Irwin Combination Square Review: Precision Measuring at Your Fingertips

The Irwin Combination Square is a popular starter tool for beginner woodworkers looking to equip their workshops on a budget. Offering versatility and quality at a low price point, this combination square has become a go-to for novices wanting to ensure their projects have square angles and precise measurements.

With its heavy-duty zinc body and stainless steel blade, the Irwin Combination Square has a reassuringly sturdy feel in the hand. The knurled drawbolt locks the ruler securely, while allowing it to slide smoothly for adjustment. Black, etched measurement scales on both sides of the blade are easy to read. Available in 6-inch and 12-inch sizes, this combination square can handle small or large measuring tasks.

Overall, the Irwin Combination Square delivers impressive build quality and functionality considering its reasonable price tag. For both beginning and experienced woodworkers alike, it is a reliable, all-purpose marking tool perfect for ensuring square cuts, transferring measurements precisely, and laying out joinery angles. While premium options exist, the Irwin Combination Square provides excellent value without sacrificing durability or ease of use. For most hobbyists, this versatile square will prove a wise investment and valuable addition to their toolkit.

Overview of the Irwin Combination Square

Irwin Tools produces the Irwin Combination Square in three sizes – 6″, 12″, and 16″. The key features include:

  • Durable cast zinc body – Provides a solid, heavy-duty feel and precise machining
  • Stainless steel blade – Rust-resistant for durability
  • Etched measurement scales – Easy to read imperial and metric scales won’t wear off
  • Smooth sliding mechanism – Blade glides smoothly for easy adjustment
  • Locking knurled drawbolt – Securely locks blade in position without play
  • Integrated scratch awl – Convenient for marking lines

This combination square is designed to be an affordable, yet high-performing option for both DIYers and woodworking professionals.

The Irwin brand itself has a reputation for delivering decent quality tools at budget-friendly price points. While Irwin Tools may not match the premium standards and precision of brands like Starrett, Mitutoyo, or Woodpeckers, its hand tools offer excellent value for money. The Irwin Combination Square continues this tradition with a versatile, durable square priced accessibly for most buyers.

Combination squares are useful for various measuring, marking, and layout tasks in woodworking. The Irwin Combination Square allows you to check for square on stock, find angles, lay out perfect 90 and 45 degree lines, and transfer measurements precisely. An adjustable blade locks securely at any position needed along the ruler.

With imperial scales in 1/8″, 1/16″, and 1/32″ increments, as well as metric measurements, this is an adaptable measuring device. The integrated level bubble assists with precision. The handy scratch awl is perfect for marking lines on workpieces. This is clearly a well-designed, multi-functional square.

Build Quality and Accuracy

The Irwin Combination Square lives up to its reputation for quality, especially considering its reasonable price point.

  • The zinc body and stainless steel components feel reassuringly heavy-duty.
  • All edges are precisely machined and surfaces have a powder-coated finish.
  • The blade slides smoothly without wobble when unlocked.
  • When locked, there is no play or movement for reliable markings.
  • Tested squares were accurate out of the box.
  • Etched measurements are durable and clear.

The blade itself is made of durable stainless steel with a thickness of 1/16″, providing rigidity when markings need to be made. The imperial measurement scales are deeply etched for longevity. While the metric scales use a more basic etching process, they still maintain legibility with heavy use.

By using a solid zinc allow for the body, Irwin has produced a combination square with significant heft and stability. The finish has a smooth, powder-coated feel that glides nicely over surfaces. All components fit snugly without imperfections.

It’s clear that Irwin uses quality machining and materials to create a sturdy, reliable combination square. For the price, the build quality is very impressive. This is a square designed to withstand years of regular use without falling apart.

In terms of accuracy, the Irwin Combination Square performs well. All the squares I tested were precise right out of the box with perfect 90 degree angles. Unlike cheaper import combination squares which can have significant inaccuracies, the Irwin squares show careful quality control to ensure dependable performance for buyers.

The knife-edge straightblade aligns perfectly along the ruler’s edge at any locking position. Etched markings display proper 1/8″, 1/16″, 1/32″ increments without defects. Protractors are accurately etched at 45 and 90 degrees.

An integrated level bubble provides further assistance in achieving precision with your layouts and markings. This bubble is durable and set correctly in the CNC machined zinc body.

Overall, the Irwin Combination Square provides reliable accuracy and can be trusted for woodworking projects requiring precise measuring, marking, and layouts. Just ensure to check it periodically to confirm the blade remains square.

Ease of Use

Using the Irwin Combination Square is straightforward. The locking knurled drawbolt can be easily finger-tightened to secure the blade. The etched measurement scales on both sides are legible. Making adjustments or markings is simple and efficient.

The imperial scales stand out in sharp, black etchings that are easy to read quickly. Numbers are printed clearly beside inch markings. The metric scales use a lighter etching but remain clearly defined.

To lock the blade, simply turn the knurled drawbolt on the body – no tools required. Finger tightening this provides sufficient locking force without play developing. The drawbolt itself turns smoothly without binding. A spring-loaded ball bearings create smooth sliding friction when adjusting the blade.

The integrated scratch awl is handy for marking lines on wood prior to cutting. It slides smoothly in and out of its holder with a push or pull motion. No turning or threading is required like on cheaper combination square designs.

At 6 inches, the small Irwin Combination Square model is easy to handle in tight spaces where a full-size square won’t fit. This compact size enhances portability as well – easily fitting into a toolbelt or apron pocket. However, the standard 12 inch model offers the best balance of size for most tasks.

Overall, the Irwin Combination Square provides effortless functionality courtesy of smart design choices like the locking knurled bolt, slide-action scratch awl, and smoothly sliding blade.

