The (27 Best) Measuring Tools for Marking Wood (in 2023)

The (27 Must-Have) Layout And Measuring Tools For Marking Wood (in 2023)

I’m going to walk you through some of the best wood measuring tools. The basic tools are common across all trades, from carpenters to cabinet and furniture makers. The more specialist or desirable hardware depends on your craftwork.

You can source all of these on Amazon, and they are quite affordable with a great shopping experience.

What Are The Different Types Of Marking Out Tools And Their Uses?

In this section, I have listed the must-have marking tools for wood. These precision woodworking hand tools are listed in no particular order. I have also provided a short description of each hand tool and an image for identification from my own workshop.

two mortise gauge tools

1. Rosewood & Brass Mortise Gauges

A mortice gauge is used to mark out the width of parallel lines along the grain. A solid brass nut keeps the shaft from slipping. Available in nice rosewood with sizes and shapes to accommodate different types of mortising. It has two steel pins; one adjusts for sizing against your chosen chisel.

single marking gauge

2. Traditional Wood Marking Gauge

Different types of marking gauge are used to mark out wood. The traditional wood marking tools consist of a shaft with a sharp cutter or pin and an adjustable brass fence at the other. The fence keeps the cut line parallel with the workpiece edge for repeatability while thumbscrews secure the shaft. The gauges can be set to any width, making it highly versatile for setting out a chamfer or rip cuts.

budget pencil marking gauge

3. Pencil Gauges

Similar to the above but with the pin replaced with standard pencils.

6 and 12 inch steel rulers and a folding rule

4. Steel Rule And Straight Edge

When using a rule for marking out, it is essential to first identify the overhang. The scales will let you choose incremental markings from 1 ⁄ 8″ to 1 ⁄ 64 “. Finally, mark your desired length along the edge.

Rules may be straight edges, but straight edges can’t be rules without an incremental scale.

four woodworking try squares on workbench

5. Woodworkers Try Square

A wooden try-square is used to try how square the project is or to mark 90-degree angles on boards. The square in the name refers to the 90° angle. To try a piece of wood is to check if the edges and faces are flat and square to each other. If you want something larger, look for framing squares.

With the Trend 3D square, you only have to turn the stock once, not four times.

Top tip: when new, check for square along the blades length before usage.

retractable measuring tapes

6. Retractable Steel Tape Measure

A retractable tape measure is a space-saver you can easily carry in a pocket. Automatic or manual retraction pulls tapes back into their holders. There are several uses, including determining a room’s size or the length of a piece of fabric. It is vital to hold it firmly and extend it fully to get an accurate measurement.

builders line and chalk with refill can

7. Chalk Line

A builder’s line and chalk is valuable for creating straight lines on any flat surface. It can lay out boundaries, paths, or anything else. Creating crisp lines they are also temporary, so you can erase them if necessary.

There are a few things to keep in mind when using them:

  • The item you’re working on must be spotless and dry before you begin.
  • Snap the string quickly and evenly to avoid creating a wavy pattern.
  • Use a chalk line saver (a clear coating that protects chalk lines from the elements) to extend their life.
choice of lumber crayons

8. Lumber Crayons

For cuts or identification, lumber crayons mark lines on the rough lumber. They vary in size and colour, often used with related equipment such as saws and planers.

L and R hand marking knives and a japanese spearpoint

Mechanical Pencils vs Marking knives

A marking knife has a single slope and makes consistent width markings, while carpenters’ pencils might not. Knives are used for detailed cuts, not just horizontal lines and shapes.

Pencils are the most common tools used for carpentry. They can produce quick fine markings while setting out shapes or dimensions. But, it can be difficult to achieve precision, and the retractable pencil lines can be easily erased or smudged.

The steel blade allows you to place chisels or a sawblade in the kerf with accuracy. There are spear point or left and right-hand versions available. Some people try to use a Stanley knife, but the double bevel leads to inaccuracies.

Woodworking Angle Tools

Stanley sliding bevel and small engineers version

10. Sliding T-Bevel

A sliding bevel is adjustable for setting and transferring miter angles. The sliding bevel gauge can copy any pitch and transfer it onto another piece. Ensure it slides with a smooth action and has a good locking mechanism for a reliable transfer of angles.

