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Photo of Johnson Structo Rafter Squares

Rafter Angle Squares (quick square)

The most valuable tool in my shop also happens to be the cheapest tool I've ever bought. These plastic rafter squares, sometimes called "quick squares," sell for under $10 and get a workout on just about every project I build. First and foremost I use them for drawing 90-degree cut-off lines on my boards. I also use them for quick cuts on my circular saw—one hand on the square, one hand on the saw. That's not my favorite way to cut wood (I prefer using clamps), but sometimes it just makes sense to skip the more elaborate setup.

When I do have the time (and need) for more precise cutting, the squares work nicely with my hand clamps. First I bring the small lip on the side of the rafter square up snug against the outside edge of the board. Then I tighten down two Irwin Quick Grips on opposite sides of the square. This makes a really solid cutting guide, and frees up an extra hand for holding the saw, which is where both hands should be in the first place.

The most clever part of the Johnson design is the color. The bright, fluorescent orange is hard to miss in the shop, and as a result, I have yet to lose any of these squares. I've also seen these in fluorescent green, which is also a good color for standing out in my crowd of shop tools. One other thing. The lightweight plastic just plain feels better than a traditional rafter square, which is usually made from heavy, rough metal.


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