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Hand Squares
Written by Elizabeth Wood
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement


Hand squares are an important tool for a variety of constructions. They are used to mark lines and check the accuracy of specific degrees. The idea behind a hand square stems all the way back to the 17th century when the “try square” was introduced in China. Today, hand squares come in several varieties including the try square, measuring square, and combination square.

Try Square:
• Woodworking tool used for marking and measuring a piece of wood.
• Measures the accuracy of a right angle (90 degrees).
• Made with a thin steel blade and a thicker stock, which is often made of wood. Blades are made from fine steel, iron, or brass. Stocks are made from rosewood, ebony, or other hardwoods.
• Comes in a range of sizes. Blade lengths varying from two to twenty-four inches. Length depends upon the age of the tool and the purpose of it.

Measuring Square:
• Also referred to as a "magic square," angle square, or protractor square.
• A durable triangular square used as a protractor and for scribing lines at 45 and 90 degrees.
• One leg of the triangle has dimensions marked on its face in inches.
• Another leg of the triangle has a raised ridge on the top and bottom which allows it to be butted to the work piece.
• The longest side of the right triangle, also called the hypotenuse, contains degrees that are marked on it. (zero to ninety) These degrees help in measuring and marking miter cuts.
• Typically made of cast aluminum.
• Available in two sizes. The smaller size is seven inches on a side (the hypotenuse is just below ten inches). The larger version is twelve by twelve by seventeen inches.

Combination Square:
• A woodworking tool used for multiple purposes.
• Used to lay out 45-degree and 90-degree angles.
• The stop is adjustable along the blade for use as a depth gauge.
• Can be used as a try square, to determine the degree of a square piece of joint. It can also be used as a saw guide and as a level.

Cost will vary depending on the quality you are looking for. The more expensive models also com equipped with a protractor head, for marking and measuring angles, and a center head, for locating the center of a circular or cylindrical work piece.

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