loading
Picture of Make a marking gauge out of scrap wood
Got some scrap wood? Need a marking gauge? This instructable will describe the process of making one from the other. Which is which is left as an exercise for the reader.

"What is a marking gauge?", you ask. Well, gentle reader, a marking gauge is a tool that woodworkers use to put nasty lines all over their projects so that other woodworkers can see them and nod in appreciation of the fine craftsmanship. If you find that you need to scribe a line parallel with an edge, such as when cutting joinery, dimensioning stock to thickness, or showing off to your neighbor, then a marking gauge is the tool to use.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: What you need

Picture of What you need
IMG_0801.JPG
I'd like nothing more than to wax philosophical about our metaphysical properties, but this is an Instructable, and, as such, requires "stuff". Here are the thing you'll need.

- Safety glasses
- Two dowel scraps of different diameters. I chose an oak dowel at 3/4" and a poplar dowel at 3/8"
- A scrap block of wood
- A Scrappy-Doo coloring book. Just kidding
- A drilling tool, such as a drill press, bit brace, oil derrick, or electric drill
- Drill bits the same diameter as your dowels
- A clamp
- A sharp chisel
- A pencil
- A nail (not pictured)
- Sandpaper (not pictured)

Step 2: Anatomy of a marking gauge

Picture of Anatomy of a marking gauge
Before building a tool, it helps to know what the parts are and how they work. Nothing is more embarrassing than building something and then realizing "Hey, that's supposed to move!" Examine the image and follow along with this narrative and we'll explore this tool together.

The longish part (which we will make from the 3/4" dowel) is called the "stem". The scrap block of wood will be transformed, by your skilled hands, into the "stock". The stem goes through the stock, perpendicular to the broad face of the stock. At one end of the stem is the "spur". Giddyap! The spur is the bit that will make the mark on the wood.

This marking gauge employs a dowel with a bit of a inclined plane carved into it. This dowel locks the stem in place when the position has been satisfactorily set. In fact, it will lock it into place even if the stem is NOT satisfactorily set. This design not only allows the marking gauge to be made with simple tools and parts, but it also makes for a micro adjustable tool; just bang it against the bench until you get the desired dimension. Try doing that with a $60 marking gauge!

Step 3: Marking the stock for the locking dowel

Picture of Marking the stock for the locking dowel
IMG_0803.JPG
You need to make some marks on the stock. It would be handy to have a marking gauge for this, but you would probably be building this because you don't have a marking gauge. What a predicament! It's like the whole "which came first, the chicken or the barber that cuts the town's hair" thing or something.

First thing to do is get your scrap wood for the stock pretty square and flat. There are several ways to do this. Because the piece I had was small, I used a jack plane to get everything set. It probably took me about a minute. Doesn't have to be perfect. If you use power tools to face the stock, then please use appropriate clamps and push sticks.

First, let's mark the line that will define where our locking dowel will go. Use your combination square and a pencil to scribe a line across the face, slightly more toward the "top" of the stock than to the bottom. Use your combination square to transfer the line across all faces and edges.

Step 4: Drill the holes

Picture of Drill the holes
IMG_0807.JPG
IMG_0817.JPG
You might have guessed it. You need to drill some holes now. The first hole to drill is the one the goes from edge to edge. The 3/8" dowel will go into this hole. I would recommend drilling a test hole to see how well the dowel fits. Sometimes the tolerance on store bought dowels isn't as accurate as you may need, so you may need to sand the dowel or choose a different bit.

I used the drill press for this. Drill on the line, about right in the middle of the edge, all the way through. If you're off the line, it's not a big deal. Just be sure that if you're posting instructions online on how to make this device, remember to make fun of the fact that you goofed a bit so people don't realize you have no idea what you're doing.

Once that hole has been drilled, change bits to the one you will need for the larger dowel (in my case 3/4" Forstner bit) and drill through the face of the stock. You don't want to drill right on the witness line, because it's against the bylaws of your homeowner's association. Instead, drill about 1/4" away from the line. Drill straight through. It is important that this hole is perpendicular to the face. If it's not, the gauge will operate a little funny, which may be a quirk you're willing to deal with, but really this shouldn't take long to do over.

