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