Woodcraft ’s Best Tools of 2012

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This article is from Issue 50 of Woodcraft Magazine.

While some years have only offered slim pickings in the way of shop-worthy products, 2012 has given us a bumper crop of great new woodworking tools and accessories. You may have seen a few of these items, but even if you merit a monogrammed mug at your local Woodcraft store, you’ll probably find a few surprises on our list.

Asking editors to rank this year’s offering in terms of quality, convenience, and cost is downright impossible. However, when we compared notes, the same items placed at the top of our lists. Here’s the best of what we found, and a few reasons why you you’ll want to add these items to your shop arsenal.

WoodRiver Revolution

Woodcraft’s WoodRiver and Pinnacle brands continue to expand their hand-tool offerings and turn heads. Careful machining, thick blades, and ductile iron bodies combine to create tools that are easier to use and perform equally as well as much higher-priced equivalents.

Pinnacle No. 151 Flat Spokeshave, #152803, $99.99 (left) and Pinnacle No. 151 1⁄2 Radius Spokeshave, #153105, $99.99 (right)

Pinnacle No. 151 Flat Spokeshave and 151 1⁄2 Radius Spokeshave

For shaping curved parts, such as chair spindles, seats, panel edges, and tool handles, it’s hard to get by without a spokeshave or two. Their solid, stainless steel bodies and 1⁄8"-thick A2 blades work together to ensure smooth, chatter-free cuts.

WoodRiver No. 92 Medium Shoulder Plane, #154032, $149.99

WoodRiver No. 92 Medium Shoulder Plane

Based on the Stanley No. 92, the 7"-long WoodRiver is a formidable competitor in the shoulder plane arena. The mid-sized body is comfortable to hold and control, and the 3⁄4"-wide body is perfect for correcting ill-fitting tenons, rabbets, dadoes, and other flat-faced joints.

WoodRiver No. 7 Jointer Plane, #153104, $304.99

WoodRiver No. 7 Jointer Plane

With a 211⁄2"-long sole to bridge long valleys and a 23⁄8"-wide blade, the WoodRiver No. 7 is the go-to plane for flattening wide boards, tabletops, and workbenches, as well as jointing the edges of long boards.

13⁄16" In-Line, #152930, $19.99 (left), 19⁄16" Horizontal Low, #152928, $17.99 (middle), and 23⁄8" Horizontal High, #152929, $18.99 (right)

Lever and Leave it

Bessey Auto-Adjust Toggle Clamps

Toggle clamps secure stock on jigs and fixtures where fingers fear to tread. Bessey’s auto-adjust toggles keep stock even more secure by automatically adjusting to provide consistent pressure against material ranging in thickness from veneer stock up to 11⁄2"-thick material. And a few quick turns of a screw can adjust the clamping pressure from 25 up to 550 pounds.

As these are priced on par with standard toggle clamps, you may want to upgrade your most used jigs or add a few new Besseys to your tool chest for future jig and fixture applications.

Freud Quadra-Cut 1⁄4"-Shank Router Bits (new profiles coming soon)

A Cut Above (4, Actually)

Freud Quadra-Cut 1⁄4"-Shank Router Bits

A few years ago, Freud managed to squeeze four cutters onto a 1⁄2"-shank bit. The larger two cutters efficiently shape the profile with an up-shear cutting angle, while the smaller down-shear cutters clean up the surface, resulting in fast, super-smooth cuts. Now, Freud has finally downsized the four-cutter technology onto a 1⁄4"-diameter shank to accommodate routers that don’t accept 1⁄2"-diameter collets. Additional profiles will be released in the months ahead and will cost about 10% more than comparable two-wing cutters.

Carter MultiRest, #154325, $359

Rest Easy

Carter MultiRest

A one-size-fits-all solution, the Carter MultiRest fits lathes ranging from mini models up to those with a 20" swing. Once attached to your lathe bed, the base adjusts to steady spindle work, hollow vessels, and flat turnings at any position on the bed. The urethane wheels can be positioned and rotated to provide support wherever it’s needed most. Unlike other steady-rest setups, the MultiRest’s two-piece support ring can be opened or completely removed from the lathe bed without dismounting your workpiece.

Deulen 12" Jointer/Planer Knife Sharpening Jig, #152868, 12", $89.99

Shaver Saver

Deulen 12" Jointer/Planer Knife Sharpening Jig

This jig makes honing planer and jointer knives almost as easy as honing any other blade in your shop. To use, set two blades in the jig, and then run the edges against sandpaper affixed to glass. After honing a set of dull jointer knives on sandpaper, ranging from 150 to 400 grit, the resulting micro-bevels were sharp enough to shave with. This jig earns its keep not only by preventing tear-out and reducing sharpening costs, but also by doubling the life of so-called “disposable” planer blades.

