In Shop Blog, Techniques

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I love me some blue masking tape. I have at least four rolls of the stuff at my bench and use it for all sorts of tasks, from shimming a shooting board to stopping the flow of blood.

Yet, there is one common use of the tape that I dislike: Using masking tape as a depth indicator on a drill bit. Sure, the first couple holes you make will be OK. But the tape soon slips up the bit and you are drilling too deep , sometimes clear through your workpiece.

For many years I used the Stanley No. 49 bit gauge, which threads onto an auger. I’d show you a photo of it but mine is lost somewhere behind my bench. I’ve never liked the thing. It is fussy to adjust , like a really slow handscrew clamp.

About two or three years back I bought a new old stock Stanley No. 47 bit gauge from Tools for Working Wood. Joel Moskowitz stumbled on a cache of the suckers that were still attached to their original cards.

I snapped one up. Boy am I glad I did.

This gizmo is fast, accurate and doesn’t slip. You loosen one thumbscrew, then you can slide the stop up or down the shaft of your auger. And while it’s loose you can also move the springy stop for fine adjustments.

And, best of all, the spring makes an intoxicating “sproing” noise when agitated , just like the springy door stops of my youth. Those were one of my favorite toys. This was before cable television.

If you see one of these guys, snap it up. I’ve seen them for sale for about $20. Perhaps someone makes this style of bit gauge and can provide a link in the comments section below.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 10 comments
  • Lee Laird

    Wow, glad you clarified about this product. My initial view of the picture had me feeling bad that you’d bent your new toy. lol

  • Love it – and the best part is that I can go home and improvise it out of stuff I already have, rather than trying to hunt for one. . .


  • Bruce Lee

    Looks a LOT like a Lee Valley figure 8 finger clamp with a length of hardware store spring in one jaw & the auger shaft in the other. Maybe another product in line for Rob Lee to re-introduce.

  • Josh B

    I have one of those and absolutely love it, best depth stop for a brace you can find. I’ve also found a handy off-label use for it (other than zoning out for an hour making sproingy noises). If you set it really shallow, like a 1/4 inch above the spurs it lets you know real quick if you’re boring straight and square to the stock. Probably more trouble than it’s worth once you’re comfortable using a brace but could be handy as training wheels for someone new to using a brace and bit.



  • Christopher Schwarz

    That’s what I did until I bought this bit gauge. The only downside to the Sharpie approach is when you need several holes of different depths. You end up using different colors…. Also, sometimes I found that the chips obscured the barks on the flutes. So I was brushing chips away a lot more.

    Just my 2 cents.


  • Ken

    I just use a Sharpie to mark the depth on my augers. It doesn’t slip, is infinitely adjustable, and is cheap.

  • David Rohm


    You realize, of course, that you can never stop being boring.

    (and thank goodness for that!!)

  • Christopher Schwarz


    It is just years and years of reading and experimenting and buying dumb stuff.

    Check out "required reading" on my blog for my favorite books and resources.

  • Jared Wayne

    where can I learn about these old tools? You are always dropping some new crazy tool that busts my head!

    I have been incorporating more and more hand tools into my repertoire, and I am loving it! They are making my work better and inspiring me in new ways.

    What books are you looking to? Any suggestions?

    thanks for the inspiration as usual! I read your blog everyday to get me pumped up to go out and design and build!


  • John Walkowiak


    May I suggest you check out and join the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association:
    At our meetings you will find many tables full of old, funky, and perfectly usable tools such as Chris uses and the new toolmakers copy.
    At these meetings you can discover, handle and examine the tools you read about in old books, the tools craftsmen who worked wood used before electricity. There may also be other tool collecting groups close to you.
    Good luck and have fun!

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