This is a fun time of year to be a woodworker, because everyone loves a handmade gift. If you still haven’t decided what to make for people on your list, there’s no need to panic, but it’s definitely time to make some decisions.
Each year I like to come up with a single project design, and make a large number of them for each person on my list, which is generally around 8-10 people. So, I look for projects where there are some economies of scale on the production process.
If I can set of each tool for an operation one time and crank out ten copies of the same part, I can improve my productivity by quite a bit.
Here is a collection of some of my favorite projects from over the years, and why I think they meet the requirements of a great “last minute production” project.
- Pie server & spatula set. This was one of the top selling items in the woodworking business that I ran with my father years ago.
They are super simple to make with a bandsaw, and can be cut from a single block of wood for a fast “no glue” project, or if you want to adorn them with the contrasting wood strips shown here, they are a bit more involved but still an efficient production project.
- Cell phone amp. On the off chance that you have someone on your list who owns a cell phone (haha), this project is a guaranteed hit. This consists of a bunch of small pieces with straight cuts that can be made on a table saw, so it provides a great opportunity for batch processing.
The amp provides up to 10 db of amplification, as well as sound quality enhancement. It also serves as a convenient charging station.
- Turned Bottle opener. If you’re a cheapskate like me, this simple lathe project great option to consider. This bottle opener has a penny at the “workin’ end”, and a piece of wood as the blank that is so small that every woodworker probably has enough wood in their scrap bin to make 100 of these.
The most expensive part is the optional hidden magnet that catches the bottle cap, which is more of a fun gimmick than a practical problem solver. Choose a penny with a year that is significant to the recipient, and you will create a keepsake that will be cherished for a lifetime. And it will cost you about a dime to make it!
- Salt and pepper shaker. Here’s another easy project that can be made on a table saw or bandsaw using scrap wood, and will cost you next to nothing to produce.
Concealed rare earth magnets make it simple to remove the bottom and fill these up, and a food safe finish makes them ready for immediate use. I even color coded mine using walnut for pepper and maple for salt.
- Grill tote. If you have a BBQ fan on your list, they will love getting one of these. It’s a great way to organize all the gear that they need to take from the kitchen to the patio when it’s time to grill.
If they do any grilling at work or at friends’ homes, it provides a helpful means of organizing and transporting all the stuff. I used a lot of copper in this design, which makes it not only eye-catching but also bacteria resistant.
What about last-minute finishing?
If your holiday gift projects end up “coming in hot” and you are finishing them the night before the gift exchange, well, I’ll be right there with you in spirit. In that situation, you don’t want to apply an oil base poly or lacquer that will smell offensive to some when the package is opened.