10 Tips for Marking Out


10 Tips for Marking Out:
We show you how to do it right! Marking out components for cutting and shaping wood is the most basic requirement of woodworking.

Marking out components for cutting and shaping wood is the most basic requirement of woodworking

In woodworking (as with all things) there are bad, good and better ways of doing things. It matters because it affects the size, shape and accuracy of the result, it can waste time and material getting it wrong and there’s the matter of personal pride in doing a job well. The truism ‘measure twice, cut once’ is very relevant, care at the marking out stage can save a lot of effort and heartache later on….

1. Start the process by taking accurate measurements, making a sketch drawing and component list for each job. If you are making fitted furniture extra care is needed because existing spaces are seldom square or parallel.

2. Consistency is everything. If you use metric rather than imperial stick with that and work in millimetres rather than centimetres to give enough accuracy. Most timber, board and fittings are supplied in metric sizes so it makes sense.

3. Be sure to use good quality marking tools. An engineer’s square is more precise than a trysquare with a wooden stock for example. A marking knife is essential. Use medium and hard grade carpenters’ pencils sharpened to ‘chisel’ tips.

A sharp pencil, marking knife and chisels are essential

A mortise gauge for accurate marking of mortises

4. Make sure components are flat and square before marking out joints. Ready machined, planed timber should be so, but planing by hand requires skill and constant checking. Failure to do this will make it impossible to get joints to fit.

Check the wood is truly square

5. Even if you haven’t worked timber by hand, it will often have a ‘best’ face, so use traditional ‘face and edge’ marks for the ‘seen’ faces. In addition, mark each component with a letter so you know which order they will go together in. 

Face edge marking

6. Sliding tape rules have a sliding end piece to allow accurate internal and external measuring. Make sure
the sliding end piece isn’t bent out of shape. To be extra precise start measuring from the 100mm mark but don’t forget to add that 100mm back on to your measurements afterwards!

7. Joints are marked with a hard pencil because it gives precise lines. ‘Hatch’ waste areas so you know exactly what needs to be removed. Use a marking knife to reinforce the lines with greater precision. 

Hatching of the waste to be removed

8. If you need to scribe shapes to fit around mouldings or other objects such as pipework, make a
card template and cut it until it fits correctly. Now apply this to the wood and draw around it for a precise fit once it is cut out.

9. Cans make useful shapes to draw around for circles. Most homes and workshop have a variety of sizes available to choose from. 

Paint cans and other objects are handy for marking around

10. Don’t rely on pencil to mark around critical items such as hinges or dovetails. A knife can run right next to the object in question for a much more precise fit. Utility knives aren’t suitable as they are rather loose in the handle and won’t always follow the desired line.

Only precise marking will give perfect joints


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