Locking vs Regular Contour Gauge

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  June 20, 2021
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To all DIY handymen and professionals, a quality contour gauge is an awesome tool that makes duplicating a certain shape a whole lot easier.

If you’re in the market to buy one of these “Handy” things, you might face some confusion over which one to look out for. Well, I’m about to make that a lot easier for you.


Type of Contour Gauges

Contour gauges are usually made of two materials; ABS plastics and stainless steel. Both have their upsides and drawbacks. ABS plastic ones cost less but are less durable. Stainless steel ones will last longer but the pins tend to bend.

Stainless Steel

If you need high precision, a contour gauge with high resolution will suffice. More pins per unit measurement mean better resolution. So thinner pins are required to get maximum resolution. In such cases, pick one with metal pins.

ABS Plastic

If you’re willing to forgive a few millimeters of error, the ABS plastic ones might be right for you. The ABS pins are much thicker than the metal ones. Hence, they decrease the resolution. However, they will not become rusty like the metal ones.

Another thing to consider is while the contour gauges with ABS plastics pins won’t cause scratches on the measuring surface, it’s highly likely the metal ones will. So, choose the metal ones only if you’re working on hard surfaces.


Locking vs Regular Contour Gauge

One of the notable features of contour gauges is the locking mechanism. While it’s not a must-have, you might want to pick one with it included depending on your work.


A strong locking system will help you if you’re transferring a shape or pattern to somewhere distant. That way the pins won’t get misplaced if they get nudged. However, the pins on a contour gauge without this system won’t casually move usually unless you apply pressure.


If you’re aiming for accuracy, a locking system is a way to go as there will be no slipping or sliding of the pins. A regular profile gauge can be accurate too but it will certainly need more effort and concentration to achieve that.


One of the important things to consider is the cost. Regular profile gauges are cheaper but the price difference isn’t that much. So, unless you’re short on cash, it’s better to pick one with a locking mechanism.


For now, you might be able to get the job done with a regular contour gauge, but if you’re someone like me who looks for things to fix or renovate around the house, you might regret not buying one with a locking mechanism. Picking one with it will just cover all bases.



For transferring a shape to a distant place with high precision, a locking profile gauge is recommended. If your short on a few bucks and don’t mind a little error, you can pick a regular one. You can also check out this video to help you choose. This video is also very helpful as well.

With all that said, I think you can choose your contour gauge according to your liking and needs easily now after you know how to use a contour gauge. For the fellow DIY enthusiasts out there, I would highly suggest you choose a locking one for future projects.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.