Tools

Science-Backed Guide to Choosing the Best Power Tools (+13 Handy Power Tool Tips)

Power tools are the essential part of every DIY project. And if you’re into DIY, you need the right products in your tool box. There are so many to choose from.

Each product is specialized with a specific task that it is best for. It can be headache-inducing. But this handy list will make you the best handyman!

Power Drills

Power drills are essential in any DIY project. They are the basic of any toolkit. Regardless of which type you choose, make sure to look for these components:

  • Brushless motor: this type of motor gives you higher efficiency. It is more powerful, quieter, lighter, and requires less maintenance.

  • Built in level: the level will help you drill with higher accuracy.

  • Adjustable side handle: this offers more stability and control, especially with heavy drilling.

In addition, the power output rating of a drill measures the power capability. UWO (units-watts-out) measures the speed and torque of the power tool.

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Li-ion battery cordless drill

While traditional drills are with cords, cordless ones are becoming more common. They offer high mobility and portability.

Because there is no cord to keep the tool charged, you must use a battery. More voltage and power means a bigger battery.

Common battery types used are nickel cadmium (NiCad) and lithium ion (Li-ion). Of these two, Li-ion is more efficient. It carries the same voltage as a NiCad battery, but it’s lighter. You can also go months between charging.

Other factors affecting battery life and effectiveness include:

  • Amp-hour ratings

  • Battery charge level

  • Working material

  • Period of continuous use

  • Temperature

For voltage, ratings of 4 to 8 are sufficient for most DIY tasks. But heavy-duty cordless drills can go up to 12 to 18 volts.

If you wish to drill through denser materials, look for a drill with more torque. Otherwise, you can choose a lighter and more compact power tool.

Best for: portable power drill with long battery life

SDS drill

The SDS (Self Direct System) drill is also known as the rotary hammer drill.

The chuck of the SDS drill allows special drill bits to be inserted without a chuck key. This is different from conventional power drills. The indentations of the drill bit increase the hammering action. This science leads to advantages of more accurate and efficient drilling.

The hammer in the name beats the drill bit while rotating, thanks to the piston design. This function helps you drill through denser and harder materials. Such as concrete and masonry.

For different tasks, you can separate the two functions. Take the rotation out from the hammer. Then you can drill through lighter materials. If you use a chisel bit instead, you can chisel and chip away at walls. This is great for creating a channel in the wall for cables.

You can choose between variations as well:

  • SDS plus drill: slotted and recessed shank

  • SDS max drill: more power and able to drill with longer drill bits

  • SPLINE shank drill: splines at the end of the drill bits

The power comes with a price though. The SDS drill is bulkier and less portable. It might not be your first choice for simpler DIY tasks.

Best for: drilling through dense material

Impact driver

This power tool looks similar to the cordless drill driver. However, instead of a keyless chuck, the impact driver has a collet. It will only take hex-shaft drill bits, rather than regular bits.

The selling point of the impact driver is the science behind it: enormous torque.

You can drive in a huge screw or bore a big hole with a small driver.

And you don’t have to put all your weight on the screw to push. The torque produced by the hammer mechanism creates a forward pressure. You can avoid a “cam-out” of the drill bit without pushing so hard.

This makes the impact driver great for one handed or stretch and drive jobs. Fat lag screws might get stuck in other drills and drivers. But the bit rotation and concussive blows of the impact driver can drive long screws through thick material.

However, you can opt out of it for jobs that don’t require high torque. Because the noise can be like heavy metal. Or you can consider ear plugs or hearing aids.

Best for: drilling long fasteners and jobs requiring high torque

Hammer drill

Though powerful, the impact driver is no competition for the hammer drill when it comes to concrete. For driving a screw into concrete, you can choose between a rotary hammer and hammer drill.

Both pulverize the concrete by pounding the bit while spinning. But the rotary hammer uses air compressed by a piston. The hammer drill contains two ribbed metal discs.

Cordless hammer drills give you power, versatility and portability. There is extremely high torque and the best have a brushless motor. A durable all-metal chuck can provide maximum bit retention.

If you’re just an occasional user though, consider buying a powerful drill driver with a hammer drill setting. A true hammer drill can be too bulky and an overkill.

Best for: driving screws into concrete

Combi drill driver

Drill drivers are good for practically every small home project. Because they are called “drill drivers,” you can expect that they can perform 2 major jobs: drill holes and act as a screwdriver. A drill driver is essentially two tools in one.

The combi drill is also known as the impact drill or hammer drill driver. It comes with an additional feature. There are two ribbed, metal discs behind the rotating dirll bit. They click in and out against each other.

It is capable of both an impact and a rotational force. This action pounds the drill bit forward, enabling it to drill through harder materials.

This feature makes the combi drill much more versatile. Use it as a drill, driver or hammer on masonry, wood or metal. The lower torque makes it more suitable for screw driving and masonry.

But if working on masonry, be sure to use masonry drill bits with carbide tip and a slower speed.

The only drawback to the combi drill driver is that it’s slightly more expensive. But if it’s within your budget, it’ll be a great addition to your toolset!

Best for: a drill and driver for harder materials

Demolition jackhammer

Demolition jobs require speed, stability and the ability to meet strict deadlines. This is why people turn to jackhammers for help.

The tool can be powered by electric, pneumatic or hydraulic energy. Hydraulic powered jackhammers are the most powerful. Electricity drives the motor of smaller demo hammers. The power turns a piston mechanism for the hammering action.

Though small, it still has great breaking power. It can break apart hard surfaces or rock that you may work with.

You will need a variety of chucks to attach the chisels. The most common three are 1-1/8” Hex, 7/8” Hex, TE-S and SDS-max. The connection end size is also associated with the breaking power.

The electric powered type is great for when you can’t use a compressor. These include indoor jobs or crowded construction sites

Best for: breaking surfaces in tight spaces

Drill press power tools

The drill machine, also known as the drill press, does much more than just drilling holes into a surface. Other functions that the drill press can perform include:

  • Tapping: drilling holes in pipelines that are under pressure

  • Reaming: improving the surface finish by making helots more dimensionally accurate

  • Countersinking: this is a chamfering process performed around the top of a hole. It helps hold the screw head or bolt to the drilled material.

  • Spot facing: this process prepares a finished circular surface for seating the washer or bolt

  • Counter-boring: this enlarges an existing drilled hold to better accommodate a screw head

The different types of drill presses all perform the basic drilling operations. However, special functions make each specialized for different tasks.

Upright drilling machine

This heavy duty drilling machine makes use of a geared drive spindle head. With the upright drill press, you can feed the tool into the workpiece by hand or power.

With the power feed function, the machine automatically advances into the workpiece. Some drill presses also include an automated table-raising mechanism.

The standing drill press is one of the most powerful drilling machines. It can have motors up to 3/4 horsepower.

