Cabinet Scribes

Cabinet installers swap opinions on store-bought and field-rigged scribing devices. November 19, 2006

I'm looking for an online source that sells a good quality compass (or scribes, whichever you prefer). I can only find the cheap $.99 compass.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor F:
Anyone that sells drafting supplies.

From contributor D:
Woodcraft sells a bunch on their site. Just search for "scribe" and you'll get good results. The AccuScribe looks pretty cool for $16.99.

From contributor R:
One of the best tool purchases I ever made was a good pair of stainless steel scribes. I think Woodcraft has them in several different sizes. Mine are about 6'' long, and hold a regular wood pencil with a small thumbscrew. You can also put a cheap, disposable mechanical pencil in them for fine work.

From contributor G:
I hate compass scribes. I usually just cut a piece of scrap on the chopsaw and run that along the wall. No angle/radius issues, as with a compass. Perfect scribe every time.

From contributor A:
You must be lucky and always get straight walls. Mine always seem to have lots of lumps and bumps. The block trick only works on perfect walls. The Accuscribe is good for scribing cabinets to drywall. They cost about $12. I use one of these and I still carry the General 99 cent in my pouch.

From contributor O:
Fastcap has a really nice scribe.

From contributor K:
I have the Fastcap scribe and it is nice. It sits flat and gives a truer line than a conventional compass. However, it is very wide. I like to use the gold compass with a lock that keeps it from moving.

From contributor A:
As an aside, I forgot to mention Fastcap didn't design that scribe. It was designed by the famous woodworker Tage Fried. It appeared as one of those tricks of the trade articles in Fine Woodworking back in the 70's. I guess someone at Fastcap was reading old issues as well. It was supposed to be built out of wood.

From contributor G:
Unless you are scribing to stucco or tile, the block trick works great for just about everything. Cut a small one, an inch wide. I use the .99 cent brass General compass scribe for the really bumpy stuff or if the line is to narrow for the block trick.

From contributor L:
I'm with contributor D - block scribes work better than anything else. Use a utility knife to mark your line. It scores the wood so it does not splinter out. Plus it makes the line really easy to see, not like the pencil line on the masking tape that keeps disappearing on you. Since switching to block scribes, 90% of my cabinet fillers fit good the first time. I have block from 1/2" to 1-1/2" precut in 1/16" increments. On most walls, they follow the contours better than a pencil scriber, because it is so much more stable and solid. When I do have to use a scriber, I use a log scriber, and when I break the log scriber, my coworker who got me hooked on block scribing, gives me crap for using it.

From contributor T:
I use the red plastic one from Hafele. Cheap and bulletproof. We tried the one from Fastcap, which looked better, but ended up having some issues, so we went back to the Hafele. A friend that does solid surface does it with a washer - the outside of the washer runs along the wall and the pencil point runs along the inside. Simple and it works great!

From contributor C:
I use the 99 cent scribe. Have a double bublr somewhere in my shop that I only used once. Lost a couple of $18 scribe compasses. The .99 compass is small enough to get into almost anywhere. After using it daily for fillers, it is second nature using it.

From contributor P:
I drilled a 1/16" hole through a quarter and put the tip of my pencil through that. Works great! Only cost me a quarter, too! I keep it in my watch pocket so I don't accidentally spend it! Approximately 1/2 inch scribe.

From contributor N:
Accuscribe/Fastcap is good for gently curved, smooth surfaces. My favorite, though, is to shim the cabinet or whatever level and use the offset base on my laminate trimmer to cut the scribe, or if the piece to be scribed is thick, at least to create a ledge cut that I can finish off with my big router and a flush trim bit. Very fast once you get the hang of it and never has to be rescribed - fits perfect every time. I use an accessory for the router called Quickscribe.

From contributor W:

I'm with contributor P (with one improvement). I drilled the hole in an electrical knockout, and saved the .25 cents.

From contributor V:
Lee Valley tools has several different types. There are a few that you clamp onto a ruler. They have a set meant for log home builders, and the standard type. All of their tools are built to last, so can be a little more money. I haven't been disappointed yet.