Yes, it’s that time of year again. Hard to believe that Christmas is approaching at twice the rate of a Japanese high speed train but the fact of the matter is, it is just around the corner. Not that Japanese high speed trains go around many corners, the Shinkansen as they are known, travel on tracks that have no sharp curves, thus allowing the high speeds, but you get my drift?
Of course, what all this means is that it is now the time when you are frantically racking your brain for ideas for gifts for woodworkers! The good news is, if you are buying a gift for a woodworking partner, friend, colleague or relative then you have an almost infinite amount of things to choose from.
Now, lets assume you have already read my post ‘Essential Woodworking Hand Tools for Beginners’. With that in mind, let’s also assume that your particular woodworking enthusiast already has all the tools on that list. So we are looking for other handy bits of kit that will make his or her eyes light up and have them scurrying off to their workshop on Christmas morning.
For now, I’m only going to cover hand tools but this article will be the first in a series of three. The next will cover power tools, who doesn’t love power tools right? And the final one will look at some awesome workshop machines.
I composed this list to cover beginners and experienced woodworkers alike and hopefully I have covered all budgets, starting with the cheaper options, so there is something for everyone.
So let’s dive into my list of gifts for woodworkers so you can surprise your favourite woodworking enthusiast.
1. Safety Equipment
You might be starting to see a familiar theme in my blogs. I really can’t emphasize enough how important it is to always consider the safety aspect. Making things from wood is immensely satisfying and you certainly wouldn’t want to spoil that by sustaining an injury or irritation. Hence, I always list the safety equipment first.
Safety Goggles: Hopefully your woodworking enthusiast already has appropriate eye protection but you can always add something or replace existing gear if it is damaged or scratched. Safety goggles are excellent because they cover the entire eye, not just from the front. So for using power tools and machinery they offer much better protection from flying debris.
Safety glasses on the other hand, offer less cover as they have limited side protection. I generally use mine when working with hand tools.
Both the goggles and the glasses can be fitted with prescription lenses which is pretty important for spectacle wearers like me.
Dust Masks: I have to confess, for a long time I was a bit irresponsible when it came to dust masks. I would often find myself half-way through a sanding job before realising how much dust I was creating. Thankfully I have learned to have more respect for my lungs and now always wear a dust mask when sanding by hand or machine.
Sanding creates a lot of ugly little particles and the severity of these can vary by wood type and whether there is paint or varnish too. A dust mask will stop most of this airborne annoyance reaching the lungs and causing invisible harm.
Hearing Protection: Not something that needs to be worn all the time but when using power tools and workshop machinery good hearing protection is another important piece of safety equipment.
There are many different kinds out there and it really all comes down to how much you want to spend. From a basic set of ear muffs to a custom moulded set of in-ear plugs you will find something to fit any budget. Just be sure to check the decibel rating to ensure they are suitable for the tools being used.
2. Non-Slip Sanding & Router Mat
A non-slip sanding and routing mat is a simple and convenient piece of workshop equipment. It keeps the work piece firmly in place without the need for clamps and is ideal for sanding, routing, carving and drilling.
Personally, I don’t bother with the ones from the hardware stores. I buy non-slip carpet underlay from my local fabric shop (you can also find it at carpet stores) which comes in a 1200mm/4′ wide roll and can be bought in any length you want. It is the same rubber mesh construction but a fraction of the price.
Get a few metres at a time, wrap a nice bow around it, and they can simply cut a piece the size they need to work on.
3. Quality Wood Glue
Every woodworker needs glue so you can’t go wrong buying them some more. There are so many to choose from how do you narrow it down? They might need some waterproof wood glue instead of the standard stuff or perhaps they would like to get a high quality wood glue for their most important projects.
For general use and for strength and versatility one of the most popular and the one I use the most is Titebond III Ultimate Wood Glue. A high quality glue that is also waterproof and is FDA approved for indirect food contact so can also be used for things like chopping boards and butcher blocks.
4. Glue Bottle
This might sound a bit odd to a non-woodworker but a good glue bottle can make assembling that latest project a simple and pleasurable experience and drastically reduce joint squeeze-out (the glue extruded from the joint when you clamp it together).
Also, many woodworkers buy their wood glue in large quantities and decant it into smaller usable bottles. Look for one with a well-designed applicator and easy to hold shape. The FastCap GlüBot is my preferred glue bottle because its clever two-chamber design means it doesn’t drip and it can be used at any angle.
5. Workshop Apron
Let me tell you something, my T-Shirts get way fewer holes in them and no glue and varnish stains when I wear my workshop apron. That’s when I remember to put it on BEFORE I start messing around in my workshop (okay, I know it’s a garage but I dream it’s a workshop).
Aprons come in several different designs, materials and prices so you should be able to find one that suits. My wife made my latest one from denim she bought at the fabric shop. Cheap and practical with pockets and loops exactly where I wanted them – perfect.
