For more information on Gauges, see our beginner site Common Woodworking.

The simplest marking gauge is obviously the single pin gauge and of course it doesn’t take much to adapt this to mark out mortises, just a little imagination. I have bought these gauges for 20 pence here in the UK on a regular basis. On the internet new and packaged marking gauges seem to sell between £4-10, higher in some cases. Sometimes I will see the same make for double the price and the same price as combination gauges so it seems practical to buy these rather than marking gauges only. That said, I like to have both, and of course buying at 20 pence means I have two dozen in my Penrhyn Castle workshop. The pins are most often hardened steel and will ruin a good file in a heartbeat if truly hard, which I have known frequently. Small diamond files work for reshaping but I find it best sometimes to simply replace the pin with a suitably sized piece of piano wire which is hard but can be filed. You can buy different gauges of piano wire inexpensively here.

In the earlier blog I mentioned boring the hole through the beam or stem from corner to corner so that the pin trails visibly as you mark the wood. This makes the gauge work exponentially better, but it only works on marking gauges.

Older gauges often have a pleasant patina that feels right in the hand and needs no restoration work. The worst damage is usually water and as many come from damp basements this can be a problem. If this is an issue, separate the beam from the stock and leave to dry away from excessive heat. and prevailing breezes. I usually forget them for a couple of weeks and get on with life. There is no point sanding or planing to soon as the likelihood is that shrinkage will make the beam fit the hole perfectly. Once the beam and stock are dry, plane them if necessary, taking a thousandth off to clean up and create smooth surfaces. Rounded beams can be sanded following the contour. I sometimes apply two or three coats of shellac followed by furniture wax applied with steel wool. This will make the tool feel smooth and it will make adjustment smooth too.

Pix to follow

1 Comment

  1. Derek Eder on 28 December 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I wonder what the very good reason* for not making the beams from dowells is? I want to make about 20 gauges for school children and boring the stock for hardwood dowells is something the children could handle. Morticing isn’t.

    * Having never seen a round beam it stands to reason that this idea, if ever born, failed the rigours of evolutionary selection.



  • Jay on Hall Hat, Coat & Shoe StandIf heirloom is being passed from generation to generation, then flat-pack does not disqualify a piece. About 45 years ago my uncle, a "finish carpenter" here in the U.S., made a ba…
  • Anthony on Hall Hat, Coat & Shoe StandOh boy, I imagine the trolls will be along shortly with their "purist" rhetoric. Bless you, Paul, for being able to weather those storms. I'm looking forward to projects like this.…
  • Paul Sellers on Diminishing Craft ValueOh, I know there are all kinds of reasons for not encouraging any craft work of any kind and not the least of which is something commonly called 'progress'. It's what's being dismi…
  • Matt Bourland on Diminishing Craft ValueThe issue with schools is that they only have so much time. They focus on what is the comming techno land what they can tech the student to be able to join the work force and get a…
  • nemo on Hall Hat, Coat & Shoe StandTorsion boxes and honeycomb-structures are very common in the aircraft industry. Strong, rigid and light-weight. I've held stair-treads that were made that way in my hand that weig…
  • L.Arthur on Hall Hat, Coat & Shoe StandInterestingly enough, the ‘flat pack’ is not really a new idea. I think it really took hold, at least in the U.S. when a lot of goods began to be shipped all over the country by ra…
  • Joystick on Plywood Workbench AnniversaryHi Rob, My shed is all metal including the pitched roof and I live in Connemara West Coast of Ireland that seems to be damp winter or summer. My solution was to line the inside of…