two hands using a combination square as part of a this old house tool test
Photo: Wendell T. Webber

Jack of All Trades

Look past its gangly appearance and meet the most versatile layout tool going: the combination square. It'll mark lines, measure thickness, check for square, and much more. Click through to see the five that deserve a spot in our toolbox—from heirloom-quality to bargain-bin.

What to look for:
1. A blade with easy-to-read markings.
2. A pleasantly hefty square head, preferably cast iron or forged steel.
3. A knurled adjustment knob to lock or loosen the blade.
4. A scratch awl at least 1 inch long that fits snugly into the head.
5. Nicely machined edges free of pitting or paint.
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