Great Gift for Great Dad
July 14, 2011 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Woodworkers of MetaFilter: could you suggest a woodworking gift for my dad?

My ever-so-awesome father is building my son a bedroom set for the low, low price of lumber (and only because I insisted on paying for the wood). He's also built all kinds of smaller projects for me over the years. I'd like to get him a thank you gift. Something in the $50-$150 range. A woodworking gift would be best since he's otherwise hard to buy for and doesn't really have many other hobbies.

More on Dad: he has a pretty fully outfitted workshop. He builds a lot of cabinetry (he built and installed all of the cabinets in my brother's house), a fair amount of furniture (dressers, bookshelves, tables), and, now that he has grandchildren, has begun making the occasional wooden toy. I'd call his style "typical Midwestern": oak, oak, and more oak. He doesn't have many woodworking books. Though, he's got a pretty complete setup in his shop, it's pretty utilitarian. There are probably some items out there that he would appreciate, but wouldn't buy for himself. Help me find one?
posted by rebeccabeagle to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
A subscription to Fine Woodworking (if he doesn't have one already) and a coffee table book of Shaker furniture.
posted by phunniemee at 8:24 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

And I wouldn't buy him a tool, unless he's been talking about a specific item he wants. My dad does woodworking as a hobby and is extremely particular about his tools. He spent the better part of a year talking about a hand plane he wanted to get, then spent a solid month after he finally got it showing it off and explaining, ad nauseum, to the family exactly how it differed from the five other (nearly identical) hand planes he already has.
posted by phunniemee at 8:29 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

A small gift, but depending upon the age of your kids might be a good vehicle to help include the kids with their grandfather's woodworking... Bruno The Carpenter. I've taught elementary school woodworking for many years and this is a great book for the youngest kids and still holds some appeal for the older ones too. It ends with plans for a project that can easily be built by the kids alone or with an adult.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:48 PM on July 14, 2011

He likes to build functional pieces? Doesn't have many woodworking books? He needs Tage Frid.
posted by Chrischris at 8:49 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Possibly a maker's mark if he doesn't already have one?
posted by macfly at 8:53 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Definitely something from Lee Nielsen, perhaps this block plane. Very classy stuff, incredibly well made (in Maine) and great gifts.
posted by sully75 at 8:59 PM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]

I sort of agree on the "wouldn't buy him a tool" thing with the exception of when you can figure out something really nice (which usually, though not always, means "expensive"). I've gotten my partner (who is a metalworking hobbyist) things like extremely precise measuring instruments, and he's liked/used those a lot. One "decent" tool can go a lot further in a shop than a whole mess of cheap tools.
posted by aecorwin at 9:39 PM on July 14, 2011

How's he set up for sharpening? Does he complain about his tools getting dull or hating to sharpen them? A lot of old-time woodworkers have pretty crappy sharpening equipment. Ask him if he can read a newspaper through his plane shavings - if not, see below!

A set of Japanese waterstones for sharpening flat things like plane blades and flat chisels is in your price range (I don't know anything about the company I linked; it was just the first thing that showed up in a search). They are much neater to use than their Western counterpart, oilstones, because you don't have any oily mess. There is a whole range of grit coarseness, but the top set on the linked page looks pretty good for a start.

A diamond plate is nice to flatten the stones when they get dished from use. It's pricey but eventually he'll need to true up his sharpening stones. This one is about $50; I don't remember what grit size you need for truing waterstones but the supplier could help you with that. (Again, that company was just the first thing that popped up in a search.)

He can also use the waterstones to sharpen kitchen knives freehand, if he has steady hands and a light but firm touch. This will win major brownie points with the resident cook, and may score him a diamond plate from the grateful chef after the stones get woefully dished in the service of fine food.
posted by Quietgal at 9:44 PM on July 14, 2011

Possibly a nice shop vacuum ? cleanup aint fun without one :)
posted by 70klicks at 10:35 PM on July 14, 2011

While I agree that buying tools for someone is tricky, especially those with a well-provisioned shop, but you could try a tool which is relatively new and well-reputed:

if he has a bench with proper holes, the Veritas Wonder Dogs are the neatest thing since sliced bread. Buy him two if you can. Likewise, the Veritas surface clamps can be very handy (though not quite so much as the wonder dogs).

If you're not comfortable with tools, woodworkers can always use more material for fixtures/jigs. Things like quick-release knobs, cam clamps, T-track, etc.

The answer, unfortunately, depends a lot on his work style. Does he free-hand a lot of work? Is he a router junkie? Does he obsess over finishing? etc.
posted by introp at 11:06 PM on July 14, 2011

Understanding Wood
The Soul of a Tree
posted by plinth at 2:56 AM on July 15, 2011

You can never have enough clamps. Don't buy cheap ones.
posted by Buckshot at 4:59 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Like others in this thread, I wouldn't get him a tool. But a gift certificate to Lee Valley Tools might be much appreciated. My father is a woodworker himself and he spends much time drooling over their catalogue and always refers to a visit to Lee Valley as "a pilgrimage".

Also, you might like to check out this AskMe of mine for recommendations on gift books for woodworkers.
posted by orange swan at 6:49 AM on July 15, 2011

Lie Neilsen or Lee Valley gift certificate.

When it comes to hobbies with a lot of equipment, I've found it's best if you let the recipient pick what he/she wants, rather than picking something for them. If you're not familiar with the tools of the trade, you might get a duplicate/something inferior/not useful to the recipient.

Hand plane #1 and hand plane #2 might look exactly the same to the untrained eye, but the woodworker will know the difference.
posted by Lucinda at 7:26 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is a bit of a self/family link but my cousin recently quit working as the editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine to go do his own writing/woodworking thing called the Lost Art Press. He recently came out with a book called The Anarchist's Toolchest which is within your budget and talks about building a toolchest but it's really about the whole culture of working with wood. Many of their titles are excellent and small-run enough that he's unlikely to already have them.
posted by jessamyn at 7:48 AM on July 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

mobile posting equals no puntuation etc
google ryoba not ryobi saws
they are japanese reverse cut exceptionally accurate hand saws
i received a set as a gift myself and shall now never ever go without them i love them

sneakily find out if your father has ryobas or not
if he doesnt then i cannot reccomend them enough
posted by No Shmoobles at 8:06 AM on July 15, 2011

Thanks for all the great answers, folks. The ones I best answer-ed are exactly the kind of things I think he'd find a lot of value in, but never buy for himself.
posted by rebeccabeagle at 5:05 AM on July 17, 2011

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