12" and 6" combination squares

11. Combination Squares

A four-piece combination square can be used to measure different angles. When buying combination squares, they are available in two different sizes, 6 and 12 inches. They can be purchased with other attachments for marking angles in various ways.

This 12-inch combination square is versatile and has multiple uses. Slide the bar to adjust the length and precisely measure and mark your boards. Additionally, the bearing surface allows you to scribe 90° and 45° angles.

In addition, it is excellent for tasks such as finding the depth of a hole or groove. For example, when chopping a mortise, you can use it as a depth gauge. Furthermore, it can find the centre of the boards. Just adjust close to what appears to be the centre and mark from both sides. Then make marks between those two marks with a sharp pencil.

Prices vary, so buy the best you can afford, and you won’t regret having it on your bench.

speed square

12. Speed Square

A speed square is for setting out angles on rafters to form angles. There are different sizes, from 7 to 12 inches in length. They are manufactured from various materials, such as alloy or composite HDPE. With heavy-duty construction, they will keep the factory angles.

campass dividers small and large 12 inch

13. Layout Compass/Dividers

A pair of Dividers can take and lay out detailed measurements and draw circles, arcs or curves. They can be bought new or secondhand, and customised versions can be costly. If exact measures are important, spending the extra money on the 12″ models is a good idea. You can search for vintage ones on eBay, while new tools are available on Amazon.

three different protracters

14. Protractor Angle Guide

A protractor is a tool that helps you to mark angles accurately. A great choice for all sorts of woodworking projects. The head is satin-chrome, anti-glare Japanese stainless steel. The unique indicator arm avoids parallax errors, making it even more reliable. The scale on the top of the head is also perfect for setting a mitre saw cutting angles.

old trammel points

15. Trammel Points

Though they are great, the 12″ compass will only go so far. For laying out a tabletop, you need trammel points. Trammel points are small metal pieces attached to a wooden beam. They help position a workpiece or transfer a shape from one piece of material to a jig. Trammel points work like scratch awls and can create different-sized circles. When used correctly, they can be beneficial in creating accurate measurement markings.

What Is The Best Way To Mark Holes In Woodwork?

There are a few different ways that you can mark holes in woodwork, depending on what the holes are for. If you’re looking to mark the location of a hole, you can use a ruler and pencil.

birdcage awl

16. Birdcage Awl

A birdcage awl is used for creating holes in woodworking plans. It has a chisel tip to mark drill centres and quickly bore holes with a reaming action.

Crown scratch awl tool

17. Scratch Awls

A scratch awl is used to scribe a line across the timber so that a fine saw or chisel can be run properly. When using it as a point marker, it is crucial to hold the handle perpendicular to the board. The tip should be touching where you want your mark.

To start, press down on the handle and drag it across the smooth surface. The result is thin but deep enough for edged tools to follow.

two automatic center punches and an ordinary one

18. Automatic Centre Punch

A centre punch is a tool to mark the centre of an object. It is usually employed to mark a hole’s centre when drilling to prevent wandering. The automatic center punch has a spring-loaded mechanism, so you do not need a hammer. Just push it down by hand until the mechanism fires.

Luxury And Specialist Equipment

These speciality layout tools makes working simpler and more exact. Nearly all of them will permanently reside on the benchtop. If they don’t, you’ll still be happy to have them on hand for a particular project.

stair gauge set

19. Stair Gauge Set

A stair gauge set is a great accessory for your framing square. This is employed in cutting stair treads and risers or rafters for hip, tail, and bird mouth cuts.

First, use the clamps to align the square with the reference edge of the timber. Then, use the stops to span the width of the material. This ensures that the inch marks are still correct. Finally, mark where you want your cut.

20. Adjustable Hook Rule

The hook rule is the most reliable item when taking measurements from aboard. The hook on one end ensures direct measurement, unlike the end of a retractable tape. The hook catches on the back of a board for a reference point, preventing mismeasurement. When measuring from edges, this should be your first choice.

wheel gauges, Veritas and tite mark copy

21. Wheel Marking Gauges

A wheel gauge provides smooth adjustments with clean cuts through the grain and on end grain tenons. The hardened metal blade can easily slice through wood fibres without tearing them.

