Mark it

Growing up, I didn’t really use marking gauges because we built everything with power tools and you tended to use a tape measure or rule. When I started working more with hand tools, I began to understand how important these tools are to success. Reading books, and watching the Woodwright’s shop, showed me that nearly every operation needed this tool. When I started using marking gauges and put away the tape measure, things got much easier. So I’ve put some miles on marking gauges at this point.



I own both pin and  wheel-type cutting gauges, and I like the wheel gauges a lot, but I find for marking out rip cuts or mortise lines I almost always reach for a pin-style gauge.  They seem to make a clearer line and I am better able to keep them from tracking with the grain. The two pin-style marking gauges above are ones that I use regularly.  The top one was purchased as a birthday gift sometime in the early 1990’s by my parents.  The bottom one was purchased by me on ebay for about the original purchase price of the top one.  Technically, they are not the same gauge, the top is a modern incarnation of the stanley 61 and the bottom gauge is a 65, which cost almost three times as much than the 61. But, they are both very similar, down to the beginnings of knot right at the 4.25″ mark. Both have a square head, rectangular bar, and were made in the USA. The fit of the bar on the older gauge is much tighter than the new gauge, which keeps the head from racking and makes it easier to keep the mark in the right place.

If you are going to make cross-grain lines, I would avoid the pin-style gauges.  They tend to tear out and require some fussy pin sharpening to keep that from happening.  In fact, I generally mark tenons with the wheel type gauges that I own.  These gauges are easy to pick up and are still something that is made relatively well at all price points.  Lurking ebay for a vintage model is probably what I would suggest.  Be picky though, because many have been used and abused.  If you are inclined, you can make your own as well.  Peter Follansbee has some info on his website and there have been a few articles in popular woodworking



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