Make Your Mark

WWETraditional woodworking marks are simple – and they prevent errors.

by Christopher Schwarz
p. 62

If you don’t use a clear system of marking your project parts, it’s easy to get confused and cut a joint on the wrong face of a board or assemble table legs in the wrong orientation.

During the last 20 years, I’ve seen every imaginable marking system in use by my colleagues and students (even a system that relied upon “true north”), and I have yet to find a scheme that works better than the simplest traditional marks.

With a single swoop of a pencil, you can designate what is up, down, inside and out on an assembly. And you can indicate which parts of a board are flat, straight and at 90° to one another. Best of all, if you use these marks, anyone can decipher them (including yourself when you return to a project after a long absence). Here are the basics.

When you dress rough stock, you typically begin by flattening one face of that board and proceed from there. After you flatten a face, it is customary to mark it with a “true face” mark. The mark looks like a pig’s curly tail and should begin on the edge that you intend to straighten during the next step.

I make the end of the mark so that it points in the direction that the grain runs on that face, though I’ve never found an old book that indicates that it’s proper to do so (but it sure doesn’t hurt).

Craftsman David Charlesworth uses a true face mark that makes the grain direction even more obvious. The curly tail of his true edge mark spirals several times to form an arrow that indicates the grain direction of the board.

Plans: Free SketchUp models of traditional wooden try squares.
Article: Read about the history of pencils.
To buy: David Charlesworth’s DVDs.
In our store: “Measure Twice, Cut once” by Jim Tolpin

From the December 2014 issue, #215

Buy it now

pwm1214_160