As always, I begin this annual gift guide with: The Listing of the Caveats.
- In general, “gift guides” are marketing trash that try to trick your family members into buying a set of Silicone Domino Flashy Budgies with Bubble Level.
- When a celebrity woodworker promotes a gift guide, it is usually just a list of trash given to them by a sponsor – usually a woodworking store. Sometimes the celebrity gets a kickback from each sale. It’s not illegal, but it’s slimy.
- This gift guide is simple. It’s a list of tools I’ve bought during the last couple years that I’ve tested and really like. I paid full retail for these doo-dads. I am not an affiliate with any of these manufacturers (or any manufacturers at all). Also, I try to keep the price of the items in this gift guide low because it might be your kids who are buying this stuff for you.
If you don’t like this gift guide, please start a better one so I can take the Christmas season off for once.
Star-M F-type Bits
From the Japanese makers of the wonderful WoodOwl bits come these incredible little buggers. I was first alerted to these bits by Kyle Barton almost two years ago.
Their claim to fame is that they won’t splinter out the exit hole. You can drill straight through a board without a backing board. Also, the bits in general cut cleanly, aggressively and have a long center point (which allows you to angle the bit quite a bit).
While I’m sure they are sold elsewhere, I buy mine from Workshop Heaven in the U.K., which keeps a regular stock of them and ships them fairly reasonably. They are metric, but they are sold in such small increments that a U.S. workshop won’t notice.
The bits feature a hex shank, which allows them to fit in bit extenders and tools with a hex chuck. I definitely prefer the hex shank whenever possible; it prevents the bit from slipping in the chuck.
I bought an entire set as they aren’t terribly expensive – basically as much as a good Forstner bit. I use them extensively for chairmaking because they work really well at odd angles and I don’t need backing boards behind my work.
If you make staked furniture, you’ll probably want to try the 16mm bit, which is close to 5/8”. I’ve beat the heck out of this particular bit and can report that it is still dang sharp after almost two years of use and maybe 30 chairs.
There’s got to be a downside, yes? Yes. Sometimes the bits seize up as they cut the exit hole and activate the clutch on your cordless drill. Turn the clutch off when you use these bits (or better yet, use a corded drill without a clutch). But that’s the only criticism I’ve got.
Star-M does it again.
— Christopher Schwarz
If you want to read some of the older gift guides, the 2013-2018 entries are here at Popular Woodworking. The guides from 2019 to the present are here.
30 thoughts on “2020 Anarchist’s Gift Guide: Day 1”
I have a set of WoodOwls. Do these have any advantage over the WoodOwls in certain applications?
They don’t blow out the back of your work. You can use them in bit extenders.
Awfully good price on those even after shipping. Hopefully customs isn’t a months long endeavor. Thanks!
I like the long point and no lead screw. It seems you could alter these for an even longer point, to help guide really odd angles. Something like Peter Galbert does with grinding really long tipped brad points.
But, how are they on making clean entrance holes?
Very clean holes. In and out.
+1 on these. Got a 19mm one for dog holes. Just be gentle on the exit from the board
Looks interesting, and the prices are indeed very attractive!
A question: have you also used them in a drill press, and if yes, what’s the verdict?
Thanks in advance,
I have not. But I definitely would. There’s nothing about their geometry that would make them ill-suited for drill press work.
I have used them in a drill press and they work perfectly
Chris, just wanted to say how much I appreciate and look forward to the annual gift guide. I know it’s extra work, but it’s greatly valued. Thank you. Also, excellent Thundarr reference. -JP
If this is the same company that makes WoodOwl bits, I’m in. Best I’ve ever used. Very clean holes and exits.
Chris, thanks for taking (making) the time to do these thoughtful recommendations every year!
I like drill bits with a lead screw, they are easier to use for my kids, one less thing to worry about, the drill pulls itself forward.
Good brand though, I think I have other bits from that company.
Oh, and I do appreciate your gift guides, found some brilliant stuff on them in the past
I have the impression that lead screw also works better in a brace, for muscle-powered drilling. Am I wrong?
Dang, forgot to mention that. Yes, I use them in a brace (the kids only use the brace). I actually prefer it over my strong but heavy cordless. I have no power sockets in the basement compartment, so no plug in tools for me.
Less Thundarr and more Ariel & Ookla? And yes, there is a wiki : https://thundarr.fandom.com/wiki/Thundarr_the_Barbarian_Wiki
I didn’t see the bits offered as a set on the website?
I just clicked on every one to purchase a “set.”
Thanks I assumed so. Sometimes sets are offered at less $
Workshop Heaven does offer sets in some of the other Star-M bit designs (use the search in the upper left corner of the page to find them). Not the type-F, that I can see.
I really enjoy this series. I’ve picked up several of your recommendations. Stuff I would never have thought to get that now can’t live without.
Could you include some stuff that is easy to buy too (like from Amazon?) Last year I sent the wife to your list for ideas. She saw the two cherries pencils. Went straight to amazon and put “two cherries carpenter pencil” in the search. Of course 2C pencils weren’t sold on amazon. She clicked one of the first entries thinking it was actually 2C pencils. Bought me a box of 100 POS cheap carpenter pencils. Couldn’t figure out why I was less than thrilled. On the plus side those pencils make excellent stickers for drying drawer parts.
Thanks for this! I‘ve been wanting to make the low staked stool, this will nudge me to get started .
And I definitely don’t want to splinter out the exit hole.
Thanks for the shout-out! FYI – I have also found using the slow speed setting on your drill can be advantageous; but your millage may vary.
As much as I loved that show, now it makes me want to make some joke about a pirate Lion-O.
Thundarr! Thundarr! Thundarrcats! MerrrrrOOOO!
If you live in Canada, there is something similar made by Wood Owl available. I don’t know if this is the exact same thing. Take a look here for an example:
I use them a lot, in a press-drill or in a cordless drill. I can use the 1″ in a cordless drill for boring a 2″ inch hole in hard maple without any problem. The large one are really cheaper the the equal quality bit if the same diameter.
Recently, I had to do a lot (more than a hundred) holes in very old studs for electricity work. These bits were wonderful for this job compared to all other stuff I’ve used before. Particularly because I could use extender when appropriate and also I can easily use them with the right angle fixture of my Festool drill without adding the collet (which gives you an extra inch or so). Since they are relatively cheap, hitting a nail is no big worry (I hit 3-4 nails and continued with the same bit without issue but must admit the the bit was not as good as when I started the job). And also because with other big bits, I sometime had to work with a corded drill (which I cannot use a right angle with and which is cumbersome in a ladder).
Star-M bits also can be purchased here:
Unless I am missing something, that is not the f-type bit I am writing about.
Can you give any details about the bit extender?
It’s from Bosch. More on that later in the Gift Guide….
After a quick search, it looks like Star-M’s own website for these may be https://www.starminfo.com/en/product/gimune/4.html
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