First, loosen the knurled thumbscrew and slide the rod to the required depth of cut. Finally, tighten the thumbscrew to lock it in place and scribe away.

marples panel gauge

22. Panel Gauge

A panel gauge marks out the width of a board. This is usually done to show where to rip the board. They can be found on the antique market and can be purchased for around $25. You can build your own if you have time and some metal skills.

digital calipers

23. Digital Calipers

Digital callipers are for taking precise measurements of an object. The distance between the calliper jaws informs you of the overall size. A button allows switching between metric and imperial. So many uses; with the tail, you can get the depth of a screw hole or inside dimensions.

carbide scribers

24. Carbide Scriber

Metalwork is a necessary evil for most woodworkers at some point. A carbide scriber is a basic device with a very sharp point. One may compare it to a striking knife for metal. It works in any solid material, even the hardest metals.

brass setting blocks

25. Brass Setup Blocks

Brass setup blocks are ideal for machine work, setting your router bit or table saw blade height. The range of eleven sizes from 1/8″ to 3/4″ in 1/16″ increments offers greater flexibility. The bars can be stacked if needed to achieve larger sizes. Most blocks come with a pre-marked size which makes using them a breeze.

ruler stop

26. Ruler Stop

A ruler stop is a handy attachment that helps ensure repeatable marks. The angled slot grips virtually any item up to 1 3 ⁄ 16″ wide, so it is ideal for using with a variety of brands.

aluminum dovetail markers

27. Saddle Marker

A saddle or dovetail marker is a tool used for laying out dovetails. Once glued, a joint requires no mechanical fasteners. The precision CNC machining has a black finish and graduated imperial scale. The outer edges have slopes of 1:5 on one side and 1:8 on the other. The inner cutouts offer additional slopes of 1:6 and 1:10.

Manufactured from anodised aluminium with a red/black finish and is a valuable aid when setting out corner marks accurately. The imperial graduated indications on this instrument guarantee an excellent design every time. The bottom corners and underside are relieved for an even more precise setting out.

Advantages of Good Marking Tools

Good tools for measuring are vital for sawing and chiselling. The essential woodworking marking tools are simple and effective. Newer tools may have different features but are not necessarily better.

What Are The Different Brands Of Marking And Measuring Tools For Woodworking?

There are many different brands of tooling manufacturers. Some stand head and shoulders above the rest for a good reason. To list all is beyond the scope of this guide, so we will look at a few notable names below:

Joseph Marples

You should check out these products if you are looking for easy-to-use tools. Their expertise as tool makers with woodworking tools since the 1840s shows. The firm provides gauges and other measuring devices for woodworking projects.


Woodpeckers have a reputation for high-quality tools. Founded in 1988, it specialises in T-tracks, stops, and router table accessories. The equipment can be used accurately because it has holes and slots in the centre. Everything is made in the US from airforce grade aluminium.


Innovative design lies at the heart of the brand known for its woodworking equipment. The firm makes several goods for the discerning woodworker. Engineers and industrial designers manufacture its superior items. Lee Valley’s sophisticated production plant serves clients globally.

expensive wisdom quote

What Is The Price Range Of Woodworking Measurement Tools?

The classic tools are simple and reliable, but they don’t have a lot of bells and whistles. They can be picked up for not much money at all with beech or plastic handles.

The newer tools are better, but they can be expensive. For precision jobs, though, they’re worth the investment.

What Are The Reviews When Buying Tools?

  • Imperial Tape – An essential for all work, a good model should be easy to read and have a durable case.
  • Rules – A good rule should be robust and have clearly marked measurements.
  • Layout squares – A necessary tool for many things, good squares should be durable.
  • Gauges – Good marking gauges ensure accuracy and should be simple to read.
  • Knives – Versatile tools for many different tasks; they should be sharp and have a comfortable grip.
  • Markers – Important for making lines on wood; a good marker should have a fine tip and be easy to hold steady.

Finally Finishing Up

So, what’s a good marking tool? It really depends on your needs and budget. For the most part, we recommend investing in the highest quality tools you can afford. You’ll save time and money by working more quickly and effectively with the correct tool collection. So, what are you waiting for? Buy The Best You Can Afford.

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