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Holiday shopping for anyone with a very specific hobby or job can be challenging — whether they’re an artist with impeccable taste, an architect who likes everything just so, or a birder who already has too many pairs of binoculars. Woodworkers are no exception. Woodworker Hoppy Quick told us that “the best gift is a good hatchet or carving knife.” But which hatchet and which knife? To find out, we checked in with a panel of woodworkers and craftspeople to hear about the tools, clothing, and home goods they’d be happy to receive for the holidays.
If you want to give your woodworker something they’ll actually use, start with something simple: a ruler. Several of the woodworkers we talked to suggested gifting rulers or squares (measuring tools that make a right angle). Woodworker Pat Kim recommends this six-inch ruler from Shinwa, which he describes as “super accurate and small enough to always be handy.” He explains that the ruler works well for all kinds of measuring situations. “Each edge has a different graduation, so it can be used to get very accurate measurements for marking out or rough measurements on the fly,” he says. “I have two, one only for measuring and one that can also be used for scraping up glue or prying open containers or ripping open boxes.”
Another pocket-size ruler recommendation comes to us from pipe-maker Will Woodson, who says this little tool is “hardly a prestige item but is exceptionally handy if you work in inches and don’t have your fractional measurement to decimal measurement conversions memorized.” Woodson keeps it in the pocket of his shop apron and says he uses it “constantly” (and at $3, we think this one would make an ideal stocking stuffer).
If you want to give a bigger ruler, Henry Tadros, director of L.Ercolani, suggests this 36-inch four-fold ruler. “It’s an essential tool, simple yet effective,” he says. “The design hasn’t changed in forever, and I can imagine seeing the craftsmen in our factory workshop using these folding rulers when we started out 100 years ago — timeless utilitarianism.”
Measuring tape always comes in handy too. If your woodworker happens to be a lefty, they’ll like this one — a current favorite of woodworker Alma Villalobos. “The markings on the tape can be read from either the left or right position,” she says.
A measuring square — which is a device with two straightedges that are oriented to form a right angle — can be useful for woodworkers trying to lay out precise joints. If you want to gift a square, consider this one, which comes recommended by woodworker Michael Robbins. “This is a beautifully made measuring tool produced in Massachusetts,” he says. “It is the foundation of any woodworkers toolbox and a pleasure to use.”
At a lower price point, this square, which Villalobos calls “another favorite measuring tool,” is perfect for any woodworker’s pocket or apron thanks to its small size (3.75 x 3.75 inches).
Of course, measuring with any kind of tool won’t be helpful unless you can mark as you go. Woodworker C.C. Boyce told us that she thinks a pack of these Ticonderoga pencils would “be a good stocking stuffer.” You really can’t go wrong: “Every woodworker needs, like, millions and millions of pencils; we will never turn down pencils, no matter what kind you give us,” she says. “But these Ticonderoga No. 3 pencils are great because the lead is hard and you can get a thin precise line without the lead breaking on lumber. I can get a nice fine mark if I’m doing precise joinery lines or if I want to mark rough lumber that I need to cut.”
For dusty or oily surfaces, try these markers, which Boyce says were recommended to her by a friend who’s a welder. “The markers really do work on things that are dusty or oily, and they don’t clog up,” she says. “I have them all around my shop — they’re not very expensive, but they really do what they say and they’re long lasting.”
“Every and any woodworker will tell you, ‘You can never have enough clamps,’” says Villalobos. “I really enjoy using Bessey GearKlamps — the quality of Bessey clamps are top notch.” Part of the appeal lies in the clamp’s handle tightening design, explains Villalobos: “You can get really close and tighten down on your project without smashing your knuckles.”
Block planes, which are small handheld blades used for everything from touching up a piece to working on a wood finish, are a popular tool among woodworkers, and two of the ones we spoke to suggested them as a useful gift. “This is small enough to fit into an apron pocket,” says Kim. “It’s perfect for breaking the edges of freshly milled wood, cleaning up joinery, and trimming veneer.” We think the bronze body of this one gives it a kind of stately look, too.
For someone just getting into woodworking, consider this block plane, which comes recommended by Henry Tadros. “This Veritas Block Plane is a great gift for anyone starting out in their own workshop,” he says. The block plane has finger grips on the side to help with control, and the blade is secured with two screws to keep it from budging while the tool is in use.
If the woodworker is using glue for their project, Kim told us this brayer, which comes in a small and large size, will come in handy. “The smaller ones are good for gluing the edge of boards, and larger ones for gluing the faces of boards or veneer for lamination,” he says. “The dried glue peels right off the rubber roller, and the handle is detachable for cleaning.” The rollers have a built-in stand, which Kim notes helps “keep glue off your workbench.”
