But This Not That | Measuring & Marking

Video - August 20, 2021

Our previous Buy This Not That video about drill bits went over pretty well and many folks asked me to do another one. So I gave it some thought and came up with a list of measuring and marking devices that I think you should buy as well as the ones I think you should avoid. Let’s jump in!

Tape Measures

Many of us buy 16′ or 25′ tape measures simply because that’s what we think we need. But in reality, most woodworking project parts can be measured at 6′ and under. So my recommendation is to save a few bucks and purchase 12′ or 6′ tape measures instead. They’re nice and compact and you can spend the savings on additional tape measures that you can spread around the shop. Of course you’ll probably still want at least one long tape measure for DIY projects and whenever a shop project calls for it, but I think you’re best served by stocking up on the shorter variety.


The premium squares from the likes of Woodpeckers and Bridge City Toolworks are gorgeous examples of craftsmanship in tooling, but they’re completely unnecessary. When you’re first starting out, you’ll be far better served by a set of machinist squares instead. They’re more durable, often more accurate, and much cheaper. Full disclosure, I own and adore my Bridge City and Woodpeckers squares, but they’re what I consider luxury items.


You may think you need a ruler in the shop and larger rules can certainly come in handy. But if you’re in the market for a 12″ ruler I recommend instead investing in a decent 12″ adjustable square. Most rulers have marks that start about 1/8″ from the end so they’re much less useful. A square, on the other hand, not only functions as a quality rule but also as a square and marking device.


You’ll get a lot more use out of a bevel gauge and a protractor than tools with dedicated static angles. A static angle obviously means it can only do one thing, but a bevel gauge allows you to lock in any angle you could possibly need.


If you’re new to woodworking you might head to the hardware store and see those wacky flat pencils and assume you need one. Well, you don’t. In my opinion, the best pencil for the shop is a .5mm Mechanical Pencil. Mechanical pencils have consistent line thickness at all times and can also be used with various marking devices that feature holes for a .5mm lead.

Marking Knives

I recommend avoiding double bevel marking knives and instead opting for a single bevel marking knife. With a single bevel, the back of the knife is dead flat and can be pressed against a reference surface for accurate marking whereas a double bevel has a tendency to push the cut line further away from the reference. Double bevel knifes also tend to make a wider cut line as the bevel cuts/crushes fibers on both sides of the center point.

Marking (Cutting) Gauges

Marking gauges usually come with one of three cutters: a blade, a wheel, or a sharp point. I recommend avoiding the sharp point variety as they tend to tear out the grain and generally don’t produce as fine of a line.


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