A variation is the upright sensitive drill press. This machine is more of a light-duty type. It uses a belt drive spindle head. You must hand feed the tool. This also allows you to be able to “feel” the cutting action. Hence the name of “sensitive.”

Best for: drilling objects you can hand feed

Radial drilling machine

The radial arm drill press is similar to the upright sensitive drill press, but more versatile. The versatility is provided by the radial orientation of the radial arm.

The drill is composed of the arm, column and drill head. It provides a power feed on the spindle. You can also raise or lower the radial arm with an automatic mechanism. The wheel head can also travel along the length of the radial arm.

You can position the spindle right over the object. Instead of moving the workpiece to the tool. It’s especially great for larger and heavier parts that you can’t position easily.

For more functions, you can pair the radial drill press with a trunnion table or tilting table. This helps you drill intersecting or angular holes with the same setup.

Best for: versatile tool for drilling large and heavy workpieces

Arbor press

The arbor press is similar to the drill press. However, what you can do with it is limited. This power tool is most commonly used in metalworking.

For the home DIY handyman, the press is great for smaller jobs that require precision. Such as repairing jewelry. Hand operated, the press can be used for riveting, staking, installing, configuring and removing bearings.

You can add other tools, such as punches and inserters, to the end of the ram for other tasks. The ram is what gives the force. Mechanical advantage is improved with a rack and pinion setup. For higher force, some machines will have another gear reduction.

Arbor presses are typically rated by the maximum load they can apply. The most common are presses rated with 1 to 5 tons. Larger arbor presses are used for jobs pertaining to heavy machinery parts.

Best for: small metalwork projects requiring precision

Special purpose drilling machine

In addition, there are drill presses created for specific tasks. Here are just a few:

Gang drilling machine

This drill press has several work heads over a single table. This allows for successive operations with each first head performing a different task. Such as spot drill, tap drill and chamfer.

Multiple spindle drilling machine

This machine connects numerous spindles to one main work head. They are all fed into the workpiece at once. It is best for many parts with holes located close to each other.

Micro-drill press

As the name suggests, the micro press can only handle small parts. The chucks of the machine can only hold small drilling tools. But it is extremely accurate and fast. It’s great for detailed and precise work.

Turret drilling machine

There is a turret with many drilling heads mounted on it. You can put a different type of tool on each turret head. It can then be indexed into position quickly. Modern turret drill presses are controlled by the computer. This allows for quick and accurate positioning.

Power Nailers

Nailers, also known as nail guns, are there to help you nail consistently and accurately.

There are two major categories of nail guns. Coil-style nail guns string nails together with wires. They can fit into more spaces and don’t need to be reloaded as often.

Strip-style nail guns have nails arranged on a slender stick. This distributes the weight of the nails more equally. So the strip-style offers better balance.

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Brad nail gun

As you can guess from the name, brad nailers use brads. They are a thin gauge of nail with a smaller head. Use them to attach lightweight trims.

You can also the brad nail gun for finer trimming jobs. Such as beading while constructing a cabinet or small model.

Brad nail guns are smaller than finish nail guns. The latter has a greater risk of splitting the thin pieces of trim you are installing.

That risk isn’t as high for brad nail guns. However, the problem can still occur if you drive in the brad too close to the edge of the wood. Splitting properties depends on the type and thickness of the wood you’re working on.

The brads are best for attaching wood trim to wood. You don’t need the larger head of finish nails to securely attach the wood, thanks to its structure.

Most braid nail guns are straight clip. The magazine that holds the nails is perpendicular to the driving cylinder. For tighter spaces, you can use an angled brad nailer instead. Both are fine, but it depends on your needs.

Best for: finer trimming jobs with delicate material

Finish nail gun

As aforementioned, the finish nail gun is not that great with delicate wood or thin trim material. But it is more versatile.

It can drive nails into different types of wood, such as oak or pine. The nail gun can work with a variety of nail head shapes and nail sizes. The most common though, are 16-gauge finish nail guns.

The finish nailer is larger than the brad nailer. And it has a stronger holding power. This makes it great for attaching large or heavy workpieces.

These include baseboards or wide crown molding. For these, you must attach the pieces directly to the drywall. If you use brad, the wood piece will pull away from the wall eventually. But a finish nail gun will help you anchor the material.

Best for: nailing heavy wood material on drywall

Coil framing nail gun

Framing guns offer easy operation, higher accuracy and speed. They come in two major forms: coil and stick.

Coil nail guns are less popular in America; however, they are much more common all over the world. The adjustable canister of these nailers can accept from 200 to 300 nails at a time. Either framing or sheathing nails can be used too. They are strung together by two thin wires.

The compact design offers advantages in accessibility. Do note that they can be heavy when fully-loaded though. Probably not the best for overhead work (unless you’re strong enough.)

As for the type of nail, you can choose between round head nails or clipped nails. The general consensus is to use round head nails, which have a full head. They provide high security overall.

In fact, many jurisdictions forbid using clipped nails in construction. So round head nails are generally required in areas in danger of natural disasters: earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes.

Best for: accurate and fast nailing jobs

Cap coil nail gun

Roofing nail guns are used for roofing nails (power tools usually don’t have creative names.) Because you need to raise them to the roof, the best nailers are lightweight and portable.

The compact design of coiled nailers is best. Round head nails are usually used too. A dial setting can let you adjust the depth of the nails. This prevents nails from going in too deeply and damaging the shingles.

The roofing nail gun can also be used for siding and roof felt. For roof felt, the best are cap coil nailers. They are also known as plastic cap nailers.

These nail guns utilize a plastic cap to drive in the coil nail. This technology provides more holding strength and protection than an average nail.

You can also pair the nail gun with a hammer tacker or stapler. It’s needed to lay down roofing paper before the shingles. What’s the science between these staplers? The impact of the hammer simply triggers the firing of the staple.

Best for: applying roof felt and shingles

Chainsaw

Do you need a chainsaw? The answer is a definite yes. The diverse range of chainsaws and versatility of them all finds them a place in practically every job. Such as sawing, cutting, ripping and more.

Some helpful features to look for include: vibration reduction handles, automatic chain oiling and metal bucking spikes.

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Electric saw

For the average user, the electric saw is the best option. It is easier to use, safer and more portable.

Studies have shown that an 18-inch chain bar bladed saw fits closer to the projects of the average homeowner. The smaller cutter bar of the electric saw isn’t the best for big surface areas. But you don’t really need all that extra weight.

As a smaller machine, the electric saw is also less powerful. But as aforementioned, the lightness is great for the casual user. You don’t have to ignite a combustible engine. You don’t have to worry about family members swinging around a dangerously heavy power tool either. And it creates much less noise.

There are also safety chains to reduce kickbacks. Such as when the blade tip runs into something, forcing the device to kick back at you.

