For the manner in which men live is so different from the way in which they ought to live, that he who leaves the common course for that which he ought to follow will find that it leads him to ruin rather than safety.

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Friday, February 19, 2016

The Ralph Gauge

About a week ago, Ralph Boumenot asked if I could make a gauge for him. He'd been hunting for about 2 years for someone to make it for him.

Normally, I would have posted this as I made it. However, I wanted Ralph to receive his gauge before I posted anything. You can read about it from him here. 

Basically, what Ralph wanted was a solid brass dovetail marking gauge, based loosely on an older Hayward design. Instead of the double angle on the gauge that most of us are accustomed to, he wanted a 1:7 slope on one side and square on the other. Sure, you have to mark and flip as you lay out your dovetails, but you also have a built in square on your gauge. I think Ralph is onto something.

Following is about how I made it.  Just highlights, really. Sometimes I forget to take pictures when I get going.

Before starting, I wanted to make a 1:7 gauge of my own. This will get used later to mill the final angle into the finished product. It will replace the parallels that are usually used while milling a part.

This was a good chance to test out my 2" indexable face mill. What makes this one different is that it uses round inserts. I wanted to see what kind of surface finish it could lay down.

Yup...I dig it!

Once the dimensioning was done, it was time to form the cut aways that make up the shoulders.

Sometimes you need to get real close to the vise. But hey, .001" of clearance is still clearance in my book! This was more like .015".

Now we get to use the angle gauge from earlier.

Finished product.

Another view.

I'm thankful to Ralph for putting his trust into me to make this tool for him. Making parts like this is what I enjoy most. At work, or at home, I love to sit on the milling machine and play (um...I mean work).

I'm so glad that he is happy with the finished product. I get a little nervous when I make stuff. I try to hold myself to a high standard, which means I always feel like I may fall short.

Thank you, Ralph!


  1. I've been watching Keith Rucker and Tom's Techniques for a few years or so to familiarize myself with machining. I had heard about a trade school in Massachusetts that did night schools (3 hour round trip). That would have been my next step because I couldn't justify buying a milling machine for a one off tool.
    How I think I would have done it: 4 square the blank - cut the bottom tongue - put the gauge in a pivoting vise set at a 1 in 7 slope and mill that. I hadn't thought of using a 1 in 7 parallel(s). I think I'm learning something about machine work but I'll stick with wood.

    1. Ralph- The reason for using the angle gauge is that it makes it repeatable. The actual angle of a 1:7 slope is a little more than 8 degrees. It's an odd measurement that would take some math and figuring every time I set the vise. In making the gauge for my mill, I marked out the slope the old way (blue dye and straight edge) and milled to the line. With the milling gauge made, I never need to figure it out again! A bonus is not having to take my vise out of alignment.
      Making gauges for other pitches would be just as simple. I was thinking about making a 1:8 and a 1:6 just to have around if someone wanted those angles.
      I did take pictures of that process if you are interested in seeing how it was done.

  2. fine work on the gauge, and for a friend....even better!

    1. Thank you, Rick. Like I said in my write up, making parts like this is something that I enjoy quite a bit.