Hamilton Marking Gauge - Tool Review
by Jeffrey Fleisher
New Market, VA
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
I have used Jeff Hamilton's Hamilton Marking Gauge, from Hamilton Toolworks, for many years. Hamilton Toolworks is a 'boutique' woodworking company, which implies small but also, in my mind, implies high quality. I've known Jeff for a number of years, in fact I have beta tested his tools, and he is dedicated to producing quality tools for woodworkers. As Jeff says on his website, "Our goal is to provide an heirloom quality tool that is comfortable to use and is accurate beyond measure."
The 4" gauge features a 3" wide fence, with an inlaid brass wear strip that provides a large surface to ensure complete registration to the edge of your work piece. The fence extends only 3/8" below the blade, which allows you to layout lines on the surface of the board while it is supported by your bench. You do not need to extend your board over the edge of your bench to provide clearance for the fence.
The 4" beam is attached to the fence with a sliding dovetail joint which keeps the fence square to the beam and it is locked in place with a knurled brass knob. There is a small plastic washer between the knob and the beam, which helps to lock everything in place. Once tightened down, I've found that I get no slippage when using the Marking Gauge.
As you can see in the photograph, there is a brass block set into the beam to support the cutting blade. The blade is a cryogenically treated blade of 1095 spring steel with a hardness of RC62-63. The blade has a fingernail grind shape that slices the wood fibers both along the grain and also across the grain. The blade is honed with a 8000 grit stone. The large screw holding the blade can be easily removed to re-sharpen the blade, as necessary. The shape of the blade plus the size of the fence keeps the Marking Gauge tight to the edge of the board.
As a little tip, you want to have a high quality ruler to set up the Marking Gauge correctly. A high quality ruler has the numerals and lines etched into the surface of the rule. The Marking Gauge blade then slips into one of the lines on the rule to help set it accurately. This is very easy to do with this Marking Gauge because of the size of the fence and the adjustable blade.
I believe that the most innovative part of this tool is the overall shape. This Marking Gauge is extremely nice to hold and the unique shape of the rear of the fence provides for excellent control while using the gauge. The rear surface of the fence has a small cove-shape on either side for your middle finger and can be held in either your right or left hand, which makes it very nice if you are left-handed. Unfortunately, most woodworking tools seem to be made for right-handed people, so it is a real pleasure when someone takes the time and effort to design a tool that can be used with either hand.
To hold the gauge, you pinch the beam between your thumb and index fingers and press your middle finger against the rear of the fence. This 3-point hold provides a lot of stability and is very comfortable…once you’ve used it for awhile. It is also very natural for your thumb and index finger to press down while your middle finger is keeping the gauge tight against the edge of the board. You end up with a very nice, clean, knifed line.
As with any gauge it is important to make a light pass first and then to repeat the cut with increasing pressure. The first light cut provides a fixed reference for the later heavier cuts. I've noticed that this gauge creates a nice size cut-line as compared to other gauges that I've used. This means that there is a nice reference line for your chisel to slide into when making that final clean cut in your dovetail or mortise.
I highly recommend you add the Hamilton Marking Gauge to your collection of marking and measuring tools. The unique design plus the high quality materials and construction make this a tool that is a pleasure to use as well as increase your accuracy as a woodworker.
Find out more about the
Hamilton Marking Gauge
Jeffrey Fleisher has been a woodworker for approximately 20 years and a professional woodworker for the past 6 years. He is the president of his local woodturning club, the Woodturners of the Virginias and past president of the Northern Virginia Carvers. You can see some of the furniture he has made at www.jeffswooddesigns.com. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.