On Marking Gauges – Which Ones to Choose and Use

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

DSC_0151 I thought about the squares the other day and thought it was worth getting to the importance of choosing the right one or ones.


Just which ones will be right for you? I have experience with just about every type and i think the next blog could be on marking gauges soon. DSC_0059



  1. I own a few marking gauges but would love a tutorial from you Paul on the best way to make a marking gauge and a mortise guage . I love making accurate tools from the shop. I just wish there were more great teachers in my area to learn the cherished routines from. I built houses for a living and built lots of them. I enjoyed the squares blog and have mastered the use of them as far as housing goes. I am re-learning the art of building with a fine touch. Thank you for all that you do

    1. Not particularly hard to do. I have made many a dozen and once taught this as part of a class we taught on making different hand tools. I don’t know if making them is too popular an idea for the work it would take.

      1. Actually, of the four or five guages I own, I think three are homemade, including a panel guage and a marking guage that uses a pencil for a marker. They didn’t take all that long to make.
        Tim C

      2. For what it is worth, I would be willing to do it for the experience, even if it wasn’t the most economical use of time. Naturally, I defer to you Paul to determine whether or not it’s worth your effort to teach.

    1. I looked at this and didn’t feel it really answered much. The point of the callipers marks the surface of the wood very differently and I could see how it would indent differently without the accuracy in the type of applications we use along the grain say for recessing hinges of marking out depths.

    2. I frequently use a caliper as a marking gauge but not to make a mark for hand tools. They make a lopsided mark, they can scratch the opposite end of the wood and don’t have a good bearing surface. I have thought of making a proper marking gauge using a caliper type mechanism for accuracy but it seems that when using a marking gauge you are not so much making an accurate measurement as a consistent one.

  2. I was planning to make one (the “french model” – with the french dowel, I think is the name) now I’ll wait for your lessons. Thank’s Paul

  3. Another issue with the all brass, wheel-type gauges I’ve found that there is so little friction between the parts, that it makes it a bit harder to set. The stock and beam want to slip all over the place as you’re setting it to distance. I’ve found I had to get it close, then tighten the screw lightly, then micro-adjust, then tighten fully. But the wooden gauges have enough friction between the parts so they stay in place when you set them. Much easier to work with from that viewpoint.

  4. I have few marking gauges, I own a couple of wheel marking gauges too, to which I like a lot, but sometimes the disc is so fine you can hardly see the mark on the wood, I have a friend who works metal, and he made me a couple of thicker discs which are much better and clearer to see on the grain.

    1. Perhaps he can start a retrofit business???? It is a funny thing that the makers haven’t considered correcting a flawed design aspect when the overall design ios so good. If the discs had bevels of say 25-degrees the would last forever and still be just as sharpenable to a strong edge because using their twinned stem gauge would indeed give the ability to choose the right disc for the bevel oriented to the waste side of the needed line.

      1. I may tell him! Paul,
        I agree when you say that the makers of these tools should correct the flaws in their design, may be there is not enough us complaining to them? my friend made them with about a 30-degree angle on it, which works really well.
        I don’t have the twin stem, only the single and looking at the discs on the single compared to the twin, there much thicker to its twin counterpart, I am talking about the original veritas discs (not my retrofit ones) All said, I still reach for my standard original wooden gauges, I like the feel of them, as Mr Kieth Peters said earlier, you do get better friction with wooden ones what you don’t get with brass gauges.

        1. Something strange with the site here I think. If I go to the url for this blog post, https://paulsellers.com/2014/06/on-marking-gauges-which-ones-to-choose-and-use/ I only see 6 comments, and cannot even see the one I left earlier. But if I click the link from the comment notification email, https://paulsellers.com/2014/06/on-marking-gauges-which-ones-to-choose-and-use/?replytocom=14968#respond I can see 16 comments, including my own. Not sure what’s going on there. I actually wrote earlier my comment a few times but never saw it show up. I’m only seeing it one time, but if anyone else sees it several times, sorry.

          1. Yes Keith, I am having the same problem with this site, I thought it may have been under maintenance.

          2. I checked and you and Joe and two or three others are having a very localised issue and it is not across the site it seems.

  5. How about a brief tutorial on how to re-sharpen a marking gauge for best performance. They don’t seem to work too well out of the box.

    1. Good idea, many new ones are flawed to start of with. Will see what I can do.

  6. I have 3 marking guages one is like the first pic the other a veritas single and mortise and the third is a micro adjustable I just recently purchased from Lie Nielson and by far my two favourite are from LN and the first I described earlier marples. I like the LN one because it is micro adjustable the Veritas of the same version the micro adjust doesn’t seem to operate as smoothly at first we thought it was a faulty one but when we pulled out the other it also didn’t work. From what I’ve heard that many of Veritas products and I’m not including their hand planes are being produced in China. Therefore their quality has some what declined but again I’m not including their hand planes from what I know they are still being made in Canada Back to the marking guage the pin mortising guage I find it excellent I do not see the point in purchasing the mortising accessories for the LN version since it’s very easy to misplace when not in use and an inconvenience to install but the guage itself is definitely well made to the highest standards and it isn’t produced by LN but by Glen Drake Toolworks.

