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It’s easy to get grumpy about the way you work in the shop and resist the newfangled features that appear on tools. To be sure, some of these “innovations” are boneheaded (the bench chisels with rasp teeth on the blade spring quickly to mind).

But other ideas are great, and you just have to give them a chance.

This month, I embraced two innovations that I resisted for a decade. I actively mocked these features on tools in both public and private. I went out of my way to avoid buying them. I rolled my eyes when I saw them on tools in other woodworker’s shops. Now I see my error.

1. Lasers on miter saws. We’ve had a dozen laser-guided miter saws in our shop, and they never did anything for me. But after we installed a version with two lasers , one laser on each side of the kerf , in our miter saw’s stand did I swallow the bait. I stopped marking out all my cuts with a try square. I simply laid my tape on the work and lined the laser up with the marks on the tape.

2. Integrated lights on drill/drivers. My first router, an inherited 1970s Craftsman, had a light on it. But the openings in the base were so tiny that it was like peering into a really well-lit shadowbox, which was shooting chips at you. But somehow an impact driver ended up on my bench with an integrated light. I love it. While working inside cabinets I can now use both my eyes and my fingertips to get screws in their holes. It’s much easier and faster with a light showing the way.

Egads. What could be next? Taiwanese moulding planes? Belt sanders? Chardonnay?

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 12 comments
  • Bill

    The light thing is still up in the air for me. I have a Hitachi 3 volt screwdriver that I use for computer work and whole lot of other things cause I’m to lazy to get my PC 14.4 drill. My 18 year old wandered off with my Hitachi and could not find it anywhere. So I tried to find a replacement without paying to much. The light on the 3 volt died after about a week and was never very usefull in a computer or out. I use a panasonic at work way to expensive but it’s been at for 6 years no problems. So I went to big blue and got the Hitachi 10.8 volt for $46 (I’m not sure why it’s $93-129 everywhere else) anyway it has an LED in the front and it works great even in a computer. I’m still not convinced on the light thing. Oh and 2 days after I bought the 10.8 volt I triped over the 3 volt screwdriver in my son’s room. Oh yea dad I found it. God I love kids….

  • Christopher Schwarz


    I’ve seen that with a power planer (with curved blades). It’s amazing….


  • Paul Kierstead

    Hey! What is wrong with Chardonnay?

    Hmmm … next … power hand planer. Ever seen Toshio Odate use one? Interesting, particularly if you are fond of wide boards.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    No, it’s not an aftermarket accessory. I haven’t seen a dual-laser aftermarket device. If someone knows of one, please chime in. I’m not about to give up my Makita LS1013 at home….


  • Glen Hunter

    Just out of curiosity was the laser guide an aftermarket attachment or part of the saw? The double line sounds useful, but I already have an excellent saw.

  • Mattias in Durham, NC

    Chris, Maybe you like the light better now because your eyes have aged?

    David, I remember the corner chisel poo-pooing as well, mostly because I had just bought one. I have still to use it. But it was Bob Lang doing the poo-pooing not The Schwarz.

  • Ed Lindley

    Speaking of eyes; I’ve used what’s called monovision contact lenses for about a year now (I’m sixty-something). One eye corrected for reading, the other for distance vision — I can read the paper, see my dovetail markings, set the fence on my table saw, and see the tiny lines vanish as I progress through the grits while sharpening chisels.

    Safety glasses don’t have to fit over my glasses any longer, and hearing protection doesn’t press against those ear pieces of my glasses. This summer when I did a lot of saw dust producing work I asked the doc for some daily wear disposable lenses (I normally wear mine two weeks) and found even with those dailies, I could use them four days before pitching them.

    So, for any of you who want better vision while doing your favorite hobby, ask you eye professional about monovision and forget those lighted hoohahs — you won’t need them.

  • Jan Goris

    Never ever Chardonnay!!!!

    Jan Goris

  • James Watriss

    Ditto on the light thing. Actually, I’m slightly envious of one one of my shopmates, who has a new Li-ion makita drill-driver. The light on his stays on for a few seconds AFTER the trigger is released, instead of shining only when the trigger is being pulled.

    Go figure.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    Unless I was smoking something, I don’t think it was me. Perhaps Bob Lang? I’ve been using corner chisels for more than a decade.

    If you find the reference and it was me, I’ll check myself into rehab.

    No word on the corner chisels from Lie-Nielsen. They have a lot of new tools coming….


  • David Brown

    For you Chris? I’m guessing corner chisels are next. ;-)In an issue of Pop Wood or Woodworking from the not-too-distant-past I seem to recall someone poo-pooing corner chisels. (insert smirky laugh or rolled eyes) But, in the last issue of Woodworking magazine I spotted a super-secret-not-yet-released Lie Nielsen corner chisel in two or three photographs — I believe it was an article detailing a Stickley-styled plant stand. Any word on when the LN corner chisels are getting released?

  • Clarke Green

    Yeah – I’m with you.
    I have what I am pretty sure is the same impact driver. I bought it (along with a matching drill) this spring. Both of the tools have LED lights and I thought they would be fairly useless – but I am a convert, they work really well. As a matter of fact when my faithful old circular saw finally objected to being regularly dropped on the pavement by self destructing I replaced it with one sporting an LED.
    By the way one of my fellow workers bought a drill/impact combo set a year or two ago and couldn’t figure out why he needed an impact driver so he left it in his garage. When he heard mine running one day he was sure I was stripping out the screws until I showed it to him. He brought his to work from then on.

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