The 8 Best Marking Gauges
This wiki has been updated 18 times since it was first published in August of 2019. Marking gauges are woodworking tools that are used to lay out lines parallel to a flat surface to help indicate where material needs to be cut out. They consist of a long beam, a headpiece, a locking screw, and a scribing instrument, such as a knife, a pin, or a wheel. Our selections include a variety of high-quality models that may be used for many different styles of joinery. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 08, 2020:
Replaced the Bora Footprint Series 1876 with the Bora Footprint 560101. Added the Fujiwara Kebiki.
I hesitated to add the Japanese-style Fujiwara Kebiki because of well-known problems with the design of Japanese marking gauges. They use wedges to hold the fence in place, which is much more of a hassle to adjust than the knobs on western marking gauges. The knives are also typically difficult to adjust in depth since you would have to remove them and file out the channel and if you're not careful, you'll end up with an asymmetrical channel that causes the blade to be off square, and then you'll have to file some more. Of course, now you may have filed so much that the blade sits deeper than you intended. If you try to hammer it deeper, it will split the stem so I would refrain from doing that.
I suppose that the primary reason some woodworkers prefer the Japanese marking gauge is because it uses an actual knife that can be sharpened as much as a chisel. The benefit is that it doesn't wander as much as the pins and wheels in western gauges while cutting with the grain. This then is why I felt I should include it even though I am not particularly fond of them. I should note that I vastly prefer pulling a Japanese hand saw over pushing its western counterpart.
August 21, 2019:
Marking gauges are an essential tool for woodworking that cut down on prep time. Laying out cuts can be time consuming and getting it wrong may be devastating when working on hundred-dollar pieces of lumber. I personally enjoy wheel-style marking gauges like the Rockler 26452045 over the cumbersome pin-style because it is quicker to operate, and the pin-style gauges will often not come with scales. I've used the Rockler gauge for many years and have no complaints. The scale doesn't fade, it is easy to adjust, and the wheel is still sharp enough to mark hardwoods across the grain (I don't think wheels need to be knife sharp). However, double-pin gauges like the Crown Hand Tools 154 are much more useful for laying out mortises than wheel-style gauges, particularly if you're cutting a lot of them and don't have to adjust the pins. If you're laying out tenons, I find the wheel-type gauges a better option because they allow for quicker depth changes.
Working on wood creates fine particles that are harmful if inhaled. Remember to use proper breathing protection to avoid health complications.