 on the short leg when I ran a jenny caliper down it.One of my criticisms of L-V is the over enthusiasm of their copy writers.Having said that, one can always bounce the rubbish back with no problem

bduffin104's picture

I use a Stanley 45-010 (post #146216, reply #10 of 27)

I use a Stanley 45-010 framing square that I've been carrying with me in my tool box for 30 years or so. It's aluminum or some sort of aluminum alloy. I've never had to adjust it and it's still perfectly square and it's been dropped many times. The alloy makes it light and it doesn't rust so all the numbers and ruler marks are still easy to read. I've had steel squares, got rid of them.

Boogalee's picture

Thanks to all for your (post #146216, reply #11 of 27)

Thanks to all for your responses.

Fred - I tried to make one out of aluminum. After I melted the aluminum bar with my torch I gave up. I am much better with wood.

Jammersix - How do you use the punch trick

Mervyn - Oddly enough, the closest to square came from Harbor Freight.

gdblake - Have you used Starrett. If so was it square.

RalphBaker - The link to Swanson Tools give places like Lowes as place to purchase. I have a square from Lowes and it ain't square.

Tomorrow I am going to take gdblakes advise. 2' mdf and a pencil and try Lowes, Home Depot and Harbor Freight.

Thanks again

gdblake's picture

Boogalee: I have not ever (post #146216, reply #13 of 27)


I have not ever used a Starrett framing square. I mentioned them hoping someone else that has would chime in. Highland Woodworking carries them. I only bought the Sands square because after years of being dropped, my old Craftsman square couldn't be tweaked anymore. By the way, at the time I bought the Sands square I tried out several Johnson squares first and couldn't fine one that was accurate so I moved on (the folks at my local Sears took offense at my wanting to test their squares in the store so I passed on another Craftsman). I don't even know if the Sands brand is carried by anyone any more. I bought this square several years ago and it has held up well.


We're all here because we're not all there.

Jammersix's picture

Laying out a line off the (post #146216, reply #19 of 27)

Laying out a line off the factory edge of a piece of plywood or MDF, then flipping the square, and holding it next to the line you laid out doubles any error in the square, and makes it easier to see.

If the square needs to be corrected, one lays out a diagonal in the corner of the square, from the inside corner to the the outside corner.

Along that diagonal, use a metal punch, and strike a divot.

Striking it towards the inside of the corner will spread the square, striking it towards the outside will close it.

Re-check, and adjust as necessary.

One does not rely on a framing square to be square; one checks it, and forces it to be square. In this way, any square of reasonable quality can be made to serve.

Good luck!

"A few of us went down to Gettysburg. Some of us didn't come back.

If you weren't there, you'll never understand."-- Unknown Infantryman

popawheelie's picture

I got frustrated with squares (post #146216, reply #12 of 27)

I got frustrated with squares and not having large enough ones. I bought a "good" Shinwa faming square and tuned it up.
I bought a 24" precision straight edge form Bridge city tool works.
You clamp the straight edge to a table and then put one leg of the square on it.
Then scribe a line off of the leg perpendiculr to the stright edge.
Then flip the square over to its other side and see if the scrided line still is parralel with it.
When you flip the square it doubles the error.
You can also use the precision straight edge to see if the edges of the square are straight.,42936,42944

"There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading, the few who learn by observation and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."
Will Rogers
sid works's picture

LV likes to use the words (post #146216, reply #15 of 27)

LV likes to use the words "accurate and or precise" but have never really seen anything from them that reakky kives up to that
the last thing was perhaps 10 years ago when I ordered one of those 3" sliding sqares 3 times and sent them back 3 times and the got a starrett for $5.00 more. no more problem.
LV sells to the masses and if the odd person bitches,so what, give them their money back

popawheelie's picture

I agree. For most woodworkers (post #146216, reply #17 of 27)

I agree. For most woodworkers they are probably close enough.
With something like a framing square you might have to do some tuning. The straight edge wiil help with that.
I made sure the outside edges of the two legs were straight first.
Then I set up with the straight edge for measuring how square it was. It was pretty straight forward and I have a large steel sqaure that sits in my shop for reference.
by the way, I did have to open up the square a bit. I used a punch to spread the steel on the inside of the corner.
It doesn't have to be stainless steel.
I never checked the inside edges of the square. I don't need them.
I have a lie neilsen sp? square that is junk. They make nice stuff but it is made with wood and brass. And it is to small for many things I do.
I have a Starrett tri square with a 16" toungue that i like. I think when they have a sliding part to them it is hard to keep them very accurate.

