5 small shop tools to add to your Christmas list

randysharpWith Christmas just around the corner, my wife and three daughters know that dear old dad isn’t about to let a golden opportunity pass him by. I don’t ask for much. But once a year, I have no shame in naming off a couple of $30 stocking stuffers.

This Christmas just might be a good time to drop a few hints to the Santa in your family!

In my woodworking shop, there are five small tools that no woodworker should be without. They’re easy on the pocketbook, yet indispensable to the serious woodworking hobbyist.

There’s just no substitute for having what you need when you need it. Rather than making do without them, consider how these multi-use handy gadgets can improve the quality of your woodshop projects.


1. Calipers
Being able to measure all the board thicknesses before starting your project insures that the rails and stiles will result in joints that are perfectly flush. In addition, calipers can be used to match up tenons and dadoes sizes or to measure the diameter of drill bits and dowel rods. And, if you want perfection coming out of your planer, there’s no substitute for calipers.

2. Brass Setup bars
setup barsI worked for years before discovering the amazing precision that setup bars provide. Now I use them exclusively for setting the height of my router bits and saw blades. They also offer the ability to “double-check” cuts like dadoes and rabbets. I use the bars to set my router table bit, make the cut, and then use them to check against the actual cut in the work piece. From here, I can make micro adjustments to the cutter.

If you want perfectly perfect cuts, you can’t go wrong with a set of setup bars.

3. Nail punch set
nail punchMore than a tool to set finishing nails in baseboards, these “Jim Dandy’s” make the perfect tool for setting dead-on starting holes for drill bits. When I need to drill holes in a board, a small punch provides my bit with a starting place that results in wobble free accuracy.

4. Wall-mounted pencil sharpener
pencil sharpenerThe first step in lining up any cut begins by making a pencil mark. Spending a few bucks for a good wall-mounted pencil sharpener will keep you making sharp, clear, crisp pencil lines that will pay big dividends. And while you’re at it, ask Santa to throw in a box of pencils too!

5. Bucket vacuum
bucket vacDedicated dust collection systems do a great job, but their size can make them cumbersome for small jobs. Unless you have a high-dollar installed system with a long micro hose, a small portable vacuum is an economical way to quickly clean up isolated messes. I purchased the small vacuum head separately from the 5-gallon bucket for more savings.

I use mine for cleaning out T-tracks and shavings at the drill press after using a fortsner or spade bit. And it’s small hose is ideal for a quick hookup to my palm sander, scroll saw and biscuit joiner.

A better project
Make your next woodworking project a little easier…and better. Adding these few extra tools to your shop will make you the envy of every elf at the North Pole!

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