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Tip #183
Precision Marking Can Make All The Difference !

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How many times have you cut out a pile of project components to what you thought was the right size…only to discover that when it comes time to put everything together…they fit together OK, but it could be better.

Often (especially with small, intricate, tolerance-critical projects), this can be attributed to the device you use to mark everything out.

If you’re using an ordinary #2 pencil, it must be VERY SHARP. However, depending on the wood you’re using, that sharp point can start making a wider and wider line with each pass you make.

A harder Drafting pencil (4H or 6H) is much better…but still dulls fairly quickly and often makes a line that’s so faint it can be difficult if not impossible to see on certain darker woods like mahogany or walnut.

And if you’re reaching for one of those giant, flat-leaded pencils that users often sharpen against the rough edge of a brick or concrete block, perhaps close-fitting, precision woodworking isn’t your cup of tea !

So, what’s the answer ? Knives. Sharp, pointy knives! For three reasons:

1: The thickness of the line they scribe on a piece of wood is ALWAYS less than that produced by ANY pencil

2: That line thickness never changes significantly

3: You can SEE that line, no matter what color the wood you’re using.

So, what kinds of knives are best?

  • Artist’s (X-Acto -style) knives
  • Shop utility knives
  • Oriental Striking knives (made for this job, but costly)

What about scratch awls? They’re OK…but lines can get ragged and uneven if you scribe too deeply.

An added benefit

Scribing your lines instead of penciling them also scores the wood, which helps prevent chip-out or tearing of the cut. This is especially true if you’re cutting plywoods or veneer-surfaced woods.

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