Tools We Can't Live Without
Between working wood at work and at home, and having the luxury of trying virtually every new tool that hits the market, our staff members get exposed to a lot of tools. Not surprisingly, some become favorites. We're sure you'll like them, too.
Festool ETS 150/3 EQ 6" random-orbit sander ($360)
with CT 26 HEPA dust extractor ($650) (photo above)
These two work inseparably to quickly smooth projects and keep the shop air clean. The sander's larger surface area gets more done in the same time than a 5" model, and leaves a flawless finish rarely needing hand-sanding. The vacuum switches on and off automatically via the sander—a handy convenience—and works with many of my other tools as well.
—Kevin Boyle, Senior Design Editor
Delta Unisaw 3-hp 10" tablesaw (photo above)
Modern replacement: no. 36-L352, $3,300
I'm a tablesaw-centric woodworker, meaning I do everything possible at the saw rather than with other tools. And this dependable cabinet saw has been the cornerstone of my shop for nearly two decades. It has all the power necessary, a trustworthy Biesemeyer rip fence, and good dust collection (tethered to a cyclone). I upgraded to a premium miter gauge (Woodhaven no. 4911 [$165], 800-344-6657, woodhaven.com), but that's been the only improvement needed.
DeWalt DW735 13" benchtop planer, $650
(optional stand, no. DW7350, $150)
I typically build about two dozen projects each year, so my planer gets a workout. But because of expense and power requirements, a 15" planer with spiral cutterhead is not an option for my shop. That's okay, because this DW735 has been getting the job done for more than a decade. Its three-knife cutterhead delivers exceptional cut quality, there's no snipe, and the chip-ejection system works effectively with my dust collector. Plus, its 13" width proves sufficient for the vast majority of projects I build.
—Bob Hunter, Tools Editor
Forrest Woodworker II 10" 40-tooth tablesaw blade, $145
Buying and using a premium tablesaw blade is like wearing quality shoes: The purchase price might sting at first, but the performance justifies the investment over time. The Woodworker II cuts so well in all materials that I never have to swap blades. And the clean, burnished edges it leaves on workpieces beats anything achieved at the jointer.
—Nate Granzow, General-Interest Editor
Lie-Nielsen no. 8, $475
WoodRiver no. 7, $305
Sure, I like power tools for getting jobs done quickly, but I'm a hand-tool user at heart. Jointer planes hold a special place in my shop for their ability to flatten any board face or edge. Although I use both of these planes regularly and they work great, I prefer the extra length and width and harder-steel blade of the No. 8 over other jointers. The WoodRiver's price makes it a great value.
—John Olson, Design Editor
Grizzly G0555 14" bandsaw, $555
My "Triple 5" has a lot of pro bandsaw features—easily adjustable bearing guides, a smooth and accurate rip fence, and plenty of power for resawing—but sells at a hobbyist price point. And the quick-release tension lever makes blade changes a snap rather than a chore. With every use, I savor the feeling that only comes from a no-regrets tool purchase.
—Lucas Peters, Digital Content Manager
Bosch MRC23EVSK 2.3-hp multibase router kit, $299
This is the most versatile tool in my shop and one that I use all the time. Whether routing dovetails on a jig or decorative edges on project parts, it's the tool I reach for first. I mounted the fixed base in a router table and use the plunge base for all handheld routing, simply swapping the motor between them. It has variable speed, 1⁄4 " and 1⁄2 " collets, and plenty of power. I love that, regardless of the base used, it powers up with a handle-mounted switch.
—Jim Heavey, Contributing Craftsman
Kreg PRS1045 router table, $500,
and JessEm Mast-R-Lift II router lift, $369
Kreg Tool Company
JessEm Tool Company
I customized this router table with storage and an accessory power switch, but the core structure still functions as great as the day I broke the seal. The table offers an ample no-sag top, a handy combo T-track with miter slot for accessories, a dependable T-square-style fence with microadjuster, and a comfortable working height (with optional casters, $60) for my 6'3" frame. Installing a Mast-R-Lift II took this router table to an even higher performance level. I depend on its spot-on precision and ease of use for all types of routing.
Festool OF 2200 EB 3-hp plunge router, $900
DeWalt DWP611PK 11⁄4 -hp compact router kit, $190
Maybe I'm an enigma, but my two favorite routers are a big 3-hp plunge model that weighs nearly 18 pounds, and a compact router weighing about 2 pounds in either of its two bases. The DeWalt sees more use, proving invaluable for jobs that require more finesse than brute force. I especially like the plunge base for routing inlay recesses and hinge mortises. The variable speed and LED lighting also make it more functional and easy to use than any other compact or trim router. I love the Festool's smooth-running powerful motor, vibration-dampening mass, ratcheting collet for easy bit changes, and its interchangeable bases (sold in one kit, no. 497656, $378).
Whiteside brass setup bars, no. 144932, $14
(Purchase at Woodcraft, 800-225-1153, woodcraft.com)
These handy bars prove easier for setting router-bit and blade heights than squinting at a ruler's tiny markings. My fingertip tells in an instant whether the cutter matches the height of the bar. I've even used them to accurately gauge the thickness of pieces coming out of the planer.
—Craig Ruegsegger, Deputy Editor