In an effort to inform our readers about the latest and greatest, Popular Woodworking has surveyed the rich landscape of tools and equipment available and made our picks of woodworking tools of note for 2020. Here are some of our favorite tools and
products we discovered over the last year.
Oneida • $2395-$2845
What happens when you turn dust collection technology on its head and replace a giant motor and impeller with three smaller motors working in tandem? You get the CFM of a dust collector and the suction of a shop vacuum. We did a more thorough write up of Oneida’s Supercell in the June 2020 issue, but we had to include it here, too. It’s such an amazingly well-designed and useful tool for a small shop. We’ve used it for everything dust-collection-related over the last year and it’s performed admirably with both 4“ duct and hose down to 1“ dia. hose hooked to portable power tools.
If you don’t need the portability of the one pictured here, you can save a few bucks and get a larger dust collection bin with the wall mount version – it definitely has the power to be a centralized collector in the home shop.
Shaper Tools • $2899
This year really saw Shaper Origin become a full tool system with the addition of its workstation. On its own, the Shaper Origin is an exciting piece of technology enabled routing, but it really shines with the jigging and repeatability of the companion workstation.
Being able to work both horizontally and vertically with the Shaper Origin, as well as being able to get clear instruction on processes with the workstation, helps woodworkers coming from a more traditional background get oriented with the tool. And, the workstation is key to cutting joinery for curved, angled and three-dimensional work of all kinds, which really starts to showcase just how powerful this tool really is.
Milwaukee • $199
Milwaukee’s 18-volt cordless trim router is one of the best we’ve had in the shop. The brushless motor has plenty of power for all kinds of routing tasks—easing edges, roundovers and routing small channels. It’s available as a bare tool or with a combo of an offset base and a plunge base. The included dust collection hood does a decent job of capturing dust and chips. It will run on any Milwaukee 18-volt battery, but we’d recommend one of their 5AH batteries, which seems to be the best balance between weight and run time.
Rikon Tools • $3800
When you are buying a lathe, you will never regret getting more swing and length capacity. But finding space for a long tool in a shop can be tricky. With Rikon’s new design, you get the best of both worlds: a lathe with a 20“ bed and 237/32“ swing and a 40“ bed and 311/4“ swing. Coupled with a 3HP electronically controlled variable speed motor and tons of mass (it weighs in at more than 500 pounds), it is a formidable machine that can do nearly any turning activity. Switching the bed from short to long or anywhere in between is easy, too: The bed extension is motorized and controlled by a knob next to the motor controls.
Woodpeckers • $370-440
If you’re drilling lots of holes in the shop, a drill press is indispensable. But for woodworking, this adapted metalworking tool is often less than ideal. With Woodpecker’s DP Pro drill press table, you can turn any drill press into a more precise woodworking machine, with all the workholding you need.
In addition to the fence and stops, the real game-changer here is dust collection exactly where you want it (around the bit) built into the fence. It’s a fantastic design for a machine that’s notoriously difficult to get proper dust collection with.
Festool • $349
Festool’s sanders and dust extractors are some of the best in the industry. Festool’s new CT15 dust extractor brings the company’s legendary dust extraction to a new, more affordable price point. It’s surprisingly quiet, features a HEPA filter and tool actuation. You do miss out on the bluetooth functionality and Systainer integration that comes with its more expensive extractors, but if you can live without those, it’s a very, very good dust extractor for connecting to all your portable power tools.
Rocker • $149
Sometimes, jigging up your drill press to drill precise angles or getting a big piece of wood to balance on a tiny drill press table is just too much. That’s when many reach for a drill guide. Up until now, though, those guides left a lot to be desired.
Rockler’s drill guide is made from metal (and other durable materials) and the gears lock firmly in place at angles from 0° to 60°—there’s virtually no play in the mechanism. The beefy 1/2“ Jacobs accepts up to 27/8“ dia. bits. The V-notches on the plate help you drill precise centers on dowels. And, for all you pen turners, there’s an accessory designed for accurately drilling pen blanks. For a shop without a drill press (or room for one), or someone that’s drilling lots of angled holes, this guide can’t be beat.
Mood-Mizer • $2995
At some point, most woodworkers see a log on the side of the road and think about turning it into lumber. With the introduction of Wood-Mizer’s new LX25 mill, the power to turn logs into lumber is now more affordable than ever.
First and foremost, the Wood-Mizer LX25 is made in the U.S.A. at the same factory its bigger brothers are built. It can handle logs up to 26“ in diameter and up to 12‘ 5“ in length (additional 5‘ extensions extend the length of the mill). The saw is powered by a 7 HP Kohler gas engine (and you can upgrade to a 9 HP if you’d like).
A mill of this size and specs isn’t going to compete with larger mills that let you mill hundreds of bdft per hour, but it’s more than capable for someone wanting to mill a few trees worth of logs on a weekend, or mill beams for your timberframe.
And, it retails for $3333 (and is priced at $3000 through the end of October). For a made in the U.S.A. sawmill, that price is hard to beat, especially when you start calculating how much money you’ve spent on lumber over the years.
Jorgensen • $25-$35
After being purchased a few years back, Jorgensen has been gradually reintroducing its complete line of clamps, most recently being the E-Z HOLD expandable bar clamps. I tend to use a lot of F-style clamps and parallel jaw clamps in my work, but there are times when a trigger-driven quick release clamp makes woodworking easier.
