Hand Tool Chest Contents: Marking Gauges


Boy, there are some poncy marking gauges out there. I know this is the age of the amateur Woodie, and that Gentlemen’s Tools Rule, but Jeeeez.

All we need is a stick and a stock and cutting blade. Anyone who knows me and my work knows I go for simple tools, and the fewer the better. I spend more time giving tools away to students and mates than buying them. The fewer the better.

An old guy once told me that speed is about picking up and putting down tools. This is about building a collection of decent professional hand tools for a young maker. There is a competition closing date end of November, so if you know a young would-be Woodie 25 or under able to come to the UK for a week for the final, and able to pay the shipping of the chest if she wins …. GO HERE or tell them to GO HERE.

These are the gauges we are putting in the chest. They are simple wooden cutting gauges made by Marples of Sheffield (OK I admit it. I go for British tools, but only if they’re really good). You need about four of these babies in box like this. Two of each. Each gauge would be set up either bevel-in or bevel-out. (Just buy the gauge then turn the blade around to suit.)

Like a marking knife, the cutter has a bevel on one side only The flat vertical faces the job; the bevel faces the waste ALMOST ALWAYS. You need a couple of each because you will want to leave the gauge set up as you move through a process.

Turn this tool into a pencil gauge. Drill a hole in the stock and fit the pencil nice and snug in there. Then you can mark pencil lines parallel to an edge. All for the cost of a pencil


Marking gauges are also popular in this type of gauge. They come with a pin and need sharpening carefully with file. You need a vertical face and a bevel. This is harder to get right than the cutting gauge. Try it and test it on long grain and across the grain; it should leave a clean scribed line in either. The tool makers catalogue says you need both cutting gauge and marking gauge (one for across the grain and one down the grain). Well, they want to sell tools. It is not true.


This is a modern mortice gauge. It has two stems, not one. This is mine, we are not giving this away unless Veritas want to donate one. It’s expensive but very good. I use it a lot for all kinds of work not just mortices. It has a small wheel on the end of each stem (one bevel-in one bevel-out). These turn and give a lovely clean line. They are easier for the beginner to use. What they cannot do is tap and try.

Set the gauge roughly to the thickness of the job, only roughly and tighten the screw. Hold the job in one hand and offer the gauge up to the edge. Say the pin is too wide. Now tap the end of the stock on your bench side and check again. Too small? Tap the other end of the stock. This is the way. Don’t fiddle with adjustments; use you eyes, tap and try.


This is another shiny “gentleman’s” modern gauge from Workshop Heaven. I bought this a while ago hoping I would get on with it. Looks Purty, but I cannot say I get on with it… yet. She took a lot of sharpening to become usable and still needs bit of work.

— David Savage, finefurnituremaker.com

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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4 Responses to Hand Tool Chest Contents: Marking Gauges

  1. Derek Long says:

    Very nice, Mr. Savage. I do like the Veritas mortice gauge, and use it a lot. But you touched on my one irk with it: it’s hard to nudge it just a nit to get that little extra more or less. “Tap and try” wins the day there, oddly. You’d think a strategy like “tap and try” would be like attempting fine work with a sledgehammer, but it works.

  2. Rachael Boyd says:

    I have a couple of the brass and beams but my goto for mortising is the old 1827 rosewood mortising gauge.

  3. potomacker says:

    Here is the source of the ‘gentleman’s’ gauge.
    I don’t recommend it under whatever brand name it is sold.

  4. lithocarpus says:

    Love my tite-mark from glen-drake (http://www.glen-drake.com/Tite-Mark.html). Spendy but has saved me time and aggravation with its secure locking and easy fine adjustment.

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