Carving Gauge

One my tool making  addictions is gauges.  Marking Gauges, Cutting Gauges, Slitting Gauges. I have made quite a few of them and just about all types and forms.

My new favorite is what I call a Carving Gauge.  It is kind of a hybrid between a slitting gauge and an OWT.

These are the prototypes, made from Mesquite, Osage, brass and steel.

It is easy to adjust the depth on it, I just set it down on the wood I want the thickness set for and use the knob on the end to release the bade arm.   Then all I have to do is tighten the knob again.  It takes seconds to do.

Here is where the blade fits in.  The Hexagonal hole is made the tinyest bit deeper towards the right.  This way when the knob locks down on the hexagonal shaft, the shaft wedges in securely with no play or wobble.   Seriously, none.

Apart from the two and a quarter inch depth limit, and the single blade, this is the best, hands down, cutting gauge that I have used.  The grip is solid, the blade secure, and the fence is stable.  It has a seriously solid grip and a secure blade position.  Pretty much flawless.

The blades are ground down from nice big hex wrenches.  As a result they are quite robust.  I made these for cleaning out waste from dovetails, so they are left and right handed.  The back sides are keen, but fairly high angle.  So the back side will not dig into the tails when clearing waste from dovetails.  They will however do a great job as scrapers for making smooth clean surfaces.   The front side is nice and sharp, ready to carve and cut.

As you can probably tell, I am fairly pleased with my latest invention.


9 comments to Carving Gauge

  • Bob,

    Sorry for being obtuse, but how exactly does one use it? I’m a little challenged to figure out new things!

    Best Regards,
    Albert A Rasch
    A Chronicles’ project: Building a Pirogue

  • Bob Strawn

    Don’t worry, this one is pretty unique so it is apparently not intuitively obvious. Imagine that you are using a cutting gauge. Then imagine that you are going over and over the same line until you cut through the board. There are gauges called slitting gauges, that do exactly that with thin boards and soft wood.

    Now imagine that you do the deep cutting after you have cut the dovetail sides and skip cutting through the dovetail.

    Here is how I am using them currently when making dovetails. I will use the term ‘pin board,’ to reference the board to have pins cut and ‘tail board,’ for the board that will have the tails.

    First I set the gauge to the thickness of the pin board, I may add a few paper thicknesses of depth, depending. Then I use the gauge to mark the tail board on both sides.

    Second, I mark my tails, saw my tails, and then saw slits in the tail waste to make removal easier.

    Third, just as if I was trying to make the tail depth marks deeper, I use the gauge to cut the waste out and clean the bottoms. The length of the blade lets me go deep, and since the gauge can be used on either side of the board, I suppose it could potentially make a dovetail in a very thick board.

    In effect, this is a skew chisel with a fence, combined with an OWT and a marking gauge. To remove waste, I use the blade in much the same manner as I would use a skew chisel.

    Carving Gauge Blade
    The blade has a flat that is parallel with the fence. The back edge of the blade has a 60 degree keen edge so it can be used like a 60 degree flush cut plane. I used a slack belt for for the front of the blade, but it is about a 20 degree angle so it can sever endgrain.


  • Thanks for the explanation! From what you wrote originally I infered as much, but I wasn’t sure. The additional pictures helped!

    Thanks again!

  • Shaun

    Bob, I was wondering how long the blades in these are, and if you could think of any problems just using one of the Lee Valley spear point router plane blades (,41182,43698,67484).

    I think these might jump in front of the other gauges that I would like to make.

  • Bob Strawn

    That actually might be a serious improvement on the original. I would try it! The one disadvantage to making this gauge first is that you may decide that you don’t need any of the other versions. It is more stable, has a better grip, and has a better range of use than any of the other I have. Seriously, two of these so you can have more than one setting and a panel gauge for marking deeper than these will reach and you are set.


  • Shaun

    Oh no, I would hate to only have good tools 🙂

    I’ll let you know how it works if I ever get around to it.

  • Bob Strawn

    If you do make one, I want to see pictures!


  • Shaun

    So I took a look at my router plane today, the 1/2″ actually have a shaft that is square (with beveled edges) that is about 3/8″ wide on each side. Probably it is exactly 3/8″, but my measurement skills have never been what you would call exact. It might mean that the hole can be made with just a chisel, and I won’t have to make one of your fancy hex cutting tools.

    I tested the blade using my finger as the fence, and I really liked it both with and against the grain. Right now I am using this as my only marking gauge (,42936,50440), which I thought was a very good experimental first tool as it comes with 3 types of blades and a whole bunch of extras I was going to use for some home made gauges later. I think they’re going to be lonely.

    I don’t think I totally understand how you’re using them for dovetail waste. Would you be able to take some pictures of the more unique things you are using these for that you wouldn’t use a normal gauge for?

  • Bob Strawn

    HF has a fractional dial caliper for about $21 With that you should be able to determine the thickness with ease. The easy cheap way would be to grab a drill bit and compare size. Drill a hole and see if the sides match up with the drill hole.

    Here are a few ways to do this assuming it is a 3/8″ hole, first drill a 3/8″ hole. Ideally the hole is perfectly lined up with the flat. The way to do that is to make sure the drill press table is lined up perfectly and then put the flat on the table and drill from the other end. To avoid splitting use flour and water to paste a sacrificial board to the flat before you drill.

    Now for the methods you could use to make the hole square.

    1. You could use a 10″ square file 3/8″ across. This would be the most work but a lot cheaper than the other alternatives. Be sure to rub the file on chalk first to make it easier to get the wood out of the file.

    2. Get a 3/8″x3/8″ length of flat stock cut several tools and grind an edges on them. This is how I would make one of them myself.

    3 The best way to go is to spend a small fortune on a square broach and an arbor press. If I were rich I would do this in a heart beat. I might even get a 1/4″ hexagonal one if money were no object.

    4. Chisel it out. I am pretty sure I could do a 1/2″ hole perfectly fine, a 3/8″ hole I am not so sure of without making a tool or two to do it.

    5. Wax the tool, and use it to line up and glue three layers of wood. the middle layer 3/8″ thick. This would make the hole kind of like making a Krenov Plane.

    As far as using this to remove dovetail waste, check out this post,

    Imagine using this tool to mark the base line on a dovetail. Then imagine doing multiple passes and making that base line deeper and deeper. Now imagine that the dovetails are basically cut and you are only making the baseline deeper where the dovetails need to be removed. In essence with this tool the line between marking a deep line and planing the bottom of a cut no longer exists.

    Imagine that you are improvising and using your router plane to mark the base line of a dovetail. It works better than it sounds. The carving gauge can be considered a router with a handle on top. It is the missing link between the router and the cutting gauge. No need for a cutting gauge with this tool. It is not as good a router as a router is, but it can do some routing better.


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