"There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading, the few who learn by observation and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."
Will Rogers
flairwoodworks's picture

This, I do not (post #146216, reply #20 of 27)

This, I do not get:
I wonder how many he's sold. "Being wood, the sticks may need to be trued occasionally. $125.00 Cdn a pair."


Chris @

 - Success is not the key to happiness.  Happiness is the key to success.  If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. - Albert Schweitzer

popawheelie's picture

I think some items like the (post #146216, reply #22 of 27)

I think some items like the winding sticks are either for people that are well off or they are gifts items.
You don't know what to give someone and they are a woodworker. So you give them something really exspensive.I think some of the lie nielson stuff is like that. It's beautiful and makes a good gift. We have these really exspensive salt and peper shakers that someone gave us. They do look nice.

"There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading, the few who learn by observation and the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."
Will Rogers
derekcohen's picture

I have a Stanley carpenter's (post #146216, reply #21 of 27)

I have a Stanley carpenter's square that I bought about 15 years ago. And, no, it was not square. It is now - a well-placed dimple at the junction of the arms helped.

With regards Rob Cosman's $125 winding sticks ... well I think that they are probably worth the time he puts into them. Nevertheless I believe that any woodworker worth his salt should make their own. This would cost them nothing but time.... so it comes back to what you consider your time to be worth.

I made a set similar to Robs some years ago and they have been fine, hardly needing any tuning at all. More recently I picked up a couple of cast iron machinist straight edges/levels, and use these... prettier, more fun, and probably more accurate. One is a Starrett (far end) and the other is a Rabone (nearest) ..

Of course, if you want an expensive square, then look at those from Colen Clenton. Stunning!

Regards from Perth


HowardAcheson's picture

Here is some info I put (post #146216, reply #23 of 27)

Here is some info I put together a number of years ago for a woodworking club newsletter. It may help.

No matter how much you spend for a device, you still don't know if it is square. I ran a large tool and die shop and we purchased a number of Brown & Sharp and Starrett devices and some of them were not "square". We had "standards" that our quality department periodically had validated by an outside service that we then used to verify the worker's tools.

One day, one of our designers brought in two plastic drawing triangles he had purchased at a local art supply store. He had them compared to our standards and they were as accurate as the tools could measure. The triangle cost a couple of dollars each. They would certainly serve very well as the "standard" in any woodworking shop to validate and/or adjust other devices.

An excellent way to validate the accuracy of the plastic squares is to use two squares on a flat surface. Get a $10-12 plastic 30-60-90 drafting square. To prove it's exactly 90°, take two to a glass counter, put the shorter legs on the counter and face the longer legs away from each other and butt them together (like a teepee). If the legs exactly butt, you can assume you have two perfect 90° angles. Using one of the plastic squares, do the same thing using your other tools. Any that mismatch, means that the tool is not square. You can also take the plastic square with you whenever you go to purchase another tool. Keep your "standard" somewhere where it doesn't get banged up.

Finally, remember that the wood you are using will expand and contract a couple of thousands from one day to the other. Does't pay to get too uptight.

While we are at it, I also only purchase the cheapest of adjustable squares. I square them with a drafting triangle and an auger file until they are square across 10". And I own a Bridge City square that isn't that accurate. Stainless steel machinist's squares are only square until you drop them. I have had several over the years and each has found a away to drop to the floor.

The key is to NEVER use your best square on for day to day measuring. Use it only as a reference tool to verify your other day to day tools.

Jammersix's picture

Don't file anything. (post #146216, reply #24 of 27)

Don't file anything.

"A few of us went down to Gettysburg. Some of us didn't come back.

If you weren't there, you'll never understand."-- Unknown Infantryman

mortyten's picture

Chappell Square (post #146216, reply #26 of 27)

You should check out a Chappell Square.  Guaranteed accurate. 

Also available from Lee Valley, Lie Nielsen, and Craftsman Studio

BruceS's picture

scribe knife (post #146216, reply #27 of 27)

Instead of a pencil to make the test mark,  use a very sharp scribe knife to make a super fine line and then use the knife to carefully feel the line when you flip the square.   Get within a few thousandths that way.

Work Safe,  Count to 10 when your done for the day !!

Bruce S.