6. Surform File
Although these are often referred to as a surform file they are probably a closer relation to a rasp. The replaceable blade is made from perforated metal and looks similar to a cheese grater. There are many different styles of surform including flat plane, flat, half-round and round.
Surform blades allow material to be removed quickly without clogging and they are primarily used for shaping and shaving.
7. Forstner Bits
Forstner bits are used to drill clean, precise, flat bottom holes and come in a variety of types and sizes. They are also pretty versatile because they can drill notches on the edge of the wood, angled holes and even overlapping holes.
Although they can be used with a portable power drill they are best suited to a drill press as they have a tendency to drift off-centre once through the surface of the wood.
Available individually or in sets they make a great addition to any woodworkers tool kit.
8. Dovetail Guides
A dovetail guide is a perfect aid to marking and hand sawing precise and consistent dovetails. It is especially helpful for anyone starting out in woodworking who might shy away from dovetail joints because they don’t feel confident enough to make them.
In my opinion the best dovetail guides are those with magnets on the guide face which helps keep the saw blade straight and true while making the cut. They come in all the common dovetail angles including 1:4, 1:5, 1:6, 1:7 and 1:8 and produce great results when cutting both the tails and pins.
9. Quality Tape Measure
Tape measure are another of those basic tools that vary markedly in price and quality. No tape measure is going to last forever so a quality brand that has the option to replace the blade (the measuring bit) when it breaks or gets worn is definitely the way to go.
I would also recommend getting a dual measurement one, with the tape showing both inches and centimeters. There are also a number of digital versions available now but I have never used one. Currently my main measuring tape is a Stanley Fatmax Pro 5m which for me, is comfortable and strong. Having dropped it more times then I care to remember (and stood on it more than once!) it is practically unmarked and the blade still looks like new.
10. Straight Edge or Winding Sticks
A straight edge, although not essential, is a very handy piece of kit for any woodworker. It has a multitude of uses including checking machinery surfaces for flatness and alignment or simply marking out work pieces. They can also be used in pairs as winding sticks for checking wood for twists.
My personal preference is a chunky aluminium model because unlike the hardwood makes, they are not susceptible to climate and humidity changes, and therefore are more likely to remain straight and true. The Woodpeckers SERX pictured has precision milled straight and parallel edges, with one thin flat edge and one wider landing edge.
They also come in a variety of lengths so you can pretty much buy any size that fits your budget.
11. Sharpening Stone
No matter what they make or whether they are a beginner or have years of experience, every woodworker needs a sharpening stone. Similar to chef’s knives in a kitchen, the sharper woodworking tools are, the easier and safer they are to use. Whether it’s chisels, plane blades or just a trusty buck knife, the edge needs to be sharp and true.
There are various types of sharpening stones available including natural stone, synthetic stone or diamond. You won’t be surprised to learn that the diamond is the most expensive. However, the cheaper double-sided (or combination) whetstones are something beginners and experienced pros can all use. They come with different coarseness on either side and the one I have used for years has 220 grit (coarse) and 1000 grit (fine).
If they already have a whetstone and your budget can stretch to it, then I would definitely recommend upgrading to a diamond stone. They are the dogs dangly bits when it comes to sharpening and are so much faster than a standard stone.
12. Honing Guide
If you need a sharpening stone, then you also need a honing guide. It is another of those small affordable tools that is of enormous benefit to any woodworker.
Trying to sharpen things like chisels or plane blades free hand is a pretty challenging task, with achieving a consistent bevel angle the hardest part. A honing guide holds the blade in place at the exact required bevel angle with the guide roller allowing easy forward and back strokes across the sharpening stone.
I use a Veritas Mark II Standard Honing Guide but any good quality guide will ensure your gift recipient has many happy years of consistent bevel angles.
13. Sliding T-bevel
The sliding T-bevel or false square or simply bevel gauge is used to copy and mark different angles on the work piece. Once adjusted, the angle is ‘locked in’ by a wingnut or thumbscrew at the top of the handle.
Because the metal blade pivots it allows the user to set it at any angle for mark up. They can also check premade angles and transfer them without the need to measure. It is a priceless tool when working on existing projects or renovations where angles need to be duplicated. They are available with plastic or hardwood handles and with metal or brass fittings, again it all comes down to your budget.
14. Carpenter Square
If you are ever thinking of asking your woodworking enthusiast to make something for you, maybe a nice piece of custom furniture to fit that corner in the lounge, you will want to make sure they build it square.
Carpenter squares come in different sizes and with plastic or hardwood handles. You may think that one square fits all but in actual fact, it’s better to have two or three different sizes in the workshop. Try to find out what size they already own and you can add an alternative one.
Most carpenter squares blades are made from hardened steel and generally speaking, the more exotic the wood and trim, the more expensive the square. My inventory consists of a 150mm (6″), a 230mm (9″) and a 305mm (12″) with rosewood handles and brass trim, all made by Crown.
