Playing favorites

We all have our favorite things in life, and the woodshop is no different. Herewith is a list of a few of my favorite shop things.

Favorite wood: Oak, hands down. Itís strong, stable, looks great, is easy to work, and is suitable for any type of project. Second place is walnut for some of the same reasons, plus I like how it smells when you cut it. My nomination for most underappreciated wood: poplar.

Favorite cutting tool: Band saw. The band saw was my first major power tool, and I learned to master it long before I got my first table saw. Itís the only saw that, with very little prep, can crosscut, rip and do curves with equal quality on almost any workpiece.

Favorite so-called shop ďchore:Ē Sanding. Everyone else seems to gripe and moan about the sanding stage of a project. Not me. Itís at the sanding point in a project where you truly begin to see the finished piece. Plus, I find that using a random-orbit sander is relaxing, and the perfect final task before closing shop for the day.

Favorite no-brainer shop trick: Using a piece of scrap as a backer board on the router table.

Favorite minor shop accident thatís become a great story to tell: Dropping a router on my head.

Overall favorite tool: Bosch 10.8-volt mini driver. I rarely use any of my regular drill-drivers anymore for driving tasks. For drilling, yeah, but for driving screws this little blue guy is always within reach. If I need a few tools for working away from the shop, this will always be part of the team.

Favorite shop decoration: Rubber chicken. They tend to dry out and crack after a few years, so you have to replace them periodically. Iím on my fifth one.

Thereís some of mine. What are yours?

Till next time,



  • OK, Iíll play along; looks like fun.

    Favorite cutting tool: table saw. Like you, a good table saw was my first piece of quality woodworking equipment and I learned to make it do a lot of jobs that are often relegated to other toolsÖ until I could afford those other tools too. But my trusty table saw has enjoyed center stage in my shop all along.

    Favorite wood(s); I agree with you. I like red oak for most things. When walnut is sanded to a fine grit and given a gloss, oil based finish it takes on a three-dimensional aspect that seems to allow you to look right down into the wood. Iím also quite fond of cherry; lots of character.

    I canít agree about sanding: I donít look forward to that part at all, but it must be done and if a decent finish is to be obtained it must be done well. My favorite stage is assembly. I can spend weeks turning big pieces of wood into funny shaped little pieces of wood stacked on a cart and not seem to be making any progress. But when I start putting those funny looking little pieces of wood together into something that looks like something, then I get a great sense of satisfaction. Especially when they fit!

    Shop trick: Iíd agree with your choice. I keep a trash can full of thin cut-offs that I use as backers and sacrificial fences on the router table, table saw, bands saw, chop saw, and even drill press to prevent tear out.

    Accident story: HmmmÖ thatís a tough one, Iíll have to ponder that a bit. I try very hard to avoid having harrowing stories to tell. Iím just a dull guy I guess.

    Overall favorite tool: Table saw Ė see above. Favorite hand tool: flush cut saw. I do a lot of screw hole plugging and this is just the best tool.

    Favorite shop decoration: I have a plastic shopping bag from Northern Tools displayed on my wall which reads, ďNOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH A GROCERY BAGĒ. It gives me a giggle.

  • David DeCristoforo says:

    OK… I’ll bite on this one AJ. How did you drop a router on your head? Also, try Emu oil on your rubber chickens. They will last many times longer….

  • A.J. Hamler says:


    See the Nov 28 entry “Using my head” for the gory details.


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