Unlocking Accuracy: In-Depth Swanson Combination Square Review

The Swanson Combination Square is a versatile multi-use tool that has become a staple in many woodworking shops. This handy device allows for basic measurements, ensuring perpendicularity, scribing lines, and more. I’ve used the Swanson for years and found it to provide excellent functionality for the price.

While it may not have the premium feel and longevity of brands like Starrett, the Swanson Combination Square delivers where it counts. The stainless steel blade is etched with clear, durable markings essential for precision woodworking. The cast zinc body withstands job site abuse and maintains its accuracy over time. Together, these high-quality components enable the Swanson square to excel at the critical tasks combination squares are used for.

For woodworkers looking for an affordable, yet accurate and durable combination square, the Swanson delivers. It has the essential features needed for woodworking at a price point accessible to all. In my experience, the Swanson stands up to frequent use and abuse while maintaining its functionality. While premium options exist, the Swanson Combination Square hits the sweet spot of price and performance for most woodworking applications.

Overview of the Swanson Combination Square

For those unfamiliar, a combination square consists of a ruler body component, typically made of metal, that has both a 90 degree surface for checking perpendicularity and a 45 degree surface for angled measurements. This body component slides onto a stainless steel ruler blade that can be extended outward or locked in place via an adjustment knob.

The Swanson Combination Square includes all the standard features you would expect. The main body is made of cast zinc with machined 45 degree and 90 degree surfaces to ensure accuracy. The stainless steel ruler blade comes etched with measurements in inches down to 1/32” increments.

There is also a special t-square edge that allows the Swanson Combination Square to be used for dropping perpendicular lines. Beyond the square functionality, the Swanson Combination Square includes a small bubble level and a scribe/awl attachment. This allows the tool to cover all the bases in terms of basic measurement, layout, and marking applications.

Pros of the Swanson Combination Square

After extended use of the Swanson Combination Square, there are several advantages that stand out:

Solid Build Quality

Considering the reasonable price, the Swanson Combination Square features very good build quality with materials that feel solid and durable. Both the cast zinc body and stainless steel blade seem like they could withstand years of use without issue.

The machined surfaces are precise, allowing the tool to deliver reliable accuracy. All the adjusting and locking components work smoothly yet offer a good grip. Overall fit and finish is excellent for the price.

Cost Effective Price Point

Prices for combination squares can range from $10 basic models up to several hundred dollars for precision instruments. At around $10-15, the Swanson Combination Square hits a sweet spot of delivering quality while remaining very affordable.

The Swanson is priced like an entry level tool but it exceeds expectations in terms of functionality and durability. For those wanting the reliability of a combination square without a huge investment, the Swanson delivers excellent value.

Packed with Useful Features

You get more than just the basic combination square body and blade components with the Swanson. The inclusion of a small yet handy bubble level makes the tool even more versatile. The scribe attachment further expands functionality for layout and marking.

Having both the level and scribe packed into such an affordable tool makes the Swanson a great all-in-one square option right out of the box. It really packs helpful features beyond just the basic square offerings.

Compact 6-inch Size

The small 6-inch size of the Swanson Combination Square is perfect for portability and easy storage. The compact body and retractable blade design allow the tool to slip into a pouch or toolbox. This makes the Swanson easy to keep on your person.

The 6-inch size is also great for small work pieces where a larger square would be cumbersome. It provides flexibility to use the Swanson in tight spots or for detail work where space is limited.

Precise, Easy to Read Markings

The etched measurement markings on the stainless steel blade are precise and easy to read even in low light conditions. The markings include 1/32” increments which allow for dialing in measurements for perfect fitting joints.

The high contrast markings stand out clearly against the smooth blade. Having legible markings is essential for speed and precision while working.

Pros Elaboration
Solid build quality The cast zinc body and stainless steel blade feel durable and can withstand years of use. Precisely machined surfaces provide reliable accuracy.
Cost effective price point At around $10-15, the Swanson provides quality exceeding its inexpensive price point. Great value for users not wanting to spend a lot.
Packed with useful features Comes with a handy bubble level and scribe/awl for increased versatility beyond just a basic square.
Compact 6-inch size Easy to store in a pouch or toolbox. Also great for portability and working in tight spaces.
Precise, easy to read markings The etched inch markings on the blade are clear and easy to read, even in low light. Includes 1/32″ increments.

Cons of the Swanson Combination Square

After evaluating several combination squares, here are a few downsides to keep in mind with the Swanson:

Some Quality Control Concerns

There are some reports of Swanson Combination Squares arriving slightly out of square from the manufacturing process. This seems uncommon but is worth mentioning.

