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Tool companies, like all manufacturers, have to make sales or there’s no point in being in business. To do that, they sometimes rely on gimmicks.

Unfortunately, the word “gimmick” has a negative connotation. And for some of the gimmicks I’ve seen with woodworking tools, rightly so. A couple years ago I bought a gimmicky drilling jig that was supposed to guarantee perfect 90-degree (or whatever angle) holes. A superb idea, but the tool itself was a piece of junk.

Other gimmicks are much better. You could call SawStop a gimmick, and by the dictionary definition it would be, but it’s a good gimmick that does exactly what it says it will. (Please, please, please don’t hijack the comments with yet another pointless pro/con argument about SawStop. That’s not what this blog is about. Save that for another time. Please.)

Then some gimmicks go both ways; good sometimes, really bad to the point of being nothing more than ooh-aah additions other times. The king of this category is the laser. In some cases they’re fantastic, like on miter saws. Lasers on levels are a great idea, and I’m fascinated by those laser-based tape measures.

I used to think that lasers on jigsaws were ridiculous and nothing more than a gimmick tended to trick money out of the gullible – why would anyone think that a device intended to project a perfectly straight line would be useful on a tool primarily used to cut curved lines? But the first time I used one to cut a lengthy straight line (I was showing a guy who didn’t own a table saw how to rip with a jigsaw), and the value of that laser was suddenly apparent. On the other hand, the laser attachment I got for my drill press was a waste of money. In spite of it being well made, it simply was impossible to keep properly aligned.

Lasers, of course, are just one example of what I mean when I talk about tool gimmicks, but there are many more – notches, positive stops, magnifiers, clips, magnets. And LEDs, lots and lots of LEDs. Seems like every tool has at least one now, but are they really useful?

So, what are some of your favorite useful – or useless – tool gimmicks?

Till next time,


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