Every year we name the best new tools we’ve encountered and feature them in our December issue of Popular Woodworking magazine. The process we use is entirely unscientific, and we like it that way.
Here’s a snapshot of how it works: We make a list of every tool we’ve encountered during the year, whether it’s just a tool we bought, one we reviewed in the magazine or even saw at a show. Then all the staff members hash it out during meetings, in the shop and via e-mail. We persuade, cajole and threaten one another to get our way.
And in the end, we all agree on the tools (usually we cap it at 12) on the list.
This year’s list is in the December 2009 issue of Popular Woodworking, which is on its way to subscribers and newsstands now. In the meantime, we thought we’d share the list of tools that were finalists but didn’t quite make the cut. These are all great tools, and if we had room in the magazine, I bet they would have also been on our list of “The Best New Tools of 2009.”
Delta 46-460 Midi Lathe
This lathe is in the shop right now , we plan to review it in the Tool Test column of the February 2010 issue. The cool thing about this lathe is that it has a reversing switch , a feature you don’t typically find on small-scale lathes. With the extension bed, you can turn up to a 42″-long piece between centers , that makes it a good lathe for the furniture maker who doesn’t have a lot of space and needs a lathe on occasion. Senior Editor Glen D. Huey stood up for this small machine after seeing at a show this summer.
Lie-Nielsen Thin-plate Tenon Saw
This was one of my favorites that I just couldn’t get enough support for. The great thing about this saw is that it has a very thin sawplate for a tenon saw , it’s .02″ thick instead of a more typical .032″. The thinner sawplate makes the saw easier to push through the work and more balanced overall. It’s a big sucker , the blade is 16″ long with 11 points per inch , but it handles like a much smaller saw. If you need a tenon saw, this is one for the top of your list.
Bad Axe Backsaws
Daddy has a saw problem. We purchased these Bad Axe saws earlier this year and I’ve been using the heck out of them all summer and fall. I’ve written a lot about these saws on my blog (here’s one entry). The craftsmanship on these saws is simply incredible. When I take them to shows, people can’t help but pick them up. Plus, they have a different design aesthetic than other premium saws: These tools have a decidedly American look to them with steel backs and cherry handles.
Rockler Bench Cookies
I’m sure you’ve heard about Rockler’s new Bench Cookies. Bloggers have been spilling a lot of pixels on them. We’ve been testing them out in our shop to see if they live up to the hype. We’re actually pretty impressed. We dumped them into the dust collector to see if they remain grippy when saturated by dust. They do. Our ad director, Don Schroder, has been using them quite a bit to hold his workpieces while routing them. I want to test them a bit more because I want to make sure they don’t lost their grip. But so far, so good.
Bridge City’s DSS-6 Double Saddle Square
This 6″ square is a drop-dead gorgeous and well-made tool. I personally think it should be on the list of “Best New Tools,” but we just couldn’t get the numbers to work. It’s stainless steel, which is cool, and it has a built-in saddle square. And did I mention it’s a real looker? We bought one for the shop, and Huey bought one for himself. And that says something.
Chris Vesper’s Bevel Gauges
Being the editor of this magazine doesn’t mean I always get my way. Case in point: Chris Vesper Tools’ bevel gauge. I bought a 4″ one from Vesper when he was touring around the United States. And I just ordered a larger one from him earlier this month. These tools have the best locking mechanism I’ve ever used. It really takes some effort to move the blade, and that’s what really counts in the middle of a project.
Bridge City KerfMaker KM1
John Economaki of Bridge City Tools showed us a prototype of this tool in May. Senior Editor Robert W. Lang and I were particularly impressed. The tool is a super-tricky way to set your machine fences so they make dead-perfect grooves and dados. It’s hard to explain with words, but the video on the Bridge City web site will open your eyes. This is a very clever tool that , to my knowledge , has never been made before.
And if you think these tools look good, wait until you see the list of the winners.
– Christopher Schwarz
P.S. Here’s a link to the 2008 winners if you need something else to do while your boss isn’t looking.