Make a Dovetail Marking Gauge With Hand Tools




Introduction: Make a Dovetail Marking Gauge With Hand Tools

About: Happy in wood shavings YouTube: Patreon:

Let me describe how I made this gorgeous Dovetail Marking Gauge, using just hand tools.

If you want to make one, you'll need the following materials and tools:


  • Hardwood (I used African Blackwood and African Padauk)
  • Wood Glue (I used Titebond III, but anything that sticks wood is fine)


  • Workbench of some sort with planing stop and vice
  • Bench hook
  • Shooting board
  • Hand plane
  • Cutting Gauge
  • Try Square
  • Bevel Gauge
  • Rule
  • 3/16" Chisel (or smaller) or a small router plane
  • Pencil

If you prefer a video, then I have one here:

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Step 1: Thickness Wood

I chose 3/16" for my finish dimension, so ripped my wood a little over this thickness to begin with, then planed it true at 3/16"

Step 2: Cut Fence and Blade to Length

The fence is the part which sits on the end grain when marking dovetails, and it should have both ends square to it's length. Mark to length ( 1-1/2" is good), and saw.

The blade is the part that hangs against the long grain when marking dovetails, and it should have ends that are sloped at the required dovetail angle(s). I chose to make mine 1:6 on one end, and 1:8 on the other. Set out the slope using the rule and pencil, then copy with the bevel gauge. Now use the bevel gauge to mark the blade ends, before sawing to length.

Step 3: Shoot Blade Slopes

Make an auxillary-fence for the shooting board that gives the dovetail angles you desire. For me, that was one end with 1:6, and the other with 1:8.

Then shoot the ends of the blade nice and clean.

Step 4: Make Groove for Blade in Fence

Measure the width of the fence, minus the thickness of the blade. From that, mark a groove for the blade down the centre of the fence using a cutting gauge.

Now using either a chisel, or a small router plane, cut the groove. Use the cutting gauge to deepen the side cuts as you go.

A depth of about 1/16 should be fine.

Check that the blade fits snugly.

Step 5: Glue Blade Into Fence

Apply glue to the groove, and insert the fence. If your chosen wood is oily, then first wipe off with mineral spirits or similar to aid adhesion.

Check that the blade is exactly perpendicular to the fence, using the try-square.

Step 6: Shoot the Assembly

Once the glue has fully cured, saw the fence off at the angle of the blade, and then go back to the shooting board and shoot this clean.

Step 7: Bevel Non-critical Edges and Finish With Wax

Now you can put a little bevel on all the non-critical edges to remove the sharpness, before giving the gauge a coat of furniture wax.

Cherish, and use regularly!

Thanks for viewing my instructable.

I've entered it into the 'Hand Tool Only' contest, so if you liked it then please think of voting for it.

If you want to see it on YouTube:

Hand Tools Only Contest 2016

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Hand Tools Only Contest 2016

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    4 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Good way to recover the lost art of hand-made dove tails as well. Nice


    Reply 3 years ago

    Cheers, yes I hope more people will try them


    3 years ago

    Very helpful! I need to cut dovetails on a future project, and by coincidence I found this instructable.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Glad it was useful