Last updated: August 11, 2021

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Widely used in carpentry, DIY and construction: the contour gauge - it creates a precise template of any contour and thus simplifies complicated cutting and consequently the workload of a craftsman. The application is very versatile and the gauge is very easy to use.

The shape of an object can be reproduced quickly and accurately without the need for complicated templates or drawings. The profile gauge is also a multifunctional device and is suitable for many different types of materials, such as laminate, tiles and plastic.

In our big contour gauge test 2021 we want to help you find the best contour gauge for you. We have compared six models, from the entry-level model to the professional version, and listed the respective advantages and disadvantages. This should make your purchase decision easier.




Summary

  • The contour gauge is a tool used for tracing and transferring cutting paths. It allows you to create an exact copy of the contour of an object.
  • Visually, there is hardly any difference between the current gauges, so you need to take a closer look at the quality of the materials used and the workmanship.
  • The contour gauge is particularly suitable for advanced craftsmen, but there are no barriers to entry for beginners when it comes to handling.

The Best Contour Gauge: Our Picks

Contour Gauge: Buying and Evaluation Criteria

In this chapter, we look at different criteria for contour gauges to help you make a buying decision:

In the following, we explain what is important in the individual criteria and what you should definitely look out for when making a purchase.

Size

There are different sizes of contour measuring devices. However, the most common measuring range widths are 130 mm and 250 mm. The measuring depth also varies with the respective devices, which ranges up to 45 mm.

The correct size (W x D) of the measuring device depends on the object to be measured. For example, the smaller model is sufficient for a narrow heating pipe. Whereas the larger version is used for a larger object and a larger diameter, such as the drain pipe of a gutter.

The same applies to the measuring depth of the appropriate contour gauge. When purchasing, attention should be paid to this so that the subsequent measurement can be carried out as precisely as possible and without complications.

Material

When buying a measuring device, you should pay attention to the quality of the material and the workmanship, so that a long service life can be ensured.

A high-quality material guarantees a long service life.

Most models are now made of high-quality ABS plastic, which is very strong. The individual pins are enclosed in the plastic housing, which is screwed together with a screw at each end. Stainless steel screws are usually used to prevent them from rusting.

The use of high-quality materials ensures the necessary strength and durability of the contour measuring device, so that nothing stands in the way of long-term use.

Feature

As already mentioned, the processing of the materials is an important criterion. The individual pins should have a flawless and fine cut, otherwise it could happen that the pins get caught in each other during use and the measurement deviates from the desired result.

Another feature that should make handling much easier is the locking device, also called a clamping lever. After applying the needle template, the desired outline is created, which is to be transferred to the material, e.g. tiles or laminate. In order to obtain the most precise measuring result possible, the scanners should be fixed in their position. This is guaranteed by the so-called locking device, which holds the pins in the measured shape.

Now an error-free drawing can be made on the surface for cutting without the individual pins slipping.

Suitability

The contour gauge is suitable for almost all contours, corners, curves, as well as for irregular surfaces. Thus, a drawing for the planned cut-out can be easily transferred to the material with the help of the contour gauge to enable a clean result.

It is of no importance whether the contour to be measured is a rectangular base or a round heating pipe. The flexibility of the individual needles guarantees precise and fast shaping for the desired cut.

The contour gauge is preferably used in the construction of a house or the renovation of buildings. But the contour gauge is also already being used in car body construction and 3D printing.

Contour gauge: Frequently asked questions and answers

The most important questions about contour theory are answered below. They have been carefully selected and will provide you with useful answers so that you will know all the relevant aspects of contour theory.

What is a contour gauge?

The contour gauge, also known as a contour duplicating gauge, contour measuring device, needle template or profile gauge, is a tool that is used for tracing and transferring cutting courses.

Konturenlehre-1

The contour gauge can be used to measure different shapes, such as the recesses on the columns
(Image sources: Jason Hafso / unsplash)

To understand a little bit where the term "contour gauge" comes from and why exactly it is used as a name for the measuring device, we have to go back in history a few years.

In his Aesthetics, the theorist Winckelmann created a theory of contours that sprang from the sensual experience of Greek sculpture, Greek architecture and the experience of the temples of Paestum and the Raphaelian Renaissance. The line became decisive and Winckelmann had thus enabled his contemporaries and successors to see ancient sculpture and architecture in a new way.

The contour gauge adapts perfectly to any form and allows an exact copy of the contours to be transferred. The fine pins nestle against the form with millimetre precision and later serve as a template for cutting.

What types of contour gauges are there?

In the following overview, we have summarised the common types of contour gauges with their advantages and disadvantages and presented them in a table:

Type Advantages Disadvantages
small/short contour gauge With the handy device, small contours can be transferred effortlessly. Suitable for tiles, skirting boards, laminate, etc. Not suitable for large buildings
large/wide/long contour gauge With the larger device, more difficult dimensions can be mastered. Suitable for large buildings, as well as stairs, door frames, etc. Requires some experience
digital contour gauge Contours can be transferred even more precisely Very high price

This illustration of the different types simplifies the selection of the appropriate measuring instrument. The smaller contour gauges can only measure small objects and are the ideal entry level for do-it-yourselfers. The professional chooses the larger gauge for larger and more complicated contour measurements.

What does a contour gauge cost?

The cost of a contour gauge starts at 2.49 euros and ends at just under 50 euros. We have summarised the most important devices including a price table below:

Model price
small/short contour gauge approx. 3.99 to 22.99 euros
large/wide/long contour gauge approx. 6.99 to 33.97 euros
digital contour gauge approx. 7.58 to 40.67 euros

The price of a contour gauge can be determined by the actual intention and intensity of use.

What are the alternatives to a contour gauge?

If you do not want to use a purchased device at all, there are some alternatives that can also be used to measure contours:

Type Description
Make your own template Self-cut template (a lot of cutting when there are several objects to measure and very time-consuming)
Measure and mark contours Measure with a ruler and mark on the material (a lot of fiddly work)
DIY contour gauge Requires a bit of intuition
Eye measurement Measure the distances by eye (very inaccurate and not recommended)

In the end, whether you choose to buy one or make your own is entirely up to you.

How do I use a contour gauge correctly?

The use of a needle template does not require any special prior knowledge and the handling is the same for almost every measuring device.

  1. Pressing: This involves pressing the contour gauge against the contour of an object with light pressure until the rods are in the desired position.
  2. Fixing: Once they have been fixed in place by the key, in some this is automatic, the device can be removed.
  3. Drawing: Now the contour is transferred to the workpiece. Here, the corresponding shape is traced with a pencil and can be cut with the special tool.
  4. Shaping: To move the rods back into their original position, they must be pressed back into shape with light pressure.

Conclusion

In summary, there is a wide range of contour gauges on the market and you have to keep your eyes open and pay attention to detail when looking for the right contour gauge. You should take a close look at the materials used in order to get the most out of the gauge for longer.

For starters, the all-rounders are suitable, starting at 2.49 euros. As you move up the professional scale, the prices also rise. An expensive purchase is worthwhile in any case if you are a professional and planning a large construction project. Have fun measuring!

Photo source: jrichman57Seguir/ flickr.com

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