Power Tools Buying Guide

by Staff Writer

As you work on different projects, you'll collect more tools for your workshop. Power tools are great for quick jobs around the house or large-scale projects. Whether you're just starting your collection or well into building on it, these are the power tools buying guide that will help you get the job done right.

Buying Power Tools:

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  • Cordless power tools:

    Corded power tools have the advantage of providing continuous power, though you'll need a nearby outlet or an extension cord in order to operate. Cordless power tools use batteries for power, so it's essential to have spare batteries to swap out while the spent battery charges. As a battery runs down, you'll notice a loss of speed or torque. Your choice between regular and cordless power tools is really a matter of personal preference and necessity.

  • Drills and bits:

    Power drills are most commonly used in woodworking and metalworking to create holes and fasten work-pieces together. Look for a few important features when selecting a drill.

Drill Features

Bits: Some drill sets come with a variety of the most used sizes of drill bits. You can also find separate drill bit sets with many sizes and types of drill bits.

Torque: A power drill with adjustable torque settings will allow you to adjust the power tool for working on different materials. If you start drilling with too much torque, you risk stripping your screw or bolt and damaging the material you are working with.

Power: A higher voltage means more drilling power, but it can also mean that your power tool is heavier. Also, a balanced design means that a power drill rests easily in your hand and is easier to work with.

  • Power saws:

    A power saw is designed for cutting wood or other materials. A power saw can be hand-held or table-mounted, each having a different purpose and cutting method. Saws vary widely, depending on the type and size of the material you are cutting.

Types of Saws

Jigsaws and band saws: Jigsaws and band saws are used to make intricate cuts, such as stenciled designs, into wood or other materials. They give you a lot of control to create shaped edges.

Circular saws: These hand-held power tools have a circular blade and are commonly used for cutting lumber. Look for safety guards and adjustable cutting depths on these saws.

Chain saws: You'll primarily be cutting raw timber with a chain saw. The hardness and sharpness of the blades is important, as is the power of the gas or electric motor.

Table saw: This is a necessary tool if you plan to cut a lot of wood. These power tools are great at handling plywood sheets, beams, and planks because you can adjust the height of the blade and install guides on the table to make sure your cuts are straight and perfectly measured.

Reciprocating saw: This saw has a blade resembling that of a jigsaw and a handle designed to allow the saw to be used on vertical surfaces comfortably. Reciprocating saws are hand-held and great for cutting shapes in drywall or plywood.

Steel cut-off or abrasive saw: Also known as a steel chop saw, these saws are portable and hand-operated. This power tool uses a composite friction disk blade that abrasively cuts through metal held in place by a vise.

Concrete saw: Concrete saws are used for cutting concrete, masonry, brick, and asphalt. The blade of the saw gets very hot and is often cooled by water as it cuts. Blades are either abrasive or diamond-tipped.

Radial arm saw: Consisting of a circular saw blade mounted on a sliding horizontal arm, radial arm saws are used for cutting long pieces of wood to length. An adjustable radial saw will shift either the blade or the work-piece to cut accurate angles.

Tile saw: This type of saw is used to cut tiles and bricks to a required size. The blade may be diamond-tipped and water-cooled.

Miter saw: A miter saw is the tool used to create miters and crosscuts in work pieces. Miter saws are used to achieve accurate cuts for indoor woodworking, such as molding.

  • Routers and bits:

    Routers use a variety of bits and attachments for cutting and carving, sanding and grinding as well as polishing wood. Wood routers are great for pattern makers and staircase makers because of the decorative edges they create. You can also use a router to make dovetail joints to fit wood pieces together. These power tools come in handheld and table-mounted models with a large variety of bits for cutting, hollowing and shaping.

  • Sanders:

    Sanders are rotary power tools used to smooth wood and automotive or wood finishes. Auto body sanders are pneumatic, using compressed air, while woodworking sanders are usually electric. Sanders include everything from belt sanders to orbital sanders. Each power tool is designed to smooth surfaces differently, so your choice will depend on the type of project you're working on.

  • Lathes:

    Lathes are another rotary power tool. These power tools spin a block of material, such as wood, at a high speed. You then apply chisels and other shaping tools to the spinning work piece to shape it. Lathes are used in woodturning, metalworking, metal spinning, glass working, and pottery.

  • Air tools:

    Pneumatic tools are heavy-duty power tools, usually found in professional settings or used on large projects. Air tools use compressed air to power the tool; the air hose supplies air pressure from the compressor tank. Air tools like pneumatic drills and nail drivers produce a lot of power, and you don't have to worry about a run-down battery.