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A marking gauge is one of the principal tools used to set out work. This Japanese style gauge is easy to make and use, although there is some simple metalwork involved, including silver soldering.

Degree of difficulty: Intermediate
Dimensions given are not critical.

Tool menu

You will need the following tools to complete the project:

Also needed:

  • 6mm bolt, min 75mm long, part threaded
  • 6mm nut square
  • Oak offcut approx 250 x 120 x 20mm
  • Small pieces of steel approx 1mm thick
  • HSS blank for the blade
  • 20mm square steel tube
  • Mixing container for flux
  • Butane gas torch
  • Pencil

Step 1

Prepare blank, make one end (arrowed) square.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_01

Step 2

Mark out position for square 6mm nut slot (45mm from square end, arrowed). Mark out position for 12mm slot, 30mm long (arrowed) and 60mm from square end.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_02

Step 3

Rout slot for 6mm square nut, 15mm deep.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_03

Step 4

Rout 12mm slot, approx 30mm long, to go completely through the oak. Waste material required underneath.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_04

Step 5

Mark out stock size (arrowed) 125 x 60 mm. Make sawn end square.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_05

Step 6

Mark the centre of the end for 6.5mm drill (arrowed).

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_06

Step 7

Mount stock in vice in drill press, ensure stock is vertical, drill 6.5mm hole.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_07

Step 8

Ensure nut and bolt engage.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_08

Step 9

Mark out shape on stock, cut and sand.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_09

Step 10

Cut stem from oak offcut, leave overlong. Machine to 25 x 12mm, plane and sand to fit 12mm routed slot in stock.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_10

Step 11

Prepare HSS cutter, make slightly tapered (arrowed). Drill 4mm hole in stem, mark and cut 10° slot. Sharpen cutter, bevel to face towards stock.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_11

Step 12

Prepare pressure plate, bend at 90° around square tube. Smooth all edges to remove burrs. Note taper on each flange.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_12

Step 13

Prepare small rectangle for turnscrew. Cut off end of bolt (arrowed).

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_13

Step 14

Cut shallow slot in end of bolt. Thoroughly clean all steel surfaces. Optional – glue handle blank into slot with quick setting epoxy.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_14

Step 15

Use water to mix Easy Flo Flux to a thick paste.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_15

Step 16

Insert turnscrew blank into slot, paint with flux, add 6mm long pellet of silver solder. Heat with gas torch until silver solder flows around joint. Allow to cool.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_16

Step 17

Clean off black oxide and finish turnscrew.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_17

Step 18

Cut stem to 220mm long, square cut end. Smooth all faces of stock and stem, plane off sharp edges. Tap HSS cutter into stem (1mm protrusion on reverse side). Insert pressure plate, stem and turnscrew.

making_a_japanese_marking_gauge_18
  • Alan

    “6mm bolt… part threaded” If it was threaded all the way along it would be a screw, not a bolt. Such basic a mistake in this doesn’t inspire confidence.

    • Rob Stoakley

      Thanks for the comment Alan, much appreciated, but have a swift peek at this Wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Screw. It’s a confusing issue at best and whether it’a ‘bolt’ or a ‘screw’ is open to interpretation, but I’ve always called this type of fastener a ‘bolt’. Bolt or screw, it doesn’t detract from how well this particular Japanese gauge works, or how easy it is to make.

      • TheBuccy

        Don’t worry, Alan is what we call in the profession a narcissist, never happy unless criticising or undermining others to get a buzz.

        • Rob Stoakley

          I’m far too old and far too ugly to be put off by Alan’s comments, but we welcome all remarks and observations none the less. Allan’s post does raise some interesting ideas on the definitions of a bolt or screw which I hadn’t really considered and it was only when I saw the relevant Wiki page did I realise that it’a a more complex issue than I at first thought.

          • TheBuccy

            point taken. Good project though.

  • BigBadBen

    A good project, but step 11…. It really needs to be broken down into 5 or 6 sub-steps. Remember this is for wood workers, many of whom will probably have no idea how to cut / shape / sharpen a piece of hss. It’s only when it tells you about fitting it that you learn it needs a single bevel, not a double one. Also, there’s no explanation about how to cut the slot for the blade.

    • Rob Stoakley

      Some good points, many thanks. I should have elaborated on the blade material, which in this case was an oddment from an old planer blade, but the easiest way to obtain a small piece of HSS is by using a piece of hacksaw blade. However, it can’t be cut in the normal way so I ‘cut’ the stuff using a small abrasive disc in a Proxxon mini drill. Shaping and sharpening is much easier as it’s done on the disc sander. The slot is cut using the coping saw as listed, threading the blade through the 4mm hole, then re-assembling and tensioning the saw. Again, pic(s) showing the process would have aided clarity. Thanks again for your comments, which as ever are much appreciated.

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