Tadros told us that he was recently given this Japanese saw by a client and was truly impressed. “I was astounded by its lightness and versatility,” he says. “Its saw teeth are deft and perfect for cutting delicate dovetail joints.” The bamboo-wrapped wooden handle would make this one a stylish addition to the toolbox.
Maybe they need a jig: Edward Orloff of Rift Cabinetry says he’s tried plenty of jigs, “from $10 plastic toys to dedicated machines that cost thousands,” and that this Blum Eco one is “the best of the bunch.” It’s especially useful if you’re making cabinet doors and need to drill holes for the hinges, an endeavor that can often be fussy, according to Orloff, so having the right jig will certainly help. “It’s just as accurate in the shop as it is on site, and so far we’ve used it to make thousands of doors,” says Orloff.
“No matter what you make, you’ll probably wind up using a chisel at some point,” says Woodson. “Ashley Iles make some of the finest cutting tools in the world — if you’re going big, a set of Ashley Iles chisels is hard to beat.” The chisels are available in a number of sizes and all have handsome bubinga wood handles that make them comfortable to hold.
And if you want to gift something all-in-one, Tadros likes this from Leatherman, which has 17 tools, including scissors, knives, and saws. “Every self-respecting woodworker needs that general utility tool,” says Tadros, who calls this one “iconic.” Plus, the matte black gives it some style: “This version is all-black one, which embodies my own personal color palette,” says Tadros.
Help them put the finishing touch on their project with a branding iron, which comes recommended by Villalobos. “These are high-quality brass branding irons made in the USA,” she says. “How fun is it to finish off a project by burning your name or logo onto it?”
Boyce warns that the machines used by woodworkers can be very loud, so it’s important to have ear protection. “I’ve tried so many Bluetooth headsets and headphones, and this one is by far the best bet that I’ve had,” she says. “I’ve done the cheaper and mid-range versions, and these are just the best — the battery life is really good; the noise canceling is really good; they’re really worth the $150.” Boyce says that the behind-the-head fit of the headphones feels less bulky than over-the-ear options, and they won’t get in the way of working: “These have a band in the back that holds them in place — that way the cord stays in place, and you don’t run a chance of it getting caught in the machinery,” she says. “They stay in place no matter what I’m doing, and the active noise-canceling is really good — I’m able to be running my machines but also listen to a podcast or an audiobook and hear it even though I have this heavy-duty machinery going in the background.”
“With woodworking, stuff happens to your hands,” says Boyce. “When I’m holding a tool for a long time, my hand gets kind of cramped up, and I’ll put a little of this stuff on and it unlocks my joints in a couple minutes.” Boyce tried lidocaine in the past and said this is better — “with the lidocaine, I couldn’t feel my hand, so this CBD is really kind of magical — it’s just an absence of pain, no numbing.”
“One thing I found working in a workshop all day is just how dry your hands get due to all the sawdust,” says Tadros. If your woodworker is struggling with dry skin, but doesn’t necessarily need something to relieve pain, try gifting this cream that doubles as lip balm and comes in an especially nice-looking tin (an ideal stocking stuffer).
Boyce told us that when she gets home from working, the first thing she’ll do is hop in the shower. “When you’re doing any kind of woodworking, you’re getting a lot of really fine wood dust in your clothes, hair, on you, especially if you’re hot and sweaty,” she says. “If you do anything other than shower right when you walk in the door, you’ll get that fine dust in your furniture, on your sheets.” She likes this body wash and loofah set, which is made at a barbershop in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo. “The smell is bergamot and sage, so it’s unisex but it’s also still kind of naturey and woodsy — so a woodworker would appreciate that scent.”
If you’d rather give them something they can wear in the shop, consider a pair of especially hardy jeans. “I can’t remember a day in the last decade when I haven’t worn a pair of heavyweight denim jeans,” says Tadros. “These Stealth Stanton 17oz Slub ones can take the beating that working hard in the workshop will give them.”
Tadros also suggests a pair of boots that will keep woodworkers’ toes out of danger in the shop: “You need a solid work boot to protect and keep you comfortable throughout the day,” he says. Tadros has had his pair of Thorogoods for over five years and says he wears them most days: “I look forward to putting them on in the morning just because they’re so comfy.”
Two of the woodworkers we talked to suggested gifting a shop apron. “I wear an apron constantly when I’m in the shop and am a fan of these great American-made aprons from LC King,” says Woodson. “They seem to last for five or so years of daily use before they’re completely wrecked, which is pretty good.”
Orloff loves a stylish apron too — especially this one from Filson. “I’ve had it for quite a few years and have found that it only gets better with time,” he says. It’s made from Filson’s heavy-duty cloth material, which will keep your woodworker protected from metal shavings, water, sparks, and grease.
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