What Is A Mortise Gauge Used For?

Written by james young
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What Is A Mortise Gauge Used For?
(Photo from Wikipedia Commons at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marking_gauges.jpg)

The mortise gauge is one of the basic marking tools in traditional furniture making and timber framing. It uses 2 marking pins and a sliding wooden fence to mark the sides of a mortise.

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Basic Parts

A mortise gauge has 3 main parts, including a wooden fence block through which a beam with 1 fixed scribing pin runs. The 3rd part is a sliding beam inset in the main beam, holding a 2nd pin and allowing lateral adjustment.

What Is A Mortise Gauge Used For?
Photo from Wikipedia Commons at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mortise_and_tenon_joint.svg

The Mortise

In mortise and tenon joinery, 2 pieces are mated by cutting a tenon from the end of the male piece and chiselling a matching hole in the female piece. The mortise gauge efficiently marks 2 sides of the hole, or mortise.


In typical construction, the same part and layout is repeated several times. If stock is uniformly sized, the mortise gauge can be used to precisely repeat the layout on each piece.

Depth Gauging

The 2 remaining sides of the mortise are often marked with an awl and square. The trickiest measurement is the depth of the mortise, which is often checked by inserting the gauge beam into the hole.


Some mortise gauges have 3 pins, one of which is set into the upper surface of the beam. The single pin is useful for scribing the shoulders of tenons.

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