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What Is a Profile Gauge?

A profile gauge is a versatile tool used to capture and replicate complex shapes and contours with precision. Ideal for woodworking, metalworking, and tiling, it consists of a frame filled with slender, movable pins that conform to an object's profile. By pressing it against a surface, it creates a perfect outline for easy tracing. How might this tool simplify your next project?
B. Turner
B. Turner

A profile gauge is a tool used to capture the shape or contours of an object. These relatively simple tools allow users to copy or re-create unique profiles or hard-to-duplicate designs and patterns. Workers and craftsmen in a wide variety of industries depend on this device during manufacturing, crafting, and maintenance work. The profile gauge may also be referred to as a contour gauge in some parts of the world.

The standard profile gauge consists of dozens of steel pins arranged on a single plane side-by-side. The pins are connected along the center by a steel bar or metal strip. This central connector holds the pins together, but allows them to extend up or down until the tip of the pin touches the metal bar, but does not pass through.

Man with a drill
Man with a drill

When users lay this tool up against the surface of an object, the pins slide away from any bump-outs or raised areas in the item. Once the contour gauge has captured this image, it can be carefully moved away from the object. The pins remain in place, positioned so that they replicate the profile of the item. Users can then hold this tool over a sheet of paper, wood, or metal and trace the exact outline of the object being duplicated. This tracing serves as a template, which allows craftsmen to recreate the original object down to the last detail.

Different types of profile gauge tools allow users to capture different levels of detail in an object. Units made with fine pins are designed for highly-detailed work, such as capturing the profile of a specialty fastener. Models with thicker metal pins or strips can be used to duplicate larger objects, such as hand tools. Delicate objects, such as wooden or clay antiques may require the use of a profile gauge made from soft bamboo or plastic. Large-scale automotive applications generally require a very large profile gauge that uses flexible plastic strips to capture a design.

These tools are used in many manufacturing and industrial settings. Builders rely on a profile gauge to copy the contours of architectural molding products. Woodworkers may use this tool to recreate a unique table or chair leg. Artisans capture profiles on clay pots, while manufacturers use this tool to create customized or duplicate parts for a client. A profile gauge also allows auto body technicians to replicate different body styles or parts.

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      Man with a drill