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2021 Editor’s Choice Tools | Popular Woodworking Magazine

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Like most of the woodworking community, I spent more time in my shop during 2020 and 2021. Over the last two years, I used a variety of tools and gained new appreciation for a handful of them. Some of these are new tools, others are ones that I’ve simply come to appreciate more. Following, you’ll find a variety of tools that really stood out this year.

12″ Miter Saw Shop Now 

Ridgid$499

I’ve long had a love of Ridgid power tools. The first miter saw I bought (early 2000’s) was a 12 Ridgid slider. It has been used and abused, but it keeps on trucking. Heck, my dad still uses it to this day. When Ridgid announced a new articulating version of their miter saws, I was excited to try them out. And, I must say, I’ve been impressed. The action of the saw is tight with no slop. The articulating saw head allows almost 18 of cross cut capacity, all while being able to be pushed tight against a wall. Unlike other articulating saws on the market, the new Ridgid uses two separate articulating arms to control the saw head. This, combined with a great feeling handle and trigger assembly, make it a sheer joy to use. Ridgid has also announced some updates to some of their other bench-top power tools, so keep a look out for more on those in a future issue.


SBS Sharpening System Shop Now 

M-Power • $249

Over the years, I’ve tried almost every sharpening medium that you can think of. Finally, I’ve settled on diamond stones, as they cut fast and a quality stone starts and remains flat. The new SBS sharpening system from M-Power has a couple of features that I really enjoy. First, all three stone grits are replaceable once they wear, and are mounted on an extruded aluminum base. Second, the stones have three magnetic strops that attach to the tops of the stones, providing a place to apply the supplied high-grit polishing wax. It’s a great way to get your tools sharp


Benchtop Personal DC Shop Now 

Oneida • $599

With my home shop located in my basement, dust collection is not only a safety concern, but it’s also important to keep dust from traveling through the home. Oneida’s Benchtop Personal Dust Collector is a great addition to my shop. The dust collector can be placed on the workbench and moves a large volume of air, collecting dust that escapes on-tool dust collection. I find it particularly useful when sanding, but I also like to use it any time fine dust is created. And if you’re a turner, it’s the best way to capture dust when you’re sanding on the lathe, in my opinion. The dust collector comes with an on-board outlet to plug in tools such as a sander. 


Rip-Flip Shop Now 

Woodpeckers • $219

Like many tools in the shop, a table saw is only as precise as the user. A recent add-on that I purchased for my table saw was the Rip-Flip from Woodpeckers. The T-track type rails attach on the bottom side of the fence and feature two flip stops. The flip stops can be used to reposition the rip fence in precisely the same spot. This is great when working on a project that has parts with the same measurement. You can set the fence, position the stop, and flip it out of the way. Then, when you need to return to the original setting, flip the stop and move the fence into place. The pair of stops allows you to keep two measurements set, and can be used to fine-tune fence settings as well.


TSC 55 K Shop Now 

Festool • $499

Over the last several years, track saws have gained a lot of traction in the woodworking world. One of the top names in the track saw market is Festool. Their new TSC 55 K cordless track saw really adds some great features to an already impressive tool. The TSC 55 K features an anti-kickback sensor that shuts the blade off if the saw detects kickback. The saw utilizes a high-torque brushless motor running off of two 18v batteries. The TSC 55 K (and other Festool cordless tools) can interface with one of the Festool Bluetooth capable dust extractors to remotely turn on the extractor when the saw is turned on.


720Pro Pocket Hole Jig Shop Now 

Kreg Tool • $149

For years, the Kreg Tool k-series of pocket hole jigs have adorned the toolboxes and shops of woodworkers, handymen and home owners across the country. Early this year, Kreg released their redesigned line of pocket hole jigs, and I immediately snagged a 720Pro (seen here). What I like about the 720Pro over the others is that the work holding level is self-regulating. With one push it will hold material from 1/2 up to 11/2 thick. The Pro version includes the folding wings that have storage, but are more importantly (in my opinion) extra support for wide work pieces. One of the most convenient features of the 720 is that it holds all of the accessories (bits, wrenches, etc.) on the backside of the jig. Overall, Kreg has made some great improvements to an already great tool. 


