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Shopmade Cutting Gauge

The current issue of Fine Woodworking Magazine featured the article “Shopmade Cutting Gauge” by Bob Van Dyke. I decided to try my hand at building one.

For the fence, I had my choice of black limba or mahogany, both left over cutoffs from previous electric guitar builds.  After cutting the block to the appropriate length and width I jointed the faces. Thickness was around 1 3/4″ so I made no adjustments even though suggested thickness was 1 5/8″.  Two holes were drilled, the first was on the face to house the beam and a second smaller hole from the side for accept a threaded insert. The insert accepts a thumbscrew used for locking the beam.

Shopmade cutting gauge fence prep.

Next two 1/2″ strips of brass plate were inlayed on the face. The brass strips were cut from a sheet. First the sheet was scored with an Exacto knife then cut with a Jig Saw and metal-cutting blade. The edges were trued using sand paper on a flat surface. Using flat bar stock would have been simpler but I used what I had on hand. Individually placing each bar on the face, I scored the wood before taking the fence to router table. Using a 12″ straight bit, I cut the recess for each bar. The bars were slightly wider than the 1/2″ bit so I used a chisel to pare to the line and fit each piece.  The bars were then glued in place using 5 minute epoxy.

Brass inlay was expoied to the fence face.

The strips were initially held in place using binding tape then clamped in a vise to set up. A special caul was made using two thin strips of wood attached to block with double stick tape. I considered using hot glue but the  tape was faster.

Once the epoxy had set I continued work on the face by cutting a mortise to accept the 1/4″ pressure plate. I used a hand screw to steady the piece first drilling a 1/4″ hole, then squaring the edges by chisel.

Cutting the mortise for the pressure plate.

The plan called for a brass bar but once again, I didn’t feel like ordering a special part. Instead I used an ebony scrap, from a finger board. It was already 1/4″ thick so cut it to length and shaped it with chisel and sandpaper.

Fitting the ebony retaining key to the mortise.

I decided the beam would be made from a flame maple scrap but to use it, I was going to have to make a dowel from flat stock and I was going to have to do it without a lathe. This was by far the most time-consuming part of the build. I made a cradle and added sandpaper which helped to round the flat stock. Once it was roughly round, I used a round scraper just the right diameter to continue shaping. The scraper cut well removing a fair amount of wood easily but unfortunately, it was all too easy to make long deep scratches on an adjacent surface. A lathe would have been the proper tool for making a spindle.

The article suggested purchasing and modifying a Hock Tools marking knife for the cutter but I decided to make one from an old Jig Saw blade. I realize this is like comparing apples to oranges but I wanted to give it a try anyway. The jig saw blade cutter will work, I just need to figure out how to sharpen it.

The final task was to make the mortise for the blade and shape a wedge. I used hard maple for the wedge which came from, you guessed it, a hard maple finger board scrap.

Black limba and maple marking gauge.

As with all projects, some parts went together very well and others proved more challenging. I am very happy with the way the fence came together both in form and in function. The maple beam was challenging to shape and didn’t come out perfectly although the fit is good enough to be quite serviceable. Cutting the mortise to accept the blade and wedge didn’t come out the way I wanted and is sloppy. Que será, será, just keep making!

Thank-you for stopping by the shop

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