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I confess this gift guide is a little self-serving. Back in October I marveled at the beauty of woodworker Len Cullum’s workshop of Japanese tools in this blog post. I’ve long been fascinated by the simple elegance of Japanese joinery. Of course there’s nothing simple about it. It’s a craft that takes a lifetime to master. Anyway, thinking I wanted to learn Japanese woodworking I asked Len what tools he would recommend for someone starting out. That way if someone wanted to know what I wanted for Christmas (ahem!) I could point them to his list. Of course I’m hoping other people will find it of use, too. What follows is what he came up with. And be sure to check out Len’s web site. Thanks, Len.

Start the Slideshow

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook

Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.


  • http://lovelykitchens.com JP Storm

    I’d probably get more use out of those chisels but all I want for Christmas are those saws.

  • Alan Dove

    Not sure whether you covered them (slideshows are silly), but the Shark saws are a great, reasonably priced and low-maintenance alternative to traditional Japanese saws. The blades are disposable/recyclable, so instead of a painstaking sharpening process you can just pop in a new one when you need it.

    • Dustbuster

      Interesting juxtaposition of Japanese and American values in you comment. Japanese tools = expensive, long-lasting, maintainable tools. American tools = cheap, disposable, non-maintainable tools. But these days they’re probably both made in China.

    • len cullum

      For what it’s worth, I think Shark saws are okay, particularly if they are all that is available nearby, and you want to get a feel for pull saws before investing in higher quality ones. What is more important than your choice of saw is the work. Before getting hung up on a particular tool, get a feel for the work and do the best you can with what you can afford. Sure you might have a better experience with a higher quality tool, but if you can learn to do good work with an average tool, what you will coax from a good one will be that much better. That’s been my experience anyway. But back to the Shark saws: I would recommend avoiding the pistol style grip. I’ve found it to be pretty limiting when cutting joints.

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