From An Era Of Redundancy…

A Treasure Finds Usefulness In a New One

It’s an unusual piece, scarce really, I’ve never seen one like it before. It’s a mortise gauge with a threaded adjustment visible in the stem. It’s unusual because the stem is rebated on both sides to hold it in place and it’s this that then stop it turning when adjusting the pin distance from the fixed pin. It’s one of those rarer eBay finds that turns up now and again, perhaps every few months, that depict the entrepreneurial spirit of an age when the entrepreneurs failed to see the writing on the wall and thought they could patent something they’d designed that would give them protection and security. It’s funny that they couldn’t predict what was happening even though they were designing for the future.  They hadn’t realised tools such as these were steadily becoming less needed. Even before the patents came into being on many new designs they were rendered obsolete by a dying demand for them and something we call progress too of course was leaving them on the hardware store shelves. When this version came out the router, the electric motorised version, was already on the engineer’s mind. Already in place was the air-driven version but on the drafting board, hard to believe, was the router that would ultimately be driven by an internal electric motor. The first mechanised router came about in 1915 when the inventor, Oscar Onsrud hybridised his last name with the word router and the first air powered, hand held Onsruter emerged. This progressive invention allowed the router to develop the high speed  rotary cuts  of 30,000 RPM instead of only 3,000 Rpm. W`e’ve been suffering from noise pollution and polluted air in our workspaces ever since. But it was indeed an amazing development non the less. His end cutter  quickly developed and the now ubiquitous router would allow woodworkers to decorate their projects with moulded edges whether indeed the work needed them or not and, all the better still, whether they had skill or not.

But anyway, I liked my new and very rare find even though I didn’t actually need yet another mortise gauge. Mine arrived with the damage part to the wooden stem as shown in the eBay photographs. For £12 and free shipping, how could I not buy it? The fix would be a breeze, 15 minutes work. I had the darker rosewood to do it.

This type of fix is just a matter of paring off the waste to create the needed dead flatness and then cutting a corner to replace from some matching rosewood to match it.

When the two planes meet well, superglue is as good as any to final-fix it in place.

I planed the mated piece flush and used the rasp and file to renew the rounded end.

The cyanoacrylate (super glue) also works as a clear-coat sealer good enough to create a matching finish too.

I recreated a groove on the inside by sawing down the parting line so that the wood would come away with a chisel split.

Then I had to make a groove for the threaded brass rod which I did again using the small saw and the same 3/16″ chisel.

So now I have a nice and unusual mortise gauge to work with.


  1. see if anyone else notices: the brass wear plates on the stock in the 1st photo are on the wrong side — the stock is in backwards.

    1. Looks like it was reassembled incorrectly. Is that so Paul? I have been known to do that too.
      Just last week I was gluing the fin and stabilzer assembly onto a foamy RC plane and ended up with the fin pointing down not up. (I thought the fuselage was right side up.) Oh well. The correction is not pretty but I’m just getting into RC planes and I’ll probably it the first time out. All the foam-board in the whole body cost about $3 at Dollar Tree.

    2. The plain side is probably flatter and more accurate if the wood or brass pieces moved around over time.

  2. Unfortunately, I am new to woodworking, and jumped right in and bought a circular saw and router…… prior to deciding I want to work predominantly by hand. #feetfirst #jumpthegun

    1. They still have their place, they just need taking down a peg or two and should be subservient to skilled work instead of in place of it that’s all. Great to see you on board too, though!

    1. A ‘pickle’ (metalworking term) can be made with citric acid – food grade available from eBay cheaply – dissolved in water and will remove dirt and corrosion without affecting the brass. Just don’t let iron or steel based items get in there as you will find your brass has been copper plated – keep a separate tub for ferrous items.

      1. back in my military days we used to clean brass with koolaid. sounds funny, but we had 2lb bags in the Galley and would disolve it into a 5 gallon bucket. 30 minutes is all it would take.

        1. I use those single packets when cleaning rust from metal surfaces. Mix with water and soak overnight. It’s the citric acid that does the work.

        2. Kool-Aid is mostly citric acid, food coloring, sugar, and artificial flavoring. Good trick.

  3. Very nice 🙂
    But why not using wood glued instead of super glue? What was the criteria? Was it because it works better on small surfaces?

    1. On oily woods like rosewood the superglue does exceptionally well, it’s close to instant and you can get on with the leveling work in a few minutes–much less than with water-based glues like PVA.

  4. Love to see old tools revived! They don’t make them like they used to . . . . What do if you need to replace missing marking pins?

  5. Wow, I have not seen one of these in decades. My dad introduced me to woodworking (in England, we’re now in Canada) 60+ years ago and this was his favourite scribing tool. He also showed me how to hand-scribe edges just like the tool does

  6. these have been always available at lee valley tools, and before there was a lee valley tool company, they were able to be purchased at woodcraft supply. I agree they are a great tool, I’ve used one for years.

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