15. Marking Gauge
The marking gauge is an adjustable marking tool that scribes a line parallel to the straight edge of the work piece or board. It has evolved somewhat since I bought my one 40 years ago but the basic design remains the same.
The modern marking gauge often has a scale along the beam (or stem) for convenient setting and some are also fitted with double pins allowing two parallel lines to be marked at the same time, ideal for mortise and tenon joints for example.
They also come in a wheel design instead of a pin which is better for marking across the grain.
Once again, the prices will vary depending on material used. You can choose from plastic, exotic hardwoods like rosewood and walnut, or even brass with the wheeled design.
16. Flush Cut Saw
As the name suggests, flush cut saws cut the material flush with a flat surface. Unlike other saws where the teeth are set (or ‘bent’) to each side alternately, the teeth on a flush cut saw are either set straight or set to one side only.
The blade is also very flexible and produces a very clean cut that does not damage the flat surface of the material, particularly useful when trimming dowels or anything that needs to be cut ‘flush’ against another surface.
Japanese brands are the considered the best by most woodworkers but can be expensive. There are excellent western brands available too so I wouldn’t shy away from them either. At the moment I’m using a Stanley 120mm (4-3/4”) mini flush cut pull saw which works very well but I will definitely upgrade to a quality Japanese version when I can.
17. Wood Chisels
Now, I know I already recommended bevel edged chisels in my list of ‘Essential Woodworking Hand Tools for Beginners’ but there is such a huge variety of wood chisels that you could literally make this your go-to Christmas gift for years to come.
Even if we were to stick to a simple bevel-edged chisel (sometimes called bench chisels but they are not strictly the same) my local woodworkers store has 17 different sizes ranging from 3mm (1/8″) all the way up to 50mm (2″) and that’s just one brand!
If we then look at the types of woodworking chisels you can choose from the choice gets mind boggling. From mortise, sash mortise, firmer, paring, butt, dovetail, slick, framing, skew, corner then finish off with another specialist type like cranked-neck you can see what I mean by Christmas gifts for years to come.
Aah clamps. There is an old saying in woodworking; “You can never have too many clamps”. And similar to the chisels above, there are many types and sizes of clamps. And it’s true, you really can’t have too many.
I guarantee that when your woodworking enthusiast is busy assembling their latest project you will hear them mumble something along the lines of “If only I had another clamp”. It is one of those conundrums that never quite get solved.
There are so many to choose from but I’ll trim it down to 6 of the most useful and most used to make it a little easier.
- C or G Clamps – very common, versatile and strong
- Ratchet or Trigger Action Bar Clamps – Easy to use one-handed but don’t apply much pressure
- Sash Clamp – strong and robust and great for casework, table tops, laminating boards, etc.
- Parallel Jaw Clamp – strong, large contact area and remain parallel under pressure
- Deep Reach Bar Clamp – great for when you need a deeper hold
- Pipe Clamp – incredibly versatile size-wise as you can use any length of pipe
19. Portable Workbench
A sturdy and adjustable portable workbench is the final suggestion in this list of 20 Woodworkers Christmas Gifts ideas. It is compact, lightweight, foldable and can be moved to wherever it is needed meaning there are no workshop constraints. Given that my workshop is a small area in my garage I couldn’t manage without my portable bench.
I have tried a few different styles over the years, starting with the original Black & Decker workmate in the 1980s. Nowadays my favourite and most trusted is the WORX Pegasus with its integrated clamps.
20. Woodworking Class
Perhaps the most useful tool of all, a woodworking class. Whether it’s for beginners or for experienced woodworkers who would like to either hone their skills or learn something new, woodworkers classes offer and excellent way to develop and improve skills.
Have a look at what’s available online for beginners right through to expert craftsmen. And be sure to see what is available locally in your area for face to face, hands on training in all things woodworking.
No matter what their level of expertise, I highly recommend a few classes to either learn new skills, improve those they already have or try tools and equipment they’ve never used before.
A Few Final Thoughts
What you buy for your woodworking enthusiast obviously depends greatly on what they already have in their workshop and if you have no experience or knowledge of what they get up to in there it can be challenging to nail down a gift (nail down – get it?). But it doesn’t matter if it is for someone just starting out or with years of experience, there is always something you can add to their woodworking equipment.
Do a little investigating and try to find out their wants but if that fails, just stick with the consumables and you can’t go wrong. Things like the woodworking glue, sandpaper, wood stains and varnishes are things used regularly so are ideal if you are really at a loss as to what to get them. Or you can even purchase some exotic woods and really get their creative juices flowing.
I have kept the ‘Gifts For Woodworkers’ descriptions brief but hopefully provided you with some worthwhile suggestions. However, if you would like more details on a particular item or have any questions or comments please leave them in the box below, I would love to hear from you.
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