Mortice Marking Gauge

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Project by paratrooper34 posted 07-12-2010 03:40 PM 4865 views 16 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hi Everyone,

I just finished making a mortice marking gauge and thought I would post the project. I am doing this to not only show off the tool, but also to show some pretty cool resourcefulness. I see these gauges for sale here and there and they are pricey. For nice rosewood ones, the cost can be $50.00 and up. I figured there had to be a better way to have one that is just as nice, but without the cost. So here it the result of that logic.

I determined I could make a marking gauge from parts donated from a less showy one. So I found an old, nasty set of three marking gauges (two mortice type) on Ebay. They were serviceable, but looked as though their glory days had long passed. I got all three tools for just over two dollars. I am assuming their condition kept other bidders away and I was the only one who bid on these diamonds in the rough. The donor gauge is the one in the forefront of the picture with the two old ones. When I received them, I checked them out for the condition of the attached brass pieces. All were in an oxidized state, but complete and just needing a polish. So I took one apart and commenced to making new wood pieces. I chose a nice piece of Hawaiian Koa I had. I made the fence and beam from that Koa. After I was about complete, I determined that the Koa beam was just not stout enough. I didn’t realize just how soft Koa is and the beam got marked up pretty badly during the cutting and fitting operations. So I ditched the Koa beam and made one from Paduak; a much harder wood albeit harder to work. There are a couple of spots of tearout on the beam, but what the heck, it is a tool after all. The trickiest part of this was making the dovetail in the beam as the sliding brass pin is dovetailed. Slow, methodical work produced a perfect fit. I made the whole thing with hand tools except for the rabbets that hold the brass wear strips. I made the rabbet that started the dovetail on the beam with my Stanley 45, but I just don’t have enough skill with the 45 to trust it to use for the critical rabbets for the wear bars. Those needed to be exact sized with no slop, so the router table was dusted off for that. But everything else was by hand, to include the holes which I drilled with my vintage 1930s Millers Falls hand crank drill press!

Once I got the wood pieces formed and fitted, I polished all of the brass pieces. I first started with a brass wire wheel and then moved to a buffer. The two brass wear strips were fabricated from a piece of brass strip that I have. Those pieces were the only brass items that were not original to the donor gauge. Once they had a nice polish on them, I waxed the wood and buffed it as well. I then fit all the brass pieces on and gave it a test run. It works perfectly!

So now I have a very high quality marking gauge, one that rivals the high end ones you see from those types of tool makers and the total cost (I estimate) around two dollars!!!

I just need to find a home for it in the tool cabinet. Thanks for reading, I hope this inspires someone to do the same.

-- Mike

18 comments so far

View Gary's profile


9426 posts in 4770 days

#1 posted 07-12-2010 03:43 PM

Really nice work

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View SST's profile


790 posts in 5532 days

#2 posted 07-12-2010 03:58 PM

Great idea using “donor” gauges to make a new one. First, it keeps usable parts from ultimately being ashcanned, and second, you get not only a great functioning tool for cheap, but the pride in making it yourself…and it’s beautiful, to boot. Nice job! -SST

-- Accuracy is not in your power tool, it's in you

View CampD's profile


1833 posts in 4823 days

#3 posted 07-12-2010 04:06 PM

Very nice, I’m inspired!

-- Doug...

View swirt's profile


7115 posts in 4309 days

#4 posted 07-12-2010 04:06 PM

Great idea, and great implementation. It looks perfect.

-- Galootish log blog,

View childress's profile


841 posts in 4879 days

#5 posted 07-12-2010 04:55 PM

Love it, having tools of that quality makes woodworking that much more enjoyable. Good job.

-- Childress Woodworks

View michelletwo's profile


2795 posts in 4352 days

#6 posted 07-12-2010 06:09 PM

making one’s own tools and using them is just plain TERRIFIC..beautiful

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 4801 days

#7 posted 07-12-2010 06:37 PM

Airborne, that is some quality work. At first glance I thought someone had posted their tool review in projects. Keep it up, BTKS

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 4277 days

#8 posted 07-12-2010 09:05 PM

Well done, man! I’m a sucker for selfmade tools.

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View paratrooper34's profile


916 posts in 4289 days

#9 posted 07-12-2010 09:56 PM

Thanks Everyone! I am glad you all liked it. My next one is going to be a marking gauge with a knife blade. That will complete my marking needs. Stay tuned for that one, I will post it as well.

All the Way, BTKS!

-- Mike

View noknot's profile


548 posts in 4778 days

#10 posted 07-12-2010 11:08 PM

Very nice gauge Theres something about making ones own tools


View mmh's profile


3701 posts in 5059 days

#11 posted 07-13-2010 12:43 AM

Very nice tool! FYI: Koa can have different hardnesses, so if you had a highly figured piece, you’d find it quite suitable.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View paratrooper34's profile


916 posts in 4289 days

#12 posted 07-13-2010 06:51 AM

MMH, thanks for that info, I didn’t know there was a difference. Good to know.

-- Mike

View cobbler's profile


350 posts in 5127 days

#13 posted 07-13-2010 02:05 PM

These are professionally done. Maybe you have found your calling.
Would you consider making some for the public?

-- ''Carry on my wayward son''

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 4452 days

#14 posted 07-13-2010 06:06 PM

it is simply one beautyfull marking gauge
you have made
very well Done


View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 4396 days

#15 posted 07-15-2010 12:19 AM

I have been known to purchase several old tools to come up with enough new parts to make a new one. Heck, I have a saw in my garage that I bought primarily to rob it of the brass saw nuts that it had, but, I am going to make a thin parting too for my lathe from part of the blade and probably get a few scrapers from the remainder of it. Never through anything away. Just build a bigger shop when it gets full.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

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