There are some of the non-powered tools which I use nearly every time I work in the shop. These are my necessities, tools that make my work so much easier and most are a joy to use. Some are expensive, some are not. All are worth every penny to me. Here’s the list:-COMBINATION SQUARE: I’m happy with my 18″ Empire Pro model – it goes for less than $20. I also own a few smaller 4″ and 6″ models (combo or double squares) and they are handy. They cost me from $25-50 each.
-STANLEY LEVERLOCK TAPE MEASURES: Some people find the locking mechanism awkward, but I love it. I found a 3-pack (30′, 25′, 12′) on sale for $10. I keep the 25′ and 30′ tapes scattered around my shop and the 12′ in my pocket. I also carry around a 6′ Tape-in-a-can which used to be made by Veritas. Good luck finding one nowadays though.
-STRAIGHT EDGE: Not a machinist’s precision-ground straight edge, just something to draw straight lines. A 1/2″ thick, straight piece of wood is a good size and costs me nothing. Aluminum or steel rules are nice too.
-MARKING GAUGE: I like the micro-adjustable wheel type. I don’t think graduations on the rod are that useful. Mine set me back about $35.
-0.5mm MECHANICAL PENCILS: They make a fine line and don’t need sharpening. Cheap too. I also use carpenter’s pencils a lot for less critical work. Their lines are less accurate, but I use the scales on my power tools to provide the accuracy.
-MARKING KNIFE: I have a bunch I use: one made from an old jigsaw blade (thank you Derek Cohen), an X-acto, a couple for carving, a spear-point. They all work, some better for certain tasks than others. I don’t like a knife with bevels on both faces for marking. None cost me more than $20.
-TUCKER VISE: Patternmaker’s vices are not cheap or easy to find, but they are very versatile and very useful. I use all the features – the quick-release, the rotation, the tilt, skewing of jaws – regularly. The quick-release foot pedal which I believe is exclusive to the Tucker is a real bonus and I am lost without it. It last retailed for about $700.
-SAFETY GOGGLES: Not glasses, goggles. They’re actually called Chemical Splash Goggles. I like them because they fit comfortably over my glasses, plus they protect from riccochets. $20 and worth every penny.
-EAR MUFFS: Easy to put on even over longer hair. The downside is that in the warmer months, the warmth they provide is unwanted. To keep cooler, I like Zem’s hearing protectors. Either type costs less than $25.