Wood working is a craft that’s all about precision. For a wood working project to come together correctly, it must be made with specific cuts and joints that come together seamlessly.
With this high level of precision, it’s important to mark and cut the wood exactly right. Even being off by just 1/32” can ruin the entire project and affect its stability and durability.
To really get precise measurements and cuts on the wood, you’ll need to get a marking gauge. There are three different types, and you’ll likely need more than one in your tool kit to get the job done more efficiently.
So, what is the best marking gauge for wood working? The best marking gauge for wood working is made with sturdy material, has a sharp cutting instrument, is affordable, and has a good design that’s right for your intended use.
There are plenty of marking gauges on the market to choose from. However, it’s important to distinguish the well-made marking gauges from ones of lesser quality. The tiniest mistake in your marking gauge’s ruler can throw off your entire project.
In this article, we’ll help you find the best marking gauges available. You’ll learn the different types, what makes a good marking gauge, and have a selection of products to choose from for your workshop.
What Are Marking Gauges Used For In Wood Working?
In order to take pieces of wood and turn them into stunning pieces of furniture, they have to be cut, arranged, and secured together.
These cuts must be exact to ensure the pieces will all come together at exactly the right angles, leaving no gaps and creating no crooked or uneven heights. Marking gauges help you get those exact measurements to cut and arrange your wood perfectly.
There are different types of marking gauges, which we’ll review in the next section below, but all of them have the same basic function.
A marking gauge is generally made with a long rod of wood or metal, called a beam or stem, that has measurement markings along the length. These markings are generally in both the imperial and metric system.
Intersected on this beam is what’s referred to as a fence or stock. This fence is either a large piece of wood or a wheel, depending on the type of marking gauge. The final piece of a marking gauge is either a pin, a knife, or a pencil.
By aligning the fence along the beam, you choose how far into the wood you want to make your marking. Once you’ve set the measurement, you place the fence right up against the edge of your wood with your pin on the wood piece and drag across.
This is what makes the marking on your wood. If you use a marking gauge with a pin or knife, it will cut into the wood. If you use one with a pencil, it will simply mark the wood with a pencil line.
Types Of Marking Gauges
As we noted above, there are three types of marking gauges. The first, a conventional or traditional marking gauge, is very simple. It’s made with the beam, the fence, and a metal pin to mark your wood.
These pins are very small and very sharp. You can purchase replacements for them, or you can sharpen them over time to keep them fresh.
Because these are the traditional type, they’re very easy to find and are generally relatively cheap. They work well on all wood types, whether soft or hard wood. If you have trouble using one with a harder wood, try sharpening your pin.
Traditional marking gauges also come with a pencil instead of a pin. Some can even be dual purpose, coming with the ability to hold both a pencil and a metal pin.
The second type of marking gauge is a cutting gauge. This is the type that uses a knife blade instead of a pin to do the marking. Rather than a light score of the wood, the knife blade will cut a little more into the surface.
Because cutting gauges have an actual length of blade, they tend to make cleaner cuts.
Sometimes with traditional marking gauges, the pin can scratch across the wood grain and tear at the wood instead of marking. With cutting gauges, you don’t have that problem.
The last type of marking gauge is called a wheel marking gauge. These are the gauges that have a wheel along the beam instead of a large piece of wood for the fence.
Sometimes these wheels are fully round, and sometimes they have one or two flat edges. These flat edges prevent your marking gauge from rolling onto the floor, which can be an issue with the fully round wheels.
At the end of the stem, rather than a pin or knife, you’ll find a round cutting edge. It looks like a ring that’s been screwed into the edge of the stem.
This round cutting edge has a similar mark as the knife blade on cutting gauges. It will leave a good mark in the wood without too much tearing.
At the end of the day, each of these marking gauges will work great. They’re all only as good as the blade or pencil at the end of the stem, so be sure to choose one that has a sharp cutting instrument.
Marking Gauges For Wood Working – Buyer’s Guide
Whether you go for a traditional, cutting, or wheel marking gauge, the important qualities to look for are that it’s well-made with sturdy material, has a sharp cutting instrument, is affordable, and has a good design that’s right for your project.
With so many options on the market, you want to make sure you’re getting a marking gauge that’s worth your money. Let’s explore why these qualities are important and what value they’ll add to your tool kit.
1. Sturdy Material
Marking gauges are available in a wide range of materials.
You can find marking gauges in various types of wood, aluminum, plastic, brass, and even hardened steel.
Some common types of wood used to create marking gauges are maple, beech, and rosewood. This is because these woods are hard and have a great resistance to rot.
Plastic can be good since it’s cheap and will generally work fine. It may not be as durable as wood or metals, but it will come at a lower price compared to the wood and metal marking gauges.
