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I came to the lathe party both late and unprepared — but as it turns out, with good equipment, the uber-friendly folks at Rockler, and my old man, learning to turn isn’t all that hard. With just a few learning experiences under my belt, the basic concepts were simple to grasp and easy to repeat. The 46-460 from Delta was no small part of that. A lot of people were leery of the company changing hands a while back, but the simple truth of it is: it’s business as usual at Delta, and business is making solid woodworking machinery.

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The Dremel Scroll Station has been in the Toolmonger shop almost since the beginning of Toolmonger. It sits on a shelf, quietly minding its business until we come up with some strange call for it and drag it out from its slumber to cut funky shapes. Without really thinking about it, we’ve never even reviewed another scroll saw because it became the standard by which we judged other saws — a judgment that left many others lacking.

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I really hated being wrong about the Milwaukee fastback folding utility blade. I thought it would be one of the also-rans that always crop up around Christmas as a “Free Gift” in discounted toolkits. Leave it to Milwaukee to follow through with their threat to put muscle behind their hand tool development and make me feel like a jackwagon.

The fastback has proven to be a hardworking addition to the shop, office, automotive garage, and home area. Mention of its name is followed by a reach into my sidepocket instead of a run to the toolbox. It’s a subtle but distinct difference that speaks more to how comfortable it is to carry and use than tales of its battle prowess ever could be.

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As it has for the past four years, the end of this year warrants a few posts about the hardware that emerge as tough and rugged gear. Some publications (and apparently readers) are content with the quick mention of a tool and a feature list. We actually use the tools we write about — new, old, or well-used, they all get a workout just the same. A few, like the Bosch ps21, stand out as remarkably handy to have in the shop.

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Rather than just rounding up the the new tools this year and picking our favorites, we’ve taken a different approach. These are the tools we used the most in our shop during 2011 — the ones we just couldn’t or didn’t want to put away, no matter how hard we tried. Yes, it’s for the Toolmonger Favorite Tools list, 2011 edition.

Some are new, some are older. Some are tools we’ve reviewed in the past, and some are just tools that we dropped our hard-earned cash for because we needed (or wanted) them. But they all share one common thread: we used the ever-lovin’ crap out of ’em, and we can recommend them wholeheartedly.

You’ll also notice that the pictures we’ll post aren’t studio shots. They’re photos of the actual tools we used and beat to hell — dirt, scratches, and all, because we like it that way.

We’ll post the list one tool at a time and, as always, we look forward to hearing your opinions of our selections in comments.