Upon first glance of this tool, one might conclude that it belongs to some dominatrix hell-bent to inflict pain upon whomever is on the receiving end of it. But, one would be wrong.
This tool, believe it or not, is a marking gauge! And what a marking gauge it is. It is the extremely rare Brown & Barry Patent of July 7th, 1868. The two Einsteins spawned this outrageous thing in Capron, Illinois of all places. This example is the only known specimen that has the names of the patentees stamped into it, and curiously it surfaced in Vermont. The tool is also stamped with two other dates, 1845 and 1871. All of the markings are individually hand-stamped, which speaks to the fact that the tool couldn't have been made in any large quantity, as if the mere sight of the thing wasn't proof enough of this fact.
The tool is eleven inches long, made of rosewood, and has boxwood thumb screws. The beam and fence are both hexagonal. Five of the edges have a brass slide, where each carries a pin to mark the wood. The slides are not a uniform length, but grow shorter by approximately one inch over the five of them. One slide, the shortest, butts up against a brass plate that also carries a pin so that the two pins can layout mortices. All of slides are graduated in inches. The sixth edge carries a fixed pin as well as the patent information. Each of the five thumb screws locks its corresponding slide in place.
Whatever prompted these two inventors to make this thing is moldering in the grave with each. They obviously thought the tool would find use in trades that required much layout, where one gauge could do it all. Problem is, there ain't that many trades that need 6 different gauges set and ready to go. Regardless, their folly is our treasure, proving without a doubt just how low the human mind can sink. On the plus side, there is no danger of the tool rolling off the bench as its hexagonal fence keeps it steady wherever it may sit, and sit it did evidently.
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pal, February 15, 1998