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JOEL Joel's Blog

A Deep Dive Into Selecting Gifts For Woodworkers


A Deep Dive Into Selecting Gifts For Woodworkers 1
It’s the most magical time of the year - when all across the woodworking world editors and marketers are creating variations of Gift Guides for Woodworkers 2023. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I typically write about not the “what” but the “why.” So as I was reading a bunch of gift suggestion lists, I found myself pondering exactly what makes a gift good?

It's all well and good for me to say "Hey, go out and get this widget” - but is it appropriate? We end up thinking about this topic quite a bit because people come to the store or call us up and ask for our ideas for the perfect gift. I thought I’d add some thoughts here. Admittedly, I might sneak in a few suggestions (but just because someone's a woodworker doesn't mean you should buy them the 17th version of the same tool they already have).

Personally I'm hell to buy presents for. And I think there are lots of people like me. I already own an embarrassing percentage of all woodworking tools ever invented, and like most people who have been doing something for awhile, I have a core set of tools that I use, am happy with, and aren't in need of supersession. For a beginner, it's a different situation. If you don't have any chisels, pretty much any good set will be welcome (minimal discernment needed). Specifying a particular set of chisels can also work. But as you spend more time woodworking, you end up having a lot of stuff and your tastes grow more particular.

So the first thing I do when someone asks what they can get me: I always decide to tell them to stay away from my hobbies. Get me something fun, something that is interesting to you that I might find interesting.

And when someone comes into the shop and asks us what to get for a present and it's the guy that has everything, I typically lean toward recommending a measuring tool like our drafting rules, or something they probably don't have but is similar and better than what they already have.

Rule 1 of presents is that a great present shows that you thought about the individual and their interests, and what you give them is not necessarily essential, but fun to have.

Rule 2 is that the lack of essential-ness is a virtue, because there's a lot of stuff your giftee might want to have, that's fun and interesting but they don't really need and aren't going to spend their own money on. But if you spend your money on it, it's guilt-free and can be enjoyable. I love our mini pencil set for a good stocking stuffer for that reason. It's fun to have, cute as a button, and it is occasionally very, very useful.

Rule 3: With the exception of candy and flowers, things that get used up may not be that great a gift. I would put woodworking supplies in that category. I use glue and I will probably need a bottle of glue in the future, so chances are if you give me glue it will get used. But it's not really a present. If you do decide to go with consumables, pay close attention to Rule 4.

Rule 4: Wrap your gifts. I don't mean you personally have to wrap the gift, but you can take pretty much everything, like a box of cookies, wrap it nicely with a bow - and suddenly it's a present. If I just hand you a box of cookies and say, “Here, happy sugar day,” it's not the same thing. And it doesn't have the same impact. If your gift doesn't already come Instagram-pretty, you will need to take extra care with the presentation. Sheets of "Scary Sharp" abrasive lapping film are probably among the least glamorous items we stock, but add a great guide to sharpening and a honing guide and you have a major assist for your friend's perennial New Year's resolution to master sharpening.

The point of a present you see is to acknowledge that you care about somebody, or care about their contribution to your life, and you understand them and have thought about it well enough so they will see the point of what you gave them. And I suppose you want the gift to show some effort on your part.

Oh one last piece of advice: the gift has to be something you can actually find without driving yourself insane. I'm absolutely hoping for a half inch Norris shoulder plane with a very tight mouth in very, very good condition to arrive at my doorstep sometime in the next month. Since it's a really impossible find, I can't expect Sally to spend her entire week looking for one. So I'm not optimistic, but that's okay it's just too big to ask.

Finally we do get asked for suggestions all the time. Here are our current top five recommendations:

Holdfasts - If your giftee doesn’t have them already, Holdfasts are a great gift for anyone who just finished or is building a workbench. It acknowledges their interest, is a standard workbench accessory and won’t break the bank.

The Joiner and Cabinetmaker - Books make a great gift and are so easy to wrap! The Joiner and Cabinetmaker is a fun narrative coupled with a virtual apprenticeship in 19th century hand tool woodwork.

Spoonmaker’s Drawknife (with or without the Handle Kit) - This shave is remarkably useful for making spoons, shaping chair legs or engaging in almost any small carving project. We also just added an easy-to- make handle kit. Both will be a very useful addition to any greenwood or carver’s kit.

Ruler - Your giftee probably already has a ruler. But our Drafting Rulers are fun to use - they flip up - and are actually pretty useful. I use mine daily.

Festool Limited Editions - Some of the items, like the very durable phone charger piggyback off the Festool power tool system. But other Limited Editions like the Ratchet Set or Plier Set are just exceptionally well made basic hand tools packed up in a signature blue Systainer.

If all else fails we also have gift certificates. I'm not a huge fan of gift certificates but when you need to get something for someone who has everything and is picky, like yours truly, a gift certificate is certainly a respected way out.

A Deep Dive Into Selecting Gifts For Woodworkers 2

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11/29/2023 Pittsburgh Tim
I had casually mentioned to my wife that I would like to give carving a try. A few years later, out of the blue, I received a set of 12 European-made carving chisels. It was the best gift that I have received since I was a child and Santa brought me that Evil Knievel motorcycle! Some 12 or 15 years later, I am an avid carver and my set has grown to over 90 carving chisels of various makers from England, Switzerland, and Austria. It was one of those things that I would have never bought myself, but was thrilled to receive. Great advice above is to give a gift that is something fun.
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