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View MrRon's profile

How to use a marking gauge?

by MrRon
posted 10-06-2018 02:11 PM


27 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5570 posts in 2911 days


#1 posted 10-06-2018 02:42 PM

It could be your technique or maybe the way your gauge is set up or both. I have a lot of marking gauges and my favorite, the one I always use, is the Lee Valley wheel gauge, I find it much easier to use that the others I have. The key to using any marking gauge is to hold the fence tight to the edge of the board as you move it along.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5234 posts in 4520 days


#2 posted 10-06-2018 02:43 PM

If yours is a pin type marker, I’ll chime in.
I have mine filed to a knife edge, and keep it sharp.
I have seen where others will remove the standard pin, redrill to allow the pin to lean at a trailing angle, and file the pin/sharpen.

-- [email protected]

View lumbering_on's profile

lumbering_on

578 posts in 1049 days


#3 posted 10-06-2018 02:57 PM

Going with the grain is a real pain, but I’m a bit surprised with the cross grain as that is usually not too bad. The pin does have a tendency to ‘jump’ on the cross grain, but I find that if I angle the pin the line is usually solid enough that it doesn’t cause any issues. However, the blade shouldn’t have any issues with a marking cross grains as it should be able to cut the grain easily. I just use a cheap utility knife for the cross grain as I find it is easy to line up against a straight edge. I do, however, repeat the mark two or three times as I use a light pass at first to make sure the fibers are all scored, and then I take another one or two passes to ensure the line is deep and prominent enough to see.

Now going with the grain is an issue and the only thing I’ve found that works is a wheel gauge. Again, I use a light pass to get the cut going, then use one or two more to complete it. You have to make sure that the edge guide is always tight against the edge as the wheel will always want to follow the grain, and this will make a wavy line if you aren’t holding properly.

Needless to say I only use these methods when I need precision, such as a dovetail or M&T. Otherwise, I skip the drama and use a pencil.

View Rich's profile

Rich

5001 posts in 1149 days


#4 posted 10-06-2018 04:20 PM

I like wheel gauges. I have the JessEm 08801 Wood Sabre. I did a review of it here. There are less expensive ones from Lee Valley and Woodcraft.

I find the wheel gives the smoothest line with no chatter going cross grain. Also they are ground with a single bevel such that the outer edge of the mark is vertical and the inner is angled. That gives you a much cleaner edge. I’ve had no issues at all with it following the grain, even in the hardest of woods.

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

5783 posts in 3803 days


#5 posted 10-06-2018 07:07 PM

Thanks! I have the pin type that I have sharpened to a sharp bevel. I pretty much have done what you all have said. Maybe I’ll have to get the wheel type and improve my technique. I probably can modify my Stanley to add a wheel. Thanks again.

View JAAune's profile

JAAune

1872 posts in 2876 days


#6 posted 10-06-2018 07:44 PM

The sharpened pin should work if you put the bevel on the proper side. The flat side of the blade should be facing away from the gauge fence. The bevel is facing the fence. This pulls the fence tighter to the wood as it cuts. Multiple, light passes is always a good idea even with a wheel gauge.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

View sepeck's profile

sepeck

402 posts in 2700 days


#7 posted 10-06-2018 11:09 PM

I found these two articles for you. (My guess is you have already done your own searching but here you go anyway).
They helped me a while ago. Start light weight, repeat as needed applying more pressure.
https://paulsellers.com/2012/09/marking-gauges-in-use/

http://thevalleywoodworker.blogspot.com/2015/03/using-marking-gauges.html

-- -Steven Peck, http://www.blkmtn.org

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

5783 posts in 3803 days


#8 posted 10-07-2018 03:43 PM


I found these two articles for you. (My guess is you have already done your own searching but here you go anyway).
They helped me a while ago. Start light weight, repeat as needed applying more pressure.
https://paulsellers.com/2012/09/marking-gauges-in-use/

http://thevalleywoodworker.blogspot.com/2015/03/using-marking-gauges.html

- sepeck


Thanks for the videos. The marking gauge shown in the 2nd video is the same one I have; just a plain, no frills gauge. My problem is; although I sharpened the pin to a bevel, I put a bevel on both sides instead of just the inboard side. Definitely my technique is at fault; learned something new and useful today, Thanks all.

View Mr_Pink's profile

Mr_Pink

177 posts in 931 days


#9 posted 10-07-2018 06:48 PM

I addition to starting light, one tip I’ve found very helpful is to start with the side of the beam resting on the wood. Then rotate the pin down to the wood.

View Phil32's profile

Phil32

721 posts in 463 days


#10 posted 10-07-2018 07:08 PM

Consider also the variation of the wood you are marking. Woods with hard growth rings separated by softer layers will be more difficult in cross-grain marking. Woods with hard, wavy rings will be tough to keep straight on marks with the grain.

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit! Likewise with woodworkers.

View LittleShaver's profile

LittleShaver

598 posts in 1179 days


#11 posted 10-08-2018 01:51 PM

I always make a very light first pass with the blade or pin dragging at the lowest angle possible. Then increase the pressure a little for each successive pass until I get the line I want.

Like everything done by hand, it takes a little patients and practice.

-- Sawdust Maker

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

5783 posts in 3803 days


#12 posted 10-08-2018 03:22 PM

What a great forum. You can’t learn things like this from books or even in a shop class.

