JWA Founder, Daigo, gives us the lowdown on this favourite Japanese marking tools: Keshiki and Shirabiki.
What’s the key difference to Western marking gauges?
When comparing Japanese marking gauges to their Western counterparts, you’ll immediately notice two things – Japanese gauges have a wooden body (normally white or red oak) compared to a metal structure and use blades instead of pins for marking across the grain and along it.
Which would you say are better better?
You’re asking the wrong person! I’d always opt for the Japanese marking gauge simply because using a blade which cuts, leaves a finer mark on the wood than a Western pin-style gauge which scratches.
Do you pull or push a Japanese marking gauge?
Like the majority of Japanese tools, Japanese marking gauges are used on the pull stroke. The fence slides onto the edge of the wood to marked and the blade cuts a line parallel to the edge.
Types of marking gauges
As a woodworker you’ll most likely need a marking gauge for one of 2 tasks: either marking a single line or marking a double line for morticing purposes. A ‘suji-keshiki’ is the most common keshiki, used to mark a single line parallel to the edge of a piece of wood. With a simple, flat fence and single beam to hold the blade, it’s pure Japanese simplicity. Suji-keshiki can also come with 2 beams on one fence, so you can mark 2 parallel lines at the same time (for making mortices).
What’s a shirabiki?
A shirabiki is a different type of marking tool. It looks like a very sharp looking knife basically! The main difference is the angle of the cutting edge – it’s much greater in order to mark not cut the wood. It’s used cross-grain for marking tenon shoulders primarily.