Buying good tools cheap – Mortise Gauges

Marking gauges – getting to the point

As with the single pin marking gauge, the twin pin mortise gauge still proves the most practical gauge for me  and one I would buy first over any other bar none.

Mortise gauges come in different shapes but size varies only minimally. Asia has its own models that differ markedly in shape and size and as for mainland Europe they seem disposed to twin stem mortise gauges made by European manufacturers under the names of Ulmia and ECE. These seem more cumbersome than the British made single stemmed ones and I have feel that they are less comfortable in the hand.

There is no doubt that the traditional marking gauge knocks the socks off all others. I still like the old ones with the set screw lock and adjustability in one operation, but I prefer thumb screw locking over screwdriver for convenience. These are especially inexpensive when you can buy an ebony or rosewood one with brass fitments for between £6 -20. Remember that these are a one-time purchase and even the less expensive imports will work extremely well and last for a lifetime’s use. In an earlier blog I told how I bought a combination gauge under the name of Am-Tech. I cannot really fault them for materials and even functionality and they can be fettled in a matter of minutes to match the quality of 18-century models but have the advantage of the knurled thumbscrew.

I took some close ups to show shapes of pins so that you can see how they work and what flawed ones look like.

The two above left need some extra shaping as the tips are missing. The one above right shows tips refined to a chisel shape. This works well for fine lines in any wood.

The image left shows new pins in a combination gauge. These pins are hardened and will last for a long time.

The pins left are pins in a mortise gauge that I have been using for two decades.

If you are reluctant to buy via eBay and other such places,  go to Axminster or Brimark. These two companies are interlinked and you can find just about any tool you want from them. They stock big name brands from around the world and have excellent customer relations too. I think that they have been around for the longest and I have bought from them since the company began


  1. Paul, maybe I missed an earlier post about it, but how do you recondition the pins, or else, where are hardened new ones available?

    1. I use a diamond file to form the chisel tip. This file has a plastic body, so it doesn’t damage the brass or the wood by cutting into it.
      For pins that need replacing I use piano wire. Thicknesses vary but it’s inexpensive and you can usually buy it from model shops specialising in aircraft and car models.
      There are eBay sites selling a whole range of different sizes and you can by lengths for as little as $4

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