Chris Schwarz's Blog

The 2014 Anarchist’s Gift Guide: Day 8

veritas_mortise_gauge_IMG_0379

Like last year, I am ending this gift guide with a tool that is a little expensive but will change your work to the core. (Last year is was an EasyWood Full-Size Rougher turning tool.) This year it is the best mortising gauge ever made: the Veritas Dual Marking Gauge.

Anyone who has worked with me knows that I am crazy in love with the Tite-Mark marking gauge, which is a tool I simply cannot imagine living without. I own four. And I hope to own more.

But for mortising, the Veritas Dual Marking Gauge is the cow’s meow. Like the Tite-Mark, it is so simple and ingenious that it’s a wonder no one has ever made one like it before.

What’s so amazing? The “optional” Shaft Clamp. It’s not optional. You need it. This allows you use your actual mortising chisel (metric or otherwise) to set the blades of the gauge. Then you can change the position of those lines by moving the head of the gauge. Pure genius.

Other gauges have a pale imitation of this function. But none does it as well as the Veritas.

Other details: The shafts are not in the center of the head, which means the tool will never roll off the bench. The tool is perfectly balanced and nests in your hand. It is (with the Shaft Clamp) only $65 but worth much more. Get one.

— Christopher Schwarz

P.S. All of the gift guide entries (including last year’s) are here.

15 thoughts on “The 2014 Anarchist’s Gift Guide: Day 8

  1. taldahir

    Hello Everyone! I have been keeping an eye on this gauge. It is about time I get it. BTW allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tariq and I am new here and I would like to thank popular wood working for accepting me. I was a electrician and a carpenter but now I am a teacher and I only do carpentry as a hobby. As for anything electrical, well I won’t do it unless it is absolutely necessary. I have some questions about tools and carpentry but I think I will hold off on asking them until I see an article related to my questions. I hope everyone welcomes me with a warm welcoming. Thanks and I hope to read and learn more from these blogs.

  2. wesleyb

    I was going to take mild umbrage with this suggestion that one purchase a Mortising Gauge, but it is the holiday season so we’re entitles to a bit of pampering, and reviewing the text you did say that folks should try them out, and get one if they like it.

    <blockquote cite="Do You Need a Mortise Gauge?
    Many tool inventories list a mortise gauge, which is a gauge with two pins
    so that you can mark out both walls of a mortise or both cheeks of a tenon
    simultaneously. I have one, but I don’t use it as much as I thought I would.
    When I mark out mortises, I use a simple cutting gauge and define only one
    wall of the mortise. The mortise chisel itself defines the other wall of the
    mortise. (Schwarz 120)"

    Schwarz, Christopher. The Anarhist’s Tool Chest. Fort Mitchell: Lost Art Press LLC, 2010.

    That’s right: I’m hanging on every word, Chris.

      1. wesleyb

        Fair enough – but which Schwarz to disobey?

        Or is that the idea? purposefully making it hard not to disobey….

        1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

          If you are going to get a mortising gauge, this is the one. I used one single-cutter gauge for many years, and it is a great way to get around having a mortising gauge.

          A mortising gauge makes life more convenient if you cut a lot of joinery. Not so much with laying out the mortise but when laying out the tenon.

          Both are valid approaches that depend on your pocketbook and desire for tools.

          1. wesleyb

            It does look nice, something I’d be very happy to receive it as a gift. Of course I tend to work on no more than one project a week, and so far the most mortises I’ve needed to lay out in a week are four. Due to that it’s not something I see me running out to buy – but if I were laying out more of them? Yep – seems pretty cool. And then some say the best gifts are things people want but wouldn’t buy for themselves, so there’s that.

        2. AlanWS

          You can do as he recommends, or not. But don’t do it because you obey or disobey, do it because you’ve thought about what he said and agree or disagree.

    1. drsmith

      I agree with the quote completely. However, one positive feature of a mortising gauge is it has two pins/cutters. The one shown here would allow you to have two different settings on the same tool and you can just rotate the tool slightly to select which one you want. I have the Veritas single wheel gauge and find it to be excellent.

    2. Straightlines

      This gauge is on my list, not because I have a bunch of tenons or mortises to cut, but because it is a tool that does double-duty and does that as well as can be hoped for. Just because it is a “M&T” gauge doesn’t mean that it can’t be primarily used for standard marking purposes.

  3. Jim McCoy

    I ordered one of these at the 2013 Handworks event after trying it out. I have been using it for about a year and a half and I totally agree with everything Chris says about it. Well worth the money.

  4. JMAW Works

    But what do you do with the shaft clamp when not mortising? For me, it becomes a fiddly loose bit that is hard to keep track of. In typing this I think an o-ring on the end of one/both of the shafts could solve this issue.

      1. REFFI

        When I first began my education as a woodworker (about seven years ago), a marking gauge was one of the recommended hand tools. I bought one and used it when I needed to mark something and was fine with it. This past spring I took a class in which only hand tools were allowed. The instructor, who is a master craftsman, pointed out to us that when you are marking something, like a mortise, or dovetails, you need to pay attention to the way you are making the mark. The bevel of the marking wheel should always be facing the cut. That way the mark provides a guide for a chisel that does not leave a residual mark on the project wood. I bought the Veritas mortising gauge that Chris is recommending and am extremely pleased with it. It has a couple of advantages that Chris didn’t mention; The cutting wheels are replaceable (I can’t tell you how much nicer it is than trying to sharpen the teeny tiny wheel of my previous gauge. I’ve done it, but always reluctantly.) Veritas will just sell you two new, sharp ones The second thing I admire about the tool is that the cutting wheels retract completely into recesses when you are using one of the to mark a project so that the tool’s face is flush against the work.

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