I love those car commercials where they show you a beautiful, elegant new automobile (typically being driven by an even more beautiful and elegant woman) and proudly announce the car’s reasonable sounding price tag. Unfortunately, the end of such commercials is punctuated by the rapid fire voice of some speed reader, stating that the car as shown includes quite a few options and extras that cost considerably more.
It’s easy to forget the little things that are needed to run a woodshop, items without which woodworking is impractical, unsafe, or impossible. If you’re just starting out, a list of possible accessories can be quite extensive. Even a basic list includes items such as personal safety gear, clamping and gluing supplies, and so on. Many of these supplies support tools you already own. For instance, having the best set of chisels or finest hand plane ever seen by mortal men won’t do you any good if you don’t spring for the sharpening equipment necessary to keep their edges from turning as blunt as well licked Popsicle sticks.
Precision tools, such as dial indicators, engineer’s squares, and calipers, are extremely helpful for setting up and adjusting stationary power tools (and their fences, gauges, and jigs) and to keep them running smoothly and accurately.
There are other accessories not directly involved in woodworking that you shouldn’t overlook. These will help make life in the shop more comfortable and convenient. For example, many woodworkers complain of not being able to hear the telephone ring when power tools are in operation. A phone flasher is a simple accessory that installs on your shop’s phone line and activates a bright strobe light to alert you to an incoming call.
High-Quality Blades, Cutters, Bits & Abrasives
It's a shame to spend a small fortune on a new table saw and then save a few bucks by fitting it with a cheap sawblade. Even the best tool will perform only as well as the component that actually does the sawing, planing, boring, or sanding. You’ll never regret buying the best quality blade, cutter, bit, and abrasive that you can afford. Buying cheap bits and blades can also prove to be a false economy, as the ones made with better grades of steel and carbide typically last far longer, ultimately giving you more sawdust for the sawbuck over the life of the tool. Better performance can be coaxed out of even inexpensive tools and machines: I’d rather use a $79 belt sander fitted with a high-quality ceramic abrasive belt than a unit costing three times as much that is running a “bargain-bin” belt.
Jigs that expand the capacity of your tools
You’ll get a lot more work out of the attachments and tools that you already have by using jigs and fixtures. Whether store bought or shop made, devices such as tenoning jigs, templates, tilting tables, sliding carriages, and end stops will allow a stationary or portable machine to perform many jobs it can’t do as it comes from the factory.
Jigs can also bring speed and accuracy to everyday jobs. For example, adding a cut-off fence with a pivoting flip stop to your radial or sliding compound miter such as the FastTrack fence system, makes trimming boards to precise length an effortless task.
There are many devices that attach to machines to expand their capacity. A sliding table enables a regular table saw to cut large panels easily and accurately. Mounted to the saw table left of the blade, many sliding tables are big enough to allow you to crosscut a 4' by 8' sheet of plywood. A fence bar mounted to the sliding table holds the panel securely while the user pushes the panel through the blade. Nonnally set at 90 degrees, the fence bar also pivots to allow angled cuts.
Portable power-tool tables
Possibly the most popular accessory for a router is a router table, which transforms the portable tool into a small shaper. Whether you build one from scratch or buy one of the many commercially made models, a router table helps you perform machining operations that are impossible with a hand-held router.
Feature-wise, a good router table should have a large, flat table; re-movable throat inserts to suit different-sized bits; free access to the router underneath to allow bit changes; a fence that's easy to adjust with a guard that keeps fingers from contacting the bit; and a safe on/off switch that can be turned off easily in an emergency.
RECOMMENDED SHOP ACCESSORIES
Personal protection devices
• Goggles or safety glasses
• Ear muffs or plugs
• Dust mask (disposable or replaceable-filter model)
• Cartridge-style respirator for use while applying finishes
• Work gloves
Clamping and assembly aids
• Bench vises and hold downs
• Assorted clamps; C-clamps, bar, pipe, quick-action
• Glue brushes and applicators
• Guards, hold downs, anti-kickback devices
• Push sticks and blocks
Machine adjustment and maintenance
• Precision measuring tools: dial indicator, calipers, protractor
• Anti-rust sprays and treatments
Sharpening equipment and supplies
• Whetstones or abrasive papers and glass plates
• Lubricating oils, sharpening aids, honing straps & compounds
• Bench grinder
Containers and organizers
• Tool totes, boxes, chests, cabinets & racks
• Bins for small parts & supplies
• Spray guns
• Sanding blocks
• Belt cleaning sticks