Best for: smaller projects that require sawing

Gas chainsaw

On the other hand, there is the gas chainsaw. You can probably guess what they are best for. While the electric ones are for smaller jobs, gas chainsaws are more heavy duty. Use them for big cutting jobs that require power.

Gasoline chainsaws are powered by both oil and gasoline. This gets you higher horsepower and cutting torque. You can use them for:

  • Cutting firewood

  • Sawing and cutting trees

  • Cleaning up after a storm

And while electric saws are portable, gas chainsaws are mobile. Though heavy, you can bring them to places without a source of electricity.

For large-diameter cutting, look for bars that are 18 to 20 inches. However, the size can go up to 42 inches. When determining power, the higher the power-to-weight ratio, the higher the power generated.

Cutting speed is measured in RPMs (rotations per minute). It can also be used to determine the power of the machine.

Best for: heavy duty projects that require power

Band saw

A band saw is a good addition to your chainsaw kit. It can do things that others can’t. Namely, curves (also known as scrolls) and irregular designs.

Of course, a band saw can still make long and straight cuts, such as rips. But their blade is narrower. Thus, they have smaller kerf. Which means less material is removed from the saw blade.

These power tools have finer teeth on the blades. This makes it better for cutting metal and wood. They can take on thicker pieces of material too.

The band saw is more practical for creating curves and scrolls. Timber mills also use these machines for raw-ripping tree trunks. The smaller kerf means less material is wasted.

Best for: carving curves and scrolls

Power staplers power tools

In some cases, a nail can easily tear or damage the material. The nail head can pull through the softer material. Instead the crown of the staple will hold the delicate materials much more effectively.

Materials include upholstery, fabric and house wrap. A power stapler can help you when a nail gun fails you.

Finish stapler

Power finish staplers accept narrow crown nails. These nails are usually from 1/4 inch to 1/1/2 inches in length. Using a stapler will leave smaller marks in the material than a nail gun. This makes it great for molding and crafts.

The power is provided by the stapler’s air compressor and piston action. Industrial staplers can hold heavy fabrics and soft wood materials (such as finishing trim.)

The motor must be lubricated regularly. Some higher end models have a maintenance free motor though.

A new material that finish staple guns are made of is magnesium. This metal is durable and keeps out moisture. This prevents rust while still being strong and reliable. Magnesium also has a lighter weight. You can use it comfortably for hours.

Best for: stapling softer materials

Power construction stapler

While finish staplers use a narrower crown, construction staplers use wider crowns.

A construction staple gun can be used for a variety of tasks. It’s commonly used for flooring, carpeting, upholstery and insulation jobs. As designed for construction, they usually have a heavier gauge than regular woodworking staplers.

The staples used are longer. This makes them able to go through thicker surfaces. Tacks are also accepted.

Electric power staplers are easier to operate than manual ones. The trigger only requires a light pressure. But you still need to squeeze the trigger to drive each staple. This safety feature to protect against injuries and misfires. Repositioning is also required.

Less powerful than pneumatic staplers, they are the middle ground. Great if you want professional power for moderate usage. Unlike the pneumatic ones, power staple guns are suitable for light repairs too. These include fabric tacking and fixing window screens.

Best for: moderate-duty projects around the home

Cutting Machine

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Vinyl cutting machine

The most important part of the vinyl cutter is the small knife. It is able to cut outlines precisely. It moves side to side, while the vinyl moves under it. The material is weeded to remove the excess parts.

The science behind it is quite simple. But the list of what you can do with it is endless.

Many people will use it for graphic designing. You can print labels and stickers for decoration or printing custom apparel.

However, you can also use the vinyl cutting machine for electronics. For paper circuits, cut PCB layers, RFF interference protection or thin foil traces. You can also plot a circuit in low resistance silver with a conductive pen.

For woodworking, you can easily place trim markers on the workpiece. It’s helpful with painting too when you create edge boundaries. 3D prototypes and decorations are possible with the vinyl cutter too.

When you first use the machine, take some time to find the proper settings for force and velocity. Your force is too low if you can’t separate the material from its backing. It’s too high or the blade is dull if your piece gets mangled.

Most machines come with a “test” button for this purpose.

Best for: precise cutting of vinyl for projects

Die cutting machine

For crafts, there is also the die-cutting machine.

This tool was originally designed for the show manufacturing industry. With new technology though, die-cutting can be used in many, many more trades. Most notably, the craft industry.

Dies are thin metals. They feature complex designs that you can use for intricate and detailed cuttings. Materials that you can cut with this power tool: paper, card, fabric, plastic, foam and even cake icing!

For more intricate dies, it’s recommended to put wax paper between the die and workpiece. This prevents tearing.

Use tape to create frames with even distance. Then sprinkle some talcum powder to stop tape from adhering to your work. To cut different materials, adjust the distance between the rollers.

Best for: cutting for craft projects

Plasma cutting machine

Firstly, what is plasma? It is known as the fourth state of matter. After solid, liquid and gas. When heat increases, steam will ultimately be ionized and become plasma. This gas is electrically conductive.

The plasma cutter uses this gas to transfer energy to a conductive material. This gives you a cleaner and faster cutting process. It is a very precise tool and can be used for various types of metal thickness. Different voltages are needed for different cutting needs.

What can you do with the plasma cutter?

  • Art: a wide range of color and textures can be taken with the plasma cutter. The machine draws fine and intricate patterns without warping thin metals. You can use it to create templates or stencils.

  • Construction and maintenance: portable plasma cutters save time and cost with their quick operation. A 55-amp machine can move around 70 inches per minute. Immediate adjustment is possible to make your job run smoother as well.

  • Fabrication: use the plasma cutter to replace complement saws, snips and cut-off wheels. Then you can use it in various applications, such as installing HVAC/R equipment, plumbing systems and more.

  • Metal repair

  • Demolition and recycling

Best for: cutting intricate patterns in metal

Metal shear

There are many different types of shears you can choose from. But they basically all do the same thing. Extreme pressure is applied by the moving blade. It pushes the work against a fixed blade.

This action cuts the material into straight columns. If needed, you can fix the cutting edges at a slant to cut smaller lengths.

The best thing about shearing is that it produces very minimal kerf. And there’s virtually no loss of material. There’s also no need to burn or melt the workpiece. Burrs and end deformation may result though, especially when there is large clearance.

The metal shear is great for softer metals. These include aluminum, brass and bronze. The workpiece can be a sheet, bar, strip or plate.

However, you might not want to try shearing harder metals, such as tungsten. Both the brittle metal and the tool can be damaged.

Some different types of shears include:

  • Foot shear: commonly used for sheet metal applications.

  • Direct-drive mechanical shear: only uses power when activated. Great when shears are not constantly used.

  • Flywheel mechanical shear: fast and able to cut thicker material

  • Hydraulic shear: powered by a pedal and hydraulic cylinders.