Checking and recalibrating isn’t difficult to do but it requires additional effort before first use. For perfectionists, this may be something to consider.

Fit and Finish Not as Refined as Premium Brands

The Swanson Combination Square has excellent build quality for the price, but the fit and finish is not as refined as higher end offerings from Starrett or Brown & Sharpe.

The knurling and machine work is good but has a basic look and feel. The Swanson won’t impress in terms of aesthetic appeal.

Not the Most Sturdy Over Long Term Use

Long time users report that the Swanson Combination Square does require recalibration checks more frequently over many years of use. It maintains functionality but won’t stay true indefinitely like a high end Starrett or Mitutoyo might.

For perfectionists and those wanting an heirloom quality instrument, the Swanson likely won’t satisfy. But for more casual users, it provides plenty of reliability.

Scratch Awl Attachment Can Be Frustrating

A minor annoyance is that the scratch awl attachment doesn’t rotate freely. It takes quite a bit of turning to get it threaded in and out. This makes changing between the level and awl more frustrating.

A small issue overall but one that could be improved with a simpler, smoother rotating design.

Cons Elaboration
Some quality control concerns There are some reports of units arriving slightly out of square. Requires recalibration before first use.
Fit and finish not as refined The knurling and machine work is decent but has a basic look and feel compared to premium brands.
Not the most sturdy long-term May require more frequent recalibration checks over many years of use compared to higher end options.
Scratch awl frustrating to use The scratch awl attachment doesn’t rotate smoothly, making it annoying to thread in and out.

Comparison to Other Brands

How does the Swanson Combination Square stack up against some of the other respected brands in the space? Here are a few key comparisons:

  • Swanson vs. Starrett – Starrett is the premium standard that all other combination squares get compared to. The Starrett squares feature unmatched build quality and near perfect accuracy. But this perfection comes at a price – Starrett squares often cost $70-100+.
  • The Swanson delivers great functionality for a fraction of the cost. For most hobbyists and professionals, the Swanson will suit their needs at a more reasonable price point.
  • Swanson vs. Irwin – Irwin also makes high quality combination squares at a more affordable price range closer to the Swanson. The Irwin squares feature superior fit and finish compared to the Swanson. And they edge out the Swanson in terms of refinement and longevity.
  • However, the Irwin squares do cost a decent amount more. Overall the Irwin is likely the better quality tool but the Swanson still competes well given the lower price point. It comes down to budget and needs.
  • Swanson vs. Johnson – Johnson levels are another low cost alternative like the Swanson. In terms of build quality and longevity, the Swanson appears superior based on user reviews and comparisons.

The Swanson excels at providing better functionality and accuracy while still hitting that low price point. For a bit more, the minor extra cost of the Swanson is worth it over the Johnson option.


What materials is the Swanson Combination Square made from?

The main body is made from cast zinc and the blade is stainless steel. This combination provides durability while remaining lightweight.

Does it come with a case or pouch for storage?

Unfortunately it does not come with a case or pouch. However, the compact 6-inch size makes it easy to store in a toolbox or utility pouch.

What are the available sizes?

Swanson makes this combination square in 6-inch, 12-inch, and 16-inch size options. The 6-inch is highly portable while the 12-inch and 16-inch provide extended reach.

Does it come with a warranty?

Swanson hand tools come with a limited lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects. Normal wear and tear or abuse is not covered.

Can it be used for woodworking and metalworking?

Yes, the Swanson Combination Square can be used for both woodworking and metalworking applications. The etched blade works well for marking and scoring metal.

How accurate is the Swanson Combination Square?

Tested accuracy is within 0.005 inches. It provides reliable precision for the price point. More expensive premium squares offer even greater accuracy.

Is this made in the USA?

Swanson products are made in China. However, they are a U.S. based company located in Glendale, Arizona.

Does the blade lock securely?

Yes, the brass locking bolt allows the blade to lock in place securely once positioned and tightened.


The Swanson Combination Square is a versatile multi-use tool that delivers solid performance and value for woodworking, metalworking, and general home use. While it may lack some of the refinement and name brand appeal of premium squares, the Swanson provides durable construction, useful accessories, and reliable accuracy at a very affordable price point. For hobbyists and professionals alike seeking an economical combination square that can tackle everyday needs, the Swanson is easy to recommend. It hits that sweet spot of price and functionality that makes it a great addition for any workshop or tool kit. The compact size also makes the Swanson Combination Square convenient to take anywhere precision is needed on the job site. Overall, a quality and budget-friendly option that exceeds expectations and earns high marks.

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