Marking gauges are used to create layout lines for hand cut dovetails, mortise & tenon joinery, and other types of high-quality furniture and cabinet joints. There are many types of marking gauges, but the principles of their use are similar. The goal: create precise and repeatable cuts or scoring marks on wood surfaces that can then be used as reference lines for chisel, hand saw, and/or hand plane cuts. In this concise video overview, cabinetmaker Craig Vandall Stevens will show you how to get optimal layout lines on your next project. (2.5 Minute Woodworking Video)

A shop-made Japanese style marking gauge is used in this video, but the methods and principles shown can be applied to western style tools as well.

(5) Comments   


George Lerose

Great web site.

Thanks, George

Heinrich Sachse

Hi Keith, I have been running a woodworking school in Johannesburg, South Africa for the past four years. Always on the lookout for techniques to pass on to my students I came across your video series. Your videos are well done and the people demonstrating are outstanding. Keep it up.
PS If ever you find yourself in this part of the world we would like to invite you over.


Anyone know how he cut the slot in the arm to hold the knife? A series of drilled holes, maybe, but that would be hard to keep straight and it looks too narrow to file afterwards.

Would Craig use this same tool along the grain?

Keith’s Note: I don’t know if Craig uses a difference marking gauge along the grain. As you probably know, when working with the grain, some woodworkers like to have the marking gauge blade rotated slightly in a way that, while using the gauge, the knife (or cutter) draws the fence towards the work.


I looked into this a bit. Apparently the knife is set in the beam by drilling an appropriate sized hole. The knife edge is skewed (like a skew chisel or layout knife). A coping or fret saw is placed through the hole and a cut is made to match the skew. The cut does not elongate the hole under the beam, only on top of the beam and equal to the width of the knife. Now you have a wedge shaped mortise in the beam matching the skew of the knife, a hole at the bottom for the tip of the blade, and a slot at the top. The blade is pushed in. If you look at the early frames of the video, you can see this. I’ve been unhappy with the “wheel on a stick” gauges, so it’s time to make a japanese gauge and see how it goes!

Keith’s Note: A brilliant piece of creative problem solving Ed. Keep us posted! As an aside, most of the great artisans I’ve meet, who seek to rediscover proven techniques of the past either learn directly in the presence of masters — or “read the tea leaves” left behind by their work or their tools.


Ed, if you have never seen a Hamilton marking gauge, you need to have a look at one! They are rather simple in construction, yet work incredibly well. Sadly, I don’t own one, but have had the pleasure of using one, and they are near perfection. I made my own marking gauge, sort of marrying the style that Craig uses with some of the features of the Hamilton. My blade attaches with a screw to the end of the beam and is depth adjustable. As well my fence locks in place with a simple thumb screw. I do plan to make another and incorporate some upgrades I feel may be helpful.

Here is a link to the Hamilton site:

I could also email you pictures of my gauge as well. If you’re interested, post here again and we’ll figure out a way to transfer email addresses without posting them.