For anyone who’s still having trouble picking out a woodworking gift, here’s a little more advice: if you’re not an experienced woodworker yourself, rather than guessing which one of the mysterious gadgets you’re trying to pick from are the best and most useful of the bunch, let other woodworkers tell you. Rockler customer reviews (ever growing in number) contain a wealth of unbiased information on what woodworkers really like, and why they like it. To help you get started, here are a few examples of field-tested and approved tools, chosen from our Holiday Gift Guide.
The All-In-One Clamp Guide is an obvious place to start. This popular tool is something that just about any woodworker can use, and it’s also one of our most reviewed tools. A clamp guide, in case you’re not familiar with the term, is most often used as a straightedge to help guide a router, circular saw or other tool in a straight line across a material. Woodworkers with space and/or funding limitations tend to be the clamp guide’s biggest fans. It gives them an easy, practicable way to achieve accurate cutting and machining results with a compact, affordable tool. Beyond being sold on the general idea of the clamp guide, many woodworkers favor the All-In-One version specifically. In his review of the All-In-One, Craig Maynard writes:
“This all in one clamping guide is the best guide that I have ever used with a circular saw or router. With 50" Clamp and a circular saw I can now cut a sheet of plywood perfectly straight and square. When using the clamp with a router I can put an edge on a board straight enough without any flaws that can be joined together. This clamp is one of the best tools I have invested in.”
And there’s this from Ray Labulis, in Poughkeepsie, NY:
“What a gem of clamp. I bought the 50" clamp and used it to build an HDTV stand. I liked it so much, I have just ordered the 24" version along with the squaring guide. The clamping mechanism is solid and secure. The clamp is very well built and is a pleasure to use. Everyone I show it to loves it. Keep up the great product selection.”
For more on what the woodworking public thinks of this handy shop standard, read the remaining 41 All-In-One Clamp Guide customer reviews. Along with several heartfelt endorsements, you’ll find valuable information on what other woodworkers and DIYers do with tool, and a few tips to pass along on how to use the All-In-One to its best advantage.
When you think of really great woodworking gifts, the term “extension cord” may not spring immediately to mind. But in truth, anyone who’s spent a few too many clean-ups engaging several yards of electric cord in much the same way they would a giant python will love a cord management system that actually works. At least that’s the impression we get from customer reviews of the 12 Gauge Cable Reel, like this one from Mark, in Anaheim Hills, CA:
“I purchased this item for my garage. Got weary of always yanking out extension cords and then coiling them for storage after a chore. What a great feature of just reeling-in your extension cord! After my first purchase...promptly went out and bought another for work!”
Besides providing unbiased opinions, information from woodworkers who are practiced in assessing tools can really help ferret out the subtle differences in quality between one version of a tool to the next. Here’s a review of the same Cable Reel from Ernie, in Elkhart, IL:
“I purchased this reel for my woodshop. After looking forever for one that was 12 gauge through and through...I came across this one. It is very well built...metal housing, and retraction seems to be very good. I would recommend this one over the 40' reel that [another tool supplier] offers any day. Theirs is plastic, and the cord is too long to retract properly. Kudos to Rockler!”
We love that: the review zeros in on the features that really matter to people who actually use this stuff: a metal housing instead of plastic, heavier gauge wire to handle the higher levels of current that many woodworking tools draw, and a length of cord that retracts the way it’s supposed to.
The not-always-apparent differences between similar tools are extremely important. Here’s an excellent example: Apart from a few obvious differences, to the uninitiated one hand saw may look pretty much like the next. But an experienced woodworker will find huge differences in individual saws, even within a narrow range of specialization. Clyde, a fine woodworking student from Lakewood, CO, for example, had this to say about the Ikedame Dovetail saw:
“I am currently a fine woodworking student at RRCC in Lakewood. The school has a wide variety of handsaws anything from a gentleman's saw, a traditional western saw to dozuki and ikedame saws. After trying many of them I seemed to favor the Japanese saws for the thin smooth cuts, however the western saws kept rigid and the cuts were straighter. The only problem with the westerns was that they had slightly larger teeth and on smaller projects it would just splinter the edges n try to tear the wood. In comes the Ikedame my personal fav, slim and smooth benefits of the Dozuki saws yet the straightness and rigid back of the western. The outcome was a clean, easy, accurate cut. 2 thumbs waaaay up. When doing dovetails or even hand mortise and tenons I only touch the Ikedame.”
If the woodworker on your list leans toward traditional furniture making techniques, Clyde’s opinion offers valuable insight. Designed specifically for fine joinery by author and master craftsman Toshio Odate, the Ikedame saw has a short stiff blade that many converts to the Japanese pull-stroke style saw find easier to control. It makes an especially useful gift for woodworkers who’ve been at it for a while but are still working out their preferences when it comes to the finer points in tool design.
We’re not saying that you should avoid any woodworking gift that doesn’t come with a legacy of glowing reviews, but if you’re looking for gift that will be both a surprise and a success, it pays to do a little research. Gathering the opinions of other woodworkers is a great place to start learning which woodworking tools and supplies work best in actual practice, and why.