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There aren’t many “wheel-style” marking gauges out there.  A few cheap options not worth talking about, then there’s a respectable model from Veritas, but the king of gauges is the Glen-Drake Tite-Mark.  I’ve used the Veritas marking gauge for years (with the micro-adjust feature, don’t buy the standard gauge) and at around $40 it’s a nice tool at a great price, but the Tite-Mark at $89 is awesome and worth every penny.  Here’s a run-down of the features:

Tite-Mark “wheel style” marking gauge

First, the materials are quality steel and brass, precision machining all around.  The cutter is A2 tool steel and can be removed for sharpening.  The cutter also buries in the head to protect it when not in use (a common feature for these tools).  The lower knob locks in the head at its approximate location, then you simply rotate the knurled brass cylinder for micro-adjustment and tighten the top knob to hold your final setting.

Brass head with Knurled adjustment knob.

Two things to point out here, the micro-adjustment is designed for use with one hand which leaves your other hand free to hold your work or a scale if you’re aiming for a specific measurement.  This is a unique and highly desirable features on a marking gauge.  In addition to one-handed use, the head micro-adjusts approximately 3/4″, that’s roughly double what I get out of my Veritas gauge.

Next, there is a small nylon screw in the back of the head.  This allows the user to adjust the resistance between the head and rod.  If you want things to move freely you can loosen it slightly with your thumbnail.  If you want the head to stay put until you push on it, just tighten the screw a bit.  Most likely you will set this once and then never think about it again.

Nylon thumb screw for drag adjustment.

Unlike most gauges where the heads spin freely around the steel rod, the Tite-Mark locking screws ride in a groove.  This is necessary to enable the one-handed adjustment feature, but G-D took the extra effort to make it a stopped groove which prevents the head from accidentally sliding off the rod and potentially landing on an unkind surface (concrete floors).

Stopped groove

Finally, the Tite-Mark is the only gauge I know of that has numerous accessories and variations to meet your specific needs.  They offer a mini version for working on smaller parts, a longer rod version (9″ vs. standard 6″), and rod extensions to increase the rod length even further (making it more of a panel gauge).  There are also double-beveled cutters for laying out both walls of a mortise simultaneously.  These cutters can also be ganged up for double mortise layout, marking four separate walls in a single pass and with perfect repeatability between parts.

If you’re only going to buy one gauge I highly recommend the Tite-Mark.  I will not be getting rid of my Veritas gauge, however, as it will make a nice back up when I have multiple settings to maintain.

-WMT