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Building a Twist-Lock Marking Gauge by Jim Hendricks

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Recently I received a beautiful old rosewood twist-lock marking gauge.



I thought that this would make a superb tool to build. Something simple, yet deceptively clever.

First we will discuss stock selection, show how the original was measured and how these dimensions are transferred to the raw stock.


What You Will Need

You can use off-cuts and even if you don't have anything suitable, you can get even expensive exotics fairly cheaply from woodturner suppliers as you won't need very large pieces at all.

The best wood for this type of tool is a species which will withstand the rigors of constant use. Most of the value of a homemade tool is the time spent making it, so it does not make sense to use a soft or unsuitable wood.

Traditional stock includes boxwood, ebony, rosewood, beech, maple, hornbeam and many more of the hard exotics too numerous to list them all.

I have chosen English boxwood which is available in "the round". Since you will almost certainly start with squared stock you can ignore the first part of this article, just size it as follows:

  • 1 block 3"x2"x1" for the head

  • 1 piece 3/4"x3/4"x9" for the bar

This is slightly oversized but we are aiming to get a bar diameter of 2/3", so bear this in mind.

This is the original "twist-lock" marking gauge made out of rosewood and using a simple screw as the cutter.

I will also use a screw in our new gauge but then I will show how to make a cutter from O1 tool steel (gauge plate) or from a piece of old bandsaw blade and a brass wedge if you want to make your gauge a bit special. As you will see however, this simple solution works very well indeed!

The principle of the "twist lock" mechanism is simply a cam. The hole is comma shaped, being a true circle with an extended curve key. The bar is the same shape so it will fit easily into the hole if you line it up with the comma.

A simple twist however, will bring the thicker part of the bar into contact with the thinner part of the head hole and thus lock it in place, very firmly indeed! And that is it!


Woodworker's Guide to Wood Collection only $79.99 at Shop Woodworking
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Marking Gauge




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