How To Use A Combination Square? – The Best Possible Ways!

Are you still using miter squares for surface measurements?

Try a combination square for woodworking and depth gauge tools. Before you start marking the wood surface with a marking gauge it is important to know how to use a square combination.

I would recommend that you start using the tool by drawing a straight line with the help of the sliding ruler. Once you get the basic idea of the parts of the tool, use it to measure the angles. You might also use the handle as a level.

As a woodworker, initially, I faced several challenges while taking accurate measurements, especially the angles! But, you don’t have to go through similar phases, I am here to suggest different ways.

When lining the straight edge and measuring the 90 and 45-degree angles, you need to use the combination square properly. So, how to use a combination square?

The 2 Basic Usages Of Combination Square

A combo square is used primarily for three different usages –

1. Measuring The Depth, Distance, And Centre

The measuring tool can be used to measure the depth of your wood and stonework. The ruler and anvil are used for measuring the in-depth length of a particular surface.

Also, the blade or the scribe rule to the desired length is used to measure the distance instead of the depth gauge.

The gradations help you to measure the distance. The combination square is also used for measuring the center length of a circular object.

2. For Getting Accurate Angle Measurement

Measuring the angles of the machine is extremely important for any woodworker, and for that, combination squares are the ideal tools once you flip the square.

But, before you know how to use the combination square and speed square and the different applications of the features, you need to check out the different parts and their functionality.

Understanding The Anatomy Of A Combination Square

Ruler & Shoulder

The most essential part of a combination square is the blade and the ruler. The metal ruler is used for taking the length measurements. The blade of the ruler should fall flat on the surface so that you can mark the lining precisely.

The shoulder of the layout tool is used for adjusting the length and moving the anvil throughout the surface along the blade of the ruler. It is also used for marking the 45-degree measurement.

Anvil & Vial

The anvil is one of the most crucial parts of the combination miter square that is used for taking 90-degree measurements. 

The bubble vial is also an important part of the quality combination square that also works along with the level to provide you with the right measurements. 


Lastly, combination squares come with a rule by a lock bolt after you lock the head. The adjustable knob can help you with adjusting the shoulder and determining the length using the square.

How To Verify The Accuracy Of Your Combination Square?

  • Before you start using a combination square, it is important that you make sure that it is free from any sort of defect and you understand the anatomy of a combination square.
  • To do so, first, you need to select a perfectly square material and grab a sharp pencil to mark the outline and scribe a line along.
  • Now, the first thing that you can do is to line up the anvil after the surface of the material and mark a line at a 90-degree angle throughout the straightedge length of the edge of the board.
  • Then, you have to turn the square over and use the ruler to line up the drawing line to mark another 90-degree angle along with the length of the blade.
  • If the lines that you have just drawn overlap, then you can be sure that the square is perfectly accurate. If the lines do not overlap with each other, then you need to buy a separate new square.

12 Different Ways To Use A Combination Square

Here are the 12 different ways to help you use your combination square accurately –

1. Checking The Boxes And Taking The Perfect Measurements

  • To do so, you need to adjust the ruler and make sure that it is slightly in-set from the anvil. Now you need to tighten the adjustable knob of the hand tool. 
  • Now place the square head along the inside and outside corners of the box to see if the edges of the box are aligned properly at 90 degrees angle.
  • If you can see a slight gap between the ruler and the anvil, you can have the square to check and decide if it is perfectly square around or not by moving the square.

Cutting The Surface

  • Before you proceed with the cutting of the surface of the wood using mortise and tenon you need to place the anvil of the square against the sharp edges of the surface that you are working with.
  • Now you need to draw a line using a pencil along with the marking knife until the tip of your pencil reaches the anvil once you slide the square.
  • If you are satisfied with the 90-degree angle that you have just created along with the edge of your working surface then you can proceed with your cutting operation.

2. Marking The 90° Angle

Measuring the square at a 90-degree angle is one of the simplest things that you can do with this square.

  • To do so all you need to do is to place the anvil against the surface material.
  • Now use a pencil or a pen to draw the line along with the blade that will create a perfect 90-degree angle with the surface alignment.

3. Determining The 45° Angles

  • You need to place the shoulder of your square against the surface material.
  • The edge of the surface and the ruler will create a perfect 45-degree angle between them.
  • Now you can use a pencil to draw the lines.

Proceeding With The Cuts

  • You can measure or mark the 45-degree and 90-degree angles using the shoulder and the ruler blade by placing them directly on the surface material.
  • Always try to use a pencil for marking the angles so that you can erase them if you are not satisfied with the results.
  • Once done with the marking you can cut the required portion according to your preference.

4. Defining A Parallel Line With The Square

  • First, you need to extend the blade past the anvil of the square. 
  • Now you should place it against the surface material. 
  • It is time for using a pencil you can draw a rough line that will be parallel to the edge of the blade and the surface material that is used to determine the length of the line.

Another Way To Do So

  • A different approach that you might try is to align the combination square’s anvil with the edge of the surface material.
  • Now place the pencil at the sharp end of the ruler.
  • By putting pressure on the end of the blade ruler you can move the handle or the level of the combination square along the work surface so that your pencil can follow the parallel motion.
  • In the end, you will see that you have just created a perfectly parallel line along with the walking surface edge.

