Thursday, April 11, 2013

Unique Panel Gauge

How many projects have you worked on where you find you could use a tool you don't have?

Last night I was cutting out the parts for my project from the rough lumber.  When doing this by hand, careful layout is required.  I drew outlines of the pieces I needed directly on the board, as seen in my last post.

One needs to know that this isn't the most accurate way of working.  A panel gauge is much better for making a parallel mark to rip an edge.

Problem is, I don't have one.

I decided to make a field expedient, one-time-use version.  I was going to get a stick of wood about the right length, nail on a fence, and drive a nail in the end at the proper distance for the marker.  This would work just fine, except that it is not adjustable.  After cutting out the two boards that I needed this size, I would have to make another version for the next batch of parts.  For this project, I would need a total of four fixed-length panel gauges!

Before I started this, I thought I might look around my shop to see if there was anything laying around that I could get to work better.  My eye caught this bit that had been laying in my scrap bin since I made it:

Remember this?
This was a gizmo I made from a plan by Charles Hayward in a previous blog post.  It's a brace and bit boring guide.  You'll have to read the other post to find out why it was in my scrap bin.  Let's just say it's easier to learn to bore straight holes by eye.  I really like Charles Hayward's writing, but I couldn't understand how this thing would work after I made it.

Examining this piece, I realized that there is an arm that would make a good beam for a panel gauge with a nail driven in the end, and a sliding fence that would work perfect if I could figure out a way to secure it tight.

The first thing was to remove the screws holding the small bits.  Those parts aren't necessary.

I had some bolts that matched a tap left over from my Benchcrafted vice installation, and decided to use this as a securing mechanism.

Tapping a wooden thread.

The bolt seems to hold tight enough with finger pressure.
 The next step was to drive a nail through the other end of the beam, and use a file to sharpen the tip perpendicular to the beam.

As you can see, since I didn't drill a pilot hole for the nail, the wood started to split.  Lesson learned, but I'm not worried about it for this project.  This tool will win no beauty contest, but the nail seems to hold tight enough.

The next step was to install a wider fence.  I found a suitable scrap of oak, countersunk a couple pilot holes, and screwed it into the walnut block using the screw holes left over from the other gadget that used to be there.

Ugly, but functional.

The whole project took only about 15 minutes.  This wasn't really a build, as much as it was re-purposing a useless gizmo.

It seems to work well, as long as I use a light touch.  If I need it to be longer, it will be a quick matter to make a longer beam out of whatever I have handy. Someday I would like to make a proper panel gauge, but this will do in the meantime.  It seems to work well enough that I'll keep it in my tool chest until it falls apart.


  1. That is very good use of something from the scrap bin.
    I think it looks sturdy and not ugly.

    1. Thanks, Jonas. The important thing is it works. :o)