carpenter's square over a wood panel with space for text
Last updated: June 20, 2020

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Set squares are quite simply some of the oldest tools used by mankind, and they have accompanied carpenters, architects and builders for millennia. This simple and convenient tool to create, measure and cut at angles has developed over time, adapting to new technologies, materials and metal alloys along the way.

Available in many different sizes and types, this basic tool is particularly simple to use. Each model has a specific usefulness, and some even offer additional features such as angle conveyors. We’ve designed this shopping guide to give you all the information you need to buy the set square that will best suit your needs.

Key Facts

  • Knowing exactly how you want to use this tool is essential. For example, you’ll want to opt for models made from resistant metal if you tend to work in harsh conditions; they’re able to withstand long working days without breaking or being damaged.
  • We also suggest that you focus on models with visible numbering. In that regard, it is best to choose a set square with corrosion-resistant engraving, as the numbers won’t be erased with use.
  • Each different type of set square available on the market has a particular function and is designed for a specific type of work. Our recommendation is that you know exactly how you’ll use it to choose the one that best suits your needs. Avoid overpaying for extras you won’t use, but don’t choose economies over quality either.

Our selection: The best set squares in the market

There is a great variety of different types and models of set squares available on the Australian market. You might find it overwhelming to choose the tool that best fits your needs, so we’ve designed this mini-guide with the best options on the market to make it easier for you to purchase the right model.

Swanson Tool Speed Square

The Speed Square was developed in 1925 by the founder of American tools company Swanson Tool Company, and it’s been used by manual workers ever since. Its design has now been copied by dozens of companies, but this is indeed the original model. So it’s no wonder that this aluminium alloy square also rose to the top of online sales and has become Amazon’s Choice in the category.

Made from aluminium alloy, its top side measures 7 inches (17.78 cm). The “Little Blue Book” provided with the set will help you get the job done with a bunch of useful information. The stainless steel combination square includes a spirit level and will be a nice addition to your toolbox. Great value for money.

Performance Tool Set Square Set

Washington-based company Wilmar Corp. has developed the brand Performance Tool to provide quality tools at affordable prices, so the cost of this set should come at no surprise to you. Offering great bang for your buck, this set includes a speed square and an L-square for all the measurements you’ll need to take around the house or at work.

While the L-square is made from metal alloy and will be more resistant, note that the speed square is in plastic and is not suitable for harsher working environments. The former measures 20 x 30 centimetres, while the speed square is the standard 7 inches (17.78 cm). This set is ideal if your use of these tools is light.

Baoblade Set Square

This set square by Baoblade is another copy of the original Speed Square above, but it doesn’t mean its quality isn’t worth it. Made from strong die cast aluminium, its thick structure is very resistant and will stand the test of time.

But what makes this model particularly stand out? Measuring a whooping 17 inches (43.18 cm) it’s much bigger than standard models and means you’ve got a quality ruler at hand too. The downside is that it is therefore bulkier and heavier, but that might be a compromise you’re willing to make in exchange for durability and versatility.

Swanson Tool Try Square

Here comes another Swanson Tool square, because why would we not make the most of the brand’s quality tools? This try square presents a classic design, with a stainless steel blade and a brass-bound hardwood handle for quality, comfort and durability. It is particularly useful to mark and measure materials in woodworking or metalworking, and to measure the accuracy of a right angle.

Kent Set Square Set

Sure, these might not be your set of choice if you’re working on construction sites, but they’re not just designed for use in school. Made from slim flexible plastic, these Kent set squares are ultra light and easy to carry around from one office to the next. The set includes a standard set square (isosceles triangle) and a triangle (scalene triangle), both of which are often used together for drawing up lines.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about set squares

Knowing all about the different aspects of a set square is essential to make your decision. As we’ve already mentioned, you’ll find many different models, sizes and manufacturing materials used; the next section will give you all the information you need on these specific factors. Keep reading to get all the answers to the most frequently asked questions.

concentrated carpenter working taking measures of wooden plank

Don’t make your life harder than it is! Use a set square to measure. (Source: Lightfieldstudio: 72278541/

What is a set square exactly?