Best for: cutting soft metal with minimal kerf

Nibbler

The nibbler is another power tool that can cut sheet metal with minimal distortion. However, it leaves behind some kerf.

Both pneumatic nibblers (powered by compressed air) and electrical ones are available.

This tool uses an up-down motion to cut. It is fast, easy to navigate and versatile. The nibbler can perform a few thousand strokes per minute. The fewer the strokes, the thicker gauge material it can cut.

You can make small and sharp changes in direction. But for a larger cutting radius, you must take the tool out. And put it back in. The minimum cutting radius is listed for both the inside and outside radius.

However, the aforementioned kerf can be a safety concern. Both the burrs and edges left behind can be very sharp. Make sure to take adequate safety precautions when using the tool.

Best for: cutting metal with tight cutting radius

Concrete Power Tools

When pouring concrete, consolidating or vibrating the concrete is an essential step. When performed properly, you’ll reduce the amount of air pockets.

Many times, concrete are under-vibrated or improperly vibrated. Contractors may pressure you to work faster. But if using an internal vibrator, it must be taken out very slowly. Around one inch per second.

If there are air bubbles, it’s a sign that more vibration is needed.

Needle concrete vibrator

Needle, or immersion, vibrators are the most common type. They contain a poker connected to a motor through a flex tube. There is an electric vibrating element inside.

For best results, the tube should be small enough to go between reinforcing bars (rebar). The diameter can range from 40 to 100 mm. The exact measurement depends on the number of re-bars used.

Experts recommend inserting the vibrating at intervals of 8 times the diameter of the tube. Each period of vibration can vary from 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Vibration speed is generally between 3000 and 6000 rpm.

Be sure to insert the tube vertically. When removing, remember to go slowly and check for air bubbles that emerge. The tip shouldn’t be taken out faster than air can move upwards.

Best for: consolidating concrete mix without air bubbles

Shutter concrete vibrator

The opposite of the needle vibrator is the shutter. It is also known as the external vibrator.

This works from the outside, clamped directly onto the form work at designated points. The location of these points depends on the thickness and concrete mass. Then, the form and concrete vibrates together. The direct vibration effect makes the tool more powerful.

Vibration frequency can go up to 9000 rpm. The tool can consolidate concrete up to 18 inches away from the form work.

You can find external vibrators in pre-casting or casting yards.

External vibrators are usually used for pre-casting of thin sections. These are the ones that are not thick enough for internal vibrators to be used. In addition, external vibration is better for heavy concentrations of rebar.

Best for: consolidation of pre-casting and thin sections of concrete

Surface concrete vibrator

Another variety of the concrete vibrator is the surface vibrator. Place this tool on the surface of the concrete mass.

It is most suitable for shallow structures. Make sure the depth of the concrete is less than 250 millimeters. For best results, the concrete should be around 150 millimeters in thickness. Flat slabs would also work.

Large volumes or thick slabs of concrete will prevent the lower portion of concrete from being vibrated adequately.

Surface vibrators are also the most effective for consolidating extremely dry mixes. Dry concrete has a low water to cement ratio.

There are two major types of surface concrete vibrators: vibrating seeds and pan vibrators. The operating frequency for both types is usually 4000 rpm.

Best for: consolidation of dry and shallow sections of concrete

Rebar shaker

This power concrete tool is different from the other vibrators. Rather than working on the cement mix directly, it is slipped over the reinforcing bars. The tool shakes the rebars and the vibration is transmitted into the concrete.

This technology is a good alternative to traditional techniques.

With the rebar shaker, you don’t have to pour the cement mix into a cell or tight space to be vibrated. This saves much precious time. It also reduces time and energy wasted in cleaning up.

In addition, rebar shakers come in a variety of different diameters. Making it a versatile power tool.

Best for: time and budget friendly vibrating alternative

Cement mixer

A close cousin to the vibrator, the cement mixer creates concrete using sand, gravel and water. They are usually used at construction sites. But the ambitious DIY homeowner can make use of it too.

You can find portable and affordable cement mixers both online and in stores.

Whether for professional or casual use, the science of the cement mixer is quite simple. There is the drum (a large open space) that spins on an axis.

The drum should be made of reinforced steel or other strong material. The frame should also be made of strong metal as it must withstand the weight of the concrete.

Inside the drum is a paddle. It is used to combine the cement, gravel and water to produce a uniform concrete mix.

While there are manual mixers, powered cement mixers are definitely less tiring. And easier to operate. You can use these for landscape and construction projects. A 170 to 255 liter drum range can produce medium sized batches.

Best for: creating concrete from scratch for projects

Tile Power Tools

Some projects will require cutting tiles. Due to the brittleness and hardness of tile, you must use a diamond blade for the job. The diamond carbide blades in tile saws actually grind the tile, instead of saw.

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Wet tile saw with recirculating pump

Tile saws come in dry and wet forms. However, wet is usually more efficient. The blade generates enormous heat while grinding away at the tile.

Spraying the blade and tile with water will keep both cool. In addition, the water acts as a lubricant. It makes the cutting job easier. It also reduces dust and mess.

There are two subgroups of wet tile saws. You can choose between one with a re-circulating pump and one without a pump.

Those with a re-circulating pump will contain a water reservoir. Water will be filtered and re-used to be pumped out continuously. You do not need to hook it up to the faucet. But you will obviously need to do so with a pump-less model!

Best for: accurate and precise cutting of tile

Handheld tile saw

These tile saws are also known as masonry saws. They are light and portable with smaller blades. As such, they are great for small projects such as touching up tilework. They are not ideal for thick tiles and deep cuts.

When using, the workpiece must be well secured. If you do not have to push the tile onto the blade, you can make precise cuts more easily.

You can also use a handheld tile saw for specialty cuts too. But handhelds are more suitable for rounded cuts (with some practice, that is.)

Use a masonry saw for thinner materials. Such as countertops or removing tiles.

Handheld tile saws can be used for dry cutting. But without the water, you’ll get a lot of dust. So make sure to wear a mask for protection.

Best for: cutting thin tiles and making rounded cuts

Table tile saw

For larger or multiple work pieces, go for the table tile saw. The blade is mounted on a large water tray. Instead of manipulating the blade, you push the tile forward.

Table tile saws accept larger blades. This allows for more depth capacity. The table itself is ruled, making it easier to size your tile material. Because the work piece does not need to be secured, the tool is suitable for handling volume.

Though larger and more expensive than handheld models, the table saw provides precision and stability. There is better consistency between cuts. You can also adjust the tool for a variety of cuts.

Many table tile saws come with other features. For example, a laser guide can be included for higher accuracy and speed. Adjustable fences help you make different cuts (angle, straight, miter cuts and more.) A bevel tool can help create specialty cuts.

