The Cutting Gauge

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The cutting gauge marks with a small steel knife, which is held in its mortise by a wedge of cast brass. The knife makes a line by slicing across the fibers of the wood. If you use it with the grain, it leaves a mark that's loo fine to see, and it's liable to wander with the grain.

The knife typically comes from the manufacturer with a sharp point, but it works better rounded. (See middle photo, page 45.) You can grind it and stone it like any other knife edge. Keep the bevel on one side, with the other side flat and smooth—same as a chisel. You can remove the wedge to turn the bevel toward the waste side of the line. Tighten the wedge when you replace it by tapping with a small hammer.

The knife has to be parallel to the face of the fence, so a gauge with a square knife hole is better than a gauge with a drilled hole for the knife. If the wedge is a rough casting, you can file it smooth so it will seat better against the knife. If the wedge gets lost, make a new one out of hardwood.

Using the cutting gauge. When you incise a line across the grain on the board's edge (above left), keep the fence flat against the end. To make a fine adjustment you can leave the thumbscrew snug and tap the gauge stock one way or the other on the edge of the bench (above right).

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