Do You Need a Marking Gauge for Woodworking?

If you are newer to woodworking like me, One of the tools that you will find comes in handy and is very versatile is a marking gauge.

A marking gauge is vital for making a parallel line on the edges of a board to show where to bevel or cut the edge of the board your working on. A mortise marking gauge makes 2 parallel lines for marking a mortise joint on your work. This simplifies the process and gives you more exact measurements. A marking gauge can also be used to find the center of a board by measuring the total width, setting the marking gauge fence to about half, than very lightly scoring the wood from both sides ensuring the mark is in the middle.

What is the difference between a marking gauge and mortise gauge?

A marking gauge has a single pin or cutting wheel that can be set and locked at a desired distance from the fence. A Mortise gauge has 2 pins or cutting blades that can be set to the desired distances to scribe both mortise sides at the same time.

Marking Gauge

Marking gauges are basically a tool that has a stem or beam with a cutting disc or blade at the end, and an adjustable lockable fence that positions the blade at your desired distance.  They are primarily used for scribing tenons and dovetail shoulder lines and to mark a rabbet.

The purpose of a marking gauge is to make one or two lines parallel to the edge of the board your working on to mark exactly where you want to cut, saw, or chisel the board.

Mortise Gauge

A mortise gauge has two parallel adjustable cutting blades. A combination blade is basically one that can cut either one or 2 lines as desired. One side of the fence will typically have a singe cutting wheel or pin, while the other has a pair of pins or cutting blades

What are the other types of marking gauges?

A Cutting gauge is just a marking gauge with a blade instead of the older fashion pin.

A panel Gauge is a really long marking gauge that’s beam is up to several feet long. This was used more often in the past to make a parallel line on a board to a true straight edge you would make with a plane. A Panel gauge is useful for finding the center of a panel .

What are the parts of a marking gauge?

  • A beam or stem that is about 10 inches long.
  • fence(either wood block or round)
  • A lock for the fence.
  • Marking pin or cutting wheel.
These are the parts of a marking gauge.

How do you use a marking gauge?


1. If you are using a marking gauge with a pin, rest one edge of the beam on the piece you are working tilting the beam until the pin makes contact with the  board. This makes it extremely easy to control the amount of pressure you are applying to the pin. Control the pressure and you will make a really straight line.

2. Avoid splintering and damaging your board by not going past the end of board with your pin or cutting tool. Stop before you reach the edge than start at the other end marking towards the center.

3. Use a sharp pencil, set at an angle,  to lightly trace the line if you are having trouble seeing it. You can very lightly run an eraser over the line to get rid of excess graphite to make the line sharper.

How to buy a good marking gauge

One of the signs of a cheap marking gauge is when the cutting blade follows the contour of the grain of the wood not making a straight cut. The better quality Gauges should also make a very thin cut that is easy to work with.

The cheaper ones will indent the wood along both sides of the cut line which damages the grain of the wood you are working on.

If you get a combination gauge get one that has the ability for both of the blades to be retracted into the fence completely so its more user friendly.

You want to find a marking gauge that is firm, has a good fence that is easy to set, and doesn’t need sharpened when its new.

Marking gauges are a very easy to use tool. It typically has a round fence that rides against the edge of the board with a sharpened disk at the end that scribes a line at a set adjustable distance from the edge.

What are the best marking gauges?

the best marking gauges on the market are:

  • Veritas gauge
  • Red oak Tools 105($20)
  • Bora Footprint Series 1876($25)
  • Woodriver 154340W ($50)
  • Crown Had tools 143($33)
  • rockler 26452045($19)

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