Chris Vesper is a quality hand tool maker based in
Melbourne, Australia. We have already reviewed his unique
joinery knife on this website, and it proved to be a
hand tool of the highest quality and finish, not to mention function too!
Today we are looking at his Marking Gauge, and it too has many unique
Chris Vesper Marking Gauge
A marking gauge is a very handy tool to make accurate marks on timber
parallel to an edge. They are the perfect tool for marking things like
mortises, or marking the edge of cuts where repetition or parallelism is
The gauge we reviewed was made from Tasmanian Blackwood,
and the figure is simply stunning (see photos), but the gauges are also
available in either Sheoak or Beefwood, and for additional cost, in Black
Red Gum or Lace Sheoak, so for the hand tool collectors, or those who like
to choose how the tool "looks", you have a choice of preferred timbers to
choose from. But no matter which species of material you select, the
material used will be of the highest quality and figure available. Chris
doesn't skimp on materials when it comes to his hand tool business. Only
the finest materials are used.
Now, the first and major feature you will notice
on these marking gauges is the unusual head design. Most marking gauges in
the past, and indeed in the present, feature either a square, rectangular, or
rectangular oval shaped head. Chris Vesper's gauge moves away from
tradition with his gauge head design, which is larger and shaped for
comfort. It has somewhat of a pear-shaped top with indents below the apex
of the head that comfortably houses your thumb and forefinger to grip the
gauge head. The thicker head also allows a solid grasp which is necessary
for both smooth and accurate marking. The symmetrical design means the
gauge can be used equally effectively for both left and right handed users.
The brass locking knob engages brass plugs to prevent wear
in the threads, and this pushes against a captive brass pressure plate which
clamps against the gauge's bar so it offers clamping of the head to the bar
without marking or damaging the bar, as the force is spread over a wider
surface area. The head locks to the bar at three
different points which provides a very secure hold that resists twisting
or wobbling of the bar in use.
The imbedded brass face on the head measures 90mm in length
and provides a flat, straight surface for accurate reference against a
board edge or face.
The bar itself measures around 250mm in length and houses the
steel cutter. The cutter itself is shaped/ground from tool steel and
allows the finest marking edge both with and across the grain of timber
without any wandering. The cutter can be adjusted for angle, depth or
replaced entirely by accessing the screw at the end of the bar. The user can mark sizes from zero (thanks to a
recess milled in the gauge head which houses the body of the steel cutter)
up to roughly 200mm, so there is plenty of capacity to handle just about
all your marking needs, unless you are making furniture for the incredible
hulk or jack's beanstalk giant from massively thick material!
When you first grasp the tool, you pretty much instantly assume a good
grip because of the head design. The head shape also allows marking
equally effectively by pushing or pulling the tool over the wood surface.
The adjustment knob is large and easy to manipulate and you can make small
distance adjustments and secure the gauge head again easily with just one
hand. As mentioned above, there was virtually no noticeable wander of the
marking line/cutter when marking both across or with the grain, on both
hardwoods and softwoods. The tool really seems to instil confidence, and
its size and design almost relieves those fears that your hand will slip
from the tool and give you a nasty gash, as can be realized when using
some wheel marking type tools. The gauge can also be used without having
to angle the head in most cases, and exhibits virtually no chattering when
referenced against a clean board edge or face.
Marking a parallel line in softwood
Marking for a mortise in hard Jarrah
A set of markings shows nice straight lines. The
waviness of the
lines you might see is a result of the camera lens shape/curve.
It really is a nicely crafted marking tool. It has now
replaced my wheel marking gauge as my preferred tool of choice for
parallel marking tasks, plus it certainly looks a LOT better too! Like
Chris's joinery knife, this too is a great tool and performs the functions
it is designed to do very well. It retails for AUD$198.
Well done Chris!
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The marking gauge components
Flat brass face
Steel cutter and locking screw adjuster
Large knurled brass knob to secure bar to gauge head
Note the recess in the head that houses the steel cutter, allowing
distances down to zero to be marked
The assembled gauge
How I hold the gauge, which is probably the standard grip, and the most