a simple mortise gauge and some mail

Jennie Alexander's fixed mortise gauge

Here is one of Alexander’s favorite shop-made tools, a fixed mortise gauge. A simple shape cut out of riven oak, and two drywall or sheetrock screws. It really works quite well, but I have resisted making one all these years. Stubborn, I guess. But for those of you who want to tackle some joinery, here is a simple solution to marking the same setting for mortise-and-tenon joints over & over again.

here is the top edge, showing the screws:

The gauge was included in a package that came in the mail the other day. Usually it’s junk these days, but in former times I got great stuff in the mail. And so I did again.


Alexander's scrub plane

This plane arrived, now retired from Alexander’s shop, and back in service in mine. I didn’t need such a tool, but wanted this one because it has been part of our joinery study from the beginning. I think. I really don’t remember when JA made this tote – but it’s been a long-standing favorite plane. It looks like the turned hand-hold behind the iron is a part of the JA rehab job as well. Perhaps Jennie remembers better than me & will chime in.


In seventeenth-century studies I always like it when a joiner died in his prime; that way his probate inventory stood a good chance of containing lots of tools. Like this one from Thomas Scottow of Boston, 1661:


A lathe and six turning tooles     00:12:00

In the yard

A prcell of wood      02:00:00

A prclll of bolts & pannells &c          01:00:00

In the shop

25 plaines   01:??:??

One long saw 3 hand sawes       00:12:00

A paire of compasses 3/ 3 augers 3/     00:06:00

2 hold fasts 5/ 3 benches 12/     00:17:00

25 Chissells, files, & other tooles          00:12:00

2 Axes & a frow      00:08:00

6 chissels & other working tooles & lumber    00:10:00

Boards       01:10:00


The other end of the spectrum is when a joiner lived beyond his working years, and his tools got dispersed, thus did not show up in the inventory. Well, here in the modern day, I’m glad it’s not an early death. And now I know what it’s like to receive some well-worn, but still completely useful tools, passed from one set of hands to another. Nathaniel , you’re next. If the US Post Office is still running in 30 years on, it’s yours.

Unless one of my kids takes up the craft…




5 thoughts on “a simple mortise gauge and some mail

  1. Peter:
    Thanks for blogging the fixed mortise gauge. My mortise chisel is 5/16 inch wide. The inne pin is 5/16 inches from the gauge’s stock. the outer pin 5/8ths. I have never needed another mortise marking guage. I do keep a single pin adjustable marking gauge around for other tasks. By nature ebony and brass are not my thing. File bofh pins flat on the their outer sides. Leave the pins round on their inner sides so they will pull the gauge up against the edge you are marking from.

    The plane was a smooth plane. It is now a scrub-foreplain. The tote replacement was scrap. I did turn the hand hold behind the iron. I like a scrub -foreplane that can readily remove stock quickly and work in all directions pushed or pulled. I guestimate that I revived this survivor about 25 years ago. It iworks and fits the hands beautifuly.

  2. Peter-
    I should have sharpened the plane before US Post Service took the box to you. That little beauty will work and be respected by you. So the plane could not be at a better home.

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