Step 5: Cut the tensioning dowel

Picture of Cut the tensioning dowel
IMG_0826.JPG
IMG_0833.JPG
IMG_0837.JPG
IMG_0835.JPG
IMG_0842.JPG
Okay, place the smaller dowel in the hole and push it through until about a half inch sticks out the other end. Use a pencil and mark the edge of the large hole onto the exposed part of the dowel. Cut out a notch the side of the marks. Don't worry about making it round. Just the the sides cut and the notch to the proper depth.

After cutting the notch, put an incline on one side using a chisel, preferably the side that has more material. There is no particular angle to use. I think this was at about 20 degrees.

Replace the tension dowel into the stock and put the stem through the stock. Make sure it fits. Don't force it through or you'll blow out the back. So I've hear *ahem*. Once it's in, push the tension dowel so the incline engages the stem. It should get a pretty good hold of the stem at this point. You're almost done! Huzzah!

Go ahead and cut the dowels to length at this point. The stem I cut to about 8", the tension dowel is about 3", give or take 3.74 centifudgeits.

Step 6: Refuel the manufacturing machine

Picture of Refuel the manufacturing machine
Mount a standard sized bowl of ice cream to the workbench and apply to the main manufacturing machine in the typical style. THIS STEP IS CRITICAL! Failure to refuel at this point may result in complaining of fatigue and snarky comments from a spouse.

Step 7: Adding the spur

Picture of Adding the spur
Drill a small hole in the end of the stem. This hole should snugly accommodate a nail of your choosing. Use a file to bring the nail to a very fine point and drive it into the hole in the stem. Cut the head off the nail and file it. This is your spur.

I've read that point spurs like this are good for going with the grain, but a knife-like cutter should be used when going against the grain to reduce tear-out. If you're so inclined, file the other side of the nail to a nice edge. Now you've got a two-fer!

Step 8: Finish

Picture of Finish
Assemble the gauge and make sure all parts move as expected. Sand to your liking and finish with a nice oil to preserve the wood. Do not do anything that would change the geometry of the holes. That would be a total bummer, dude.

Once you've made one of these, you'll find that you could crank out another one in a few minutes. This essential tool is very easy to make and I welcome any and all comments about the technique.
I had an idea that would make this tool even more useful. If you drove in multiple nails into the end, you could make it to where there were two cutters that cut to the width of your chisels. This could be done for multiple combinations on the same gauge even.
sabr6865 years ago
The adjective for "spur" is spurrilous, not spurry. It's a common error. Your welcome.
"You're" welcome and not "Your" welcome. It's a common error. You're welcome :-)
HA!
shooby3 years ago
Not to be picky, because I understand from your ible how this works...but isn't the dowel in compression, not tension? Great idea, I'm going to make one of these as soon as I find time. Thanks!
Dachjo3 years ago
This is genius! I followed the directions and now I have a custom marking gauge all my own. The darn thing works! Thanks for this instructable.
VirenVaz4 years ago
Simple and lovely. Got out my scrap wood, created the dowels and then the gauge in a quick 30 minutes. I do small work so my gauge is just 3 inches. I simply followed your instructions including the refueling step and voila. Nice! Thanks.
Jimbombim4 years ago
Hi,
Does it make sense to leave the 1st dowell in place while drilling the second hole?
I'm planning to make one, but only have enough dowell for one go, so don't want to muck it up!
Cheers
Jim
porternick5 years ago
Much cheaper, and makes you feel more manly to have made a tool you use..  I drilled the tensional dowel hole first, put the dowel in, and then drilled the hole for the stem.  This saved me from needing to to do the first part of Step 5.  Great Instructable.
toxonix5 years ago
 Yes I do, and yes, I do.
Hey I wish I had seen this one last night. I was thinking of making one, but I just used my hand an a pen instead. Favorited.
stickmop5 years ago
I can't find a popular dowel. Can I use something people don't like, like a knotty pine dowel?
jmmcches6 years ago
Great tutorial. I especially like the refueling step. So many people leave that one out!
lafnbear6 years ago
Excellent, clear instructions, and most entertaining to boot! Favorite'd without hesitation.