Kevin Drake was a drummer turned computer programmer turned furniture-maker, and in 2001 he got so aggravated with his marking gauge that he threw it into the street.
The good news was that Kevin saw the solution to his problem in a book by Jim Kingshott, “Making and Modifying Woodworking Tools.” Kingshott had a marking gauge in that book that you could micro-adjust, and Kevin wanted it.
The bad news was that you couldn’t buy it. Kingshott’s had been made by a metalworker.
So Kevin was aggravated.
Sometime after that he saw an ad in the newspaper for a guy who was selling woodworking machines. Kevin needed some machines because he had sold his when he moved out to Ft. Bragg, Calif., to attend the woodworking program at the College of the Redwoods under James Krenov.
He went and saw the guy with the machines; and though the guy didn’t have any machines that Kevin was interested in, Kevin found out he was a metalworker. So Kevin brought him a copy of Kingshott’s book.
“Can you make this?” Kevin asked. He could, and a few days later Kevin had a working version of the marking gauge he’d always wanted.
“I liked it for about an hour and a half,” Kevin said. “Then I saw it had a major limitation. So I redesigned it (the gauge), and the guy made me one of those.”
That was the first Tite-Mark gauge. Kevin liked it so much that he had the guy make him 30 more, which he sold to summer students at the college.
“Then I asked him to make me 100 more,” Kevin said, “and he told me to get the hell out.”
The metalworker put Kevin in touch with a student who did this sort of work, and the business Glen-Drake Toolworks was born. (By the way, “Glen” is Kevin’s middle name.)
Now the parts are made on precision CNC equipment in Northern California for Kevin. Then Kevin tunes up the parts, assembles the tools and ships them out to customers. Since he invented the Tite-Mark, he’s made and sold about 10,000 of them.
For those of you who have been ignoring my writing for the last 12 years, the Tite-Mark gauge is my favorite. No waffling. No equivocation. I knew it from the first moment I picked up the tool, and I feel just as strongly today.
And I know that at least one other person agrees with me (and I’d love to meet them someday). You see, I’ve only had three tools stolen from me in the last 12 years. One was a Wayne Anderson plane that someone snitched from a show at Ft. Washington, Pa. A second was a plane hammer from Glen-Drake. And the third was my first Tite-Mark.
— Christopher Schwarz
6 thoughts on “The Beginnings of the Tite-Mark”
Chris – That stinks about the tools, though I’d be more upset by the infill theft since I’d have to wait a long time to have it replaced.
I agree on the tite-mark, and if you’ve not tried them, I’d encourage you to give the mortise blades for the Tite-Mark a try – I like them much better than the traditional, 2-point english-style gauge.
And on a slightly different note, I got a surprise when I was browsing the local woodworking store’s shelves a couple of days ago. Stanley has apparently sunk as far as offering a cheap marking gauge built on the English design – completely made out of PLASTIC!
Any idea of the significant dates in development of the Tite-Mark and very similar Veritas marking gauges? I’d be surprised if both Kevin Drake and Veritas independently came up with circular blade on the end of a rod with a sliding cylindrical "head" locked in place by a screw design. I suspect the Veritas was first but without micro adjusting.I have on of the early Veritas gauges and the Tite-Mark gauge has a couple of significant improvements besides micro-adjusting. On the early Veritas the screw holding the circular blade protrudes and there is not a recess for the blade to fit into when retracted. But the current Veritas gauge ( http://www.leevalley.com/wood/page.aspx?c=2&p=59455&cat=1,42936 ) has both features and a similar but not exactly the same micro-adjusting mechanism is also offered. I wonder if there is some sort of cross-licensing agreement between Glen Drake and Veritas, or perhaps both managed to not secure rights to their designs, or perhaps it doesn’t concern them given the large difference in prices.
I’m not an expert on the history of marking gauges, but Stanley had wheel gauges like the Veritas for many decades before that product was brought to market.
As far as I know, Kevin developed and deployed the current cutter style before Veritas – it used a knife-shaped wheel when it was introduced. Kevin also was first (in modern day terms) to have the recess in the head to store the cutter. Micro-adjustment mechanisms are many and varied, and there is a long history of them.
There isn’t any licensing agreement between the two companies. But Kevin didn’t paten his gauge, and so its features have shown up elsewhere. And in England, one company has simply ripped him off.
You are correct in saying that Stanley had a similar gage without the microadjustment that is. It was silver and it was #91 or #92 I believe. They even had one with two rods that you could mark out motices with as well as any use you had for the single wheel. Starrett also had a version that was similar.
I’m in your camp about the virtues of the Tite-Mark. Even with the issues I have with my hands I never have had any problems with the Tite-Mark. It is a great tool.
Did some internet research. The Starrett #29B "scratch gage" which has a rod, and circular body with locking screw but with a square marker rather than a wheel and without micro-adjust. It’s current available and was in the 1938 catalog and an earlier (1900?) catalog. The early Veritas gauge is very similar except with a wheel instead of a square cutter.
The Stanley 97 gauge has a rod with a marking wheel. The Stanley 91 double marking gauge has a rod but pins instead of wheels. The Stanley 90 a single marking gauge with a rod and pin. None of the Stanleys have circular bodies.
I purchased a Tite-Mark following this year’s Sterling Heights workshops with Chris, and am very satisfied.
Yup -my favourite gauge too. I bought a second “back-up” a few months ago. It lets me keep two settings which is really handy for 23 kitchen doors.
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