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Carpenter square or framing square?

A carpenter square is a hand tool used in woodworking and metalworking to measure angles. The most common form consists of a laminated right triangle with one 90° corner and two 45° corners, giving three edges (the hypotenuse and two adjacent ones) each measuring 91.44°, and two legs each measuring 45°, although other variants exist.

The fighting iron (sometimes historically termed a “fighting-hammer”, French: “coup-de-poing”, German: “Schläger”) is essentially a European development of the eastern Indian clubs that were brought back from expeditions to the Orient; its use was chiefly for defense against bayonets or small swords.

This predecessor to the modern police baton was made of iron and wood, with a flat striking surface. They were often used by the military to disperse crowds in 18th century Europe, while they were popular among civilian self-defense enthusiasts in the Victorian era.

General differences

Carpenter squares are typically long enough to lay out their 45° angles without too much difficulty. Framing squares, on the other hand, are usually long enough only for laying out their 90° angle (although an experienced user can certainly use them at 45°).

The additional width of framing squares makes them easier to read than carpenter’s squares (especially when using them on crown molding) but also prevents them from fitting into tight spaces like corners or inside cabinets – which is why most carpenters will find it faster and easier to use a carpenter square (or even their combination square) in those situations.

Framing squares are not designed to lie flat on their 45° faces, but it is possible to do so if desired; this can make them harder to read at greater angles than would be the case if they were simply laid flat out with the 90° corner uppermost (although that is certainly an option too).

A framer’s or carpenter’s square consists of a right angle bracket with marking labels identifying degree measurements for miters, butt joints, floor lines, etc. The framing degree markings are for 0°-90°-45°-90° angles. There will also be numbers etched into the stock for reference points of measure.

There are two types of carpenter’s squares, the standard 18″ size which is used for general-purpose layout work on cabinets and carpentry projects, or a smaller 6″ version that is useful for layout work on smaller woodworking projects where larger tools would be unwieldy.

Unlike framing squares, carpenter’s squares are designed to lie flat on their 45° faces – making them easier read at those angles than if they were laid out with the 90° corner uppermost (although that is certainly an option too). If this wasn’t done then it would make it impossible to find the correct angle when measuring mitered joints.

The most common type of framing square provides measurements for common rafter cuts as well as the more architectural measurements necessary when building roofs. Framing squares are also useful when cutting plywood, they have markings for the right angle cuts in panels.

One of the most common types of carpenter square is an L-shaped tool that can be used as a 45° or 90° combination square. As the name implies, the head contains two parallel rules which are independently adjustable to any desired angle within their range using thumbwheels located at either end of the head where it joins the body.

The standard framing square has a metal blade with markings on one side for miters and other special angles along with scales on both sides for working out open spaces between studs, joists, and rafters. The second marking surface is an adhesive paper that can be applied to one side of the blade. When marking out work, a sharp pencil is used to push the paper into the spaces between scale markings and then peeled off once a line has been scored.

Advantages and disadvantages of Carpenter Square


  • easier to use with one hand, framers squares usually require two hands for stability
  • smaller and lighter weight
  • lays flat on its 45° face which makes it easier to read at those angles
  • more accurate when measuring up the inside of tight corners or cabinets as they’re narrow enough to fit into those spaces where a wider folding rule would have trouble getting in.


  • the most common type of carpenter’s square is an L-shaped instrument that can be used as a 45° or 90° combination square – which means you’ll need both tools to do everything a framing square can
  • doesn’t have the architectural scales needed on standard carpenter’s squares

Advantages and disadvantages of Framing Square


  • cheaper than a carpenter square
  • easier to read, especially when measuring up the inside of tight corners or cabinets which require slight angles to be taken


  • more expensive than carpenter squares.
  • larger and heavier than carpenter squares.
  • doesn’t lay flat on its 45° face making it harder to read at these angles than if they were simply laid flat out with the 90° corner uppermost (although that is certainly an option too). Unlike carpenter’s squares, which are designed to lie flat on their 45° faces – making them easier read at those angles. Note that this isn’t always necessary though as you can also read the 45° angles on a carpenter’s square by laying it flat and tilting your head to one side.

Where can you use framing square?

They are designed for carpentry, not masonry. So if you are working on a job where the siding is brick or block, I wouldn’t use it.

Framing squares can also be used for cutting plywood. The standard 18″ version has markings every 2 inches that will allow you to find the correct angle when cutting 4 x 8-foot panels into 5 1/2-feet wide pieces so they fit between studs spaced at 24 inches on center (which is what most residential homes).

The smaller 6″ pocket versions of framing squares have one scale marked along the entire length of the blade where there are no markings – which makes them useful for drawing circles since they can be scribed around without any interference from those pesky hash marks.

Carpenter squares are often used by roofers when laying out gutters or cutting shingles to form a hip rafter. They are also useful for laying out the correct angles in stair work.

Where can you use carpenter square?

One can use it for framing carpentry work for checking angles and miter cuts. It is usually used to cut small pieces of wood, plywood, etc.

However, it is not so commonly used by the framers as they require greater accuracy than this type of square can provide. There are special types available that can be folded out to make larger squares for heavier work.

A carpenter square has a blade made from wood or aluminum with either a 45° or 90° V-shaped groove along its length on one side only – the other side being plain flat. The blade may also have a center indexing notch that goes all the way through from end to end allowing you to line up one edge at a time against an engineered reference mark before going ahead with the cut.

Which type is for your household?

A framing square is the best option for household work. Carpenter squares are designed with greater accuracy but do not have the needed scales of a framing square so they would only be useful if you were building something where there was no need for particular scale markings.

Framing squares however can be used pretty much anywhere that precise measurements are required. The only exception is that some types of roofers might prefer to use carpenter squares when working on shingles or metal roofings – but all other tradesmen would use a framing square instead.

This also depends upon which type of steel is used in making it ([framing or carpenter). Some framers prefer to use framer’s squares because its blade does not warp as carpentry squares are made of thin metal that tends to bend over time after continued use.

Which type is for professionals?

A framing square is more suitable for professionals.

This is because carpenter squares are manufactured from thin metal which tends to bend over time after continued use while framing squares have a blade made of thicker steel so they do not warp easily. They also have different scales for accurate measurements and markings that you will need when working on a project. This makes them a better choice than a carpenter square for professional work.

These differences between the two types of squares, where one would be used instead of the other, ultimately stem from their intended use: Framing squares are designed with greater accuracy in mind but lack some features found in carpenter’s squares such as an indexing notch and 45° miter gauge groove on one face or both faces. On the other hand, carpenter’s squares are designed with these features but lack the appropriate scaling that you would find on a framing square.

Many people believe that as long as they have either of the two tools, they should be okay to use them for any purpose. However, this is not true as their intended uses do limit their functionality. For instance, a carpenter square will definitely need more frequent re-calibrating or adjustment than a framing square – and it may even cause your project to go badly wrong if you were to attempt to cut something out using it without first checking its accuracy.

So ultimately which one should I buy?

When it comes down to choosing between these two types of squares one must decide what he or she will be using it for. A carpenter square or a framing square? Both types do the same basic job of helping you line up your cut, but their features are different enough that they can’t necessarily perform the same task equally well. For this reason, it’s a good idea to figure out which one will be more useful for your project before buying one.

If you are thinking about using your square on heavier work such as framing studs together or other very large pieces of material, then you should go with the framing square. All-purpose household work may only require a carpenter’s square but if you’re looking for something that can handle thicker and harder materials then a framer’s will probably suit you better.

Remember, both tools have their limitations and cannot do everything perfectly – it all comes down to how they were designed in order to do certain tasks well at all.

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