Very few workshop tasks are as satisfying as putting a plane through its paces. The bench plane, coupled with the dexterity, skill, and confidence of the woodworker, can perform a variety of finishing tasks, from smoothing flat stock to truing an edge. Shown: Sweetheart No. 4 Bench Plane from Stanley. Available on Amazon; $199.99.
Many woodworkers have shops, basements, and garages full of hefty power tools but don't know the pleasure and utility of an effective handsaw. The best and most useful place to start is with a versatile Japanese-style saw, a ryoba or dozuki. Shown: Japanese Mini Dozuki Panel Saw from Rockler. Available at Amazon; $41.99.
There's a saying in the woodworking community: you can never have too many clamps. If you have no idea what to get the woodworker on your list, this is a guaranteed hit. Choose from manufacturers like Bessey, Quick-Grip, or Jorgensen for options from $5 to $40. Shown: 6-Inch Wood Handscrew Clamp from Bessey. Available at Amazon; $22.84.
Measuring and marking tools comprise a vital component of the woodworker's arsenal, and in some cases modern technology wins out. A digital caliper provides measurements in both imperial and metric systems, allowing you to dial in exact measurements. Shown: 6-inch Digital Caliper from Boruo. Available at Amazon; $15.30.
Woodworkers know that the key to a tool's sharpness is setting the right bevel. Since that's nearly impossible to do by sight, there's zero shame in relying on a honing guide. Look for one that includes settings for proper registration as well as preset bevels, the latter to facilitate what can often be a daunting task. Shown: Honing Guide from Woodriver. Available at Amazon; $14.99.
A magazine subscription is the gift that keeps on giving, and for woodworkers, the options are plentiful. Fine Woodworking (Amazon; $34.95 for 7 issues/12 months) is the standard, but you might also consider monthly subscriptions to Wood, ShopNotes, Woodsmith, Popular Woodworking, Family Handyman, Woodcraft, or Woodworking.
A proper pilot hole should be drilled, countersunk, and counterbored. Standard bits and cutters can do the job, but the process takes forever. A basic countersinking bit set costs less than $40 and will pay for itself in a single project. Shown: 5-Piece Countersinking Drill Set from Snappy Tools. Available at Amazon; $22.
Most woodworkers have a solid set (or three) of basic twist bits, but a lot of folks lack brad-point drill bits, which are actually designed for wood and provide consistently cleaner holes. Shown: WoodRiver 29-Piece Fractional Inch Brad-Point Drill Bit Index Set from Woodcraft. Available on Amazon; $39.99.
Wood Chisel Set
For anyone with cabinetmaking ambitions, wood chisels will undoubtedly hold a place of honor in the woodworking workshop. This set of six high-quality Cabinetmaker's Chisels—sized 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", 5/8", 3/4" and 1"—features steel hoops on stained beech handles and comes packed in a sturdy wooden box. Available at Garrett Wade; $89.90.
Illustrated Finishing Guide
Many a woodworking project has been flawlessly planned, cut, and assembled—only to meet less-than-stellar results in the finishing phase. Taunton's Complete Illustrated Guide to Finishing (Amazon; $27.16) provides a reference on everything from surface prep and staining to sealing. In short, this is a must-have for the woodworker's library.
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