This tool has been used by carpenters and metal workers alike since ancient times. It is often used in this area of work to measure and mark materials so that they can be as straight as possible after cutting or manufacturing. Set squares are also used to measure angles and to draw on tables.

These tools consist of a wide blade usually made of steel or bronze, and are riveted to a wooden handle. A metal strip is attached to the handle’s interior to ensure that the blade cannot move and remains at a 90-degree angle.

Did you know that set squares used alloys made from stainless steel and other plastic materials?

What parts make up a set square?

Set squares come in different shapes and sizes. As you’ll have guessed by their name, triangles usually take the shape of an isosceles triangle, while carpenter’s squares are commonly L-shaped. The one feature they share is a 90-degree angle, as they are used, above all, to check the angles when cutting or mounting.

As this tool is used for degree measurements, it has to be designed in such a way that it allows to draw angles and vertices. A measuring scale is also an essential feature of set squares, while some models also offer an angle conveyor. Let’s have a look at the main parts:

  • Angle: The indefinite segment of a plane limited by two lines starting from the same point. A set square having the shape of an isosceles triangle, it is formed by an angle of 90 degrees and two of 45 degrees.
  • Vertex: The vertex is the name given to the point that marks the union between the segments that create an angle. In other words, it is the point where at least three planes meet, like the apex of a pyramid.
  • Scale: It refers to the orderly succession of values of the same quality. The measurement values are represented on one side of the set square. The metric system is the norm, although you can also find models that use the imperial system.

How should I use my set square?

The line you want to measure or draw defines in which way you’ll use your set square. You can use it alone for carpentry projects in which you have to form angles, or in metallurgy to mark materials that must be cut or welded.

You’ll have to combine its use for other works such as design and drawing. In that case, set squares generally work with a triangle, and one instrument is used to support the other, just like a straightedge. The set square will move along the axis created by the supporting instrument.

Carpenter using scale and pencil to mark on wood

Many set squares can be folded and are therefore easy to transport.(Source: Racorn: 23448630/

What is the difference between a set square and a triangle?

Both a set square and a triangle are measuring tools, and both are shaped like right triangles. The main difference between the two is in the shape of that triangle: a set square is an isosceles triangle (with two equal sides), while the latter is a scalene triangle (with three different sides). Let’s have a look at their differences:

Set square Triangle
Triangle Isosceles triangle (two sides of equal length) Scalene triangle (all different sides)
Angles An angle of 90º and two of 45º  An angle of 90º, an angle of 60º and an angle of 30º
Use Drawing perpendicular lines and lines at an angle It is usually used with a set square to draw perpendicular and parallel lines
Price Moderate Moderate

It is nevertheless important to note that the combined use of these two tools makes drawing perpendicular and parallel lines much easier.

What are set squares used for?

The specific shape of set squares makes them very useful for drawing straight, perpendicular or 45-degree lines. These inclinations are particularly used in works requiring cavalier projection. For this doing, we’ve already explained the technique to follow: the set square must be supported by another ruler that will serve as a reference to draw the right inclination.

You can also use a cabinet projection to draw lines with the horizontal axes at 45º. In that case, you’ll need the support of a horizontal ruler to draw the vertical axis and the two horizontal axes at 45º. The coordinates of the corresponding axes are then placed in this projection.

What types of set squares are available out there?

As we discussed earlier, set squares can be classified by their manufacturing materials, the most common ones being steel alloys. Most tend to feature wooden or plastic elements, whether it be the handle or the buffer. These are most frequent in squares used in technical drawing.

We’ve compiled different types of squares available on the market in the list below:

  • Adjustable bevel: This instrument is made up of two rulers that meet at one end and spin freely. It is mostly used to trace different angles, or to draw convergent lines. Some models are T-shaped.
  • Try square: Also called machinist or engineer’s square. It is the most common and easiest to find in the market. Available in different sizes, they are usually made of steel or wood, depending on the use. They can be measured in centimetres or inches.
  • Universal angle: It isn’t quite as common as the try square. This multifunctional tool offers several measurement possibilities, but mostly stands out because it features a triangle inside. It is ideal for making holes to place hinges.

