Hamilton 6" Cutting Gauge
Review and photos: James Brook
Back in 2004 a young Jeff Hamilton attended the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Indiana, USA. He arrived for the joinery class with a set of unsharpened chisels and other tools that were still in the packaging.
All went well until he was marking out a keyed-through mortise joint. His marking gauge was too large to lay out the joint properly and others in the class had the same problem. So teacher Marc went to his bench and picked up a little gauge that he had acquired years earlier.
Using the simple gauge to lay out the joint Jeff fell in love. With the gauge! After everyone had tried the tool, Marc said the original maker had grown tired of making the tool and if he could find someone to pick up the torch and run with it they had his blessing. Jeff took the bait.
The original gauge was serviceable but nowhere near what it is today after the final design was arrived at in 2008. Jeff lengthened the beam by an inch, added a brass wear strip, a custom knob and redesigned the blade. All that really remains of the original design is the signature bat-wing fence.
The sample I reviewed is made from very hard fiddle (or curly) maple although other woods can be ordered. The tool is available in 4" and 6" versions and has a beam that runs on a dovetailed keyway, with a brass knob that locks the beam to the fence.
The blade is made from spring steel, heat and cryogenically treated to a hardness of Rockwell 60-62. It has a fingernail grind that is designed to cut across and with the grain. It also helps to keep the fence tight against the work.
The dovetailed keyway leaves the factory as a neat and tight fit although I found with Queensland’s very humid weather that it was too tight. I thus opened out part of the dovetail with a scraper to get a smooth sliding fit.
The gauge is great to use. Naturally as a cutting gauge, cross-grain and endgrain marking was the best, however going with the grain was no problem although you do get a fine cut line that can be hard to see in some woods.
A key part of the design is the bat-wing shape of the fence. Apart from its look, the shaped fence allows your thumb and forefinger to comfortably rest and apply force to effect the cutting action.
This is an ergonomically designed tool that functions very well. One of the best features is its small size that allows you to get up close to the cutter and apply pressure where needed. After a few days use it has become a favourite with its simple yet effective design that truly becomes an extension of your hand when used.
Review tool from www.hamilton tools.com