Best for: a large variety cuts for larger and thicker tiles

Tile grinders

This power tool is also called the angle grinder. It’s a budget friendly alternative for more casual DIY homeowners. It is a very simple and small saw.

There is no need to set up something complicated. Even corded models only require you to plug the unit in. And you’re good to go.

As the name of angle grinder may imply, this tile cutter can cut tiles into odd shapes and angles. You won’t get extremely precise cuts with the tile grinder though. So it’s good for small projects and removing old tiles.

Things can get messy. But all you need is some practice before you’re skilled enough for better cuts.

Best for: small projects not requiring precise cuts

Power Wrench

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Cordless Impact wrench

Most people will think of automotive repair with impact wrenches. But this power tool can do much more. You can use them in any situation that deals with nuts and bolts.

The impact wrench looks similar to the power drill; however the science is totally different. The drill uses a constant and fast rotational speed. The impact wrench provides low speed but high torque. Although the torque is not constant.

Instead an internal hammer strikes and forces the tool to turn. This hammering action has two advantages. It can apply more force than a typical wrench or breaker bar. It can also break apart loose rust that can cause nuts and bolts to be stuck.

As technology advances, cordless electric impact wrenches are becoming more popular. Though not as powerful as corded or pneumatic models, they are portable. They’re great for on-the-road repairs where electrical power is unavailable.

The lower torque also makes it better for delicate applications. They can remove over-tightened or rusted screws without stripping them.

The best battery is the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery. The li-ion can recharge quickly and last for longer durations.

Best for: removing screws in delicate applications

Pneumatic impact wrench

Pneumatic tools are powered by compressed air. These impact wrenches are more traditional.

They come in various sizes, ranging from 0.25 inch to 1 inch. The drive size shows the torque that can be provided by the tool. A 1 inch drive size can provide 3000 torque. The high torque may be too much and damage the work piece though. So be careful (or use an electric impact wrench instead.)

Because they are powered by air, pneumatic wrenches can be used in situations without electricity. There is also no need to recharge batteries. All you need is compressed air.

In addition, these impact wrenches are smaller. They are great for tight or restricted areas.

Best for: high torque work in tight areas

Electronic torque wrench

For car mechanics, the torque wrench is one of the most indispensable tools.

However, clicker torque wrenches can pose many problems. The tool can lose its accuracy if you forget to return the preload to its lowest setting. After each use.

The longer you keep a wrench loaded, the less accurate it becomes. This is because the internal spring loses its tension. The wrench will then click at lower torque values.

With an electronic torque wrench though, you can have an auto-off function. You won’t forget to switch it off.

In addition, these wrenches are programmable. You can set limits to determine the torque level. It is measured by a strain gauge attached to the torsion rod. It is then displayed on the LED screen.

An advantage is the memory chip. With this technology, you can save readings and access data on your computer.

Best for: accurate torque readings

Ratchet wrench

The ratchet wrench is the most common type of socket wrench.

Its name comes from the ratcheting mechanism used. It uses a reciprocating motion to tighten or loosen the nut. This means you don’t have to remove or refit the wrench after each turn.

A small lever on the head can switch the wrench between the two modes (tightening and loosening.) The four common drive fitting sizes are: 1/4 inch (6.3 mm), 3/8 inch (9.5 mm), 1/2 inch (12.5 mm) and 3/4 inch (19 mm.)

The ratchet wrench works well with the indexable socket. The advantages come from the speed of wrenching. It is much faster than a traditional wrench, especially for repetitive bolt on or off usage. It is also very efficient and portable.

There are also two major types of the ratchet wrench. For tighter locations, go for the fine-tooth ratchet. For greater granularity, consider the dual-pawl ratchet which clicks twice for each tooth.

Best for: tightening and loosening nuts in sockets

Power Saws

Saws aren’t exactly a special tool. They’ve been around for thousands of years. But there’s no doubt as to how handy they are.

There is such a wide variety of saws to specific functions. You can’t have a complete tool set without at least a few.

It can be a bit confusing because some go by different names in different regions. But the shape of the saw and teeth will mostly determine the function of the saw.

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Circular saw

This may be the most versatile power saw of all. It is a handheld tool with a rotating blade.

You can use it to cut lumber across the grain or on the bevel. It can also saw through masonry, ceramic tile, metal and more. Use it to make straight and precise cuts.

As with all power tools, there are both cordless and corded models. Cordless ones are smaller, with blade sizes from 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Their power is measured in volts. Best are at least 18 volts.

Corded models can go up to 9 inches. And the power is measured in amps. For best results, go for a saw that is 13 to 15 amps.

Some circular saws have features such as an electric brake. It can help you quickly stop the blade whenever needed. A shaft lock can make blade changes easier.

Best for: trimming wooden boards and making rough cuts

Jig saw

While the circular saw is for rougher cuts, the jig saw is for delicate cuts.

Also known as the saber saw, the jig saw is lighter. The blade is a thin up and down reciprocating blade. This means the blade moves vertically and cuts on the upstroke.

It is short and fine-toothed. You can use it to easily carve stenciled designs in wood. You can also make intricate holes.

You can also use it to make straight cuts. But the blade will drift easily, even if you are very skilled.

The saw can accept blades to cut through metals, plastics, ceramics and drywall material.

Many different features can make your jig saw more powerful. Look for:

  • Orbital blade motion

  • Variable speeds

  • Laser line

  • Dust blower

  • Illumination lights

Best for: carving decorate or delicate wood pieces

Reciprocating saw

The reciprocating saw is a rugged tool, perfect for demolition. It may not be as precise as the others. But the power more than makes up for it.

It has a push and pull reciprocating blade. The wide blade is located in heavy-duty housing. The saw is similar to a fire log in size and weight. If you need to tear something down, like branches, use this saw.

The reciprocating saw is powerful enough to cut through nails, in addition to wood. This makes it great for sawing beneath walls and wood joints. You can also use it for tubing and plastic material.

It’s heavy and you need both hands to operate it. But it’s great for tight spaces and hard-to-reach jobs too.

Unfortunately, the blades aren’t able to stay sharp for too long. When buying a reciprocating saw, remember to get extra blades as well. Tool-free blade changes are a great feature too.

Best for: tear-downs and sawing in tight spaces

Miter saw

The previous saws are handheld. The miter saw is a tabletop model. However, it was designed to imitate the hand saw.

It looks like a guillotine and features a rotating circular blade. Mount your workpiece on the bed and bring the blade down for a clean cut.

Higher quality miter saws can be adjusted on two planes. This allows you to make compound cuts for pieces that meet in a corner. Such as wood trim for inner corners.

Also known at the chop saw, it can cut through timber, plastic and some metals. It can pivot and make 45 and 90 degree cuts.

Use the saw to create precise and angled cuts. Such as quick cross, bevel and miter cuts. Electric miter saws can also make custom cuts.

