Using the Marking Gauge
Synopsis: Frank Klausz explains how to use, and why to use, a marking gauge. It’s the fastest and most accurate way he knows to lay out lines for cutting joints and to mark stock to be edged, jointed, thicknessed with a handplane, or ripped to width with a handsaw. There are several types of marking gauges, including a regular marking gauge, a mortise gauge, and a panel gauge. He explains each one’s purpose and how to use them, and then offers advice on how to mark without a gauge. Side information by Fred Palmer discusses shopmade marking gauges, and Percy Blandford talks about how to mark up large-scale layouts.
When I want to cut some dovetails or make a few mortise-andtenon joints by hand, the first tool I reach for isn’t the saw or the chisel-it’s the marking gauge. A marking gauge is the fastest and most accurate way I know to lay out lines for cutting joints and to mark stock to be edged, jointed, thicknessed with a handplane or ripped to width with a handsaw.
A basic marking gauge consists of a sharp steel point set into a stick called a beam. A block with a hole in it, called the fence, slides on the beam and locks firmly to it with a thumbscrew or cam lock (see figure 1 above). In use, the fence rides against the edge of the stock being marked while the point scratches a thin line. The distance from the point to the fence determines how far from the edge the line is scribed. Marking can be done with the grain, across the grain or on the endgrain of a workpiece.
The advantage of using a marking gauge instead of a pencil to mark a layout line is that the…