When it comes to the much-needed precision in construction you have a lot of options to consider on the market in terms of measurements. While advances in Laser Distance Measurers have made a lot of users feel that tape measures are all but obsolete, there are still occasions when traditional methods reign supreme. One such is framing, as well as Woodworking and Carpentry, where human precision and tools like the ones we will talk about today, are relied on heavily to give superior results. Alas, the tools we use still remain important in these practices and today we will check out a few new products from Empire. How can they improve Rafter Squares or Combination Squares? Well, let’s find out how the latest round of updates impacted the classic tools in the Empire Squares Review.
Empire Squares Review Overview
Empire Level has been around for a long time since 1919 to be exact. If a manufacturer can make it through the economic downturns like Empire has endured in its 100 years, you know they must be doing something right. Empire was founded on the basis of providing layout and measurement tools for the tradesmen who used them day in and day out. Their levels are iconic and can be found in pretty much any home, and on virtually any job site.
Today, the Power Tool giant Milwaukee owns Empire Level in a deal that surprised more than a few fans in 2014. To be honest, though it’s really a perfect marriage of two companies that focus on quality tools, with both professional tool staples and innovations that make our well-loved tools just that much better.
Empire Square Features
Today we will look at 2 Rafter Squares as well as two Combination Squares from Empire.The Empire Rafter Squares are made in the USA and include a limited lifetime warranty.
Rafter Squares are available in both 7 inch and 12-inch sizes and made of extruded and anodized aluminum for increased durability and increased life.
Laser etched markings increase accuracy and higher visibility as well as permanent readability. Empire has a patent pending on their laser etching process.
SCRIBE-GUIDE notches at both ¼ and ½ inch increments that allow for precise marking.
Empire incorporated wider heels, which is designed for improved security against a workpiece. The 12-inch model is 15% larger, and the 7-inch square is 25% wider than average.
The conversion table on square provides a good quick reference when calculating measurements.
Both the 6-inch pocket combination square and the 12-inch combination square are made using steel blades with chemical etched markings for durability and visibility. The combination squares are made in the US using global materials and feature a lifetime limited warranty.
Empire’s signature BLADE-LOCK allows for a quick adjustment and hold for usability. A self-aligning drawbolt provides increased accuracy during measurement changes.
The machined head provides a good weight balance during use and guaranteed accuracy.
High Impact e-BAND vials allow precise level visibility with
The onboard scriber pin allows for quick and precise marking.
The blade is etched using a chemical process for high visibility on the blade.
Empire Squares Review Performance
Okay, guys, things may get a bit weird here. I have a little bit of a love affair with these squares, and I am not kidding even a little bit. Not only are these squares aesthetically pleasing to look at, but their attraction also continues in their high visibility markings. My previous rafter squares were plastic and fairly difficult to read, even for someone like me who has had eye surgery (PRK) and can see on par with pilots. Empire knocked their new laser engraved markings out of the visibility park and made me wonder how I ever did without them.
Now, another HUGE thing for me on these squares over previous ones I have used are the SCRIBE-GUIDES. I wish I could properly explain to you how much these notches in the square enhance their usability and accuracy. By allowing you to select the desired measurement and follow the heel along the edge of your material is a huge step forward in reducing human error. Without a doubt, this alone would be reason enough for me to recommend them as it is truly a feature that makes a job so much simpler.
I also appreciated the onboard conversion tables which allow a user to save a step in common measurements. These squares have incredibly build quality and are incredibly accurate based on my findings. I used several methods from other squares, a digital angle finder, a caliper and a good old-fashioned measuring tape to verify. I think in regards to performance, there just isn’t anything negative to say about these Rafter Squares.
So onto the Combination Squares. If I have lost you based on my inherent ability to find so much to love about the Rafter Squares, I am afraid you won’t find anything different here. The Combination Squares are a tool I would say pretty much every user will love. One feature for me that stood out was the onboard scriber pin which was practical in use. As well, the bubble vial was a real standout as it was accurate and provided incredible visibility to the user. Having markings that allow you to see even a 1 or 2-degree slope was incredibly useful and will improve a lot of precision in an array of users.
The combination Squares are built in every way, heavy duty. Where often times these can feel somewhat flimsy and by extension make you question their ability to perform, these models from Empire feel solid. The metal used on the heads is just thick enough to provide some weight and strength to the unit but is done in a way that seems to make sense. Combination Squares can also notoriously be awkward to use, but these just aren’t.
Empire Squares Review Value
Rafter Squares 7 inch (e2994) $10.97 and 12 inch (e3992) $19.97.
Combination Square- 6 inch(e255) is $8.97 12 inch (e250) is $10.97.
Here’s Empire’s full product selection on Amazon.
When looking at value for something where accuracy is key, you have an easy decision to make. With price points under 20 dollars, the Squares from Empire are all around a wonderful value. A Homeowner will see a lot of value in the ability to make simple functions like hanging photos, making cuts with a circular saw, or making simple angled cuts a lot more precise. I have used ones that are less expensive, but there are times when you have to pay a slightly higher price point to get the precision you get from these squares. As well, there is a slew of options that are multiples of this price point, so honestly, the Empire Squares are incredibly economic for their feature set.
Empire Squares Review Final Thoughts
I learned how to use a rafter square when I was probably 10. At the time, my Dad had been adding a home addition onto our house and seeing framing first hand was pretty cool for someone like me who had a natural aptitude for math and mechanics. So, when Empire announced that they were taking a tool like this and adding even more features that would make me love them all the more, I was eager to check them out. To say the least, these didn’t disappoint. These squares are accurate, feature packed and make your job easier. They come in at a great value for all users and are the type of tool you will be left wondering how you did without them.
I must disagree. I’ve measured Empire try squares and found them off as much as three tenths of a degree. Really complicated a cabinet project for which I had bought a new try square, until I figured out that all the jigs I had built were off with it as well.
With all due respect, none of these squares are suitable for cabinet makers. They are for carpenters and roofers. For framing and rafter work where 10ths of a degree don’t matter
For the most part I like Empire squares and levels that I’ve used for years. That is until I needed to buy a new 12″ combination square. I was impressed with the features including the stainless steel blade which I needed for jobs out in the weather. Didn’t want it to rust. Turns out even though it says SS on the wrapper, IT’S NOT STAINLESS STEEL unless it is such a low low grade it will still rust !!! Non rusting SS doesn’t allow magnets to stick to it. These blades for the combo squares stick to magnets like regular steel. So, if you think you’re getting a better quality SS blade that won’t rust, you are paying a higher price for SS that really is a very low low grade SS if at all ? Very disappointed.