If you remember the Veritas Dodeca-Gauge – the company’s hilarious April Fool’s prank that featured a marking gauge with 12 independent sliding rods – then the company’s newest tool might look a little familiar to you.
The Veritas Dual Marking Gauge offers only one-sixth of the rods of the fictional Dodeca-Gauge, but the good news is that the Dual Marking Gauge actually exists. And it’s useful.
Traditionally, marking or cutting gauges that offer two beams are called “mortise gauges,” though I’ve always found that term a bit lacking. When I lay out mortises, I scribe one line only and let the width of the chisel (a hand chisel or a hollow-mortise one) make the other line.
However, I do want a gauge with two beams when I mark out tenons – especially when I am working by hand. That’s because you have only one true face on your board when you are working by hand – so you need to mark out both cheeks of the tenon from one surface. That’s when a gauge like this comes in handy.
The Veritas Dual Marking Gauge is actually a cutting gauge. It has two non-rolling round cutters on each stem of the gauge. And when you look closely at the cutters, you can see that the clever Canadians at Veritas were thinking hard and paying attention.
One of the two cutters has its bevel facing the fence of the gauge. The other cutter has its flat surface facing the fence of the gauge. This arrangement is useful for precision work when you want the bevels of the cutters to face the waste. A few examples:
• If you want to lay out a mortise you can arrange the cutters so the bevels face the waste. The result: a crisp mortise opening, which is useful for through-mortises.
• If you want to lay out a tenon you can arrange the cutters so the bevels face the cheek waste. The result: you will have a crisp line to saw or pare to after you remove the cheeks.
• When you are thicknessing board by hand you can use a single cutter with the bevel facing the waste you want to remove. The result: You will have a definite and crisp step that you can see as you plane down to your line.
There are other details of the tool that make it a friendly companion in the shop. You can retract one of the cutters out of the way so you can use it like a single-beam cutter. The bearing surface of the fence is a bit oversized compared to many other metal gauges, which is nice. The beams pass through O-rings inside the head of the gauge, so when you release a beam to move it, the sucker doesn’t slide suddenly. And the gauge’s head itself is elliptical, so it won’t roll off your benchtop.
At 9 oz., the gauge has nice heft, and the head fits into your curled fingers nicely. I like the feel better than my traditional oval-headed English gauge. The tool is made in Canada and is $59.
If you do hand joinery – especially mortise-and-tenon joints – this is a no-apologies winner. And if you scoot over to Lee Valley now – right now – you can save $10 on this gauge. The company is selling it for $49 until May 30, 2011. Here’s the link.
— Christopher Schwarz
Speaking of Marking….
One of my favorite woodworking books on layout and design is on sale in our store: the revised edition of Jim Tolpin’s “Measure Twice, Cut Once.” It’s $12 new. This book was one of the most influential books on woodworking at the beginning of my career. And it is one of our best-selling titles ever. Highly recommended.
I have a section on my blog devoted to marking and measuring topics. Want to blow off some work? Click here and read about sectors, precision and other heady stuff.