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What's Your Favorite Tool for $20 or Less?

See issue #168 for the editors' choices; post your own favorites on Breaktime

In the December 2004/January 2005 issue of Fine Homebuildng (#168), we picked our 20 favorite low-cost, high-value tools. But it wasn't easy. Here is contributing editor Scott McBride's choice -- a great tool that didn't make the cut. Add your favorite inexpensive tools to the list on Breaktime, Fine Homebuilding's discussion forum.

Stanley Framing Square

Stanley's black finish square Stanley's black finish square

As the samurai sword is more than a weapon, the framing square is more than a tool. In the hands of a master carpenter it is a scepter of authority, a link with the ancients, the fusion of principle and action. At less than $20 I'd call it a bargain.

Most of the tables engraved on a framing square have been rendered obsolete by circular saws and pocket calculators, but there's one feature of my square that I use quite often: the twelfths scale. One of the outside edges has inches divided into twelfths rather than eighths or sixteenths. This makes it easy to produce and read 1/12 scale drawings. Trigonometry can be fun, but some of us prefer pictures to cosines.

Framing squares with a twelfths scale have become hard to find. Stanley (www.stanleytools.com) still makes an aluminum version with a black finish (#45-011) and a steel version (#45-910) for less than $20.

From Fine Homebuilding168 , pp. 81-85 December 1, 2004