The Anarchist’s Gift Guide, Day 7 - Popular Woodworking Magazine

The Anarchist’s Gift Guide, Day 7

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Marking and Measuring, Personal Favorites, Woodworking Blogs


The last two items on my list are for woodworkers who have been very good this year. They are a bit more expensive than the other items on my list, but they are excellent tools.

Of those last two items, the first is the Saddle-Tail from Sterling Tool Works, a one-man toolmaking company in Maryland. The Saddle-Tail is a dovetail marker that, in my opinion, trumps the others I have used. It is a nice little tool that has a nice presence in the hand and does lots of things that other dovetail markers don’t do.

Full disclosure: The Saddle-Tail is based on a tool I have in my tool chest and is similar (in some ways) to markers made by many other markers on the market. I have no financial interest in the tool, the company. I don’t receive royalties. I even paid full retail for mine.

Some details of the Saddle-Tail that are very nice.

1. Durable materials. I have worn out markers made from aluminum or wood.
2. It offers a bold 1:4 dovetail slope. Most other markers have shallower slopes. I like the bold slope.
3. The brass arm of the Saddle-Tail is long enough to mark out tails when gang-cutting 3/4” carcases. Yup. It reaches across the 1-1/2” space.
4. You can mark in two dimensions at once. Mark the end grain and face grain without moving the marker. This reduces the chance for error.
5. The little recess on the brass part of the square – this help you pull the square tight against the work. It’s a nice detail.

If you don’t use dovetail markers, good for you. If you use a dovetail marker, this is the best one I’ve encountered yet. It is $75 plus shipping. More details at Sterling Tool Works.

— Christopher Schwarz

Read other days of my gift guide:
Day 1 is here. Rockler Mini Drill Bit Set
Day 2 is here. Brownell’s gunsmith drivers
Day 3 is here. Grip mini pry bar
Day 4 is here. Tiger Flakes
Day 5 is here. Grammercy Holdfasts
Day 6 is here. Draft-Matic pencils

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Showing 13 comments
  • redguy

    Looks like a well made and useful tool (I appreciate the quality), plus one on using stainless over O1; at $75.00, in an impulsive moment, I might have pulled the trigger but then to still be on the hook for shipping (and handling?) for an additional $9.50 (to the west coast)? I’m not seeing the value for the buck here. Hoping either Woodjoy Tools will defend the challenge at a real-world price or Sterling Tool Works will decide to sell more at a fair-minded price instead of a few at a premium.

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      Redguy, I have both dovetail markers, and they both work well – but there is a lot more material in the Sterling gauge (which is 4:1), which speaks to the price differential; it’s both larger (which makes it a little easier to grip) and a great deal heavier than the Woodjoy (6:1 & 8:1). I like them both.

    • Chris Kuehn


      Thank you for the feedback, its most appreciated. I have added economy shipping for $6.50 as an option which includes $50 of insurance. The $9.50 included insurance for the entire value of $75. Its the buyers choice.

      I have quite a lot of machining time in each unit, more than whats needed for sure. Each edge of the brass handle is nicely chamfered, the addition of flutes etc. With all this machine time its a very fair price but it is a premium product and as such I am aware it may not suit everyone.

      Thank you again for your feedback.

      Sterling Tool Works

      • gumpbelly

        Missed is the discussion that once again we are bringing machine shop tolerances into woodworking. I don`t doubt your time at handwork, but. I agree totally with the poster saying it`s an item that one could make. But I wrote today mostly to suggest what may be more palatable. $79.99 shipped free, fully insured. I`m sure you could make that work for those who are about to beat a path to your door.

  • Fraise

    I have a 1/7 slope drawn on my bench. Then I can just set my gauge to it any time I want. Whatll I spend my 75 buckeroos on?

  • rljatl

    Wish he had used stainless steel instead of O1.

  • renaissanceww

    I’m particularly fond of the images on the Sterling Toolworks web site! 😉 I have one too and I like the way it naturally balances in your hand so that when I move from one pin/tail to the next it kinda sticks to my hand. Hard to describe but it just feels right in my hand. I DO have a vested interest in this company because the founder is a friend of mine and I like to see my friends succeed. So you can discount everything I have said because I must be biased.

  • woddawg

    Paul Sellers has a great video on YouTube for those intrrested in making a dovetail guide. His is 1:7 slope though. A nice compromise between the 6:1 & 8:1.

  • themavericktexan

    If anyone’s curious, a 1:4 ratio is very close to 14-degrees.

    (That is, less than 4 hundredths of a degree.)

    • Chris Kuehn

      Yes you are absolutely correct! There was much debate about going 14 degrees or 1:4. The ratio 1:4 won out since most dovetail markers use ratios.

    • Chris Kuehn

      Yes you are absolutely correct, they are incredibly close!
      There was a bit debating between using the 14 degree or the 1:4 slope for the angle. Since most dovetails are referred to as a slope we chose to use the slope.

  • Billy's Little Bench

    Sorry to say, I think this falls into the category of, “If you can make it yourself, then don’t buy it”.

  • Jonathan Szczepanski


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