The Combination Gauge Guide

The combination gauge has 4 main parts, the wooden stem, the wooden stock, the setscrew and the marking pins. The stock has a lock system on it to allow it to keep the distance from the pin, this enables you to mark exactly the right location. The reason this is called a ‘combination gauge’ is because it combines the functionality of two very similar tools, the marking gauge and mortise gauge. The marking gauge has one pin and the mortise gauge has two. In a combination gauge the the single pin is one side of the stem and the double-pin mechanism is on the other side.


The combination gauge is used to mark parallel lines lightly on the surface of wood. The twin pin side can be used to mark out the width and position for a mortise and tenon joint. The single pin side is used to mark the depth for recesses or the width or thickness of a board when sawing or planing it to size. There are a wide variety of other marking functions that this tool is useful for. The combination gauge is very important in creating accurate joints. While you would rarely see the lines made by a gauge in a finished piece of furniture, they make accurate joinery much easier.


  • Pins – These are the small metal spikes held in the stem of the gauge that mark the wood on contact
  • Stem – This is the long section of wood that houses the pins. It slides through the head to set the distance for marking
  • Stock – This locks into position on the stem and is used to butt up against the reference edge
  • Wear Plates – Metal plates on the surface of the wooden gauges
  • Setscrew – Locks the stock to the stem

Types of Gauges

The combination gauge is a mixture of 2 traditional gauge types:

  • The Marking Gauge (this has one pin for marking a single distance line parallel to an edge)
  • The Mortise Gauge (this has two pins used to layout two parallel lines at once. One of the pins is fixed in the stem while the second pin is adjustable)

Parts of the Combination Gauge

● Stock

◎ Stem

● Pin Bar

● Locking Screw

● Pins

Relevant Guides

9 thoughts on “The Combination Gauge Guide”

    1. Hi Nick,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Paul suggests practising applying the right pressures in the right direction. He says there is a tendency to want to press the gauge down into the wood when really we’re simply trailing the pins to mark the surface.

      I hope this helps!

      Kind Regards,

    2. Only apply light pressure on the first pass to define the score line, and tilt the gauge head so the pin is striking the surface at an acute angle; so as to minimise the inclination for the pin to follow the grain direction. Assessing the grain beforehand can also give you an indication weather pushing or pulling the gauge will provide better results.

  1. I recently purchased two cheap gauges, one a combination gauge and the other a marking gauge. Not surprisingly the fit and finish leaves much to be desired but my main concern is neither one is particularly square when it comes to the relationship between the stem and face. I can get them to lock down reasonably square but only by continually eyeballing them as I’m locking them down.

    My question is, does it matter? I have seen some folks say a marking gauge doesn’t need to be square at all, and others say it matters a great deal. Thanks in advance for any insight!


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