Shopmade Cutting Gauge
Build your own and get better joints from the start, with cleaner, more accurate layout lines
Synopsis: One of the best tools for a precise layout line—and as a result, accurate joinery—is a cutting gauge. This shopmade version has a single-bevel knife for a blade, a large and comfortable fence, and a round beam that locks securely and doesn’t move during use.
Accurate joinery is a matter of cutting to a line but not beyond it. So it’s necessary to begin with precise layout. One of the best tools for this is a cutting gauge. This precision tool severs the fibers on the surface of the board, creating a clean, deep, and well-defined layout line that is easy to see.
The design I prefer is one by my friend Will Neptune, who made his while a student at North Bennet Street School in Boston. It has a good single-bevel knife for a blade, a large and comfortable fence, and a round beam. The round beam has several benefits. First, it’s easy to see where you are starting and stopping the cut, and the mortise in the gauge’s head is drilled rather than chopped, simplifying construction.
Make and mortise the head
Mill a block of hardwood—cherry, tiger maple, and walnut are good choices—to the head’s final dimensions. Mill a setup piece to the same dimensions to help dial in machine settings.
It is important to follow this drilling and mortising sequence: Drill a hole to receive the threaded insert. This should be in the exact center of the end of the head blank and about halfway down. Lay out a 5 ⁄8-in.- dia. circle on the face, and then a 1⁄4-in.- square mortise tangent to the circle. I cut the mortise with a hollow-chisel mortiser. I cut in halfway from both faces, using a stop clamped to the…