Best for: skirting and architraves, molding and trim work

Table saw

The table saw is like the circular saw. But upside down, and permanently mounted in housing. Rather than moving the blade, the material is moved toward the blade for cutting.

The blade and high speed motor is great for long cuts. Use it for numerous rip cuts. You can also prepare multiple pieces of identical size.

For cuts across the grain, miter cuts and bevel cuts, the table saw is more accurate than the circular saw. This is because there is greater cutting visibility. There is also a side rail that holds down your material.

The saw is versatile enough to accept masonry blades and softer material. Such as laminate and plastics. But be sure that the motor rpm matches the blade design. It is also not recommended to use on metal.

For home use, the bigger the table, the better. A collapsible platform will make the table saw more portable.

Best for: versatile tool for numerous straight and accurate cuts

Abrasive Power Tools

No doubt sanding is an annoying and mundane job. But electric power sanders can make this excruciating job a bit better. These power tools are the easiest way to make wood smooth.

There are a couple of varieties for different niches. Pair them with the correct abrasive and you can sand literally any surface or edge.

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Random orbital sander

In recent times, the random orbital sander has become more affordable and popular.

The sander moves the pad back and forth. But also in an elliptical pattern. The random combination of it all helps reduce swirls that non-random sanders may leave behind. You get a much smoother finish.

A 5-inch diameter disk is attached to the sander’s pad with a hook and loop connection. Course sanding disks have around 60 grits. Finer ones can go up to 220 grits. With the random orbital sander though, it’s not necessary to change the grits constantly. But if you do, the hook and loop connection makes the job easy.

In addition, some machines have variable speeds and better dust collection.

The downsides though, are that the circular pad makes it harder to get into tight corners. You also should not use this for sanding between coats. In addition, the sanding pad can become damaged and require a replacement.

Best for: reaching a smoother finish after sanding

Belt sander

For extremely large and flat surfaces, a belt sander will give you the brute strength needed.

Rather than sanding disks, you can use sanding belts instead for this machine. Hence the name of this tool.

The motor drives the rear drum. The front drum spins freely. You can easily slip the belt over this and adjust it with a knob.

You can use the belt to smooth the narrow edges of boards too. But you should clamp several together and sand them all at once. Known as gang sanding, not needing to balance the wide belt on a single board gives you better results. It also saves time, of course.

The features also make the belt sander great for jobs such as: removing old paint, varnish or other finishes and stains. When doing so, make sure to start with a coarse 60-grit belt first. Then work your way to finer grits until the desired level of smoothness is reached.

Belt sander sizes refer to the belt size they can accept. The most popular and effective is the 3x21-inch model.

Best for: sanding large surfaces and removing old finish

Polisher

For smoothing out wood, you have sanding. For metals, there’s polishing.

This process is the mechanical finishing through physical processes of metal. According to The science of scratches, this plays a major role in better product quality. It alters the metal’s surface by removing considerable amounts to reach your desired finish.

The polishing or buffing machine can be used for soft metals, such as copper and brass. They can also take plastics.

Similar to sanders, there is also a random orbital buffer. It combines an orbital motion with a slow circular motion. The action is similar to if you use your hands to buff. But it’s much faster and consistent.

Another type is the high-speed rotary buffer. It combines the circular motion with a continuous high speed revolution. This causes friction and heat to soften the paint for removal.

This type of machine can be used to correction of paint. But avoid it if you only want to polish your metal as it will damage the paint.

Best for: smoothing metal to a desired finish

Die grinder

The die grinder is a simple handheld tool. It consists of an abrasive or burr to polish rough edges. But it can take on practically any material. Wood, plastic, metal . . . you name it.

This tool can also be referred as the straight grinder or air grinder.

Some tasks you can perform with the die grinder include:

  • Polishing stainless steel: use the die grinder to smooth out a stainless steel project after welding it together.

  • Removing rust: rust forms when iron is exposed to oxygen and becomes oxidized. Sandpaper can be used, but will leave a rough surface. A die grinder is more effective.

  • Finishing for woodworking projects: this versatile power tool can also double as a wood sander.

You can choose between electric or pneumatic die grinders. The latter is powered by air pressure and is more powerful. And also more expensive.

Best for: versatile buffer and sander for smaller projects

Bench grinder

An often overlooked machine is the bench grinder. This abrasive power tool can grind pretty much every item you feed into it.

You don’t need a high-priced wet grinder anymore. The bench grinder is your economic alternative.

There is a range of wheels you can add, all with different functions. Such as buffing, cleaning, polishing, shaping and sharpening. It is the best for getting perfect bevels on your plane irons and chisels.

When using, first attach the coarsest wheel for the job. The lower the grit, the coarser it is. For example, use a 36-grit wheel for sharpening tools. A 100-grit wheel should be used for delicate jobs.

Best for: obtaining perfect bevels on metal

Air compressor power tools

Air compressors reduce the volume of a certain gas (such as air.) By doing so, pressure is increased.

They can also be divided into single stage and two stage compressors.

Single stage air compressors use a single piston stroke to draw and compress the air. These are best for pressures up to 150 PSI. As you may guess, two stage air compressors use 2 steps. First, air is drawn and compressed to an intermediate pressure. Then the air is piped, cooled and compressed again. The pressure can go up to 200 PSI.

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Reciprocating air compressor

This is the most common model of air compressors. It is a type of positive displacement compressor.

The main body of the tool is a chamber filled with air. Air pressure increases by reducing the volume of the chamber. It is similar to an internal combustion engine. But it works in reverse.

The rotary sliding vane compressor is similar. However, the slotted rotor is arranged eccentrically within the stator. It creates a crescent shaped area between the intake and exhaust ports. The vanes are forced out from inside the rotor slots.

Best for: compression of a variable load

Rotary screw compressor

The rotary screw compressor is another type of positive displacement compressor.

The spiral lobe oil or single stage helical air compressor has no valves. Instead, there are two rotors in the casting. Air is compressed internally by the rotors.

Oil seals the internal clearances and cools the unit. Because this does not occur externally, the tool doesn’t reach extreme temperatures. So the rotary compressor can be used continuously.

The oil is also used for cooling and lubrication. However, it must be separated from the air before the air can be used. There are also compressors that use air or water as cooling agents.

In addition, it is easy to maintain and operate. Variable speed and compressor displacement helps you control the capacity. There is a slide valve that opens when the compressor capacity is reduced.

The result is smooth air output. It is compact but with high output volume.

Best for: smooth and continuous compression of air

Centrifugal air compressor

Unlike the previous ones, the centrifugal compressor is not a positive displacement compressor. Instead, it is a dynamic compressor.

Rotating impellers that spin up to 60,000 rpm accelerate the air. The diffuser then decelerates the air. The velocity is what increases the pressure.

