The 10 Best Angle Gauges
This wiki has been updated 23 times since it was first published in October of 2015. Whether you’re working with wood or metal, when you need to achieve a precise cut or alignment, you'll appreciate the help of one of these angle finders. Available in handy, pocket-sized models, as well as durable, professional-grade options, they’ll help you attain accurate results for any home-improvement, furniture, or construction project. We've included both level and protractor styles. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 11, 2021:
With the exception of the GemRed DEK95, which was unavailable at the time of this writing and removed as a consequence, all of our selections from last round were still available and reviewing well, but we really didn’t feel like they represented the best that the category had to offer, so we had to choose a few to let go of, in order to make room for some new, high-end options. In the end, the tools we decided to omit were the Horusdy 97352, AccuRemote AT203919 and CMT DAG-001.
Our most impressive new addition was likely the Bosch GAM 270 MFL, which comes in a zippered carrying case and has an integrated laser that lets you go 100 feet further with your inclinometer readings. Its 17-inch length might help increase the accuracy of its level measurements, when compared to shorter models, and it also makes room on the unit for handy digital displays that let you observe two sets of readings simultaneously, without toggling between modes.
We also added the Japanese-made Mitutoyo 950-317, which costs even more than the GAM 270 MFL, although it is arguably less functional. Nonetheless, we thought it was worth including for the benefit of any professional who’s willing to pay a premium for the peace of mind that comes with a top-shelf measuring instrument.
The Irwin Tools 1794488 is an affordable, analog instrument that we installed near the bottom of our list, to benefit users on a budget, and the Klein Tools 935DAG caught our eye with its 90-degree operating mode, which is an ideal setting for sparkies wrestling with conduit benders.
If you make it the whole way through these rankings without finding an option that appeals to you, then you might find you have better luck with our specialized lists of digital protractors and digital levels.
January 16, 2020:
Removed the Capri Tools 20005 because of availability concerns and because it is essentially just a clone of the CMT DAG-001. Added the Fowler Digi-Pro to include more protractor-style models.
The term "angle gauge" is quite ambiguous. Technically anything that reads angles is an angle gauge and there is no single correct referent. For the sake of simplicity we have included level and protractor-style models because they are the most widely used for finding rough angles in construction, woodworking, and metal fabrication. It is difficult and implausible to compare their properties given that they have different functions.
As far as protractor style models, the Fowler Digi-Pro stood out for its relative affordability given that it is quite well-built - it has all-aluminum arms with strong magnets, a heavy detent, and an accurate angle sensor. As far as level-style gauges, the Wixey WR365 offers great movement sensitivity in virtue of its high-quality accelerometer and is portable enough to use when setting circular or table saws.
The accuracy of the AccuRemote AT203919 is adequate for tasks such as leveling studs, transferring rafter angles, and other tasks that many people would use this model for. It's also true that it is not accurate enough for precision work such as machining and the like. Therefore we think it's both true that it is not good for precision work but still good enough to include in the ranking.
The Brown Line BLDAG001 main purpose is to be paired with torque wrenches and ratchets which does not require great accuracy. Its +- 2% accuracy is adequate for that use but we included the negative bullet point to communicate the fact that it won't be accurate enough for use as a general angle gauge. It is an angle gauge and it is accurate enough for its intended use. So that's why we thought that its accuracy should be noted but that the margin of error for its intended use justifies its inclusion.
Digi-Pas Though their prices will probably be prohibitive for virtually everybody beyond deep-pocketed professionals, the design, build quality, and app connectivity of this company's gear looks to be quite impressive, and is definitely worth checking out. digipas.com
Starrett This company has maintained a good name making measuring tools for more than a century, and while they do appear to be lagging a bit, in terms of digital technology in the angle-measurement space, they still offer a nice selection of analog instruments that are sure to last for years, when treated properly. starrett.com
Angle Accuracy Can Make Or Break A Project
For a tool with only one primary function, an angle gauge is a surprisingly versatile device.
For a tool with only one primary function, an angle gauge is a surprisingly versatile device.
Recording precise angles is a key element to a plethora of trades. It is perhaps most important to woodworkers, professionals who require decisive accuracy in a variety of measurements every day. It doesn’t matter if a carpenter is building a massive home or repairing a basic cabinet — if an angle is off by a few degrees here and there, the parts will not properly fit into the whole, resulting in a failed project and mounds of wasted time and effort.
