This morning I got a chance to spend a little time in the shop and as I worked with a few things, I thought about some of the items in my shop that don’t seem to get enough attention in the tool forums. It isn’t that they are rare, it is just that they are small items that many forget about when someone new asks about recommended tools for any new woodworker. So, while many forums will go into great detail about tablesaws, jointers, bandsaws, scrollsaws, etc. I would like to dedicate just a little space to get a list going of the small items that new woodworkers might not be familiar with, are fairly inexpensive, yet have made a considerable difference in our measuring, pocketbooks, and efficiency.
I will start with these three items -
Abrasive Cleaning Stick -
Anybody and everybody that has ever used sandpaper understands what a limited life each sheet or disc has. It doesn’t take long before the sandpaper clogs up and the sheet looks wasted, so we throw it away and grab another one. We do this because we know that the paper is losing its effectiveness and, even worse, is going to start marking our pieces with scratches instead of removing the tool marks we are trying to get rid of. A few months ago, I picked up one of these abrasive cleaning sticks for about 8 bucks. It has made an unbelievable difference in the life of my sanding belts, sanding discs, and sheets of sandpaper. I can honestly say that it paid for itself with my first packet of discs, as the life of my sandpaper easily extended 3 times what it normally would.
Brass Setup Bars -
Need something to help you set the height of router bits, saw blades, jointer knives, etc. quickly and efficiently? Look no further than a 15-25 dollar brass setup bar set. I bought a pack of five from MCLS. They are machined to be exactly 1/16,1/8, 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 inch thick. I stack them or set them side by side for fence alignment. They have really made setup a much less complicated process for me and they are worth their weight in gold.
Saddle Miter Layout Gauge
I always had problems marking a line down the edge of a board that was consistent with the mark on top. This little layout tool has been a godsend for me as it allows me to set the mark on the edge exactly in alignment with the mark on top. The version of the tool I have is in metric but that doesn’t phase me much because I use it for layout and not measuring anyway. And the 45 degree guide on the end has really simplified those tricky cuts for picture frames on my miter saw. I can measure the required length, mark the miter angle, and line up my cut with the blade. Twenty bucks at Rockler I have seen it on sale quite frequently at half price. On sale or not, worth every penny.
Now I know all of you folks have a tool or two in your shop that you use frequently but the items escapes notice or does not immediately come to mind. What unheralded tools do you have in your shop that would save many headaches for someone new to the craft?
-- There is little that is simple when it comes to making a simple box.