MAKE:TNT Tools 'n' Tips

Japanese Marking Gauge

by Ross Orr

Tool photo.

It comes up often enough in the shop: You want to mark a line X inches in from the edge of something. You end up futzing around with tape measures, pencil tick-marks, and straightedges--but still aren't sure you got it exactly right. Well, Japanese woodworkers have been worrying about this problem for a few centuries longer than you, and have evolved a better way: the marking gauges called kebiki.

The kama kebiki type has a comfortably rounded oak grip, and two (retractable) steel knives for scribing lines. Scoring cut-lines in wood reduces chip-out; and strips of thin veneers, plastics, etc., can be sliced off directly. Plus it's one of those special tools that gives you pleasure just picking it up.