NOVA PRO-TEK G3 Chuck Shop Now 

Teknatool • $159

One of the places that I’m happiest in this world is standing at the lathe. It feeds my soul. In the vast amount of turning gadgets and accessories, it’s easy to overlook chucks. A good quality chuck often goes unnoticed, but you’ll sure know a bad chuck when you find one. For the last year or so, the chuck that’s been on my headstock is the NOVA PRO-TEK G3 chuck. Designed for lathes with a swing up to 16 (perfect for my NOVA Comet II), this little chuck is a tank. The chuck key quickly opens and closes the jaws, and each jaw is marked to keep them in the same location every time you switch jaws. The PRO-TEK G3 comes with a handful of accessories and a case to house everything, but once it’s mounted to the lathe, I don’t think you’ll ever have a need remove it. 


1HP Dust Collector Shop Now 

General Tool • $349

Building upon a long legacy of high-quality woodworking tools, General is once again producing the tools they’ve built their reputation on. In addition to some pretty awesome air cleaners (stay tuned for more on those in the future), I’ve fallen in love with the General 1HP dust collector. The small footprint makes it the perfect size for a small shop like mine. The small size also makes it easy to roll to other tools as needed. Apart from the size, one of the best features about this dust collector is that you can get it equipped with an auto on/off switch. When a tool is plugged into the dust collector, the dust collector will automatically turn on and off with the machine. I love this feature, and it saves me from searching for the dust collector remote I just sat down. 


PantoRouter Shop Now 

PantoRouter • $1395+

I have said it before, and I will say it again. There are very few tools in my shop that are one-trick ponies. If a tool has the ability to perform multiple functions, the odds of it earning a spot in my small shop goes up. The PantoRouter is one of those. On the surface, it may seem like a glorified slot mortiser, but it’s so much more than that. By following a template, not only can the PantoRouter create mortise and tenons (lower photo) in a total of 154 sizes, but you can cut dovetails, finger joints, and more.  And because everything is referenced off the centerline, it makes setting up the PantoRouter straight forward, even when cutting joinery on the ends of workpieces with compound angles. The function is simple: one lever controls the plunge action, while the other controls the movement of the motor around a template. The machine itself is one of the better-built pieces of equipment that I have used in a long time, and has one of the most robust assembly and how-to manuals around. The best feature of all may be that the PantoRouter has dust collection on it that actually works.


Alfie Shine Shop Now 

Alfie Shine • $14.95

An aftermarket miter gauge for your table saw is one of the first upgrades we recommend. And the Compass MG-36 from Harvey Tools is likely the only miter gauge you’d ever need. Being able to rely on accurate degree markings for crosscutting, a long, solid fence ready to take accessories and excellent fit and finish are all part of what makes this miter gauge a standout.

The locking mechanism, in particular, is a very interesting design. It’s easy to lock and unlock with just two fingers, but also locks solidly in place at seven positive stops when you release the buttons. For degrees in between, the large locking knob handles the task. The size and knurled aluminum body make it easy to lock down the fence tightly and securely. The fence expands up to 36 and includes a micro-adjustable flip stop. And, the track on top lets you add other accessories as needed. It’s available in both imperial and metric measurements.


Bench Top Joiner Shop Now Bench Top Planer Shop Now 

Rikon • $649/$749

The final tool on the 2021 Editor’s choice tool list is not one tool specifically, but a pair of them that works in tandem­—the Rikon 13 helical head planer and 8 helical head jointer. While I’m sure that most of us can see the benefit and would make the argument to get as big of jointer and planer as you possibly can, not everyone has the floor space to dedicate to a stand-alone unit. And while I’m spoiled with a large Rikon jointer/planer combination unit at our studio (it packs two machines into one footprint), I’ve come to appreciate how much work I can get done in my shop with these little guys. Each tool features helical style cutting heads. The jointer comes with carbide inserts that can be rotated when dull or chipped, while the planer has high-speed steel cutters that are sharp on two edges.

In the past, I wouldn’t have given the time of day to a bench top jointer, but I now see that was a result of poorly designed and cheaply produced jointers. While the 20-800H is small, it’s mighty. Being bench-top, the jointer bed is fairly small (about 30 or so), but it has wings that extend out to a hair over 50. Does it take the place of a full-size jointer? No, but that’s not its purpose. What it does well is provide smooth, clean and accurate results when flattening board faces on workpieces that are in the 30 range. This covers about 90% of my flattening needs. With the planer and jointer coming in at 68 and 49lbs respectively, they’re easy to store on the floor under the bench when not in use. 


Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.



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