Face Marks

This is something I’ve wanted to post for a while, but I’ve been concerned it would come off as snooty or elitist. But I’ve finally got the nerve and here is is:

Am I the only one who takes to heart that the face mark (from the Latin: facies) denoting the reference face of a board (i.e., a tried and trued surface) should be written like the top half of a cursive, lower case “f“?

Like so, shown is corresponding square mark on the reference edge.

Maybe I’m just an elitist prick, but the rando squiggles you see in some woodworking media infuriate me. In fact, I’m not sure which is worse: the rando curly cue that doesn’t even make it to the reference edge or the backwards (!) “f” that is otherwise correct.

Is there some pre-Industrial French spelling convention I’m not aware of that F’s are written backward when not accompanied by a vowel with an accent grav or something?

There seems to be near unanimity in the woodworking community that use of anything other than traditional marriage marks should be discouraged because it can lead to assembly errors, so why don’t more people care about this?

This has bothered me for a long time. I may not be the best woodworker, but when I make a face mark, it looks like a god damned “f”.

Thanks for listening. I am prepared to lose readers and followers over this issue.



  1. I have noticed that a lot of photos on the inet are mirrored — you can see this because words / photos / books letters are mirrored. I have never understood if this was on-purpose by the poster because they didn’t want the words to be distracting, or, if it is some aberration of digital photography, or if it’s done by professionals to make photography look better to the eye (i.e. fashion models look best if they are facing to our left). Perhaps they are drawn correctly as a cursive F and then mirrored in the act of posting online?
    PS. If anyone unsubscribes over this, they have an awfully curated life. If this is the worst thing that happens to me today I’m doing extremely well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Agreed, good sir. If you are going to do it, you should do it correctly. I do it because I am totally copying the people I am learning from that do it. My challenge is to obey those marks and to only measure off those faces and edges as work progresses πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do use the loopy triangular marriage mark, because it makes sense and we engineers don’t have an equivalent.

      But asking me to use some other symbol for datums, after 25 years as an engineer, would be like asking me to speak Swahili.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. If you scrawl too much none of it makes any sense anyway and leads to mistakes. If I’m getting tired and lazy some of the crap that I have pencilled is a complete waste of time and a reminder to either stop or collect my thoughts and start again. I don’t think of it as pedantic, it has to be legible and clear or why do it in the first place? I have confirmed this by having to leave a project/job and coming back to it and having a WTF moment with myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Whether you are making an f or a v or a lollipop or a pagan symbol matters little. As long as the person building has a system and follows it, it will work. Unless you want to pass the parts on to me for completion I don’t care how you’ve marked them. I’m pretty sure there is woodworking in places that don’t derive their language from Latin.

    I will put like parts in their final orientation and mark a large triangle somewhere on them so I know what sides to mortise or whatever. Those little arrows can conflict and confuse sometimes depending on whether they are showing at the time. Usually I double up on one side of that triangle to distinguish the two.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The arrow is grain direction, and admittedly, I should get better at marking that away from the face mark (like I did on the square edge). And yes, I was referring to Latin-derived languages, of course. I won’t force my own values on other cultures.


  5. The ‘f’ for ‘face’ made sense to me, but mainly because the christian brothers school system tended towards the taliban in many ways, and you only wrote one way as a result afterwards πŸ˜€
    The caret that marks the ‘edge’ though, I have never seen the etymology for…

    Liked by 1 person

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