General Tools Digital Sliding T-Bevel, #153776, $36.99

Playing the Angles

General Tools Digital Sliding T-Bevel

By incorporating a digital protractor in the head of a sliding T-bevel, General Tools has created a tool that works for both old- and new-school woodworkers. With this tool, you can either use the blade to physically transfer angles, or press a button and read the angle on the head of the tool. The 8"-long sliding blade on this T-bevel allows the gauge to fit where digital fixed-hinge protractors won’t, such as alongside short lengths of baseboard or the face of a saw blade. The head has buttons for zeroing out the blade, holding the measurement, and obtaining the supplementary angle.

Festool Domino XL Joiner, #574422, $1,200

Masterful Mortiser

Festool Domino XL Joiner

A few years ago, Festool’s Domino joiner made woodworkers rethink the way they approach mortise-and-tenon joinery by making mortises (for loose tenons) as easy to cut as biscuit slots. Now, the Domino XL takes things up a notch. Compared to the original machine that could cut mortises to fit tenons as large as 3⁄8" thick by 7⁄8" wide by 2" long, the XL cuts mortises to fit tenons as large as 9⁄16" thick by 1" wide by 51⁄2" long. Rivaling the capacity of stationary horizontal mortisers, this portable machine makes joints suitable for full-sized doors, gates, and large tables.

Incra I-Box Jig, #854034, $169.99

Incra-dible Box Joints

Incra I-Box Jig

Making box joints requires a jig. You can either spend the time to make your own, or you can simply pull this jig out of the box and get right to it. Designed for use on either a tablesaw or router table, the fully adjustable jig has expandable miter bars to ensure that it won’t shift in use, spoiling the joints. It also features a pair of fingers to set the pin width and a dual-pitch lead screw that enables users to dial in perfectly-fitting joints.

The I-Box can cut pins ranging in width from 1⁄8" to 3⁄4" in stock that is 1⁄8" to 11⁄4" thick. In addition to box joints, the jig can also be used to cut keyed (slip-feather) joints and dentil moldings. Setup and operation are explained in the included DVD.

Whiteside Pen Maker’s Bits, #154023-31, ($15.99-$23.99)

Penned to Perfection

Whiteside Pen Maker’s Bits

For those aspiring to turn perfect pens, Whiteside has come up with blank-drilling bits that are designed to create a “hand-in-glove” bushing fit. Don’t be put off by the bit’s diameter dimensions (measured to the third decimal point). All you need to know is that the bits produce a clean hole that’s just a few thousands of an inch larger than the brass insert, providing just enough clearance for CA glue or epoxy to form a strong, virtually seamless bond.

Kreg HD Pocket Screw Jig, #154345, $59.99

More Muscle from Pocket Screw Joints

Kreg HD Pocket Screw Jig

There are times when bigger is better. Kreg’s HD (Heavy Duty) jig creates pocket screw joints as quickly and easily as standard-sized jigs, while increasing joint strength 50% by using larger screws. The corrosion-resistant HD screws are suited for all sorts of “2-by” projects, including furniture, fences, and trellises. The jig also provides a neat solution for those outdoor repairs that can’t be fixed by a nail or deck screw.

Leigh R9 Plus Joinery System, #153668, $159.00

Nonstop Dovetails

Leigh R9 Plus Joinery System

Most template-style dovetail jigs max out where the metal ends. In contrast, Leigh’s latest jig can relocate from one pair of registration plates to the next, enabling you to rout dovetails or box joints in any width. With the three plates that come with the kit, you can join boards up to about 18" wide. Additional plates are available for wider joints.

The R9 sets up for cutting through-dovetails and box joints more intuitively than Leigh’s adjustable, fingered jigs. Although it does not do variable-width or half-blind dovetails, the R9 employs the same elliptically-shaped router bushing (E-bushing) that enables you to fine-tune a joint’s fit with a simple twist.

Corner Clincher

Woodpeckers BC4-M2 Box Clamps

Capable of providing continuous, consistent clamping pressure in less space than an extra set of hands requires, Woodpeckers’ 4" box clamps might be even better than a real-life workshop helper. The glass-reinforced polycarbonate clamp utilizes a tapered wedge clamping mechanism that simultaneously pushes the mating materials down and inward with just a few turns of the knob. The clamp can handle stock ranging from 1⁄4" to 1" thick.  

Woodpeckers BC4-M2 Box Clamps (Pair), #153667, $36.99

Earlex SprayStation Gemini HVLP Sprayer, #154515, $269.99

Two Ways to Spray

Earlex SprayStation Gemini HVLP Sprayer

Like other HVLP guns, the Gemini’s paint cup can serve as the fluid reservoir to finish furniture, cabinets, and various shop projects. But what makes this system special is the secondary pump that can deliver undoctored latex paint straight from the can to the gun. Simply replace the cup with the system’s 13'-long feeder hose, set a gallon of latex paint in the base unit, and you’re set to efficiently spray doors, trim, and other architectural work without stopping for constant refills. Compare the cost of the system with a professional painter, and this gun can pay for itself on Day One. After that, all your shop and home finishing chores are all gravy.

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