- Go to a good woodworking store. If they sell anything that can
be used in any room but the garage, basement, or shop, it's probably not
a woodworking store. If you can't picture your SO walking in the door
and going "Whoa!", it's probably not a woodworking store. If you walk
in the door and can't smell sawdust, it definitely isn't a woodworking
store. If most of the people working in the store are over 40 years
old, it's probably an OK store. If there's a poster of the guy from New
Yankee Workshop, American Woodshop, or the Woodwright's Shop, (you know
those shows because he's never missed an episode), it's DEFINITELY a
woodworking store. Check his bedside table. There are probably enough
catalogs sitting there that it's causing the earth to wobble in
rotation. See if you can find one of those stores.
- Watch New Yankee Workshop on PBS. If Norm uses it, most
woodworkers will want (need) at least 2. What ever it is, you might get
- If it's not in one of the primary colors (the 8 color box of
Crayons), you can probably ignore it. Don't even consider anything in
- If it looks like it makes a lot of noise, buy it.
- If you look at the picture on the box and can immediately think
of 50 different ways to cause serious bodily damage, buy it. He's
probably been wishing for one for years, whatever it is.
- Remember the catalogs in rule 1? Look for the pages that are
wrinkled. They've been drooled on and something (probably everything)
on those pages is wanted enough that he's probably thinking of a way
they can sneak it into the house without you finding out. If he unwraps
something from those pages on Christmas, he'll probably cry.
- Electric or hand tools. Sneak into the garage, basement, or
shop. Don't touch anything. He knows where every speck of dust is and
if anything is disturbed, he won't be able to function for a week. Look
at the electrical outlets. If most of outlets are occupied, go for
"tailed" tools - those are the ones that plug into the wall. If all are
occupied, try to find cordless tools. If all the outlets are dusty, buy
hand tools, especially something really sharp. Now carefully retrace
your steps back out.
- As for rule 7, if all the outlets are occupied with battery
chargers for cordless tools, how about a gift certificate for an
electrician. You can never have too much power. (Guys, a BIG grunt
- If "some assembly is required", buy it, but first check to see
what tools are required to do the job. You may have to buy some of
- It doesn't matter if he already has one of whatever you get.
Chances are, he probably needs another one or wants a bigger one or a
- Don't shop at Sears for woodworking tools, his friends will
point and make fun of him. Sears is OK for tools he can use on his truck.
- While you're in his shop, look at the calendar on the wall. If
the girl in the picture is holding tools, he'd like the big one. The
tool, that is.
- If you can remember your father having "a tool just like that",
it's OK. Great tools stay around quite a while and it will be a good
way for your father and his son-in-law to "bond".
- If the box says "As seen on TV!", apply the Sears rule (rule
11). Even if it's useless, it can be used as a BFH or as a wheel chock.
- On second thought, forget rule 14. If you see something where
rule 14 applies, it's not a woodworking store.
- If there's a picture on the box of anything but the tool, don't
buy it. If it needs that much explanation, it's not a woodworking tool.
The best tools have boxes with only words on it or, better yet, nothing
but a shipping label so that the clerk has to open the box to verify
what's in it.
- Clamps. A woodworker can never have too many clamps and
usually has too few. And don't worry about what kind of clamp. If you
can squeeze something together with it, it will work. Also, see rule 2.
- If it says Bosch, Milwaukee or Porter Cable it's OK by me. If
it says Makita, Dewalt or ....... I can live with it. If it says Sears,
Skil, Black & Decker, or Mastercraft, while I'd still use it, don't ask
me next year how it is because I've probably killed it.
- Anything from the Lee Valley or Garret Wade catalogue is fine.
- Veritas, Lie Neilsen, Clifton are good brands.
- Never buy anything that says "Made in China", it will end up in
the garbage in short order.
- If it weighs more than you and has more horsepower than you
have children, it's probably acceptable.
- If the salesman asks "would you like a spare set of blades for
that?", the answer is "yes".
- If batteries are not included, neither should the tool.