Most centrifugal compressors use several impeller/diffuser combos. It is an oil free compressor and usually has an intercooler between each stage. All condensate must be removed. Otherwise, the impeller may be damaged from the erosion.

Dynamic compression is more suitable for base loads. However, for larger flows and variable demands, you can use a combo of dynamic and positive displacement compressors.

The combination can help you reach the optimal compression. Energy consumption will also be reduced at the same time.

Best for: compression of base load requirements

Pancake air compressor

The pancake compressor is a small and portable inflator. The name comes from the fact that it looks like a . . . pancake. The tank used to store compressed air is flat and oval-shaped.

The size makes it perfect for jobs where a smaller volume of air is needed. They can be powered by a typical electrical circuit. Most of these compressors are oil-free. The oil doesn’t leave with the air and is sealed inside instead.

Because of this, there isn’t much maintenance required.

You can use the pancake air compressor to inflate tires, balls and other objects. However, it may not be powerful enough to power pneumatic power tools. To power tools such as the air brush or brad nailer, you can consider a single-stage compressor.

Best for: small and portable inflator

Dust Collector 

In 2002, wood dust became an official health risk. Linking it to a variety of cancers, the U.S. government labeled it as a “known carcinogen.”

Dust is best collected at its source. Most woodworking tools come with a dust collector—exhaust hoods or ports. But oftentimes, they don’t work. Or they aren’t enough.

Which means you will need something more.

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Cyclone dust collector

Like air compressors, dust collectors are either single or two-stage.

Two stage collectors are more effective. These machines draw air into a separator first. Larger particles settle into a bag.

Stage two is the filter. This helps the filter flow freely, improving suction. It’s a finer filter.

The cyclone dust collector, a two-stage model, has a funnel shaped drum for the first stage. Dust spins around the inside so it’s easier for the larger particles to settle. Then the filter in stage two can focus more on the smaller particles.

Cyclone dust collectors used to be big, awkward things. Now, they are portable and much more affordable. If it’s within your budget, be sure to get one for your workshop.

Best for: effectively collect dust from the air

HEPA filter vacuum

High efficiency particulate (HEPA) standards require that a filter capture at least 99.97 percent of particles at least 0.3 micrometers. High quality vacuums should have a HEPA filter.

It keeps dust from escaping after you suck it in. This means that it doesn’t just collect dust. It also keeps it there.

If you have allergies, asthma, or just want to get rid of dust, the HEPA vacuum is a great and affordable choice.

In one study, four different vacuum cleaners were used throughout homes. The air was sampled at the same time. Lower amounts of airborne dust allergens escaped from vacuums with a filter. As compared to conventional cleaners.

One other study looked at extra layers of microfiltration bags. The results showed that 2 to 3 layers were able to reduce allergen leakage.

Best for: removing dust and airborne allergens

Air purifier

An air purifier is often suggested for removing dust from the air we breathe. There are some debates, but this machine definitely has its benefits.

You can also put it in your home for everyday use. A 2002 scientific review showed that these air filters can help relieve asthma. According to a study from 1990, the purifiers reduced pollution in households by 70 percent.

When considering air purifiers, use the clean air delivery rate (CADR) to compare different models.

These models offer a wide range of settings and benefits. For a highly effective filter, go for the BioGS HEPA filter.

Best for: filtering airborne dust and allergen contaminants

Wood Preparation 

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Wood jointer

The surface planer and jointer are often thought to be the same. They work together, but have very different roles.

The planer gets your wood stock to a certain thickness. But before that, you need the wood jointer to make the board flat.

This power tool is just a rotating cutter head. There are two or three blades between two small, flat tables. Push your workpiece across the first table, past the cutting head and onto the second outfeed table.

The uses are endless. You can use the jointer to straighten a bowed board or square up a second edge. You can also joint mitered butt joints along the length of a board. Or create stopped chamfers along an edge.

You may not need a jointer when you’ve just gotten into the woodwork world. You can just purchase smooth pre-surfaced lumber. But if you start using rough-sawn lumber, the jointer will come in hand.

Best for: flattening wood stock before use

Surface planer

So your board is flattened with the jointer. You can now feed it into the surface planer to reach a desired thickness.

This means you can buy practically any lumber and get the required thickness.

You can cut blocks and feed them into the planer for perfect deck spindles. Old wood can be reclaimed and reused too.

In addition, the surface planer is perfect for projects that require two adjoined edges. You can accurately bevel a door edge by pairing the machine with an adjustable fence. This helps the door operate more smoothly without a hinge.

You can also: scribe cabinets and countertops, shape and taper wood trim and more.

Traditional wood planers were mostly handheld. But modern power planers allow you to adjust the thickness quickly and accurately. You can also control it manually or electronically.

The final smoothness depends on the speed and depth setting of the tool. If you are edge-planing hardwood boards, go for 1/64-in. or 1/32-in. depth setting for the smoothest results.

Best for: reaching desired thickness and smoothness of wood

Mortiser

A mortise is a square or rectangular hole in timber. The most common usage is the mortise and tenon joint.

This is used to join two pieces of wood together. It is usually at a right angle. The joint comprises of a mortise hole and tenon tongue. The tenon fits the hole exactly. You can then glue, pin or wedge the joint to lock it into place. Though simple, it is very strong.

A mortiser, then, is a power tool that cuts mortises. It is also known as a morticer. The machine comprises of an auger and chisel. The former spins inside the hollow chisel. The chisel then shears away the wood, leaving behind the mortise.

Best for: cutting square holes in wood

Router

A router power tool routs out, or hollows out, an area in the face of a hard workpiece. It is usually wood or plastic. Routers are most typically used in woodworking, such as cabinetry. It can also be used as a plunging tool.

The router does more than just cut edges though. They can perform both functional and decorative projects.

In addition to perfect edges, it can cut dadoes, rabbets and patterns. A dado is a slot and is the strongest way to support shelves. A rabbet is a groove in the edge of wood. Paired with a dado, it forms a very strong joint.

You can also use the wood router for cutting, trimming, shaping, recessing door hinges and more.

The traditional router is a hand tool with a broad hand plane and narrow blade. It’s more commonly known as the router plane now. The powered version of the tool has an electric motor and spindle.

The most technologically advanced version is the CNC (computer numerical control) wood router for higher accuracy.

Best for: projects requiring hollowed out areas, such as cabinetry and shelves

Compact trim router

Bigger isn’t always better. The same applies to routing work in DIY projects. You don’t need a giant machine for a small-cut job. A compact trim router will be enough.

You can choose between two categories of trim routers: single wrench and spindle lock or two wrench-collet. Choose the one best for you. But since the single wrench collet is easier to palm, it may be a better choice.

This handy tool is also called the laminate trimmer. Its original role was for cabinets and countertops. But the comfort and control makes it a great alternative for many other jobs too.