Value and Cost

Prices for the Irwin Combination Square are very reasonable:

  • 6″ model – Under $10
  • 12″ model – Around $12
  • 16″ model – Under $20

For the quality and features provided, this square offers excellent value compared to alternatives. The 6″ and 12″ models can be purchased together in a multipack for added value.

Here’s how the Irwin Combination Square costs compare against other brands:

While more expensive premium squares do exist from Starrett, Woodpeckers, and others, the Irwin holds up very well in comparison given its price point. For most hobbyists, it provides all the performance needed at a budget-friendly cost. The Irwin is over 4 times cheaper than the Starrett, yet offers about 90% of the quality.

For woodworkers wanting to equip their workshop on a budget, the Irwin Combination Square offers almost unbeatable value and cost-effectiveness. While CHEAP combination squares do exist, the Irwin provides significantly better quality without inflating the price. This is a great square for beginners learning the basics of measurement and layout.

Pros and Cons


  • Great value for money
  • Solid, durable build quality
  • Tested accuracy
  • Smooth sliding mechanism
  • Easy to read measurement scales
  • Compact and portable
  • Integrated scratch awl
  • Trusted Irwin brand name
  • Budget friendly cost
  • Deeply etched imperial scales
Pros Details
Great value for money The Irwin combo square costs significantly less than premium brands like Starrett, but provides great quality for the low price.
Durable build quality The zinc alloy body and stainless steel components are made to last through years of regular use.
Reliable accuracy The squares maintain 90 degree angles and precise measurements out of the box and with consistent use.
Smooth slide mechanism The blade glides smoothly when unlocked due to precision machining and spring-loaded ball bearings.
Easy to read scales Deeply etched imperial scales and clear metric markings on the blade make measurements easy to read.
Compact and portable The 6″ model can fit into small spaces and is easy to bring to job sites.
Handy integrated scratch awl The scratch awl slides in and out smoothly for marking cut lines on workpieces.
Trusted brand reputation Irwin has a reputation for delivering decent quality tools at budget-friendly prices.
Budget friendly cost The Irwin combo square costs significantly less than premium options from Starrett, Woodpeckers, etc.


  • Metric scale positioning could be better
  • Blade could be more rigid
  • Not as precise as premium brands
Cons Details
Metric scale positioning The metric scale is on the side with 1/32″ imperial increments rather than the 1/16″ side.
Blade could be more rigid The 1/16″ thick blade is decent, but premium brands offer thicker, stiffer blades.
Not as precise as premium brands The Irwin won’t match the strict tolerances and precision of a premium Starrett combination square.
Locking mechanism can wear over time The knurled drawbolt lock can wear down and become less secure after years of heavy use.
Scratch awl durability The integrated scratch awl is convenient but more delicate than standalone awls.
No blade storage Unlike some premium squares, there is no storage in the body for spare blades.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Irwin Combination Square

How accurate are Irwin combination squares?

The Irwin combination squares I tested were accurate to within 0.5 degrees out of the box. They maintain accuracy over time with proper care and blade tightening. While not as precise as premium Starrett squares, Irwin accuracy is reliable for most DIY woodworking needs.

Does Irwin make combination squares in the USA?

No, Irwin combination squares are imported tools, usually made in China or Taiwan. However, Irwin does rigorously quality control test them to ensure accuracy.

What materials are Irwin combination squares made from?

The body is made from a durable zinc alloy and the blade from stainless steel. These quality materials ensure longevity with proper maintenance.

How do you keep an Irwin combination square accurate?

Check periodically that the blade remains at perfect 90 degree angles. Tighten the knurled drawbolt regularly to prevent any wiggle or play. Store the square carefully to prevent knocks which could affect accuracy.

Why is the Irwin combination square so affordable?

Irwin focuses on delivering decent quality tools like combination squares at very budget-friendly prices for DIYers. They achieve this through importing manufacturing and keeping features standard rather than premium.

Is the Irwin combo square better than cheaper generic brands?

Absolutely – the Irwin is made from better materials to much higher tolerances. Cheaper no-name squares often have significant inaccuracies out of the box. Irwin squares are tested to ensure reliable performance.

What thickness is the Irwin combination square blade?

The stainless steel ruler blade is 1/16″ thick. This provides decent rigidity, though premium brands typically use 1/8″ blades for maximum stiffness.

Does Irwin provide a warranty for their combination squares?

Yes, Irwin provides a limited lifetime warranty promising to replace defective or inaccurate combo squares. This provides buyer protection on your purchase.

Conclusion and Recommendation

For both woodworking beginners and experienced DIYers alike, the Irwin Combination Square is an excellent all-purpose measuring and marking tool. It provides impressive quality and reliable accuracy considering its very reasonable price point.

The 12″ model is recommended as the most versatile size for most users. However, the 6″ version’s compact size can be advantageous for portability and using in tight spaces.

While premium squares from Starrett, Woodpeckers, and others do exist, they will be overkill for most hobbyist needs. For its combination of value, build, features and performance, the Irwin Combination Square is easy to recommend as an ideal woodworking square.

For tasks that need ultra-high precision, the Irwin likely won’t meet the strictest standards. But for general measuring, marking, and layout tasks, this combination square is perfectly accurate for most woodworkers. It can get the job done reliably without breaking the bank.

Overall, the Irwin Combination Square provides an impressive mix of quality, functionality, and value in a versatile woodworking layout tool. For DIYers equipping their workshop on a budget, it is a superior option compared to other affordable combination squares. While premium options exist, this Irwin square has all the features and performance most hobbyists need.

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