What Is It

What Is It?

There was and still is a tradition of showing off one’s tools and techniques to others, as this is the highest form of sharing. I remember that once I was accepted as someone who cared and shared a passion for the trades, I was allowed to open any drawer or any toolbox, look at tools and ask questions. In fact, the questions were mandatory. This was not considered rude behavior but instead a method of passing the torch. Having had the pleasure of being taken into that circle in both the metal and wood trades, I had numerous mentors who shared some of their tricks for their respective trades with me. Otherwise these little tricks, jigs and fixtures would be relegated to the waste bin and that specialized knowledge lost. It is surmised that this is such a tool, which was used repeatedly by a craftsman who made it for a special purpose.

What Is It?

Constructed of walnut (we think), this 4-5/8” long item was found in a jumble of tools and put aside for further examination. Unfortunately, it was collected more than 25 years ago and any sense of source is lost. We will not reopen the debate (once again) between collectors and users, as that line has been much blurred over the last 10 years, with the user group now taking precedence. At first look, the tool appeared to be a decorative hand-carved post top or bench stop. That theory got tossed when close examination revealed that there were pins inserted on all four sides of the stem that appeared to be for indicating location. Simple: it’s a marking gauge. But not so fast, partner! What kind of marking gauge and for what task? The bulbous octagonal head is comfortable to hold, and one stem face has a notch cut into it to serve, perhaps, as a first locater. The pins are finishing nails driven in and filed to a point. The notched side has a single pin and the other three sides have two pins, possibly to scribe a mortise or a corresponding tenon. That single point is at 1-3/16” (30mm). The other three double pins are (from the face) at ½” and 1” (12.5mm and 25mm), ¾” and 1-3/16” (19mm and 30mm) and ¼” and 1-½” (6mm and 38mm). All measurements are approximate. The tool has been well used. With its simple and well thought out construction, it begs to be touched and held.

What Is It?

This tool has been passed around several groups of pundits who have all had a go at identifying the associated trade and end use. Sash making, chair making and layout for small furniture assembly have all been postulated. Perhaps, in the collected wisdom of the readership, someone has seen such a similar purpose-built device? If so, I ask you to please continue the tradition and share your experiences with me.


D.S. Orr


D.S. Orr has been a collector, user and student of woodworking and metalworking tools and practices for more than 40 years. Recently retired, he has devoted even more time to these endeavors.

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