Fine Woodworking’s 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

Put one of these new tools on your list, and you won’t be sorry. All are under $50, and all are guaranteed to brighten your day. I’ve tried each one. —Asa Christiana

Pica Dry Longlife Automatic Pencilmnn
Pica Dry Longlife Automatic Pencil $16

Pica Dry Longlife Automatic Pencil $16

A better mechanical pencil

The Pica pencil is the first mechanical model I’ve really loved. Like all automatic pencils, it requires no sharpening. What’s different is the lead: Its size and hardness are perfect for use on wood. It’s soft enough to mark a clear line on dark woods and thin enough to make precise lines. At the same time, the lead isn’t so thin and soft that it breaks every time you hit a grain line, which happens with others I’ve used. I haven’t touched my old-fashioned pencil since I got this one.


Mini Hedgehog Featherboards
Mini Hedgehog Featherboards $24 for a pair

Mini Hedgehog Featherboards in useSmart hold-down for fences

I’m a big fan of the full-size Hedgehog, which mounts in a miter slot, with an elliptical shape that adjusts much more easily than a standard featherboard. The new Mini version is designed to fit into the T-track in a fence, where it will hold work down for accuracy while keeping your hand out of harm’s way. I keep one mounted on my router-table fence, where I use it quite often. By the way, if your fence lacks a T-slot, Hedgehog sells a bundle that includes a high-quality router bit for cutting one.


Rockler Push Block XL
Rockler Push Block XL $10 each

Grippier push pads

Rockler Push Block XL in useMy old push pads tend to slip on slick woods, but these don’t. Larger and grippier than my old set, the new Rockler XLs are the best I’ve tried. In fact, I don’t even need my hook-type push stick to keep boards moving on the jointer anymore. Like many of the best models, these have angled handles, which keep your hands clear of the fence.


Veritas Planing Stops
Veritas Planing Stops $29–$40

Veritas Planing Stops King of the planing stops

While these Veritas planing stops are not new, I recently compared them to a couple of new models from other manufacturers, and the Veritas stops won easily. Rather than loosening and retightening a screw to adjust their dogs for the right spacing, you simply slide them along a T-track, and they pop in and out of your bench’s dog holes easily. Simply put, these are one of the best hand-planing accessories I know of. They come in three lengths: 9-3⁄4 in., 17-1⁄2 in., and 25-1⁄4 in.


Kreg VersaGrip Clamps
Kreg VersaGrip Clamps $21–$38

Kreg VersaGrip ClampsSmarter, stronger one-handed clamps

These new quick-grip-style clamps from Kreg are the best I’ve tried. The adjustable head slides easily and clamps powerfully, and won’t loosen afterward, the way some others do. Cooler still, the other jaw can be reversed and relocated on the other end of the bar, turning these clamps into spreaders, great for taking apart assemblies without resorting to mallet blows.


Union Saddle Markers
Union Saddle Markers $25 each

Union Saddle Markers Sweet dovetail markers

Union Tools recently released this excellent set of saddle-style markers, designed for laying out dovetails with a pencil or knife. What makes them stand out is the machined pattern on the back side, which grips the wood and prevents them from shifting. Even if you don’t need one or two of these for dovetailing, I highly recommend the 90° model for wrapping accurate lines around edges.

Photos: Asa Christiana

From Fine Woodworking #308

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