Bar gauge opinions

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Forum topic by Dan Wolfgang posted 03-10-2016 07:57 PM 2656 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Dan Wolfgang

176 posts in 2091 days

03-10-2016 07:57 PM

Topic tags/keywords: hand tools layout measuring gauge question

I’m just getting into woodworking again—last done as a kid in high school and at home, 20+ years ago—and am learning and recognizing a lot especially as I focus on hand tools. The idea of measuring without numbers through the use of various types of gauges is very appealing to me. Based on the variety of wheel marking gauges, pin and knife marking gauges, mortise gauges, stair gauges, offset gauges, etc tells me many other people like this approach, too.

So here’s the thing: the bar gauge confuses me in that there seem to be relatively few options on the market. Recently I saw the Woodpeckers OTT set, Veritas makes two types, and Rockler makes one. Is that it? Do people more typically make their own bar gauge (either just with a cut-off scrap or clamped scraps, or by actually making something), or are they not as useful as I would expect they are? That is, given the variety of other types of gauges I would think that bar gauges would be readily available from many manufacturers. (No, I haven’t bought one yet, but it’s a priority.)

Thanks for sharing your insight!

4 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

7294 posts in 3777 days

#1 posted 03-10-2016 08:22 PM

I made mine. I bought brass bars from onlinemetals in various sizes (1/8” to 1”) and have them in several lengths, some up to 24” along with some 2” ones and 12” ones. (don’t laugh, they are all handy). I also picked up some brass flat stock at the hobby shop for some 1/16” and a few thinner ones. I probably spent a little more this way, but what I have is much more useful, and I have more of them….so I keep them in several places in the shop.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View MadMark's profile


979 posts in 2737 days

#2 posted 03-10-2016 08:41 PM

I bought a digital height gauge to take the guesswork out of cutter setting.

I also keep pieces of ‘known thickness’ wood scraps for fast setting on the drill press.


-- Madmark - [email protected]

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 2204 days

#3 posted 03-11-2016 03:54 AM


I do not own a bar gauge but use the same principle to get inside measurements frequently. The method yields consistently accurate measurements with or without a tape measure. In fact I have a 1/8” thick X ¾” wide x 10” piece of wood used whenever I need to size a drawer bottom or a panel for a rail and stile raised panel assembly. I also use this system to get a length measurement when I have layout work on a ceiling.

To use the system to obtain the distance between the bottoms of grooves on opposite drawer sides, the 10” long strip is placed at the bottom of one groove. Another thin piece of wood long enough to overlap the first piece of wood but short enough to fit in the drawer box is set in the bottom of the opposite grove. This second piece is usually scrap with square ends. I then fastened the two piece of wood together with a spring clamp, making sure the two pieces of wood are aligned straight and square with the drawer side. After I remove the assembly, I can measure the length and know the distance from the bottom of one groove to the bottom of the other.

There are several tricks for different applications, but all reply on splicing pieces of wood together to get the dead accurate distances

I have not made a nice and easy to use set of bar gauges mainly because the inside measurements are so variable. For example, an inside measurement may only be 6” while another may be 4’. While I could solve the problem by making multiple gauge sets, I would have to store them somewhere and I am short of space. I always have various length of thin scrap lying around.

View Woodknack's profile


13585 posts in 3664 days

#4 posted 03-11-2016 06:13 AM

Bar gauges seem like a gimmick. Why would I use one when I own tape measures which are faster and simpler.

FYI, this is a bar gauge.

Some of you have confused them with gauge blocks.

-- Rick M,

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