Jorgensen’s E-Z HOLD expandable bar clamps come in 12“, 24“ and 36“ sizes and have clamping pressure up to 600 lbs. With a larger reach and double the clamping pressure of the company’s other quick release bar clamps, these new clamps do things that other clamps of this design don’t.
One of my favorite features is to be able to take off and flip the foot on the clamp, turning it into a spreader (which has saved my hide more than once). You can use the same mechanism to link multiple clamps together, too.
Harvey Tools • $399
An aftermarket miter gauge for your table saw is one of the first upgrades we recommend. And the Compass MG-36 from Harvey Tools is likely the only miter gauge you’d ever need. Being able to rely on accurate degree markings for crosscutting, a long, solid fence ready to take accessories and excellent fit and finish are all part of what makes this miter gauge a standout.
The locking mechanism, in particular, is a very interesting design. It’s easy to lock and unlock with just two fingers, but also locks solidly in place at seven positive stops when you release the buttons. For degrees in between, the large locking knob handles the task. The size and knurled aluminum body make it easy to lock down the fence tightly and securely. The fence expands up to 36“ and includes a micro-adjustable flip stop. And, the track on top lets you add other accessories as needed. It’s available in both imperial and metric measurements.
Fastcap • $16 per 4 pack
Bench dogs are an essential tool for woodworking, and Fastcap’s Bluedog is a really intriguing design for a dog. With just a 21/2“ hole saw, you can install one on any worksurface. And, with the press of a finger, you can dial in the exact height of the dog for different material thicknesses. When you’re done, simply close it and it returns your surface to completely flush. In addition, the dog pivots in its mount, so you can adjust for any angle.
I wouldn’t go and replace the traditional dogs on my workbench with these, but for an assembly table or other auxiliary worksurface in your shop, Bluedogs are a great addition. Use them for holding work in place while sanding, routing and assembling furniture pieces. And because they install with just a hole saw, you can install them anywhere.
Bridge City Tool Works • $286
Now that the manufacturing and distribution of Bridge City Tools is in the hands of Harvey Woodworking, founder John Economaki can focus on designing and updating his legendary tools. Case in point is the Chopstick Master 2.0. The original product worked well, but John has redesigned it to have a smaller footprint, a more intuitive process and, most importantly, made it easier for a non-woodworker to sit down and start making chopsticks.
Packaged with the jig, handplane, sharpening guide and a few blanks, you’ll be having fun and making useful products within minutes of opening the package. It’s a great way to introduce new woodworkers to the joy of woodworking, too.
Titebond • $30/gallon
Titebond’s newest glue is a godsend for the person with a small shop and a lot of parts to glue up. This indoor (not water resistant or waterproof) glue was developed to increase production in a factory setting (and is only sold in gallon or larger quantities), but the primary benefit—shorter clamp time—has a place in the home shop, too. Because you only need to leave your parts in clamps for 15 minutes while the glue sets, you can unclamp and glue up your next set of parts. This glue really sped things up while gluing up a whole kitchen’s worth of doors, and we now keep a bottle on hand for other production-type work.
Woodpeckers • $80-$180
Accurate layout tools are a must for joinery, and Woodpeckers’ stainless steel DelVe square is an exercise in how many truly accurate reference points you can pack in a single tool. You get 90° and 45° references, along with an angle scale. The offset base gives you 1/4“ on one side and 3/8“ on the other side. The base is exactly 3/4“ wide and 1/4“ thick. The blade is 1/8“ thick and 1/2“ wide. There are scribing guides every 1/8“. And there’s a hole for centering a mark on a 3/4“ thick board edge. And they’re sized for woodworking, in both 6“ and 3“ sizes (unlike other speed squares). You can buy them individually or in a set.
Veritas • $12.90
It takes some practice and skill to dial in the perfect edge on a scraper, but Veritas’s card scraper burnisher takes some of the guesswork out. Designed for two-handed use, the compact design keeps your thumb and fingers close to the carbide burnisher so you can feel the edge of your card scraper as you turn an angle. The small size also helps you keep from pressing too hard and ruining your edge. And, it costs less than a comparable traditional burnisher.
Narex • $180
To make an effective chisel, you need a few things: good steel, the right shape and good ergonomics. Narex’s Richter chisels (named for the company’s founder, Vaclav Richter) deliver on all fronts, and at an affordable price, to boot.
Forged in the Czech Republic, the tools take a little bit of work to get them ready to work. But once they’re set up, they perform just as well as other brands in this price bracket. The handles feel good, and the steel holds an edge well. Like all good tools, these chisels get out of the way and let you focus on the task at hand (and not on the tool).
Microjig • $30
We have enjoyed using Microjig’s dovetail clamps for building jigs and assembly tables, but the newest version (AP – anti-pivot) are a definite upgrade.
The clamps still work with a standard, 1/2“ 14° dovetail track (which you can rout in virtually any surface). The anti-pivot coil spring (located just under the clamp arm) keeps the arm in place for repetitive clamp tasks. The new X-pad foot has a groove in it which helps the clamp exert both downward and in-line pressure from the clamp, meaning you can keep your workpiece flat and push a joint together. The v-groove also helps with clamping non-square stock.
Powermatic • $2000
This affordable, professional-quality lathe from Powermatic packs a ton of features into a compact footprint. The 20“ swing means you can turn big bowls and platters. The optional stand and outboard accessories let you customize the lathe for exactly what you want it to do. Pared with a speed controller and a 1HP motor, this lathe is made to turn beautiful bowls and platters. It’s built with the professional turner in mind at a price that’s accessible to hobbyists, too. And, it’s still small enough to easily transport to shows and craft markets.