When choosing a metal gauge, keep in mind that depending on the metal these can be heavy. Aluminum will be more lightweight compared to brass or steel.
Consider the conditions of your wood shop. Choose a material that will stand up to the environment you have.
If you know your wood shop is susceptible to high levels of moisture and humidity, plastic may be the best choice. Wood can be water damaged and metal can rust over time.
If you have a clean and dry area to practice your wood working, you can safely choose wood or metal.
2. Sharp Cutting Instrument
Your marking gauge is only as good as the cutting instrument (or pencil) that you’re using.
Whether you use a pin, knife, wheel, or pencil doesn’t matter. The important part is that your marking instrument is sharp.
We mentioned above that sometimes the pins can lead to tearing in the wood. Knives and the round cutting edges of wheel marking gauges can also cause tearing if they’re too dull or low quality.
To avoid any disaster of ripping up your wood grain, you’ll want to be sure your cutting instrument is sharp and ready to cut into any type of wood, no matter how soft or hard.
Most pins and blades can be sharpened, but this can be a difficult process since they’re so small and difficult to hold.
You can generally purchase replacement blades and pins for relatively cheap, which may be a better option. Just be sure your replacement cutting instrument will still fit your marking gauge.
Regardless of the type of marking gauge you choose, it should be relatively cheap. A marking gauge is a common instrument that is used by not only wood workers, but metal workers as well.
With how common they are and the different materials and types available, you should be able to find one for as cheap as $10-20.
Some may run a little higher in price, closer to $30-50, but these should also reflect that price by being higher quality.
It is true that you get what you pay for, but with a marking gauge, you don’t need anything extravagant. At the end of the day, all it’s doing is marking a piece of wood.
If you have the money to spend and want to invest in a marking gauge that’s top quality, you can certainly find some for around $100-200.
However, beginner wood workers shouldn’t feel like this price tag is necessary. You can find a marking gauge that will work nearly the same for significantly less money.
4. Good Design
When it comes to marking gauges, the design is important in determining if it will work for your particular project. There are some marking gauges that can only cut in a straight, parallel line, and some that can cut along rounded edges.
You’ll also find a difference between the traditional and cutting marking gauges compared to the wheel marking gauges, since the stock can either be a piece of wood or a metal wheel.
You want to find a marking gauge that has a design that works for your project.
This is why many wood workers tend to purchase more than one marking gauges. It can be helpful to have several that cut straight lines and several that cut curves.
The more you have, the less you have to readjust. If you’re working to create multiple cuts and measurements of different lengths to get the joints right, only having one marking gauge means you’ll have to constantly readjust the settings.
Having more than one marking gauge means you’ll be able to set each of them to a specific measurement you need, and leave them at that measurement until you’ve marked all your separate wood pieces.
The Best Marking Gauges For Wood Working
Now that you know the top qualities to look for in a marking gauge for wood working, you’re ready to purchase one (or multiple) of your own.
We’ve put together a list of our top 9 recommended products for you to choose from. There are marking gauges in different styles to accommodate many types of wood working projects.
Review our list, add a few to your shopping cart, and get ready to mark some wood!
|1.||MKC Wheel Marking Gauge Kit 2 Extra Blades||Stainless steel, pre-sharpened, wheel|
|2.||Clarke Brothers Wheel Marking Gauge Kit||Steel and brass, two extra blades, wheel|
|3.||KAKURI Wood Marking Gauge||Bamboo, precise knife blade|
|4.||iGaging AccuMarking Digital Wheel Marking Gauge||Digital readout, rust-resistant round blade|
|5.||iGaging Wheel Marking Gauge||Rotates while cutting, easy to use, extra blade|
|6.||Newkiton Wheel Marking Gauge Multi With Dual Function||Dual function, marking pencil and pins|
|7.||VISLONE Wheel Marking Gauge||Curved markings, scratch-resistant|
|8.||Kattool Mortise Gauge||For mortise joints, two sides - 1 and 2 pin|
|9.||Woodraphic Professional Dual Function Scriber Gauge||Great for corners and odd-shaped edges|
1. MKC Wheel Marking Gauge Kit 2 Extra Blades
The MKC marking gauge is highly regarded as being one of the best marking gauges on the market.
The design consists of a stainless-steel stem with a brass and hardwood fence. For those looking for a wheel marking gauge, this one just can’t be beat.
It has two flat edges on the wheel fence to help keep your marking gauge from rolling off of your work bench (and potentially onto your feet!) while working.
The stem has both metric and imperial measurements to aid in whatever system you use. Because it’s stainless steel, the black measurements are easy to read.
The round cutting blade it comes with is also pre-sharpened and made from HSS steel with good heat treatment. It won’t fall apart or tear up your wood.
