Some days I forget that not all woodworking tools are designed by woodworkers (see: many of the honing guides on the market).
And I forget that some tools are just designed to trick your family members into buying them for you at Christmas (see also: the battery-operated tape measure and C-clamp).
This weekend as I was cleaning up the shop a bit, I started thinking about many of the odd, unnecessary or downright counterproductive features on tools and machinery. Here’s my short list. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments below. Remember, this is about features, not about particular brands.
1. Slick Miter Saw Tables. Every miter saw that has come into our shop has had a polished and slick table (usually aluminum). I hate this feature, and it is one of the reasons these saws aren’t as accurate as they could be. The slick table makes your work slide around unless it is secured by a stop or a clamp. The result is that your cut is not at the desired angle. Add some sticky-back sandpaper to the fence of your saw and you’ll be impressed by how much more accurate you are.
2. Jointer Fences that Bevel. Every jointer fence pivots. And every jointer fence (except one , ours. We set ours at a permanent 90Ã?Â° with lock-nuts) tends to loosen up in time and go out of square. In all my years of woodworking, I’ve never wanted to pivot my jointer fence. I’ve always had a better way to put a bevel on a board. But I am constantly frustrated by having to re-square my jointer fence to the table. For the five people who make bevels on their jointers, manufacturers can offer an accessory fence that bevels.
Oh, and the same goes for the rabbeting ledge on the jointer. The only reason I’ve used it is to see how it works.
3. Wacky Ruler Markings. I have two beefs here. The first one is about rulers that are marked in tenths of an inch and are sold to furniture makers. The only thing I need tenths of an inch for is measuring rainfall. These rulers have caused so many errors that I’ve banished them from my shop. Beef two: When the graduations on the ruler are all the same length (or nearly the same length). The marks for 1/4″, 1/2″ and 3/4″ should be the longest. Then the eighths should be shorter. And the sixteenths even shorter than that. I have a 24″ rule that makes me crazy because of this.
4. All-metal Hammers. Have you ever used one of these for more than a couple nails? Has your arm recovered yet?
5. Chisels With Bucky Sides. If you make a bevel-edge chisel, make it so the bevels actually do something. The bevels are supposed to allow you to get into acute angles, especially in dovetails. If they don’t do that, then they are as useless as mammaries on a tomcat.
6. Collet Locks on Routers. I know I’m going to take heat for this one because every manufacturer tells me that the consumers love collet locks. I find them awkward and fragile (I’ve busted at least four). Please let me tighten my collets with two well-fitted wrenches in peace.
7. Plastic Tool Cases. Space is at a premium in my shop at home. These hard plastic cases take up way too much space, and it’s always difficult to get the tool and the accessories into it. When I get one, I give it to the kids to mess with. I actually do like the soft tool bags that some manufacturers use. Those get filled with all sorts of things when I need to install a cabinet or my kids have a sleepover.
8. A Junky Stock Blade. Not everyone does this, but some makers of table saws, miter saws, jigsaws and circular saws ship the tool with a blade that is, at best, suited for cutting goat cheese. I hate throwing away a blade and having to buy a decent one. Either put a good blade on the tool (and charge me more) or ship the tool without a blade (and charge me less).
9. Router Table Fences that Offset for Jointing. Do you know how hard it is to joint an edge on a router table on a board that is 6′ long? Setting it up to do that operation is silly if you have a jointer or a jointer plane.
10. Unnecessary Lasers. On a jigsaw? Really?
– Christopher Schwarz
Tool Resources that Will Help You Make Good Decisions
– “Bill Hylton’s Ultimate Guide to the Router Table” by Bill Hylton.
– “Handplane Essentials” by Christopher Schwarz.
– “Cutting-Edge Router Tips & Tricks” by Jim Stack , note what routers he uses….
– “Working With Power Tools” by Paul Anthony.