Woodworking Apron

An apron can be a wonderful part of a tool set. It can organize your most used tools and your small but regularly used tools. If well made, it can have a smoking good line to it, not quite formal, but classic. There is a lot of room for expression with an apron. It can also protect your clothing from the odd mess up.

I have several aprons I use, a rather serious bright yellow plasticized lab apron that I use mostly when dealing with milk paint. The stuff can be quite dangerous. I have a leather apron I use when blacksmithing and a cotton one I use with the BBQ.

When doing carpentry work, I am used to using a tool pouch, it is amazing how much faster I can work with this on. I have used the light nail pouch/apron on a hot day when running through a ton of nails or screws, but in general I like the tool pouch. But for fine carpentry my needs are different. I can live with the heavy duty carpentry tools falling out a few times a week when I am doing carpentry. I can live with scraping my claw hammer against the rail as I work on a deck. However, these are not options when doing fine woodworking.

If I am going to keep a precision square, a fine marking gauge, a nice block plane and a few fine chisels and knives on me, I don’t want them slipping out when I am working. A tool pouch is all about quick convenience, an apron needs to be a bit more secure, Deeper pockets with folds to keep sawdust out help. They can still be fast and convenient, but protecting the tools does not need to be the corner that is cut.

An apron can be an important part of a tool box. A few tools are secured in the apron, and the apron can wrap other objects so they don’t rattle in the tool box when transporting them. The real problem is deciding how far to go with the apron. Do I want the ‘Road Warrior’ look, with all the tools carried like armor and weapons ready for instant use? Actually yes, but I don’t think it is a good idea. More of a cool costume than a functional part of your tool set. The question is what core items are so important that I absolutely must carry them on me? This is taking the Vagabonds Toolbox one step further.

For marking, a couple of pencils. If I also do business while wood working, a pen is nice. If I also work metal, a scribe is needed and a marking knife or two are perhaps the most important of all, if you are doing fine work.

For cutting, a click knife, utility knife or folding knife is always handy. I have to keep an extra knife on me, or the temptation to use my good marking knife on a box or package may overcome me. I really don’t want to put a nick in it, but it opens boxes so well… I tend to use scissors, so a quality set of those is an important tool for me. A lot of other woodworkers would never include scissors in their kit.

For layout, a square or two, a small marking gauge, and a rule are quite important. Some days a dovetail gauge and a bevel gauge are required. Dividers, calipers and the like also come to mind.

A wooden mallet is good to have if you use wooden planes or chisels much, and a few chisels including the skew chisels for cleanup. A flush cut plane is one tool I should have added to the Vagabonds Toolbox, I use it as much as I do a low angle block plane. A folding rule, tape measure, the list goes on and on.

I am sure I have left out a bunch of constantly needed tools, and already I will either have a dangerously cluttered pocket or two filled with sharp edges, or will look like Geppetto the Road Warrior. Just the apron to wear after TEOTWAKI, but not a real convenience. Perhaps a few pockets, sleeves and loops that will do for these tools, but for the most part I leave them as part of the tool box. A pencil, ruler and scribe and marking knife may be the only permanent additions.

But I suspect the apron will collect tools as the day goes on.


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