It also comes with two extra blades, so even when your first one starts wearing out or becoming dull, you have two more ready to switch out.
It is on more of the middle end of the price range for marking gauges, but for good reason. This marking gauge is well worth the money and will work for you long-term.
2. Clarke Brothers Wheel Marking Gauge Kit
The Clarke Brothers wheel marking gauge is another popular gauge among wood workers.
This gauge is high quality, made from all metal with no wood insert. The stem and round cutting blade are made with hardened steel, while the wheel fence is made from brass.
These materials may feel heavier in the hand, so keep this in mind as you choose the right gauge for you.
The wheel fence features the two flat edges that prevent it from rolling onto the floor, which are always a top thing to look for with wheel marking gauges.
It also has both the imperial and metric scales for measurements.
The thumbscrews used to keep the fence in place on the stem are large enough to give you a better grip while twisting and better security and stability while working.
Because the round cutting edge is locked in place with a screw, it won’t roll as you cut. This allows you to apply more pressure and cut into even hard wood pieces.
It also comes with two extra blades in case of breakage or dull edges.
This marking gauge is comparable in price to the MKC marking gauge listed above, so feel free to choose either one (or one of each)!
3. KAKURI Wood Marking Gauge
The KAKURI marking gauge may look a little different compared to American styles, but this Japanese style will work just the same.
Made entirely of natural Japanese bamboo, this wooden marking gauge won’t break, warp, rust, or bend with time.
Rather than a wheel marking gauge, this marking gauge features a knife blade to make the cut. When you’re not using the marking gauge, the knife blade stores easily in the wooden fence for safety.
The notches made along the wooden beam make it easy to see what measurement you’re setting, helping you create more precise markings.
4. iGaging AccuMarking Digital Wheel Marking Gauge
This iGaging marking gauge model offers a different type of marking gauge – digital.
If you’d rather have a digital readout to help you create precise measurements than try to trust your own eye, this is the perfect marking gauge for you.
Rather than having a wooden or wheel fence, this marking gauge features a digital box that tells you your measurement as you move it along the beam.
You’ll have to be careful with using a digital marking gauge to ensure the readout is giving you precise and accurate measurements. Not all digital gauges work well, so be sure to calibrate yours.
The cutting edge is a rounded blade, similar to the blade on wheel marking gauges. It’s made from hardened alloy and is humidity and dust resistant.
5. iGaging Wheel Marking Gauge
If you like the brand iGaging but don’t want a digital marking gauge, they also offer this wheel marking gauge.
It has a similar design to the Clarke Brothers marking gauge with a brass fence and steel beam.
However, rather than locking in place, the cutting wheel will rotate as it cuts.
This can help keep a smoother cut and avoid tearing but may also create uneven lines. It depends on how you use it, so get one and try it out to see if this is the right tool for you.
This gauge also comes with one extra marking blade, so if your first one breaks, you have another one easily on hand.
6. Newkiton Wheel Marking Gauge Multi With Dual Function
The Newkiton is our first of two wheel marking gauges that features a design ready to cut rounded edges as well as parallel lines.
This marking gauge features two poles added to the wheel fence that help guide the gauge around any curved edges of rounded wood.
The Newkiton marking gauge is also the first dual function gauge on our list. This gauge comes with a set of marking pencils as well as marking pins, so you can choose to either score or draw the lines onto your wood.
If you’re looking for a marking gauge with versatility across all projects and types of woods, this one is it.
7. VISLONE Wheel Marking Gauge
The VISLONE marking gauge is our second round-edge marking gauge.
With a similar design to the Newkiton marking gauge, it operates on two bars that protrude from the wheel fence. These bars guide it along a rounded edge to create a curved marking, rather than a straight line.
Made of aluminum alloy, this marking gauge is built to last long-term, resistant to common wear and tear.
It’s another versatile marking gauge that can be used with a pencil or pin.
It comes in two styles, so check out both of them and choose the one that looks right for you.
8. Kattool Mortise Gauge
The Kattool mortise gauge is specifically designed to be used not just for marking straight lines, but for marking mortise joints.
Mortise joints are typically made using a square-shaped drill rather than a circular drill. To line up the square in the right way, a mortise gauge can be used.
This mortise gauge comes with one side that has two pins, designed to be fitted for a mortise joint, and a single pin for singular line drawing.
9. Woodraphic Professional Dual Function Scriber Gauge
Our final marking gauge is one that doesn’t come with its own cutting instrument, but has such versatility that we had to include it.
This marking gauge can be adjusted to fit any edge of any type of wood piece. Simply line it up for your surface and draw along the edge with a pencil to create the mark.
This gauge can be helpful for corners, odd-shaped angles, or other unique wood shapes.