Adventures in Tool Testing

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We try it before you buy it. Today there’s an amazing assortment of workbench accessories available: fast-acting clamps, bench stops, T-tracks, hold-downs and more. To test all these items, senior editor Joe Hurst (kneeling) built the special workbench shown here.

One of the first things you learn about woodworking is that many tools aren’t that useful by themselves. To get the most from a tool, you need to amplify its capabilities with different jigs and accessories. That’s why a router needs an edge guide and a tablesaw needs a dado cutter and a tenoning jig.

The workbench is another example of the accessory rule. In fact, there’s been a lot of activity lately in the field of workbench accessories. Senior editor Joe Hurst got the assignment to investigate this topic, and his work space soon filled with boxes. The more stuff he unpacked, the more amazed we became with the different hold-downs, clamps, bench stops and T-tracks that are available today. The products came from three different manufacturers, who fortunately use different colors for their gear: Kreg (blue), Armor Tool (red) and Lee Valley (black and brass).

While some accessories can be used on a classic European-style workbench, others are better suited to a bench designed around their capabilities. Joe determined early on that a dedicated test bench was needed, and that’s what you see in the photo. We had fun exploring the functionality of all these accessories. Our tire-kicking activities, along with the resulting queries, comments and article-making notes, gave me a fresh appreciation for our magazine’s mission. We want to grow the woodworking community, and provide some of the crucial ingredients necessary to enjoy this favorite activity. Readers might not have the time or inclination to collect all these innovative accessories, but we can. To get the details on all the products that make your bench work better, check out our April-May issue.


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