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Dovetail Marking Gauges

Whenever one of my dovetail marking gauges shows up in the magazine, in a blog post or a tweet, I get questions about it – so I’ve written about it before.

And today, I got another question about the one (shown above) that I use in a YouTube video on using dividers to lay out DTs. It’s the Precision Dovetail Template from Woodjoy tools, with a 1:6 slope on one leg and a 1:8 slope on the other (it’s one of the first nice tools I ever bought, so it has sentimental value to me as well as use value).

I get asked about it so often that I have a link bookmarked in my browser so I can easily retrieve it and send it along. But today, it didn’t work – so here’s a new link to the company’s layout tools page. It seems Woodjoy has updated its site – and I gotta say, it now looks much better and is far easier to navigate. The company has also slightly increased the price of the tool; instead of the $25 I paid eight years ago, the Precision Dovetail Template is now $29 – that’s perfectly fair, especially for a tool that I’ve used more than just about any other since I started woodworking.

Dovetail Marking GaugesI also have another dovetail marker that shows up from time to time when I want a more bold slope, and that’s the 1:4 Saddle-Tail from Sterling Toolworks. There’s an angle on only one leg, so it’s harder to make a mistake and mark with the wrong one (er…not that I’ve ever done that, of course); the other leg is a saddle square. There’s also a slight recess in the brass crosspiece (you can’t see it in the picture at right; it’s on the back of the wood) that makes it easy to grab and hold in place. It is larger and has a lot more mass than the Woodjoy, and costs $75. The Saddle-Tail is now available in standard slopes of 1:4, 1:6 and 1:8, but the company will, upon request, make whatever slope you want.

And if you’ve ever taken a class from me that involves dovetails, you’ve probably seen me use a 1:6 Veritas Dovetail Saddle Marker. That little aluminum marker lives in my travel kit, because at just $14, I wouldn’t be too sad if I had to replace it. (It is also available in a 1:8 and 1:4 slope).

Also worth checking out, particularly if you like uber-contemporary, slick-looking tools, are the layout tools from Bridge City Toolworks – many of them have a dovetail marker incorporated into the design.

And while I haven’t used the Lie-Nielsen Dovetail Marker, at just $35, I think I’ll have to get one when I’m in Warren, Maine this summer for the LN open house July 11-12. The brass and cocobolo tool is nice to look at, and it has a 1:7 slope (in addition to 1:6). That’s an angle I’ve never used…can’t have that!

Now cue the comments from people who prefer to make their own dovetail markers or use a bevel gauge…and think I should, too. More power to you; I prefer to make furniture rather than tools.

— Megan Fitzpatrick

p.s. If you want to learn more about the basics of dovetailing, I recommend Chuck Bender’s DVD “Dovetailing Apprenticeship.” And for more advanced joints, including Bermuda Dovetails, check out his DVD “Dovetail Mastery.

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Showing 17 comments
  • pskvorc

    Thanks for the links. I appreciate seeing what tools people use and occasionally I get some new ideas, but what tool you, or any body else chooses to use, is really of no concern to me. Really.


  • Fraise

    You can just draw a 1:7 line on your workbench then use a bevel. It’s a great conversation starter ‘what’s that line for?’ Cost=0£

  • Bill Rainford

    I have the LV and LN dovetail markers and enjoy them both. The LV 90 degree Saddle Square also comes in handy for other projects and lives in my travel tool bag.
    1:7 was what I first learned as a student at NBSS in the fundamentals classes and always looked pleasing to my eye — a little different when compared to the standard 1:6 and 1:8. It’s also the ratio I used on my workbench. In my own work I tend to vary the dovetail angle based on the species of wood and how thick but, in the right ranges I like 1:7

  • wphred

    When I use a gage for my dovetails, I reach for one of the ones I made from some steel flashing. A couple of snips and some careful bending in the vise gives me a working tool. If it isn’t perfectly perpendicular, a couple of passes with a 2nd cut file fixes that. The price is pennies. I don’t mind spending money for tools, but I’ve never been able to understand why one would pay for something so simple to make. A nice plane, saw, gouge, etc. – yes (and gladly).

  • thekiltedwoodworker

    You don’t often see them in the US, but Richard Kell makes a dovetail marker, as well.

    I picked mine up for $5 locally. It is small, but very solid and has a nice weight.

    Unfortunately, it is the standard one, so it doesn’t have a way of marking the vertical lines. But that’s what your stainless steel Bridge City TS-2v2 is for, right? That way, you don’t have to order the Richard Kell Deluxe Dovetail marker from the UK and can avoid paying those outrageous shipping charges!

  • BLZeebub

    I’ve been doing dovetails the way Frank Klaus does them, BY EYE! Gauges slow me down. Too much like measuring. I will admit to doing them by machine though. My fav technique is the one using spacers and a bandsaw.

  • David Cockey

    Several thoughts about dovetail marking gauges:
    1) Dovetail angle is not critical, and is mostly a matter of aesthetics.
    2) The part of the gauge which perpendicular needs to be accurate.

  • rheilke

    Sadly, neither of the Acanthus videos come in a downloadable version. 🙁 I’m not only trying to be a little environmental, but having a download on my server keeps space open on my video bookshelf (which has already needed expansion twice).

    But I *can* do that for your YouTube video! 🙂


  • weedsnager

    The video on youtube with the woodjoy Dt marker is the best and only video I’ve seen explaining exactly how to layout dovetails, it was very helpful

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