Jeff's top three workshop tools

Marian Parsonswoodworking


Jeff, my other half who is famous for his photobombing, has been working on the blog behind the scenes for a long time…shipping things, fixing things, building things, hanging things, carrying things…


but now he’s stepping front and center. He has written a post sharing his top three indispensable workshop tools.  Enjoy…


Everybody has their favorite tools. I have mine and you have yours. And the tools we depend on most are obviously determined by the kind of work we do. Marian, for example, would probably have an orbital sander in her top three because she uses it for just about every furniture makeover she does. For me, the sander may have an outside chance at cracking the top ten.

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Allow me to list a couple of ground rules. First, drills don’t count. Yes, I am aware that a drill is a tool. And yes, I use a drill all the time. But that’s the point—we all use drills all the time. I figured it would be best to assume this and list the top three tools other than a drill. Second, they have to be actual tools. So glue, for example, wouldn’t count.

I’ll begin by describing the kind of work I’m normally doing in our workshop.

I enjoy making upgrades to the workshop. I am blessed to have a nice open space (28’x35’) that functions almost solely as a workshop. Sometimes, like the 3-4 weeks leading up to the Lucketts Fair, it functions as a storage space as well. I have built some nice lumber storage, work tables, an easy and affordable workbench (which I will do a tutorial on sometime), a whole wall of heavy-duty shelves, and a massive out-feed table for my table saw. Some of these upgrades are costly and time consuming, but worth it in the end.

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I also do a lot of the necessary repairs to Marian’s furniture-finds. You might say I’m the one who resuscitates the pig before Marian puts lipstick on it. Say she brings home a filthy and beat up old dresser that she bought from some guy for thirty bucks. Believe me, only Marian would see potential in this dresser.


The top has some nasty water damage. Some drawers stick and others go in way too far. At least one of the drawers needs a new bottom. Another drawer shrieks like the screaming banshee from Hades when you open and close it. I try to hide my skepticism while she eyes it with pride. Then I do what any adoring husband would do: I say something that is in no way indicative of what I’m actually thinking at that moment such as, “Nice find, hon. You practically stole this from that guy.”

Then I get busy fixing it.

I also use the workshop to do a good bit of home improvement building. I did most of the wood-related finish work in our bathroom, including the built-in shelving, the baseboard heater covers and the bead board panel on the front of the tub.

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I also did the built-ins in our home office. And I know how much Marian loves the butcher block countertops in the kitchen, but after many hours in the workshop cutting, fitting, sanding and edging them all, as well as spending—no lie—three hours just thinking about how I would tackle cutting the hole for the sink (she just had to have an under-mount sink) and another three hours actually cutting it, I concluded that should I ever be forced to choose between doing butcher-block countertops again or, say, going down a barbed wire waterslide into a pool of rubbing alcohol, I would need some time alone to ponder which would be the less desirable of the two.

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In addition to furniture repair and home improvement stuff, I generally do whatever Marian needs me to do. And trust me, that can be anything. You never know what’s going to show up at our house: a huge metal letter M which takes two people to carry, boxes upon boxes of lavender which, in addition to smelling nice, causes postnasal drip within seconds, or a “gorgeous” rusty old metal cow head.

Anyways, that’s mostly what I do in the workshop. So what three tools do I rely on most heavily to accomplish these tasks? What are my three most indispensable tools? I’ll list them in no particular order.


The first tool is the compound miter saw. Mine is a 10” Bosch sliding saw that Marian got me for Christmas a few years ago. I use that saw on almost every project where wood has to be cut. It is so versatile that I won’t even bother trying to list all of its uses in this post. Most of you probably have a compound miter saw, so you know what I’m talking about.

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The second thing I can’t do without in the workshop is a good set of clamps. Clamps are like having two or four or eight extra hands. If you are repairing furniture, clamps are a must. I use clamps to hold drawers together while I’m fixing them. I glue up old dovetails or drawer bottoms, leaving them in clamps as I walk away. When I need to cut out a jigsaw pattern on a piece of wood or use my router to put a nice edge on a dresser top, I use clamps to secure the wood to my workbench allowing me work efficiently and safely. It would be difficult to do what I do without clamps. So buy yourself an old beat up desk, get some wood glue (I recommend Titebond II, but to each his own), some clamps, and get to work!

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I knew what the first two tools were going to be, but selecting this third one was difficult. Not because I couldn’t think of another tool that I heavily rely on—that’s the problem. I can think of many other tools I heavily rely on. I was tempted to say the brad nailer. I also thought that the Kreg Pocket Hole System, which revolutionized the way I join pieces of wood together, would fit the bill nicely. But for my third most indispensable tool, I have to go with my table saw. The table saw is the centerpiece of the wood shop. I use mine to make new drawer bottoms, replace dresser tops, rip cabinet face-frames to size, make just about all of my cabinetry cuts, and to trim just a hair off of a sticking drawer to make it slide smoothly. The table saw is one of my go-to tools for reliable straight cuts and perfect 90 degree panels. It’s a must-have!

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Well, those are the three MVP’s of my workshop. I’d love to hear yours!


So, do you like hearing the behind-the-scenes from Jeff?  He really does a lot and I’m glad he took the step to write a post. (Sometimes I forget how scary writing that first post is!)

Oh, and I can’t sign off without wishing him a Happy Father’s Day!  He’s not only handy in the home, but he’s a really great dad.

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Jeff's top three workshop tools

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