5. Using The Combination Square As A Simple Ruler

  • Since the blade ruler and the anvil are attached with an adjustable knob along with the level, you can easily detach the ruler and use it as an individual tool.
  • Just loosen the adjustable knob or lock bolt, and slide it off the ruler blade. 
  • Now you can draw a perfectly straight line along the blade of the ruler and you don’t need to buy a separate ruler for doing so.

6. Setting Miters On Saws

You need to follow the same method for loosening the adjustable knob for removing the blade and use the anvil only or the shoulder to check or verify the angle of your table saw blade against the deck or the age of your miter saw.

7. Using It As A Level

  • Remove the blade from the square. 
  • Now you need to place the anvil on the surface material to measure the level as the substitute for a marking.
  • You can use the bubble-level vial to measure the level of the surface.
  • By setting the combination square’s handle’s anvil side down on the surface you need to measure, you can also use it as a standard level like Johnson’s level.
  • You need to read the bubble vial to verify and make sure of the accuracy of levelness and if you see the bubble is in the middle of the vial then you can say that it is level.

8. Setting Up The Height

Setting up the perfect height for the miters before you cut the working surface or depth of a mortise is extremely important and you can use the anvil for doing so.

  • All you need to do is place the anvil on the surface material.
  • Extend the ruler blade to the desired point that you want to measure.
  • You can also use the adjustable knob to tighten the position of the ruler blade at that desired length.
  • Now, you can use those accurate measurement readings for future purposes.

9. Measuring The Thickness

  • For that, you need to make sure that you have access to a flat surface on which you can place your surface material.
  • Now you can put the anvil flat on top of the material and extend the length of the blades along the parallel edge of the flat surface.
  • You can lock the position of the blades once you are done measuring the thickness and you can use it in the future as well.

10. Checking For Plumb

Here comes the role of the vial of one combination square.

  • You can place the outer surface of the blade against the vertical edge of the working surface that you need to measure.
  • If you find that the bubble vial is right in the middle then you can ensure that you are successful in checking for the level and plumb.

Now that you know how to use combination squares in various ways it is time to choose the perfect one with plumb and level!

11. Finding The Centre On Circular Objects

In most of the sets of combination squares, you can find the center head.

  • The v-shaped attachment that slides on the ruler goes against the end of the round object once you are done with the measure in the 90 or 45-degree angles.
  • Now you need to mark the line across the end of the round object and rotate the combination square along at a 90-degree angle to draw a new line.
  • The exact place where the two lines intersect each other is the center of a round object.

12. The Protractor Head

  • If you use a square that comes with 4 essential tools then you will get this protractor head that will let you change the angle of the blade.
  • You can change the angle apart from 90 and 45-degree angles with this head and it will be a lot easier for you to mark any angle possible.

In whichever way you want to use the combination square, it is important that you place the tool properly on the surface. Also, you need to ensure that you can only use the square in numerous ways if you are well equipped with the tool’s usage and measuring accurately on the surface.

How To Select A Quality Combination Square?

When shopping for a combination square, implement these inside and outside tips.


To save a few bucks you should never compromise the quality of the square. 

Otherwise, it will be difficult for you to take accurate measurements if you settle for lesser quality. Choose one that is affordable but comes as a square-out-of-the-box.


  • Look for something that is made with higher quality materials that will provide us with long-lasting usage results.
  • You can go for zinc or alloy material that is rust-proof.

Look for the Gradations

  • To make sure that you are accurate at taking measurements and using the square as a depth gauge, you need to choose one that comes with better visibility and gradation marks.
  • It is preferable if you choose a square on which the marks are done in contrasting colors.


Though some people are not convenient at referring to the metric scales, you should look for something that comes with both inch and metric range stampings.

Size Matters

If you work outside you should look for something smaller and portable and for that, you can loop for 6-inch blades.

But if you are more comfortable with working with a longer blade, then you can go for the 12-inch squares.

Etched Readings

If you find something that has etched readings on the surface of the ruler blade then you can definitely go for that one instead of buying the combination square that comes with ink marks.

They won’t last long while the etched reading line parallel to the edge will provide you with lasting readability.

FAQs – How To Use A Combination Square

1. What is the pin that comes with a combination square?

The combination square usually comes with a removable pin that is used for measuring the measurements on the surface material.

2. How do you use combination sets?

The parts of the combination square are easily detachable, and you can use the ruler and the anvil to measure the length, angles, and center of the circular objects.

What are the 3 names of the heads on a combination square?

The most prevalent head is called the standard head, which is used to mark and measure the 90 and 45-degree precise angles. But there are also other heads available if you buy a combination square set. They are protractors and center finder heads.

Use Combination Square As A Versatile Tool

The combo square can be used in multiple ways that will actually help you in avoiding the usage of additional tools.

You can use it for measuring the length of the surface, pointing out the different angles, measuring the in-depth length and heights, and also for marking the center of a circular object.

Do you know any other unique way of using the combination squares? Let us know in the comments below. After all, it is a highly versatile tool!