The other day I found some kebiki blades at the bottom of one of my toolboxes and since I am making a lot of furniture lately and doing al kinds of joinery I figured I could use some more. Kebiki are so handy and can save such a tremendous amount of time during layout especially if you have several and don’t have to keep changing the setting on them. Accuracy and consistency guaranteed.
Back in the days carpenters used to make many of their own tools especially those that are made or could be made almost entirely of wood. Kebiki (scribing gauges) are the perfect example of such a tool. Of course you can buy really well made kebiki made by a reputed craftsman, but there are plenty of reasons to make them yourself. They are cheap, quickly made, you don’t have to wait months after you placed an order and you can customize them to your current project and personal preferences.
I was always told that kebiki are not a carpenters but a joiners tool. This makes sense because carpenters often deal with irregular shaped timbers and if you use centerline layout as we do in the Japanese tradition there is little use for a layout tool that uses the edge of the piece as a reference. If however you use perfectly dimensioned pieces, well seasoned and unlikely to warp or move you actually could use them.
Below are some examples of the ones I bought and love to use. The quality of their blades is very good and they are easy to sharpen, scribing with a dull blade or a nail as you see in some scribing gauges will make inaccurate marks which defeats the whole purpose of this layout tool.
The one on the left has a double blade and is made by Kinshirou the one on the right is extremely accurate to 1/20 of a bu or half a rin and is great if you need to adjust the setting often. (10 bu = 1 sun = 0.1 shaku)
I had some scraps of Ironwood and Ebony floating around the shop and spend an evening carving these kebiki.
The large one which is ideal for scribing large timbers and can be easily used to split thin boards. Indeed splitting boards, very fast and accurate.. And we love fast and accurate. Note the curved bottom of the fence which greatly aids it’s ease of use.
They’re style is classic, nothing special or fancy just the way I prefer it. I hope you copy them and if you have not incorporated these tools in your workflow you are missing out on one of the most efficient woodworking tools. In that case there is no time to waste and you should add them to your arsenal today.
Just a couple more notes. Make sure that the groove in the beam that will receive the blade is slightly angled so that the blade pulls itself into the fence during use. If the blades is tilted the other way, even the slightest bit, the kebiki will ride itself away from the fence. It just won’t work.
You can make your blade from any piece of sharpenable steel you have laying around. Whatever you can find will work. An old bandsaw blade or replaceable saw blade which you are about to retire will work just fine.