Expensive Woodworking Tools That Are Worth the Money

I’ve been building custom furniture for many years, and, like most of you, I’ve acquired my woodworking tools as I can afford them. The tools in this list might seem expensive, quirky, and even redundant, but stay with me, and I’ll prove their worth. Believe me, now that these woodworking tools are in my shop, I wish I’d invested in them earlier.

Five expensive woodworking tools that pay for themselves in accuracy and efficiency

1. 6″ Starrett Square ($107):

This combination square rests in the middle pocket of my shop apron, and I use it sixty times a day. Why do I love it so much? First and foremost, it is square. Folks, there is no such thing as ‘almost square’ and Starrett understands this. I trust this small tool to check for perfect 90-degree alignment on my stationary tools like the table saw, jointer, and band saw. Its cast iron head adjusts along the blade, which has measurements machined to 64th‘s of an inch, and locks firmly with the twist of your fingers. It is perfect for checking the depth of dados, grooves, mortises, etc., and for setting the depth on router bits… anything that requires a small measurement. Rather than use my tape to measure small dimensions, I slide the head to a setting and easily make multiple precise measurements. I also use this tool to check if my small cabinets and drawers are square. (Starrett Tools),

Related videos: Saddle Square and Why George Loves Combination Squares

2. 12″ Starrett Combination Square with Protractor Head and Center Head ($296):

Once you own the 6″, you’ll understand why I recommend the 12″. It does everything that the 6″ does and more! I mainly use it to check large cabinets for squares and to measure multiples greater than 6″ (don’t tell, but for squaring, I trust it so much that sometimes I’ll forego measuring cabinets diagonally—shhh!) Could you replace the square head with the protractor head? It sets angles on my sliding miter saw and angles on the table saw and can easily measure any unknown angle down to the half-degree! The center head is perfect for centering blanks for turning on the lathe and defining the angles for halving or quartering posts. One last endorsement: Starrett Tools are superbly made, finely calibrated, and I love how they feel: perfectly weighted in my hand.

3. Lie-Neilsen Pocket Block Plane ($160):

This tool is a unique little gem. First, the fit and finish are perfect. It is super light and designed to be used with one hand. With the blade set at 12 degrees, it’s ideal for working figured wood, but I use it for chamfering, trimming edge banding, and fine-tuning the fit of cabinet doors. I frequently remove thin ribbons off oversized doors and then take three light passes at an angle to chamfer the edges. Furthermore, this little plane is the perfect introduction to the value of hand planes. (Lie-Nielsen Toolworks)

Related video: Standard and Low Angle Block Plane

4. Palm Router ($90):

Originally called a laminate trimmer, this mini-router is a great addition to any tool shelf. Although it has less power than a regular router, it is also less expensive and cumbersome. I like this tool because I can use it with one hand, and it is plenty powerful for most trimming and chamfering operations. It is perfect for mortising hinges on jewelry boxes, too. If my fixed base router is set up with a fence, or the depth is set perfectly, I leave that alone and use my perfectly sized palm router. (Bosch Router)

Related video: Plunge vs. Fixed Base Routers

5. Dozuki and Ryoba Saws ($45 each):

These Japanese saws might seem like a luxury at around $90 for the two saws, but I now consider them a necessity. First, they have very thin blades that cut easily and efficiently. They also cut on the pull-stroke, a more natural way to start a cut. The Dozuki has a rib that stiffens the blade, so it excels at cutting dovetails and other precise joinery. The Ryoba usually has two different sets of teeth, one fine for crosscutting and one coarse for ripping. It does everything from trimming protruding dowels to finishing stopped cuts on the table saw. Because these saws are “unplugged,” they’re faster than setting up a corded saw for the small cuts that happen so frequently in my shop! (Available at Rockler, Woodcraft and other woodworking stores.)

Related video: Advantages of Using a Japanese Pull Saw

What is your favorite tool and why? Email us at editor@wwgoa.com

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27 Responses to “Expensive Woodworking Tools That Are Worth the Money”

  1. Dale Lougee

    As a retired employee of the Starrett Company, I was very pleased to see your review of their squares.

  2. John Besharian

    Excellent choice of tools. When it comes to "Expensive", I'm reminded of the old Union 76 commercial" You can pay me now, or you can pay me later". In other words, you can buy a quality tool once and, if you take care of them, they will far outlast any cheap junk you "Saved Money On" that never is as accurate and you have to keep replacing. For example, I still have my father's Lufkin Rule Co. Rules; 12" rule No. C-2116-R and his 18" Lufkin Square No. 2516R. Both in 32nd's & 64th's on one side, and 50th's & 100th's of an inch on the other. As a machinist, he bought them in 1955. Both are still just as accurate as the day he bought them.

  3. E Crosby

    It would be great if I could see pics of what you are talking about and demonstrations of use

  4. Scott Chaplinski

    The newly tweaked Bosch Colt is amazing. At 1 1/2 to 13/4 ho it packs quite a punch. Also Im not into any distinct product line so my opinion is based on the tool.

  5. Herbert Shaw

    Above all are the Starrett squares. These are the tools that are in my hands during any woodworking procedure. Accuracy begins with the square and Starrett continues to be the gold standard. See their plant tour on YouTube to convince yourself.

  6. Jim

    Retired cabinet/furniture maker, 45 years on the job Router Porter Cable Model 100M! One hand control and more powerful then trim router. Starrett is good but some of the Japanese are as good but 1/2 the price. Older Blue grass chisels. Garage sale finds. 13oz Plumb hammer is still hammer . None balance as well Good trammel points. Electric pencil sharpeners. last but not least is a good cross section of stones.

  7. Sam 0231

    The Ridgid cordless router can’t be beat when it comes to a compact trim router. My two cents...

  8. steve horn

    What would be a good bandsaw to buy? Something in the middle to high range. thanks

  9. Bob Cisek

    I use my lie-neilson 102 black plane on a daily basis...its small enough to fit comfortably in my apron and its low-profile iron is excellent on endgrain. I might add a router plane, which is extremely useful when doing cabinet work.

  10. Ed Ahern

    Model # PS10-2A Bosch 12-Volt 1/4-in Cordless Drill 80 in-lbs of torque - drives 100 3-in screws per battery charge Ultra-compact head length, only 3.5-in in total head length 90° articulating head - rotates and locks into 5 positions for increased versatility. I have 3 Dewalt 18 v. drills and this Bosch. I always reach for the Bosch first. Light weight and flexible and enough power for most jobs.