Top 10 Underrated Tools

Some tools do a lot, and we all know it. Others do a lot, but I sometimes get the sense that some woodworkers don't know it. Here’s a list of what one woodworker thinks many other woodworkers could benefit from having in their workshop.

By Rob Brown
Photos by Rob Brown

1. Track Saw

Whether it’s breaking out rough lumber and sheet goods, assisting with a host of home improvement tasks or making many furniture making tasks easier and more accurate, a track saw can accurately and easily do so many things.

2. Mechanical Pencil

Constantly sharp, a mechanical pencil marks an even, thin line to assist you with accuracy. Though they don’t replace a standard wood pencil, I use mine for at least 95% of the marks I make.

3. Sharpening Stones

A sharp tool is a safe tool, and sharpening revolves around a good set of honing stones. Thousands of dollars of quality hand tools are useless without a sharp edge, so take the time to learn and practice the craft of honing an edge.

4. Belt Sander

Everyone has a random orbit sander and a hand sanding block, and these two approaches to sanding take care of a lot of sanding tasks, though I find a belt sander comes in really handy before I reach for my ROS. When the wood is rough, and some serious smoothing is needed, using a belt sander is a cost-effective approach for a small shop.

5. Apron

I put on my shop apron right after I turn the lights on; that’s how important it is to me. Sure, it helps keep the dust off me, and protects me and my clothing from lots of minor bumps and spills, but the main advantage is not having to constantly search for the items (pencil, tape measure, 6″ rule, utility knife, chalk) I keep in it.

6. Dust Respirator

Shop safety is of critical importance to me, but many woodworkers and DIYers overlook a simple respirator to protect their lungs from the carcinogenic fine dust we almost all create in dangerous levels. A second mask for vapors should also be used if you do any spray finishing.

7. 12″ Thickness Planer

We’re a spoiled bunch, and we don’t even realize it. Not long ago, dressing boards to thickness took a fair bit of time, and a decent amount of skill. Today, with the advent of affordable thickness planers, we all have the ability to remove large amounts of wood with speed and accuracy, all for a low price. You should thank your planer the next time you see it.

8. The Internet

We use the Internet for so many things, and we shouldn’t forget about it the moment we head into the shop. So many technical questions can be answered by either surfing the web or asking a question on a woodworking forum. As with everything we read on the Internet, we have to be sure to get a second opinion if something doesn’t seem right, but most people are helpful if you ask the right question.

9. Reading Material

Like the Internet, books and magazines can answer just about any question you have, as well as a bunch you didn’t even know you had. Compared to even 50 years ago, there is an astonishing array of woodworking and home improvement titles available, and you can regularly refer to them down the road.

10. Fellow Woodworkers

If they have the knowledge, I find other woodworkers and DIYers enjoy sharing tips with others who have questions about materials, techniques, design and the like. There are times when we have really specific questions that can only be answered by someone who knows the intricacies of the subject.


Any thoughts, tips or questions you can share?

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