Monday, December 2, 2013

Building a Panel Gauge Part III - Completion - SLIDE SHOW

Artsy photo of my version next to the vintage model.

This project was one of the most enjoyable I have ever done.  The thing that made it so great was when I started, I didn't have a clue as to how to do it.  I didn't know how to box the insert, and I had no idea how to make the oval shaped profile on the beam.  The joy in this project came from figuring those things out and watching this project take shape.

I have put together another slide show of the last part of this project.  I couldn't help but take a bunch of artsy photos of the completed project.  This one is just too easy to take pictures of.

In fact, while it is sitting in front of me, I can't quit staring at it.  My wife said it is too nice to use.

Toss the feathers - Otter's holt (Aislinn) / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
I haven't tried it out yet, so I'll have to see how it works.  While working on this project, I thought a lot about how this gauge was put together and how that design must perform in use.

When I first got the vintage model, I thought it was a left-handed version.  I usually hold the stock of any marking gauge in my right hand, as I'm right handed.  This one looks as if it is meant to be registered on the left side of a board while being marked.  When I used it, I just turned it around and used it "backwards" with the horn facing forward. Then I saw this picture in Salaman's Dictionary of Woodworking Tools:
Left handed?
It is the same.  Perhaps those old timers knew something we don't?  Then it hit me.  If the board to be marked is placed on a saw bench, it can be marked registering the panel gauge on the left side and marked on the right.  After marking, it does not have to be flipped end-for-end to start the rip, as you would have to do if registered from the right side. You can mark the board with this gauge and rip right away without movin g anything.

This is faster!  Mary May talks a lot about learning to be ambidextrous while carving so you don't continually have to adjust what you are working on.  This could be a result of the same principle.

I also have a concern about using a blade as opposed to a scratcher for marking.  A blade should leave a nice, neat line, but there is always a danger of a knife blade following the grain of the wood where a scratching blade would not.  After all, ripping will require cleaning up, anyway.

Lastly, this blade only works in one direction - forward.  Being a single bevel blade, I forsee problems if I try to pull the gauge toward me.  I'll try it out, and if it is a problem I may try re-grinding the blade to a spear point configuration. The great part about this single bevel blade is it should be easy to sharpen freehand.

  • Ebony is rather enjoyable to work with.  At least in these small quantities.
  • Not all maple is created equal.  This beautiful piece must be from some softer species of maple.  It is very lightweight, and works easily with hand tools, as opposed to the maple I usually use.
  • There is no point on hanging onto a special piece of wood for that "perfect project."  It turns out, the project you are working on is the perfect project.
  • The wedge holding the blade is so small because it is intended to not get in the way of anything.  It might interfere if it had a mechanism to prevent it from falling out.  The problem is, eventually it will fall out.  I can envision in 100 years some woodworker picking this thing up at a yard sale for 50 cents, wondering how to make such a small replacement wedge on a table saw and putting it back on the table for some other sucker to buy.  Perhaps a manager will want to nail it to the wall of his restaurant.
  • Making a custom scraper is a cheap and easy way to shape parts.  However, grinding metal with a power tool is much faster and easier than using a file.  I used a Dremel wheel on my cordless drill (I got rid of my Dremel tool).
Just in case you would like to make one, here are the specifics: The scratch stock is part of a 2 1/4" circle.  You can use the template for marking out the beam mortise, and the scratch stock also is used to shape the head stock, as opposed to rasping a chamfer or roundover. I used a #7 Jennings bit to start the beam mortise.  The original beam was 24" long.  Mine is a bit longer. The beam's wedge is 3/16" thick. Here's a scan of the headstock:


  1. Sweet looking panel gauge. Do you intend the use the old one also? If so you can make that one a pin gauge.

    1. Thanks, Ralph! I'm not sure what I'll do with the old one. Perhaps I could do some side by side comparisons to see which style of cutter is better. At some point I'll have to get rid of it. No telling when, though.

  2. Nice job Brian. I like it.

    1. Thanks, Jonathan! It was a blast trying to figure out how I would use the cutter you sent me. The biggest benefit, besides that it is a cutting gauge rather than a scratcher, is that it should be super easy to keep sharp.

  3. Excellent work Brian. The slide presentation is cool and I really like the maple. Also, thanks for following my blog.

    1. Thanks, Charlie! The maple is beautiful. Photos do not quite do it justice. It is weird, though. I never have used a maple as light and soft as this. It is easy with hand tools. It is also remarkably lighter than the original, which would be mahogany if it was built traditionally.

  4. Yes, I like this series of 3 articles. In spring I plan to build one, as soon as the current projects are finalised

    1. Hi Wolfram! Thanks.

      Good luck building yours. Let me know how it goes. I plan to put up a few more details and measurements soon. I realized that some things I didn't measure, but transferred measurements straight from the original. I'll try to remember to convert them to metric, too.

  5. Wow! beautiful Brian! I have this old ebony panel gauge that is missing the beam. Your posts will motivate me in restoring it. Thank you!

    1. Hi Aymeric, Thanks.

      Good luck restoring yours. I found ebony fairly pleasant to work, although it is a bit brittle. Let me know how it goes!