The Marking Gauge Saga #1: A very frustrating start

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Blog entry by carguy460 posted 04-16-2013 02:22 PM 2769 reads 1 time favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of The Marking Gauge Saga series no next part

Arg. I’ve been trying to make a marking gauge for a few weeks now, and have had nothing but struggles…please note that this is not for the marking gauge swap going on…I started this guy before I knew what the swap would be…based off my experiences with this little project, I’m not too sure I’ll be joining the swap…

Step 1 – make a plan…yeah right! I just dove right in…how hard can it be? All the following events occurred with little-to-no pre-planning what-so-ever, and no electrons were harmed except for in the CD player, the lights, and the Telecaster\Fender Champion 300.

First, I found some scrap white oak pallet wood…figured I’d “do the Roy” and split it to rough dimension…why split? I dunno…I saw Roy do it once.

Next I jointed and glued 2 of the thin pieces together to make a 1” thick (or so) piece of wood. That went pretty good.

The glued up stock didn’t feel right (too thick), so I trimmed it down a tad with my new fancy LN Rip Carcass saw…no problems there.

The CD player was rockin out some SRV, I felt inspired, so I abandoned the shop for a few hours…

Upon my return, I attempted to square up my marking gauge beam with the old hand planes…this is where the problems started. No pics, cause I was so frustrated. I flattened one face with no problems, but when I tried to square the adjacent side I kept chasing my tail. Too far on the left…plane the right side just a little and realize I’ve gone to far on the right side…I don’t know why I couldn’t make it work right…

Eventually, I got it GE (thats “Good Enuff!” for all you ex GE employees out there) and started on the fence part of the gauge. I had some thicker pallet wood laying around, about 2 1/2 inches thick, and figured that would work. I flattened the faces, marked out my “mortice” for the beam, and started to make my first ever mortice.

Good Old Bit and Brace!

Found out my workbench is WAY too high for this work…had to move to the sawhorse\2×10 combo so I could get my body over the brace. Don’t mind the Romex that snuck into the pic…Man I need a proper bench.

Hole shot.

Now, square up the mortice with the trusty Stanley 60 chisels…seems easy enough.

Next, I carefully fit the beam to the hole in my fence with a block plane…and finally…

Looks ok in a picture, but the beam is nowhere near square to the face of the fence. It seems I made an out-of-square mortice. I thought I could perhaps plane the face of the fence square to the beam…

Not workin out so well…so I said screw it.

A coping saw and some sharp chisels made a nice curved top for the gauge, that went pretty smooth.

And here I sit. A block of wood with another block of wood shoved through it at an angle other than 90 degrees. Since I didn’t really plan any of this build out, I’m stuck. How do I secure the fence to the beam? Tapped hole through the fence with a screw that tightens down the beam? Is it too late to try the wedge method?

And the real issue – how do I secure my cutting device in the end of the beam? I contemplated an old jigsaw blade for the cutter with a screw to secure it, but I can’t make a clean mortice for the small blade. Wedge maybe? I dunno…being new to this whole thing and lacking experience and skill with my tools is really frustrating me, especially when I see guys slap one of these together in a few hours…

And just what am I doing wrong with that four-squaring of my stock? Why do I keep chasing my tail?

This journey will continue…someday…

-- Jason K

14 comments so far

View Mauricio's profile


7170 posts in 4487 days

#1 posted 04-16-2013 02:37 PM

The next one will be much easier man dont give up. Next time mark out the mortise from both sides, work your way in from both side, that way you know your mortise will be square to the “fence”.

Your still in time to do the wedge. Have you seen the video on Logan Cabinet Shop? He has some good tips. Put in a sacrificial beam while you drill/chop out the mortise for the wedge so you don’t split out any wood. Or you could drill a round hole for a dowel wedge thingy.

The other rout (for the next one) is to use the lamination method, that way there is no chopping involved.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View RaggedKerf's profile


425 posts in 3456 days

#2 posted 04-16-2013 02:39 PM

Jason—-I’m no expert, and I’m sure the guys in the tool swap will give you much better advice, but I figured as someone who just recently made one of these myself, I’d chime in. First off, you’re looks better than mine right out the gate—-mine had a little slop in the mortise as well (okay, a lot, I suck at mortises), but I discovered as soon as I put the dowel through to lock everything in place when I got it set where I wanted it, it squared up and stays tight! It works great now, despite being a little rough on the eyes. I thought about cleaning it up some but I’ll probaly just make another one since it only (sorry) took a few hours.