Carpenter measuring with a metal angle

Set squares are ideal for carpentry work. (Source: Kappatou: 70019702/

With what materials are set squares made?

The invention of this age-old tools is actually attributed to the famous Greek philosopher Pythagoras. While traditional models were originally made of wood, they have evolved with construction and carpentry, and more resistant materials are now used.

Traditional wooden models were therefore replaced with metal ones. Most had blades made of metal and riveted to the wood at a 90-degree angle. Nowadays, much more resistant stainless steel alloys are used for set squares, while drawing-specific models are generally made from plastic materials.

Shopping Criteria

You’ll have to take several aspects into account before buying your very own set square. The following section was designed to give you all the information you need regarding these shopping criteria, so take your time; you’ll find many different models and brands on the Australian market. Here are some key factors to consider if you want to choose a quality tool:


Most models are now manufactured with some type of steel alloy, as this makes them more durable and withstand even the toughest jobs. We recommend you to opt for a stainless steel model.

Models following a more traditional style will be made of wooden parts; this is for example the case of carpenter’s squares. While they are still resistant, their look is more artisanal. Models designed to mark degrees of angles and to draw usually feature plastic buffers to make your work more comfortable.

 set of measuring tools on a textured black metallic background

Metal set squares are tough and durable. (Source: Miragaya: 12902884/


The type of use you’ll make of the tool will be a driving factor in your decision to buy this or that specific model. You won’t need the same kind of set square if you work in an architect’s office or in a mechanical spare parts workshop. The resistance of the materials you should aim for will also be determined by the intensity of use and of your work.

Stainless steel squares are specifically designed for intensive use in harsh environments; in that case, you’ll also want to pay attention to find a model with quality engraving that won’t wear over time. You won’t have to worry so much about the manufacturing materials for lighter uses such as drawing and marking degrees of angles.

Did you know that these tools have been used for measuring tasks since ancient times?

Size and weight

While set squares tend to be light instruments, still alloy models will naturally weigh more than plastic ones; don’t forget to take this factor into account.

You’ll thank us on the long run if you opt for a lighter, more comfortable model, especially if this tool is very present in your work.

Size matters, so think carefully about your needs. While 200 millilitres is a standard size for set squares, you’ll find models of all dimensions. You have to choose a tool that adapts perfectly to the requirements of your job.


You won’t be surprised to know that set squares used in school are very different from carpenter’s squares. The former feature all the sides of a triangle, while the latter tend to be made up of an angle and two sides only. This allows you to use the inside of the angle to measure and mark measurements for cutting and making holes.

The universal angle presents a more complex designs. You can usually move the vertex of the angle, which allows you to open and close the tool to measure more angles. As you also know, some models come with wooden handles, while others feature plastic buffers. Nowadays, you can also find set squares with digital measuring elements.


The reviews and comments of past customers are a very interesting element to look into when making your purchase. Being the first to buy a product is always a risk you have to be willing to take, and we don’t necessarily recommend that. So don’t overlook these reviews, as they are often the only way to know what the product is really like and if you’re making the right investment.

Comments are one element to look at, and so are user ratings. They can help you learn very useful information regarding the manufacturing materials and technical specifications. Nowadays, these reviews and ratings often provide the most comprehensive database that you can find about the product.


Set squares are very simple tools that you use in a variety of different situations, from the drawing board of your architect’s office to your carpentry workshop. This essential instrument for measuring, drawing and sketching angles will become your best ally, whether you’re a handyman around the house or a professional.

You’ll find a great variety of models and types of set squares on the Australian market. Now that this guide provided you with all the info you need regarding the key shopping criteria such as materials, quality and uses, we know you can make the right decision. Don’t hesitate to have a quick look back at the last section of our article before making your purchase, and we bet you’ll make the perfect choice for your needs.

If you liked our article, feel free to leave a comment in the section below, or share it with your friends and family so they can also buy the best set square available on the market!

(Source of featured image: Miragaya: 10437295/

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