Shop-made Cutting Gauge-Hamilton Style

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Project by Brad posted 09-23-2013 09:06 PM 6480 views 28 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Shop-made Cutting Gauge-Hamilton Style
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If you’re like me, you picked up a vintage marking gauge at some point in your woodworking life only to tear the wood fibers with the pin head. Maybe, like me, you did some research on refining the pin…then filed it to the shape of a half-moon profile. That worked ok but the tool still didn’t leave a clean cut.

Frustrating though that was, I back-burnered the problem. Then one day, I came across an article by Ian Kirby detailing the concept of a cutting gauge. That’s simply a marking gauge that uses a blade to mark the wood instead of a pin.

I was intrigued enough by the concept to sacrifice a saber saw blade to create a rounded tip blade for a cutting gauge prototype. Properly shaped, filed and sharpened, my tests showed that the blade works exceptionally well with cross-grain lines. It makes a fine, clear and crisp line by cutting the wood fibers versus tearing them.

The project percolated for a few weeks when one day, over a cup of steaming coffee, this project on Lumberjocks made me perk up.

Click for details

“That’s the ticket,” I thought. “It has an elegant look to it.” Hell. Let’s be honest. The brass bling attracted me to it like a large-mouth bass to a squirming worm. My research revealed that the design is by So I scribbled out a design and resolved to build it.

In retrospect, it was an act of faith to choose some walnut I had lying around. That’s because I had no idea which techniques to use for all the fine work that needed to be done.

My pencil doodles settled on a fence that is 3” wide by ¾” thick. That just “felt” right. The beam is 5” long because any shorter or longer didn’t look right. I shaped the tip of a saber saw blade so that it was round, then put a bevel on it, flattened the back and polished the bevel.

I used 1/8” thick brass for the fence wear strip as well as the blade-retaining plate. I drilled pilot holes in the beam end to retain the blade, then “broke them in” by using a steel screw to create the threads in the wood. Those I hardened with CA, followed by brass screws to maintain the bling motif.

Rockler had the knurled knob (1/4” x 20×1”) and matching knob-thread insert to provide the means to secure the beam to the fence.

The brass-appointed cutting gauge turned out like this.

While I’m not enamored with the “wing” design on the fence—it feels awkward to hold—the design works very well in practice. I used it to mark dovetail baselines in a wedding box I built for a friend.

It’s a joy to use and it performs as advertised on cross-grain markings. And while I’ll keep my modified marking gauges for with-grain lines, my new walnut & brass addition will be my go-to cross-grain tool.


-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

11 comments so far

View bobasaurus's profile


3546 posts in 3418 days

#1 posted 09-23-2013 09:11 PM

Excellent job, this is a fine-looking tool. I’ve been wanting to make one myself, so thanks for sharing all this information. Was it difficult to get the threaded insert in straight? The last few I used went in crooked no matter what I tried.

-- Allen, Colorado (Instagram @bobasaurus_woodworking)

View Brad's profile


1140 posts in 2974 days

#2 posted 09-23-2013 10:23 PM

Bob, I didn’t have any issues with the threaded insert. I drilled the pilot hole, then used a flathead screwdriver to screw that puppy on in.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View theoldfart's profile


10254 posts in 2685 days

#3 posted 09-23-2013 10:28 PM

Brad, I like it! I have one of the old pin style gauge and in spite of re-sharpening the points to an ellipse it still tends to tear. Gotta try something like this. Great job.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View mafe's profile


11770 posts in 3323 days

#4 posted 09-24-2013 12:52 AM

Truly a nice tool.
Lovely in every way.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19034 posts in 2802 days

#5 posted 09-24-2013 12:57 AM

Nice job Brad.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Brad's profile


1140 posts in 2974 days

#6 posted 09-24-2013 02:04 PM

The old fart, I had the SAME experience. The cutting gauge on cross-grain marking is excellent. Thanks mads and Don for your well wishes.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View WayneC's profile


13794 posts in 4331 days

#7 posted 09-24-2013 02:09 PM

Nice little tool.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View stefang's profile


16208 posts in 3568 days

#8 posted 09-24-2013 05:45 PM

Beautiful marking gauge. Excellent work on it too.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View kiefer's profile


5623 posts in 2901 days

#9 posted 09-25-2013 02:57 AM

Well that percolated into a great looking tool .
A well crafted and designed marking gauge .

-- Kiefer

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 3074 days

#10 posted 10-03-2013 01:05 PM

She is a fine marking gauge and a great story.
Thank you for sharing.

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View Brad's profile


1140 posts in 2974 days

#11 posted 01-19-2014 02:20 PM

Here’s a nice YouTube video of a woodworking making a gauge similar to this one. I like his means of affixing the blade to the gauge via an insert.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

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