    Those rubber mallets you use Paul where can I buy the same ones, the one I have mars the work if I don’t use a block under it.

  7. This is my second post as the first just dissapeared. I have a marples exactly the same one as above which I solely use for marking mortise and tenons. I have a veritas version of the same thing which isn’t micro adjustable and annoying to use so I just bought from LN a micro adjustable single which is perfect in every sense of the word. This is actually made by Glen Drake Toolworks and is of the highest standards. If you compare between the Veritas version and this one you will see a remarkable difference in terms of quality, the veritas version the micro adjust doesn’t seem to operate smoothly, at the shop we thought it was faulty so we pulled out a fresh one from the box and it too didn’t seem to work. From what I’ve heard and I’m not including their hand planes that Veritas has been bitten by the China bug meaning they produce their tools in China which led to faulty and poor workmanship. Again this is what I’ve been told by the resellers and according to them to the best of their knoweldge their planes are still being produced in Canada which I have not found any fault in them. Oh I do have a panl guage which does take getting use too.

    Will I buy another gauge I highly don’t think so I think this will surfice me for the rest of my life.

    As you all know many companies around the globe have gone to China obviously to rake in more profits but as a result the quality of workmanship has declined significantly. These companies can spin you stories of how they quality control their products that are being produced in China but, we all know that this is impossible to control. Unless their managers who are not Chinese are skilled trademan themselves and stand over the top of the Chinese workman and then test the products before they leave the factories there is no way their word of “quality control” can be relied upon. You’ve heard this statement many times ” this is the way of world today” as this is true so is the fact that you have made this world as it is today and you can change it back to the way it was yesterday. Support your local manufacturers and tool makers, don’t buy anything produced in China regardless of the big name brands and you will help put food back onto the tables of many who are jobless today. This simple excercise will not only create much needs jobs but will bring quality products back into your homes again.

    Choose to make a difference.

  8. I’ve made a few marking gages and I’d love to see your method. Shop made tools are my favorite. Not only do I get the satisfaction of making project by hand, but I made the hand tools that made the project!… well, some of them. :-0

  9. In keeping with my “cheap as humanly possible” approach to tools 🙂 I’ve only ever used the Harbor Freight combination gauge. It’s 8.00 USD when you use their 20% coupon. The bad thing about them is that they all come in VERY rough shape. I’ve rummaged through about 20 of them so far and I basically just choose the best of the worst. They all need work to make them useable. My advice is to choose one where the beam is stuck and won’t budge! (they’ll be several of those….) That way, once you do get it out, you can scrape it until it slides nicely. If it’s already loose then it’s likely going to be way too loose.

    I bought 2 and converted one to marking gauge-only. I made a new beam out of oak and fitted all the sides snugly except for the top, where I glued a single piece of 1/16″ thick brass the length of the beam, upon which the thumbscrew tightens. I must say that it works quite well. 🙂

    I wish I had one of those thumbscrew-adjusting mortise gauges but on Ebay they typically sell for around 30-40 USD with shipping. No can do. :-/ I’ve been racking my brain on how to make a similar one myself but have been pulling a blank. If anyone has any ideas I’d love to hear them!

    1. We tend to forget that wood threads easily using just the thread of a bolt with a part of the thread filed off to create teeth to the threads. A simple task with a flat file. This starts the thread in a slightly undersized hole that takes the inner shank but not the full dia of the threads and so the bolt chases the thread and accommodates the following full threaded part. In the big box stores in the US there are specialist bolts you could use in brass or even thumbscrews. The rest is easy.

  10. I am a new viewer to your show and love it, amazingly so does the wife. I would like to know what type of glue is used to attach the leather strop to the wood.

    Thank you and have a great day

    Bill from the U.S.

    1. Laminate cement. One coat on the wood and two on the leather. let dry for five minutes until touch dry, and press firm. Rough side up. Or use two sided tape.

  11. I just picked up three old Stanley gauges on eBay for a song. Two of them have a metal piece on the face. It has two rounded parts like you can hopefully see here: http://www.jimbodetools.com/STANLEY-NO-165-Marking-Gauge-p31897.html My understanding is that this is for using the gauges on rounded or curved edges. I’m wondering if they are also intended for use on straight boards. It would definitely be more difficult to set the distance as you can’t reference off the face of the gauge. I think you’d have to make a mark on the board itself and then align the gauge with the mark. I may try removing the metal piece, but I do have one plain gauge that will probably do just fine for me for many years, so I’ll likely just leave the others as is.

    1. Silly me, just realized there’s no need to remove the metal, just reverse the beam for straight edges. One of the gauges even has a flat bronze plate on the opposite face, so it’s intended to be dual use.

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