A marking gauge is the most common type of gauge used for marking. It uses a small pin, sometimes referred to as a spur, to mark the wood when the tool is dragged across it.
In its early form, the marking gauge was simply two pieces of wood attached together with a pin through one end for marking. The tool did not measure as it had no scale on it, but it would hold the measurement created by the user across the whole of the workpiece and this is still the tool’s primary function today.
The marking gauge has slightly more features today, with most having some sort of scale or ruler on the stem to allow the user to mark out specific measurements.The measurements can vary between tools with imperial and metric, some however, have both imperial and metric markings.
A marking gauge should only be used to create markings that run in line with the wood grain, this is because if using a pin against the grain, it will produce a jagged line and this will be inaccurate.When marking against the wood grain you should use a cutting gauge.
There is a marking gauge available with a curved topped fence. This is meant to aid comfort whilst marking, meaning it may be useful if marking constantly or for a prolonged period of time to prevent the user getting blisters.
Sizes of marking gauges
Marking gauges are available with varying stem lengths. A regular marking gauge’s stem ranges from 230mm (9″) to 260mm (10.2″) in length. Much larger marking gauges are known as panel gauges – for more information on these see What is a panel gauge?The length of stem you need will depend how far you need the tool to reach across a workpiece.
For more precision marking, smaller marking gauges are available. Sometimes referred to as mini marking gauges, these range in length from 135mm (5.3″) to 150mm (5.9″).
Longer marking gauges can be used to mark small pieces of wood, although this can be more tricky due the stem length getting in the way. Furthermore, if you only need a marking gauge for marking small workpieces then a smaller gauge would be preferable, as the larger the marking gauge, the more it costs.