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      CommentAuthorNick
    • CommentTimeJun 23rd 2009 edited
     
    I like working with a marking gauge when I'm laying out joinery. Not only are the scribed lines crisp and precise, the point of the gauage cuts the wood fibers where you will later make your joinery cuts. This helps prevents tear-outs when doing the power tool work and helps position the chisels when you get to the hand work. Trouble is, I don't know of a single marking gauge (that I can afford) that's set up correctly right out of the box. When I've gotten new ones for friends and students, the first thing I do is remove the scratch point (which is usually mis-sharpened as a cone, like the point of a pencil) and replace it with a shop-made double-ended scratch awl. I usually make them from the shank of a worn-out 1/8"-diameter drill bit since these are made from good tool steel.

    I grind one end with a four-sided point that comes together at about 30 degrees between the opposing sides. This is a good configuration for scratching a line WITH the grain, parallel with the grain direction.

    The other end becomes a double-sided knife edge tapering at about 20 degrees. This is for scratching a line ACROSS the grain, perpedicular to the grain direction. It's imporant that the knife edge be aligned with and parallel to two diagonal corners on the four-sided point.

    Install the scratch points by drilling a hole through the marking gauge arm with a #31 or #32 wire-gauge drill. (These are slightly smaller than 1/8".) Then press the scratch point into the hole. The points should stand proud of the arm 1/8" to 3/16", and the knife edge should be parallel to the face of the gauge.

    With all good wishes,
    Nick
      Marking Gauge.jpg
      Marking Gauge Points.jpg
    • CommentAuthorBeeg
    • CommentTimeJun 23rd 2009
     
    Thanks for the tips, Nick. I'm thinking of starting to use a scratch awl, so I don't have those pencil lines.
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      CommentAuthorNick
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2009
     
    You'll find your awl will cut crisper lines, Beeg, if you resharpen the end to look like the four-sided point shown above. When you use it, one on the corners should lead the cut. This serves as a knife edge and cuts the fibers cleanly. The conical point that probably came with the awl will not do that -- dragging it through the wood is literally cutting with a dull knife. The wood fibers will be torn rather than cut. Your awl should have one flat side on the handle to help position it. The reason for this flat (long forgotten by the woodworking industry) is so the awl will always be oriented in the same direction when you pick it up. Hold it in you hand as if you were about to use it, note which side will contact the wood as you cut your line, and sharpen the awl so that side becomes one of the corners.

    I work with two awls when I do layouts -- one sharpened with a four-side point, the other sharpened like a double-edged knife, exactly like the points on my marking gauge.

    With all good wishes,
    Nick
    • CommentAuthorTooljunkie
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2009 edited
     
    Converting the points on your awls makes a lot of sense. The scratch awl is actually intended for etching lines in metal, so no facets are needed to cut fibers.

    George
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      CommentAuthorNick
    • CommentTimeJun 25th 2009 edited
     
    Good point, George. (Pun intended.) Actually my ancient "Dictionary of Woodworking Tools" lists over 15 types of awls with three distinct uses -- piercing holes completely through a materials (a piercing awl), making pilot holes in wood for nails and screws (a bradawl), and marking (a marking awl). Traditionally, marking awls were a single piece of metal with a pointed end and a flattened end sharpened like a skew chisel. I have a larger version of this tool, called a striking knife which I might use more often if I was in the barn raising business. What we have been talking about here is the "handled marking awl," a tool that was originally intended for piercing but was later adopted by machinists and "mechanicians" for marking layout lines on metal. Drew and I use one of these in our metalworking, George, but we don't actually etch the metal surface with it. Instead, we spread a dark ink on the surface with a marker, then use the point of the marking awl to scrape away the ink, showing shiny lines on a flat blue-black surface.

    With all good wishes,
    Nick
      Marking Awls.jpg
    • CommentAuthorDan CNY
    • CommentTimeApr 27th 2010
     
    Lee-Valley Tools has a nice Marking Gauge that has a cutting wheel on the end. It is a very good product and the value for the money is good as well. Because it is circular you can "roll" the gauge if you need to. The guide on the marking gauge can be pulled down over the marking wheel to protected when not in use. If the wheel or disk on the end needs to be sharpened it is easily done by removing it from the gauge and honing the flat side of the wheel until a the edge is restored.
    • CommentAuthorAijca
    • CommentTimeAug 9th 2012
     
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