View SMP's profile

SMP

1446 posts in 465 days


#13 posted 10-08-2018 03:45 PM

I had the same struggles with a vintage wood and brass type. While learning to handcut dovetails they turned out so bad that I did some research and ended up buying this here: https://www.amazon.com/Taytools-MGB-Woodworking-Precision-Marking/dp/B017Z03G4Y/
I did what someone suggested and ran the flat side over my stone, and it works amazingly well now. Actually so well that due to the problems with my old gauge I ended up overcompensating with this one at first and my first dovetail box with this had razor lines I couldn’t get out. Good luck!

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

6761 posts in 3754 days


#14 posted 10-08-2018 04:09 PM

Here’s a little trick I do before_ using my marking gauge….Sand the parts lightly to “knock down” the grain just a tad…..You don’t need much sanding…..maybe with 320 grit, and a ROS, or even a finishing sander….The marker should not drag as much once you sand it a smidgen…..!! Just my $.02…...!

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

16257 posts in 3178 days


#15 posted 10-08-2018 04:19 PM

I’ve not had the patience for pin markers either, it’s wheel gauges for me. And yes, solid grip and light initial pass(es) when going with the grain, or you’re asking for trouble. Marking stuff that’s had at least an initial smoothing (plane or gasp sandpaper) is also a solid tip.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View BurlyBob's profile

BurlyBob

6759 posts in 2825 days


#16 posted 10-08-2018 04:23 PM

I totally agree with Bondo. I tried a couple of pin gauges and also ended up with a wheel gauge.

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

11521 posts in 1698 days


#17 posted 10-08-2018 06:06 PM

I like wheel gauges as well. I have a pin-style that works fine for cross grain but tends to follow the grain when going with it. But, the wheel works so well in either direction that the only time I grab the pin gauge is when I need 2 gauges set for different lengths for multiple boards.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View Robert's profile

Robert

3569 posts in 2040 days


#18 posted 10-08-2018 06:21 PM

Mr Ron,

Modifying a pin doesn’t work well because there needs to be some length to a cutter to get a good scribe line.

For xgrain, I recommend a gauge that has a knife or blade (or wheel). I use a wheel gauge most often mainly because for me they are easier to set.

Marking with the grain is a bit tricky as others have noted. You are not cutting fibers you are just denting them. Reading the grain and moving the pin in the direction the grain is rising will hold the base registered a bit better.

Tilting the pin and take light-to-heavy passes.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View olegrump's profile

olegrump

97 posts in 782 days


#19 posted 10-10-2018 06:56 PM

The way I was shown “Long time ago”, was to place your thumb on the end of the fence facing you, your index finger on top in front of the adjustment screw and your second finger on the end of the fence facing away from you. Slightly roll your wrist forward and bring the gauge back toward you holding it at an angle. A little practice and it works pretty well. This was using old traditional style marking gauges with wooden thumbscrews, and not any of the fancy modern jobs, but still, it worked.

View BroncoBrian's profile

BroncoBrian

875 posts in 2518 days


#20 posted 10-10-2018 07:18 PM

I have a beautiful rosewood and brass marking gauge. No clue what to use it for…

-- A severed foot is the ultimate stocking stuffer.

View MrRon's profile

MrRon

5783 posts in 3803 days


#21 posted 10-10-2018 09:32 PM

Judging by the responses, it appears that such a simple tool like a marking gauge requires much knowledge to use properly. I wonder what is the “learning curve” for other hand tools. I bet the plain old handsaw has a learning curve not many think twice about. It’s all about technique and much experience.

There are zen woodworkers in Japan that devote their entire lives in perfecting their art. They can spend years just making a saw stroke before being allowed to hold a saw. Of course this is extreme, but will give you an idea of what it takes to do something well.

View Mr_Pink's profile

Mr_Pink

177 posts in 931 days


#22 posted 10-11-2018 12:05 AM

I think this article gives you most (or all) of what you need to know about using traditional pin gauges.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

16257 posts in 3178 days


#23 posted 10-11-2018 12:12 AM

Bronco, it hurts to hear u say that.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View TheFridge's profile

TheFridge

10859 posts in 2045 days


#24 posted 10-11-2018 11:19 PM



Bronco, it hurts to hear u say that.

- Smitty_Cabinetshop

cough I may have two cough

Double hurt

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View lumbering_on's profile

lumbering_on

578 posts in 1049 days


#25 posted 10-11-2018 11:37 PM



Bronco, it hurts to hear u say that.

- Smitty_Cabinetshop

If it makes you feel better, it’s probably not real rosewood. ;)

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

16257 posts in 3178 days


#26 posted 10-12-2018 12:26 AM


Bronco, it hurts to hear u say that.

- Smitty_Cabinetshop

cough I may have two cough

Double hurt

- TheFridge

I’m sure yours are alder, that doesn’t hurt as much.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View SMP's profile

SMP

1446 posts in 465 days


#27 posted 10-15-2018 04:29 PM



Judging by the responses, it appears that such a simple tool like a marking gauge requires much knowledge to use properly. I wonder what is the “learning curve” for other hand tools. I bet the plain old handsaw has a learning curve not many think twice about. It s all about technique and much experience.

There are zen woodworkers in Japan that devote their entire lives in perfecting their art. They can spend years just making a saw stroke before being allowed to hold a saw. Of course this is extreme, but will give you an idea of what it takes to do something well.

- MrRon

I think it gets even more complex when actually working with different types of wood. You may perfect your technique with a marking gauge on pine or maple or something you use regularly, and then you try it on oak or wenge or something and its an entirely different animal. I think that is one thing that makes woodworking both difficult but interesting as well, is the challenges.

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