Good morning gentlemen,

I recently started putting together my own toolbox, and I have a question about one tool in particular.  I purchased a speed square, and while reading about its functions how it combines the elements of three other tools - the framing square, combination square, and try square - I began to wonder, is there any reason or circumstance that a man with a speed square should also have any of the other squares?  One of the reasons I started collecting my tools is to learn handyman skills to use around the house, but I'm also interested in learning some carpentry.  My first project was going to be a storage shed for my disabled parents (which unfortunately I had to postpone because my mother passed away last week after two weeks in the hospital).


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While I don't specifically do a lot of carpentry work, I have learned one thing the hard way working on home improvement projects - if something is touted as a "multi tool", it usually does several things OK and nothing really well. I have a speed square and I love it, but I've never built a free-standing structure either.

My two cents, from someone who is a Jack of all but master of none, would be to use it on a bunch of smaller projects whenever you can, to become familiar with it's accuracy and limitations.

I've also learned, when it comes to tools, you get what you pay for. Sometimes you can cobble something together with the tools you have, but that one time you REALLY need a left handed widget you're much further ahead using the right tool.

My father told me to buy craftsmen tools for the warranty.  If you break or thrash them you take them to Sears and get a new one.  

Beyond that start slow and get what you need as you need it.  You may find an air compressor and finishing nailer the thing for trim.  Really what you need is project specific. 

I agree about the Craftsman tools, their hand tools are the best. Watch out, though - not all Craftsman tools carry the free lifetime replacement warranty. Usually it's the "plain jane" tools that do - the fancy screwdrivers with the ergonomic handles and such don't - it's in fine print on the package.

Also, I have never had a craftsman power tool that didn't break on me within a year. Your mileage may varry.

"I agree about the Craftsman tools, their hand tools are the best."

You've obviously never used Proto.

It depends on what you're going to do with the tools. 


I, too, am a big fan of Craftsman for basic hand tools.  I actually search for them at garage sales...pick them up for $0.10 and they're *still* guaranteed forever.  For any owner.  I asked.  Other exceptionally good brands include Home Depot's Husky, Lowes' Kobalt (really good), and surprisingly, if you shop carefully, the Pittsburgh brand at Harbor Freight.  Their 1/2" sockets are shockingly good, and have a "forever" warranty, too.


But, be aware that a speed square, and most of the other framing tools you've mentioned, are best for 90 degree angles.  Roofing squares are a bit more flexible in that respect, but overall 90 degree angles are their strength.  Since I like non-90 degree angles they're of less use to me.


And, to answer your next question, everything from pergolas, to gazebos, to internal structural framing, to a steel framed geodesic dome (octahedral breakdown) and even anticlastic fabric structures.

Thank you for a very clear statement on the uses.  I think tools are created to solve problems, the trick is to know what tool solves or helps with what situation.

It all depends upon what type of projects you're goin to be undertaking.

If you're going to be doing a lot of framing carpentry, i.e., beyond bulding a small shed, a framing or rafter square is very useful.

You'll find yourself in the same situation with levels.  I've found, over the years, I've been well served by having four of those: a torpedo level, a 2' spirit level, a 4' spirit level, and a post level (a 90 degree bracket with 3 spirit level bubbles that is used to ensure upright levels on fence & corner posts, and to set horizontal levels for fencing layouts & mason's twine.  OTOH, serious carpenters and masons will find my collection of levels to be too limited for big jobs.

For most uses, no there isn't a need.

As a tradesman , l have both , the speed square/ adjustable square has many uses that a fixed square falls short , it can be used in a tight spot where a traditional square is to long , it can be used to scribe a line , and you can also get them with a level that is extremely useful when doing roof flashings , but the down side is that after a few months of use they lack the accuracy needed for fine work . 

A speed square-much like a Leatherman's tool does many things-none of them well. I possess many squares but I use a combination square more than all the others combined.

A chalk line is a handy tool if you are working with large material and layout. Sounds like you got enough advice on squares.


My condolences about your mother.  I'm sorry to hear about that.

I agree with the other guys who say each of the squares has its specific strengths, based on what you're trying to do.  The good news (or the bad news, depending on how you look at it), is that you'll never be done buying tools.  You sure don't have to buy everything right away.  As you approach each project, set aside some money in your mind to pick up a couple of tools along with everything else you'll need.

For most people, brand doesn't matter in hand tools.  Sockets and ratchets are a little different; I wouldn't buy any of those super-cheap made in China.  I've got a really nice SK set, but also house-brand (Home Depot or Ace) sets as well for when I might wreck or lose them.  Crescent adjustable c-wrenches, and combo wrenches in the standard sizes (7/16", 1/2", 9/16"), but cheapies for the other sizes you won't use much anyway.

For power tools it depends on how much you want to spend.  When I made a living from tools (building theatre and TV scenery), I used them 10 hrs. a day so cheapies like Skil or B&D or Ryobi weren't an option.  I bought mostly Porter-Cable, or Makita, or Milwaukee, depending on the feel of the tool and how the blades/bits attached.  Bosch makes a nice saber saw with a blade lock that isn't too annoying.  Now the big-boxes are selling DeWalt stuff for cheap and I can't say I've had any problems with them; I just don't trust them because Black & Decker owns them. They also own Porter-Cable now and the quality has really gone down; the materials are cheap and they fell weird and light in the hand compared to what they used to be.

I don't think I'll ever buy another Shop-Vac.  The first two I had were fantastic (until I killed them) but the next two I've bought are next to useless.  I'm not sure which wet-vacs are any good any more, but it sure ain't Shop-Vac brand.

If you're starting out to learn basic and useful carpentry, don't waste your money being a tool snob.  When the batteries died on my Porter-Cable cordless drill, rather than spend >$200 I bought a Black & Decker 18v kit with 2 batteries for $70 or so and since I don't work with it 10 hrs a day anymore, it's just fine even if it's not a very good tool.

In general don't spend yourself into the poor house unless you're going to make a living off them.  Be aware that you're going to keep buying tools forever, and get what you need for now.  It's a better hobby than crack cocaine, although your S.O. might compare the two.


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