Framers, floor installers, electricians, plumbers, automotive workers, and even the cable guy all stand to benefit from keeping an angle gauge handy in their toolboxes, as each one of them will likely need to rely on detailed measurements at one point or another during the course of their careers.
The angle gauge is a versatile device in the sense that it can reliably record inside, outside and reverse angles. To get started using one, all you have to do is set the tool on a flat reference surface, press the zero button to calibrate it, then begin measuring angles.
Many models are magnetic, which can be incredibly useful for quickly attaching it to metal surfaces, such as pipes or saw blades, without having to hold it in place as you take your recordings.
It doesn’t have to be large — a simple box-style gauge at two inches tall and two inches wide will suffice for most projects. A compact unit is ideal for accessing tight spaces and hard-to-reach areas as well, as it makes it easier to navigate around potential obstructions and less likely you’ll become fatigued as you hold it in place.
You’re surely familiar with an equally indispensable tradesman’s tool called a level — well, plenty of angle finders feature built-in bubble levels, too. Plumbers, electricians, masons, and framers will often require both types of devices for the same job, so it only makes sense to combine them into one highly practical super-tool.
To ensure your angle gauge continues to provide the dependable performance your occupation (or personal hobby) demands, make sure you take care of it properly. This means keeping it clean, preventing it from coming into contact with any solvents, and storing it in a safe area that’s free from water and humidity.
The Dominance Of Digital
Digital tools are, of course, a relatively new phenomenon when you consider how long people have been utilizing instruments and apparatuses to build structures and simplify everyday tasks. Heck, the Egyptians constructed the pyramids thousands of years ago, and they remain an absolute marvel of human ingenuity to this day.
Many models are accurate to within one half of one thousandth of an inch, which is tough for a layperson to even fathom.
Despite that, it would be a shame to overlook devices that, by incorporating modern technology, add convenience and remove frustration from a lot of common undertakings. In many cases, digital versions of traditional tools are comparable in price or only a smidge more expensive than their classic counterparts. When you factor in time saved and headaches avoided, the benefits of digital tools become even more apparent.
When it comes to angle gauges, the precision you can achieve with your measurements is truly remarkable. Many models are accurate to within one half of one thousandth of an inch, which is tough for a layperson to even fathom. Most offer both standard and metric measurements, with the ability to toggle back and forth between settings based on your preference.
Unlike antiquated tools that require you to obtain readings from engraved scales, these units feature large, backlit display screens that generate numeric readouts. This helps eliminate the possibility of a mistake, especially when your line of sight is less than ideal or the lighting in the room is subpar.
Your grandfather’s angle finder surely didn’t have a reverse angle function, which is useful for quickly obtaining readings you know you’ll need later on in the project. On many units, this requires only the push of a button.
Because they’re battery-operated, running out of power is an inherent risk when using an angle gauge. However, lots of models include an auto-off feature that shuts the device down on its own after a certain amount of time to conserve battery life.
You’ll also want to make sure you find a device with a reliable memory function that locks in the angle once you set it. After you do this, you won’t have to repeatedly re-measure an angle that you’ll be using over and over throughout the job.
Protractors: The Original Angle Finders
Even if you haven’t encountered one for years, you must remember this little plastic half-circle dotted with degree markings from high school geometry class. Some mechanics and contractors still use traditional protractors, though many of these classic instruments have likely found themselves buried at the bottom of a tool bag in favor of angle gauges and digital protractors.
From surveying and navigation to engineering and war, the protractor has played an influential role throughout modern history.
From surveying and navigation to engineering and war, the protractor has played an influential role throughout modern history. You can find descriptions of the tool and its value in mapmaking dating as far back as the late 1500s, though it didn’t become standard practice for maritime navigators and land surveyors until the 17th century.
Over the decades that followed, protractors increasingly appeared in textbooks and began to see action in some mathematics classrooms. Once the 20th century rolled around, they had become commonplace in schools across all education levels.
For certain applications, such as architectural and mechanical drawing, it became clear that a simple half-disc protractor wasn’t sufficient, which led to the development of the bevel protractor. A graduated circular device with a pivoted arm, this tool usually features a Vernier scale to provide more precise readings than a traditional model.
It may seem hard to believe, but two-sided protractors did not come into prevalence until the 21st century. Beginners often find the traditional one-sided unit confusing, as its face includes two number scales. The double-sided version places one scale on each side to simplify measuring and drawing angles for those who are relatively new to using protractors.