For woodworking I prefer wooden layout tools – squares, straightedges, winding sticks and the like. They are lightweight and so much easier to keep in truth than metal tools.
While most woodworkers make their own layout tools, some don’t have the time or persnickety nature necessary to do it really well. If you are one of those people, you need to get to know Neil Cronk of The Cronkwright Workshop.
Neil was a student of mine at Rosewood Studios – he was a professional carpenter, drywaller and furniture-maker. Then he chucked it all to make layout tools and custom furniture (and make ends meet by working at the local bike shop).
Right now Neil makes winding sticks, a Benjamin Seaton try square and the Durer Melencolia square. You can see them in his store here. I purchased his winding sticks and a Melecolia square to help support him and check out his work.
And then last weekend I looked over all his wares at the Woodworks Conference in Perth, Ontario. Neil’s work is impeccable. Every joint in his squares is flawless. The winding sticks are superb – way better than my beat-up pair. Neil inlaid stripes of contrasting woods on the inside face of each stick. It’s not window-dressing. The stripes allow you to effortlessly see how far out of truth a board is.
In other words, I think most woodworkers I know would be humbled by this work and it would serve to inspire them to do better work. I am certain that some commenters will balk and grumble about buying wooden tools that can be made. But these small items will help support a truly talented woodworker with a young family and I promise you will be damn impressed by the tools themselves.
Even if you aren’t interested in Neil’s tools, be sure to check out his Hand Joinery Tutorials that he posts on Twitter via live Tweets. He tackles a wide variety of joints and shows each step, and his photos are in real time.
— Christopher Schwarz