Making layout marks as you move through a project

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Forum topic by JeffP posted 02-01-2015 12:19 PM 1340 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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573 posts in 1590 days

02-01-2015 12:19 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tip question

Ok, I’ll admit it, I have a problem. I have become addicted to watching woodworking videos.

In all of that watching, I have seen a good many woodworkers preface something they are doing or about to do with “I always like to…” In other words, they have developed a habit, a way of working, a rote process by which they reduce the tendency to screw up.

One of the most common ones, and one that I have not yet developed for myself is various kinds of layout markings.

The one I see the most is when somebody does a clean-up cross cut, with a jointed edge against the fence, they will often put a little “90 degree” mark at the corner that the cut created. The idea being that when they later cut that board to final length, they want to shorten the other end, since this end is good and square.

I have a few questions for the well-seasoned members here related to such marking habits:

1) Do most of you do it (layout marks in general, not just the one above)?

2) What do you mark with and why (chalk, pencil, ink, something else)?

3) Other than the above-mentioned corner thing, what other layout marks have you found helpful?

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

8 replies so far

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

11061 posts in 3626 days

#1 posted 02-01-2015 12:53 PM

Triangles on faces of two mating boards for alignment and insuring the same two go back together.
Marking the “good” face or edge.
When planing several boards, mark the planed face as it come out so you know which side to plane on the subsequent pass.
I’ll often number and/or letter adjoining pieces in a multi piece glue up. Like, several cabinet door rails and stiles of different sizes.
With some difficult woods, I’ll mark the grain direction prior to milling.

For marking the above, I use a soft leaded pencil that’s easy to erase. For dark woods, I stole one of my wife’s white fabric markers.
Another tip, a Staedtler Mars eraser is the best I’ve found for pencil marks on wood.

For measurement marks, I use a knife.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View Redoak49's profile


3661 posts in 2186 days

#2 posted 02-01-2015 01:18 PM

On a cabinet build I do several things

I make drawings with letters for each piece
I layout all the rough boards and look them over and use chalk initially to guide cutting. Once I start planing to final thickness I use a soft pencil on the edges and after that will mark end or edges with pencil.

Like Gene I will mark boards when making wide glue ups so I keep them properly oriented.

Some people do very little marking but I am more comfortable marking everything according to my drawing and cutting list.

View ChefHDAN's profile


1171 posts in 3047 days

#3 posted 02-01-2015 01:47 PM

Agreed with Gene & Red Oak above, but I’ve got to add blue tape. I find that sometimes in the repetitive processes I can get my brain on auto pilot and there are times I’ve put the faces into the tools on the wrong side, I’m particularly good at this with the pocket hole jig, handy tool but not pretty on the faces. THe blue tape is a loud and clear visual that I don’t tend to miss, once I know a face is done.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

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5086 posts in 2549 days

#4 posted 02-01-2015 01:48 PM

I use the triangle quite a bit to line up panels and mating parts. I also number or letter parts once they are fitted so I know which tenon belongs to which mortise. I also use a curly mark to indicate the face and top of boards. I will either use a lumber crayon or lately I have gotten hold of a big fat soft pencil that works well.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Tennessee's profile


2893 posts in 2712 days

#5 posted 02-01-2015 02:09 PM

Since I build a lot of rounded things like guitars and jewelry boxes, I tend to use French Curves and pencil for layout. I do use pencil and triangle for layout of things like pickups in my guitars, and neck placements and bridge placements.
I use standard #2 pencils, and keep a lot of those pink erasers lying around. A pencil mark is much more easily removed with an eraser than trying to sand it off. I also keep two pencil sharpeners mounted in a couple of places, the old types with the steel sharpening wheels like we used to use in grade school.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View JeffP's profile


573 posts in 1590 days

#6 posted 02-01-2015 02:42 PM

Talk to me about chalk vs. carpenters pencil for these non-measurement markings…

-- Last week I finally got my $*i# together. Unfortunately, it was in my shop, so I will probably never find it again.

View waho6o9's profile (online now)


8516 posts in 2775 days

#7 posted 02-01-2015 02:51 PM

Great thread, suggestions and ideas.

I mark top, bottom, left side, right side, etc… in places not seen

with pencil, marks a lot, or crayon on exotics and it saved my bacon

more than once. :)

View HornedWoodwork's profile


222 posts in 1412 days

#8 posted 02-01-2015 05:03 PM

I mark a lot. I number or letter joints, use the carpenter’s triangle, the face mark, good or true edge, 90 degree square. I also use blue masking tape a lot to carry this information. I also use blue masking tape to signal “no go” edges and where I want to stop cuts as it is very visible. When grooving drawers I assemble them and mark the groove layout while assembled (keeps from grooving the face of the board or the wrong edge, which I’ve done a few times)

I mark with a standard pencil for my non-layout lines. I use a sharp NO.2 (or a mechanical pencil) for layouts but prefer layouts to be cut with a marking knife.)

-- Talent, brilliance, and humility are my virtues.

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