There are many tools needed in traditional woodworking such as marking gauges. However, many woodworkers nowadays prefer using modern tools instead of traditional ones working.

For one, some of them think using traditional woodworking tools are inconvenient and already outdated. Despite that, many woodworkers still opt for the traditional way of woodworking. One of the traditional tools used by many woodworkers is the marking gauge.

What Is A Marking Gauge?

There are different ways to mark a gauge, and one of the most commonly used is the marking gauge.

A marking gauge, also known as a scratch gauge, is a traditional woodworking (and sometimes metalwork) tool used to mark out lines intended for cutting. It has a fence-like adjustable structure, and a blade or a pin, designed to mark a line along that edge.

However, marking should be done carefully and precisely, as the mark is irremovable. While you can try it again to achieve the correct measurement, it can affect the overall look of the wood workpiece. Some woodworkers make their own improvised marking gauge by using a sharpened screw driven into a wood board.

Still, a good-quality marking gauge should be an essential tool for traditional woodworkers.

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The Parts

There are different parts of a marking gauge, and these are:

  • Spur – the marking gauge’s sharp point usually made from steel. This part marks the point where the wood will be cut. The spur can also be replaced by a cutting gauge (a small knife) as a marking point
  • Stock or fence – the adjustable component of the marking gauge that can be loosened using the thumbscrew
  • Thumbscrew – the adjusting component of the marking gauge used to tighten or loosen the stock to achieve the correct marking distance
  • Stem – connects all the marking gauge parts and comes in different lengths to cater to different workpiece sizes

Common Material

Usually, marking gauges are made of wood. However, there are marking gauges that are made from different materials. The base of marking gauges is usually made of the following wood or material:

  • Beech and maple – these are normally used in manufacturing tools because they can withstand wear and tear for longer periods of time.
  • Rosewood – this can come as more expensive, but it is also known for its resistance from wear and tear and water damage.
  • Plastic – cheaper than wooden marking gauges, but it cannot last as long as those made from wood.

You can buy marking gauges in physical hardware stores and online stores such as Amazon and eBay, which vary in price and the materials used.

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How Does A Marking Gauge Work?

In traditional woodworking, a marking gauge enables the woodworker to set a measurement using a ruler or a built-in guide. The marking gauge then keeps this measurement and then dragged across the wood workpiece.

A thin line will serve as a mark on the wood surface. Here is a step-by-step guide on using a marking gauge:

  1. Prepare your workpiece and set the marking gauge at the intended work piece’s end.
  2. Adjust the fence and stem by turning the thumbscrew counterclockwise. Do these until you reach your desired measurement and then turn the screw back to tighten it.
  3. Slightly tilt the fence in the direction you will mark and then drag the fence along the wood workpiece. Apply minimal pressure as you go along and stop just before the end of the wood piece.
  4. Do the same procedure as number 3, only that you will come from the opposite end of the wood piece. This is to ensure that the line is marked completely.
  5. Continue marking the other sides of the wooden workpiece. Instead of adjusting the stem or fence all over again, you can turn the piece on the side which needs marking.


As mentioned earlier, marking gauge lasts longer than plastic. Traditional woodwork tools also have a longer lifespan than electric tools. Still, one should take extra care with these tools regardless of whether it is traditional or modern.

Here are tips in proper marking gauge care:

  1. Keep your marking gauge tool from high-moisture places to avoid rot or corrosion. Wipe your tool if it is wet.
  2. Make sure that the pin or blade is always sharp. This is to prevent producing a thicker line that can be inaccurate in your measurement.
  3. If the pin or blade of your marking gauge is already dull, replace it with a newer and a sharper one. To replace it, push the old one and insert the new one. The pin should also be compatible with your gauge’s brand and size.
  4. When not in use, make sure that the fence is against the pin or blade. This is to help protect the pin or knife and ensure a longer lifespan.
  5. Use lubricant oil so that the fence moves easily with every use.
  6. Apply linseed oil to keep the marking gauge’s wood finish looking at its prime every time.

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Other Types Of Marking Out Gauges

Aside from marking gauges, there are other types of marking out gauges. These include:

  • Cutting gauge – similar to the marking gauge’s structure, except that it has a small knife instead of a pin to mark the wood.
  • Wheel gauge – known for its circular shape and less weight than other marking gauges. Like the cutting gauge, it also has a blade intended to mark the wood. Some mostly prefer wheel gauges for more complicated woodwork tasks.
  • Panel gauges – basically the larger version of the marking gauge, with its longer fence and longer pin. Not only it is more effective in marking larger wood pieces but also ideal for marking the wooden board’s center, which cannot be reached by usual marking gauges.
  • Mortise gauge – also called combination gauges, a mortise gauge is a multi-purpose tool that looks similar to marking gauges. Unlike marking gauges, mortise gauges have two pins on one side of the stem. One pin is used to mark a mortise, and the other one to mark the wood like the usual marking gauge.
  • Wheel mortise gauge – instead of the usual rectangular stems, this has two round stems and a circular blade on each end of the stem that can be separately controlled.
  • Digital marking gauge – it may not be available in some countries. This type is made of alloy steel and a pin made of metal. It operates through batteries and displays the measurements in a screen.

Traditional VS. Modern Woodworking


As mentioned earlier, modern woodworking tools are readily available if you are looking for a more convenient way to do woodwork. However, many people still prefer doing their wood projects in an old school way.

So, what makes traditional woodworking special despite the availability of modern woodworking tools? Here are the reasons why:

  • Traditional woodworking can be a good physical workout. In using traditional woodworking tools, you would need to exert more effort to make it work. In the process, you give yourself a good exercise. One example is manually cutting wood using a handsaw.
  • Traditional woodworking tools are more cost-efficient than modern ones. Most traditional woodworking tools are cheaper than modern ones. In fact, some traditional and modern woodworking tools can do the same job with a huge price gap. Also, most traditional tools have a longer lifespan than modern tools
  • Traditional woodworking tools last longer than modern tools, much more if you take good care of them. Still, it is important to take care of your tools–whether traditional or modern tools–so your children and grandchildren can inherit them.
  • Traditional tools have a lesser risk of injury than modern tools. Unlike modern tools, you can have more control when using traditional tools, lessening the risk of injuries.
  • Using old marking gauges and other carpentry tools can be more satisfying. It may take more time to finish your woodwork than using modern tools, yet the feeling of satisfaction is incomparable.

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Many people think using traditional woodworking tools are a thing of the past. However, many woodworkers still use traditional over modern tools for their woodworking project. One of these woodwork tools that should be a must-have for every woodworker is the marking gauge.

A marking gauge is an important woodwork tool because it serves as a guide for cutting. Normally, it has a fence-like adjustable structure, and a blade or a pin that’s connected on the tool’s stem to create a mark a line on the wood.

Whether you have a traditional tool or a modern woodwork tool, it is still important to take extra care if you want to use them for a long time. This article should serve as a guide for you in case you are planning to buy a marking gauge.

Last update on 2023-06-08 at 12:29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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