Throw Together Marking Gauge

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Project by Maveric777 posted 09-07-2010 02:34 PM 3528 views 13 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Throw Together Marking Gauge
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Well, I was giving hand cut dovetails a go this weekend and broke out the marking gauge I bought from Rockler to mark my depths. Long and short I was not thrilled with the roller marking gauge I had in hand, so I decided to throw an “Old School” one together.

I used some scrap purple heart (since it is so dense and heavy), as the lumber of choice and screws I found in the ole “Bucket Of Goodies” that I throw odd and end in. I used a nail that I cut down and filled as the actual scribe.

Nothing fancy, but I found it to be much more accurate and easy to use than the shiny one on the shelf. I was so tickled with it I wanted to post up here so maybe this will help someone else out if needed. I plan on making a nice one down the line with the brass and everything, but I cant complain at all with my quick throw together marking Gauge. It got the job done… and that is what matters…. Right?

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

20 comments so far

View mafe's profile


13872 posts in 4579 days

#1 posted 09-07-2010 03:14 PM

Really cool Maveric, this will probaly become you all time favorite marking gauge.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 4781 days

#2 posted 09-07-2010 04:27 PM

And you figured out a simple, yet secure way to hold the nail. Nice!

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View PaBull's profile


970 posts in 5154 days

#3 posted 09-07-2010 04:32 PM

This is the way “shop made tools” should be. Don’t just build it for fancy.
Very nice!

-- rhykenologist and plant grower

View swirt's profile


7761 posts in 4461 days

#4 posted 09-07-2010 04:54 PM

Looks great.

Brings up a related question someone might know the answer to. If you take an iron nail like that, sharpen it, then heat it cherry red and drop it in a bucket of water, will it harden it enough to prolong the sharp edge?

-- Galootish log blog,

View Salty's profile


76 posts in 4536 days

#5 posted 09-07-2010 05:11 PM

Very nice… so how did the dovetails turn out :-)


View Benighted's profile


57 posts in 4351 days

#6 posted 09-07-2010 06:04 PM

Just goes to show, why buy it when you can make it, really nice. Got to build myself one of these, thanks :)

-- Jani, a Neanderthal woodworker in Sweden.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10963 posts in 5542 days

#7 posted 09-07-2010 06:35 PM

Hi Mav,

That is a COOL SIMPLE marking gauge!

You “screwed it up” very nicely! :) :) (big grin)

Thank you!

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:

View BigTiny's profile


1721 posts in 4378 days

#8 posted 09-07-2010 06:49 PM

Here’s a thought. Get a high grade bolt, cut the head off, sharpen one end to a knife edge point and cut a slot in the other end. Drill a hole to mount it in and thread the hole. Make it a tight fit. Screw in the new marking point and you have a very secure, sharp marker that will hold its edge.

An even better choice (if you have one) might be a Ramset type anchor bolt. They are made from very high strength steel.

-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View Maveric777's profile


2694 posts in 4566 days

#9 posted 09-07-2010 07:26 PM

Ahhh …. Now that is an awesome idea Tiny! Thanks! I will definitely go that route with my good one I plan on building down the line.

I’m glad yall liked it and thanks for the comments everyone. It was a spur of the moment quick throw together kind of thing, but just flat out handy. Its pretty cool to make your own tool… It’s even cooler when it works….lol

Oh and Salty…. The dovetails are coming along well. They aren’t the fastest thing in the world to do, but I’m really tickled how they are turning out. I never realized something that tedious could be so rewarding. Hopefully i will have the project up next week… This one is taking me for ever to finish…lol

-- Dan ~ Texarkana, Tx.

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 4430 days

#10 posted 09-07-2010 08:05 PM

That was a pretty good throw if you ask me! Shop built tools are the best.

I use the shaft of an old drill bit sharpened to a point as the scribe. Being HSS it stays sharp and you can pick your diameter.

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

View OttoH's profile


891 posts in 4499 days

#11 posted 09-08-2010 01:40 AM

Looking good Dan!

-- I am responsible for how I respond to everything in my life - - Deadwood SD

View Muhamad Sara's profile

Muhamad Sara

29 posts in 4309 days

#12 posted 09-08-2010 06:46 AM

this is what i love about this site. I bet a gauge like the one you have made would be 50 bucks or more if you replace the nail with something else. Its projects like these are fun and can save you money and you get gratification when you use it. Thanks

-- -Muhamad, Chicago,IL

View rwyoung's profile


412 posts in 4961 days

#13 posted 09-08-2010 06:59 AM

To elaborate a little on Tiny’s suggestion about filing the cutter to a knife point.

1) File only one side but put two bevels on that side (double bevel), that is to say make it look like a V. Look at the marking knives sold by Czech Edge to see what I’m talking about but in a much larger form. Having the double bevel means you can cut on the push or pull as needed by simpling rolling the gauge fore or aft.

2) Typically you orient the bevels toward the fence. This puts the sharp vertical wall of the knife line on the keeper side when scribing for dovetails, etc. It also acts to pull the fence into the workpiece as you scribe.

3) Consider having at least two marking gauges, one with a knife cutter, the other with a sharp pin. Knives work great across grain but can follow grain if marking with the grain and sometimes in endgrain. A pin doesn’t so much follow the grain as scratch. But the pin makes a jagged, rough cut across the grain. It’s a trade-off.

4) Another excuse to have multiples of the same tool is so you can leave a marking gauge set for a specific function just in case you discover you need it again later in the project. No resetting until the bitter end.

And besides, you need a good reason to make more tools, right?

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

View rwyoung's profile


412 posts in 4961 days

#14 posted 09-08-2010 07:02 AM

One more comment, I think I have pictures in my project list of a knife style marking gauge where I use a long through wedge to hold the fence. The side benefit to this style of gauge is you can work it one handed. Tap one side of the wedge to loosen, press with your thumb to tighten. Tap the ends of the beam on the bench with the wedge medium tight to “micro adjust” the fence position. Very quick setting that way.

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

View tdv's profile


1203 posts in 4559 days

#15 posted 09-08-2010 09:13 AM

Nice job Dan it’s really satisfying when you are able to solve your imediate problems using your skills isn’t it?
Good one!

-- God created wood that we may create. Trevor East Yorkshire UK

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