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The Marking Gauge Collector by Jim Fox I am a marking gauge collector. I have hundreds of them. When friends see these tools they ask, “What do they do?” The answer seems rather funny and embarrassing. “They scratch a line parallel to the edge of a board.” That is it. That is what they do. They are a basic layout tool of the carpenter, machinist and other tradesman. Rodney Dan- gerield often said, “I don’t get no respect!” That seems to be the case with the humble marking gauge...it gets no re- spect. However, the diversity and unique features of some of these small tools make them highly desirable. When I irst began collecting old tools I collected anything and ev- erything that appealed to me. I still purchase the odd tool from time to time. But ten years ago, I purchased my irst mortise gauge and everything changed. The Photo 1 gauge was battered and had no maker mark but was constructed of When speaking of marking gauges, I refer to marking de- beautiful rosewood and brass. I was hooked. Soon after- ward, I purchased Milt Bacheller’s book, American Mark-vices used in all the trades. This includes large slitting ing Gauges Patented and Manufactured, and I was on my gauges used to cut veneer as well as the small common marking gauge. Marking gauges are often collected in spe- way. I highly recommend the book to anyone contemplat- ciic categories. The most common category seems to be ing gauge collecting. It is a well researched and written book with many colored and black and white photos. the gauge maker in general. These makers often produced rules, bevels, levels, squares and braces in addition to marking gauges but they are known to us as gauge mak- There are several reasons why the collecting of gauges can be appealing. ers. A good example of the gauge maker is S. A. Jones of Hartford, CT., c. 1838 – 1865. Other quality gauge makers we recognize are M. M. Brainard, Green River, NY.; F. Cur- First, many of the marking gauges are constructed of tis, Stockbridge, MA.; D. M. Lyon, Newark, NJ. and a host beautiful tropical hardwoods; rosewood, mahogany, box- wood and ebony, couple that with brass trim and wear sur-of others. (Photo 2, left to right) Again, refer to Milt Bach- eller’s book for a listing of many of the gauge makers. faces and the result can be striking. There is still much to be discovered about marking gauges and their makers. It can be interesting digging into historical records or dis- coverng new information from the tools themselves. Oc- casionally, scarce gauge models and features are coming to light, as well as details about the makers themselves. This provides us with the incentive to explore this ield of collecting. There have been many nondescript gauges come to the market that turn out to be rare tools, if one knows where to look for maker marks or speciic features. Size is also a beneit to gauge collecting. A large collection can be housed in a relatively small space. I can it quite a few in a common shoe box for storage. Another appeal is the gadget characteristic many gauges possess. Some gauges are quite complicated with many operating parts. An example of this is A. H. Blaisdall’s Carpenter’s Gauge, Patent No. 79,052, June 23, 1868 (Photo 1). This gauge has Photo 2 a series of linkages that allow two curved “feet” to adjust Another category often collected is the patented marking to the curves on the edge of the wood. This gauge comes gauge. The entire irst half of Milt Bacheller’s book is dedi- with several optional features such as brass wear bars and cated to patented gauges and their makers. This is a fun even a pencil holder. It also comes in a miniature size with and interesting area on which to focus. Some collectors a large price tag. only collect patented gauges. This category is extremely varied and ranges from the all iron butt gauge to the wood- en gauge with patented features. Probably the most famous of the patented gauges is the Brown and Berry, Carpenter’s 22 The Gristmill