The Speed Square is arguably one of the most useful tools when it comes to construction. Originally designed for use in the framing of houses, and sometimes referred to as a rafter square, it facilitates layout operations. It features markings that help speed up common repetitive procedures when framing walls or cutting rafters. Although originally developed by the Swanson Tool Company, there are now dozens of companies that manufacture similar rafter squares. However, Swanson Speed Squares generally come with more features than others.
If you get the Speed Square Pro, like I did, it comes with Swanson’s Blue Book, which has instructions and explanations for the geometry, calculation and layout of virtually any rafter configuration. . If you’re not a craft builder, framing every day, this is a fantastic resource. Aside from framing, the Speed Square is used on just about every woodworking project I do – it’s one of my most used tools. Build sheds, shelves, firewood racks, picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, workbenches, sawhorses. You name it, and a speed square will come in handy for doing so.
While some people find all of the markings on the Speed Square a little intimidating at first, they’re not hard to understand once you see how they’re used. Below we will explain the eight most common uses of the tool.
Marking of right angles
Mark any angle
Serve as a saw guide
Square the joints
Marking a line parallel to an edge
Arrangement of top and bottom plates for a wall
Arrangement of plumb cuts on the top and tail of the rafters
Marking of Birdsmouth cuts on the rafters
This is just a sampling of what you can do with Swanson’s Speed Square. For more complex setups, check out the brand’s Blue Book I mentioned.