Woodpeckers’ dovetail marking gauges are designed for quick and easy dovetail layout across the edges of a board without needing any additional tools.
Note: This review was first published in January 2011, and republished in April 2019. Also, the photos here are of prototype samples.
Please note that these are One-Time Tools with a pre-order cutoff of 5/6/2019. Orders are expected to ship out 8/31/2019, and there is no telling or or when Woodpeckers will offer these gauges for sale ever again.
The original One Time Tool order deadline was 1/17/2011, with a shipping ETA of 2/14/11.
Seeing these dovetail marking gauges in person confirmed what I thought after first spotting them on the Woodpeckers website – the markers are well designed and well made, and should last a lifetime and then some.
I particular like the beveled edges, but this might be more for looks than function. The machining is perfect, and the tools are anodized red with crisp and clear angle and ratio labels.
Design, Usability & Performance
The dovetail angles and right angles checked to be 100% spot-on and edges were completely straight. The markers proved to be extremely easy to use, and although the 1/2″ center leg is a bit short when used on 3/4″ stock, the marker has a 1-inch extension that functions as a saddle square.
While my hand-cut dovetails could use some (a lot of) practice*, I am absolutely impressed with the performance of these dovetail marking gauges. Woodpeckers offers these markers in 1:6, 1:7, and 1:8 ratios, corresponding to the rule of thumb recommendations for use on softwoods, general purpose use, and hardwoods.
If you ask 10 different woodworkers about which dovetail angle/ratio to use, make sure to bring some popcorn. 1:6 is traditionally used for softwood, 1:8 for hardwood, and 1:7 is a great compromise between the two. Personally, I prefer to use 1:7 and 1:8 ratios, but others find 1:6 to be more aesthetically pleasing.
*8 years later, and my hand-cut dovetails can still use practice.
Bottom line, I highly recommend these dovetail marking gauges! If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.
Price: $70 for the set of 3 gauges, $140 for a kit that comes with a new marking gauge.
Buy Now(3pc set via Tool Nut)
Buy Now(Set with marking gauge via Tool Nut)
More Info(via Woodpeckers)
The original 2011 One Time Tool offer had the gauges priced at $21.99 each.
Thoughts About the 2019 One Time Tool
Back in 2011, the Woodpeckers dovetail markers were sold individually. Now, they’re sold as a set of 3. I guess that makes sense, because different dovetail projects might call for different ratios. There’s also a new short marking gauge, which we’ll follow up on shortly.
Thank you to Woodpeckers for providing a set of prototypes as review samples!
Fred @ One Project Closer
Nice review. Do you have some pictures of the joints you made?
Thanks! I do have a few photos… but since my technique is a bit rusty, the sample joints came out pretty bad. I’m heading out later today to pick up some poplar for a few more tries.
Fred @ One Project Closer
Very cool. Looking forward to seeing your work on this (and I wouldn’t even mind seeing the ‘bad technique’ first tries and then what you did to get better at the joints.
Fred, it may take a little longer than anticipated to get those samples done. Haste + chisel = a thumb that’s out of commission.
The upside to this is that due to frustration with my hand saws, I ordered a set of Veritas dovetail saws last night. My thumb/left hand should be partially healed by the time they arrive.
Still, while my dovetail joinery needs practice, the Woodpeckers markers are exceptionally easy to use and provide great results.
Edit: I managed to finish the dovetail, pics will go up later. It’s still pretty bad. I tried using oak for the first time, and it proved to be more of a challenge to work on than I’m used to. I see more practice in the future…
I would like to purchase 12, 1:6 dove tail gauges and 2 1:8 gauges. I need them for a practical test i am give to my students on the 9th of may. I am based in Ireland, could you give me costing for the order asap and ill get back to you. I am very impressed by the quality of the product
Maybe the ones from Lee Valley (Canada) ?
Axminster in UK
These marking gauges are no longer for sale from Woodpeckers, making them impossible to order at this time. If you’d like I can recommend alternatives that may suit your purposes.
that joiner marking gage does look interesting. not 70 dollars by itself interesting but I do think I like the idea behind it
Who need this gauge when you have magic: https://youtu.be/vKuy3NdLhlE
(might have gotten this link from someone here, but I don’t remember)
Ahh, Frank, he makes everything seem so easy!
Does this only mark out the pins of the dovetail? How does one use this tool for the corresponding piece?
You can mark both pins and tails, depending on how you hold the tool. Hold the angle reference again the workpiece face to mark your tails, and against the edge to mark your pins. The right angle part can be used to mark the right angle components of both pins and tails. It’s meant for use with workpieces up to 1-inch thick or so. Beyond that, you can still use them, but with an additional layout tool (such as a ruler or bevel gauge) to extend your lines.
Lee Valley’s Veritas dovetail markers are much cheaper, though it looks like they don’t have the additional saddle square functionality. Of course, a real cheapskate would make their own:
Koko The Talking Ape
Yep. My skill with the saw and chisels would not be commensurate with this gauge, especially since you could make one even simpler than the one in that link.
I might give that Woodpeckers gauge as a gift, though.
They sell a saddle square and miter saddle separately.
There are the David Barron ones that hold your saw because of the magnets embedded in them. https://www.highlandwoodworking.com/david-barron-magnetic-dovetail-saw-guide.aspx
I’ve always been curious about these ever since I saw Jay Bates show how much they improved his dovetails. Anyone ever tried them? Do they live up to their reputation?
Woodjoy is another possible USA-made source: