Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Making a Panel Gauge - Part 1

This project has been on my To-Do list for a really long time and the time is finally now.  After some image searching I drew up a sketch of the stock (the fence) on cardboard and cut out a template.
Layout of the stock - red dots are centers for drawing radii
At some point I'll draw this up in Sketchup, so if anyone wants a copy just contact me.

I have some beech that was on the undercarriage of a table I found on the street and some of it is quartersawn.  I thought this would be good for the stock in that the mortise wouldn't go out of shape with the seasons.  The squared up block ended up a little less than 15/16" thick.
Laminated beech all squared up
Nice quartersawn grain
The cardboard template was transferred to the block, a 1/2" x 5/16" deep rabbet was marked, and the mortise location was laid out front and back.  The mortise is close to (not exactly) 13/16" x 13/16" - just a little smaller than the piece of oak I'll be using for the stem.
Stock laid out on front ...
... and back.  Can you see the knife nicks at bottom for transferring the vertical mortise lines from the front?
Time to cut the mortise.  Used a standard 3/4" bevel-edged chisel and took it slowly.
Mortise about 1/3 complete
I used a small square with its blade through the mortise and the stock registered on the face to check if the mortise walls were flat.
Blade of square poking through and even with mortise edge
Once the mortise was complete it was time to fit the stem.  I chose a piece of oak that had been a stile on an old kitchen cabinet.  Squared it to about 13/16" and then planed and checked the fit, planed some more and checked the fit.  Used a caliper to check for consistent thickness in both directions.
That's a tight fit - actually too tight.  Still needed to plane some more.
The next step was to make a smaller mortise along the side of this mortise for a wedge to lock the stem in the stock.  I set a mortise gauge for 5/16" and centered it on the side of the larger mortise.  The extents of this mortise were offset front to back by about 3/32" to create the angle of the wedge.  The sides were cut with coping saw and the waste removed and cleaned up with a chisel.  It took a lot of chiseling to get the angled bottom flat.
Wedge mortise done
Then it was time to make a small wedge and fit it to the slot.
Wedge in slanted mortise, but level with larger mortise wall
With this fitting well I turned to shaping the stock.  First I used my new-to-me Record #778 rabbeting plane to cut the rabbet.  This was finicky and I had to clean up the walls with a shoulder plane later.  Then it was saw cuts to remove the bulk of the waste.
Bulk of waste removed and relief cuts made
I thought I'd use a chisel to shape the curved sides, so I cut some relief kerfs.  This wood is hard and my chisels were not up to the task, so I cut a LOT of kerfs and sawed away the waste with a coping saw.
That's a lot of relief cuts
The shaping was completed with rasps, files and sanding.  This took a long time, but it's finally smooth to the touch.
Looking good

Next time: making a cutter and wedge for the stem, mortising the stem, and finishing.


  1. Hi Matt,
    you have got my fully attention. This is a nice little project. That's on my list for a while but I always postponed it to some point in the future.
    Curious to read how it will come along.
    Any plans to insert a brass strip into the rabbet?

    1. Stefan, I have a 1/8" thick strip of brass that I could use for this, but I'm not sure if I will. I don't know if I'll use the gauge enough to make it worth the trouble.

    2. I think there is no technical need to do it. Might look nice.
      But I guess you are right. The beech will not wear out that much. And should it indeed be so you can easily fix it with a shoulder plane.

  2. Any plans to put a brass angle iron in the rabbet?

    1. Hi Ralph. See above reply to Stefan's comment. Do you think it would be worth it to put in the brass wear plate? I think the beech will wear pretty well. And the rabbet will only slide along an already smooth planed and trued edge.