I don’t know if that’s how they all work or if I just got really lucky, but there you have it.

As for the cutting part, I just drilled a hole smaller than a finishing nail I had laying around, then filed the point of the nail flat on one side and honed it a bit…made a poor man’s knife really. Then I just tapped it home. You can see what I'm talking about here.

Don’t know if that helps or not, but I recommend finishing it…who knows, it may turn out just fine, like mine lol.

-- Steve

View RaggedKerf's profile


425 posts in 3456 days

#3 posted 04-16-2013 02:41 PM

See? Mauricio beat me to the punch! By the way, nice write up and cool pictures…

-- Steve

View carguy460's profile


807 posts in 3671 days

#4 posted 04-16-2013 02:43 PM

I have seen that video, Mauricio…I just wondered after my first mortice failure if I dare try another one at an angle that has to be more precise…

Duh…mark from both sides for the mortice. I have no idea why I didn’t do that!

Thanks for the advice! This one may not work due to the square issue, but I’m going to finish it just for the sake of finishing…I guess.

-- Jason K

View carguy460's profile


807 posts in 3671 days

#5 posted 04-16-2013 02:46 PM

Thanks Steve! Mine has a little slop in it too, but I figured the wedge or screw would take that right out.

I may do the finish nail cutter for this one, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t screw that up…ha…nail, screw…get it?

Nice website, by the way!

-- Jason K

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 4494 days

#6 posted 04-16-2013 10:41 PM

You have good tastes in music, Sir!

-- jay,

View carguy460's profile


807 posts in 3671 days

#7 posted 04-17-2013 12:11 AM

Thanks, Jay! I’m a wannabe guitarist, so SRV is never far from where I am…

-- Jason K

View mileskimball's profile


97 posts in 3349 days

#8 posted 04-17-2013 05:59 AM

One of my first projects was making a marking gauge by hand like this. I used some walnut from a tree downed in the back yard. It’s a great way to learn a lot about working wood with little expense.

I also did the same thing you did—start without a plan. So rather than a wedge, I just drilled a hole perpendicular to the mortise, screwed in a brass threaded insert, and put in a thumbscrew to hold the fence tight. Crude, but still works 25 years later.

Also, winding sticks will make a big difference in getting to flat and square.

-- Miles

View AnthonyReed's profile


10185 posts in 3775 days

#9 posted 04-17-2013 08:33 PM

Great blog Jason. Musical interlude and all.

When you get that chasing your tail syndrome worked out will you please fill me in on its solution? I know very well the frustration with that particular aspect, although i have not found a remedy in my case. GE is how i have solved it thus far.

Keep your chin up man, you are doing good work whether you recognize it yet or not. Pretty damn nice mortise, for example.

Keep us posted and thanks for sharing.

-- ~Tony

View AnthonyReed's profile


10185 posts in 3775 days

#10 posted 04-17-2013 08:34 PM

Oh … and damn nice saw!

-- ~Tony

View carguy460's profile


807 posts in 3671 days

#11 posted 04-18-2013 05:00 PM

Miles – thanks for the input! I am still contemplating a thumbscrew to hold the fence, but I’m not 100% sure yet. I guess I should try it, then build another one (maybe actually get it flat and square!) with wedges…And good call on winding sticks, that really was the only way I was able to get it square enough. For some reason I forgot about them until I was completely upset!

Thanks Tony! Once I unlock the secret to this planing thing I’ll let you know what it is…though I have a feeling you already know and are holding out on me!

And yeah, that is a damn nice saw! I love that thing!

-- Jason K

View AnthonyReed's profile


10185 posts in 3775 days

#12 posted 04-18-2013 05:09 PM

I am no sandbagger Jason, i leave that to Lysdexic.

-- ~Tony

View lysdexic's profile


5349 posts in 3958 days

#13 posted 04-25-2013 03:11 PM

I am watching you Tony. I’m watching.

-- "It's only wood. Use it." - Smitty || Instagram - nobodhi_here

View waho6o9's profile


9132 posts in 3912 days

#14 posted 04-25-2013 03:21 PM


easy now

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