Marking Gauges: The Clamps of the Hand Tool World
Really, I have enough clamps , a couple dozen , to do just about anything.
If I can’t clamp it, I can always use pinch dogs, drawboring or some other dodge to get the job done.
But I don’t think I have enough marking gauges. I always have at least three or four set up for a project at any given time. This week I have four unfinished projects on my bench, and I’m running out of gauges.
If you’re a regular here, you know that I like the Tite-Mark cutting gauge. It is a marvel of micro-adjustable engineering. Today, let me introduce you to my other favorite gauge: The Les Outils Cullen slitting gauge (it’s also a cutting gauge).
This gauge is made from Dymondwood, brass and steel. Dymondwood is a high-end plywood-like product that looks like an exotic wood and is durable and stable. The fit and finish of the Les Outils Cullen is superb. It’s one of those tools where they make all the screw heads line up (somewhere, there’s an engineer who is tingly all over right now).
Two features of this gauge make it stand out: The knife itself and the mechanism that locks the head to the beam. What I like about the knife is that you can easily reverse it in the beam. That means you can go to marking the baselines for your dovetails to slitting thin pieces of stock with just a simple turn of a thumbscrew. The knife comes quite sharp, is the proper shape and can score deeply if you ask it to, such as when defining the field of a raised panel.
The locking mechanism is the other standout. The bottom part of the beam is radiused and it drops into a matching cove in the head. A large thumbscrew locks everything in place. It is very solid all-in-all , I cannot detect any of the wiggling shimmy that plagues cheap gauges.
Les Outils Cullen Tools in Quebec makes a number of gauges that range in price from $39.95 to $79.95. The slitting gauge is $54.95 from TheBestThings.com. Highly recommended.
– Christopher Schwarz
You may also be interested in the “Mastering Hand Tools” DVD from Christopher Schwarz.