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While doing some flooring a while back we came across the need for a contour gauge.  Truthfully, that was our first exposure to ’em.  They’re a bit puzzling to figure out at first glance.  They look like a rather bad metal comb, but actually they’re hot stuff for replicating an edge or contour. 

The concept works by lining up the steel pins along the contour or shape then pressing them into the contour enough to make a negative of that shape.  The other side of the pins are connected to the negative side and form the positive end which you can trace or check against another piece of wood or metal.  We’ve also seen them employed to shape soft clay and Styrofoam in model making.

Contour gauges come in different sizes and pin depths ranging from 3” wide to 1’ and pin depths from 1” to 6” depending on what task it’s made to handle. 

The $3 at Harbor Freight will be well worth it the next time you need to make an exact copy of a complex 3D curve.  If you’re looking for more of a “name brand,” we found one for $7 on Amazon.  Personally, we have the cheap-ass version.

Street Pricing [Froogle]
Buy It Now from Amazon [What’s this?]


5 Responses to Finds: Contour Gauge

  1. nrChris says:

    Hands down, the best tool for coping molding. If you have ever tried to freehand draw the profile of a molding then you know this first hand. I have a cheapo one that was about $3 and it only lacks in fine finish what the more expensive ones provide. So its ugly. Works just great.

  2. salsa says:

    I’ve used these for building 3d (cg) models of smallish freeform objects which are hard to measure. I put the subject on a flat surface and drew an outline for registration. Then I put the contour thingie over it, noting registration pin positions on the ends, then traced that contour on a different piece of paper. When done, I had two sheets– one with an outline of the subject and registration points for splines (to skin/loft), and another sheet with the profiles themselves. Scan them in, set as templates, draw splines, snap, rebuild curves, skin/loft, and voila!

  3. TimG says:

    I’m thinking this would be great for autobody rust repair (forming the patch panels, sometimes there are some deceptively slight curves that can get you!).

    Wish I could find one for $3 though.. I’d probably end up paying $15 around here =(

    Very nice tool for

  4. sizod says:

    These are great, also doubles a head lice comb 🙂

  5. Joshua says:

    Ohhh. Perfect. This is just what I have been looking for. Anyone have the part number for Harbor Freight? I have been looking it up online and so far I haven’t been able to find anything. I was going to stop by on my way home and pick 1 up if they had one here locally.


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