Load this one handed wonder with your most used bits and take on jobs for specialty tools. The motor is not the most powerful. But you can use the trim router for any 1/4" diameter shank bit. Such as round-over, chamfer and cove bits.

Because of the bit size restriction, trim routers are able to run faster. There are more cuts per inch too, which means cleaner cuts.

When choosing a compact router, look for bit visibility. You don’t need it for laminate jobs. But a large viewing window or clear base will be helpful for freehand mortise jobs.

A variable speed motor would be great for crawl-cut jobs.

Best for: small-cut router jobs

Pocket hole jig

A pocket hole is just a drilled hole. The angle it’s drilled at forms a pocket for a screw.

You can screw into the end grain of woods for projects that won’t be under a lot of stress. But it’s better to drive a screw at an angle. Especially for softwoods such as pine.

This way, the screw goes into the face grain. This science also means that more of the screw will be embedded into the wood.

The pocket hole jig (or joinery) gives you a strong joining of two wood pieces. These screws are case-hardened and won’t split the wood. Even hardwoods.

The selling point of pocket hole jigs is that each joint is individually assembled. You’ll only need one clamp for a project. There’s also no glue needed. And no need to wait for the glue to dry. With the screw in, the joint is permanently assembled.

Best for: creating strong and permanent joints

Wood shredder

A wood shredder and wood chipper both make yard waste disposal easy. The output can be used as paving or compost. But there are still differences between the two.

The wood shredder is a bit smaller. There is a chute and opening for the material to go through. Inside, semi-blunt blades break down the organic material. Because it’s smaller, large branches will only get jammed.

The wood shredder is more suitable for leaves and twigs. You’ll get mashed shreds, great for compost or mulch. But many machines allow you to choose the size of finished pieces you prefer.

You can also go even smaller. The smallest shredders use nylon cutting string rather than blunt blades. These strings can only shred leaves and soft material for mulch.

Best for: breaking down softer organic material for mulch

Wood chipper

Wood chippers can either be electric or gas powered. The electric models are smaller but require less maintenance. Gas chippers will need oil changes and other maintenance work. But they can handle heavy-duty work.

These machines are great for both fresh and dried wood. You don’t have to de-leaf the branches before feeding them through either. The exact size of branches depends on the type of wood chipper though. The different types of chippers are named for the cutting mechanism.

Drum and disk wood chippers are the most common.

The drum chipper uses a lot of energy and the output is not uniform in size. But it can take large loads and break down fibrous material.

The disk chipper uses a vertical disk with inset blades. It is fast, energy-efficient and the output is uniform. However, these machines are best for smaller and less fibrous material.

The screw-type blade chipper is less popular. You need to change the blade to match the chip size desired.

Best for: breaking down larger organic material

Power Rotary Tool

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Rotary tool

Like the oscillating tool, the rotary tool accepts a wide variety of add-ons. These accessories are then spun at a very fast speed.

The tool can take care of tasks that require a high level of precision. However, to reach the accuracy, you still need good control.

As a multi-tool, the functions of a rotary tool largely depend on what accessory you use. So make sure the one you choose can handle the job you have in mind.

Some uses for the rotary tool include:

  • Carve

  • Cut: wood, drywall and PVC

  • Grind: plastic, metal and masonry

  • Polish

  • Remove grout

  • Rout

  • Strip: paint and varnish from wood

Best for: smaller projects requiring precision and accuracy

Wood lathe

The lathe is a power tool that rotates a workpiece. The resulting object is symmetric about its axis.

And so it’s mostly used in woodturning. However, some lathes can also be used in metalworking, metal spinning, glass working and thermal spraying. The operations you can do with the lathe include:

  • Cutting

  • Deformation

  • Drilling

  • Facing

  • Knurling

  • Sanding

  • Turning

The power lathe spins wood at a high speed. Paired with cutting tools, such as chisels and knives, you can carve out your desired shape.

When consider a lathe, make sure it has a solid bed. The bed must be heavy enough to keep the lathe from vibrating while spinning. You should also take note of its head and tail stock, motor and power switch.

There are 7 major woodturning tools you can choose for a basic lathe kit.

The spindle roughing gouge does the basic work, giving you a rough design. You can then use the spindle gouge for beads, coves and other details.

To plane wood, you can use a skew chisel. This tool gives you a good finish and can also be used for fine details. Part the wood halfway with the parting tool. Then finish the job with a saw.

Also known as the deep fluted gouge, the bowl gouge runs deeper than the spindle gouge. It’s great for shaping bowls. Lastly is the swept back grind bowl gouge. This is more versatile with a U-shaped grind.

Best for: woodturning and carving wood

Metal lathe

The wood lathe is for turning wood. And so the metal lathe is designed for metals. However, it can handle other relatively hard materials too, such as plastic. The same techniques can be used for these materials.

Just like the woodworking lathe, there are many variants of metalworking lathes. A good majority are specialized for certain niches. So, look around for the ones best for you to build your lathe kit.

One is the centering lathe. It is a dual head machine. Your workpiece remains fixed in place. The two heads of the tool move towards the work. The machine drills a hole into each end. You can then use the resulting piece as “between centers” for something else.

Similar to the wood lathe, there are also CNC metal lathes. Computer numerical controlled, these lathes are easier to use. They are also more accurate and the operations repeatable. You can set a pre-programmed tool path for the machine.

Best for: carving and working metal

Laser Level

Laser levels are either for indoor or outdoor use. Although some models can be used for both.

Indoor functions commonly include: leveling floors or countertops, measuring heights of doors and windows, wall alignment and more.

Outdoor functions include: surveying, aligning fences and decks, installing masonry and more.

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Line level laser

Line laser levels emit a single line. The laser can also be in a cross-hair type of fashion. This type of tool can only emit the lines in one direction though. And only a single wall.

This makes it best for indoor use. The distance of the laser is within 150 feet.

Best for: indoor leveling uses

Rotary level laser

For larger distances, use the rotary level laser instead. Much as the name implies, the level line is emitted in a rotary fashion. The machine emits the line around the entire expanse in 360 degrees.

The tool itself is a bit larger too. While the line level laser can be handheld, the rotary laser is mounted on tripods. Some can be put down on its side too. This allows the laser to be projected vertically too.

You can easily use the rotary level laser indoors. If using outdoors though, you should also have a laser detector or receiver. This helps you detect lasers further than several feet away.

Best for: outdoor leveling uses

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Oscillating tool

An oscillating tool is like the Swiss Army knife of power tools. There are so many attachments for the tool. This results in a diverse and wide range of applications.

The tool uses a side-to-side movement. Though it oscillates, it feels more like a vibration when operating. The oscillation is only around 3 degrees and moves very, very quickly.

What can you do with it?

  • Cut: cutting blades can shear softer material, such as fabric and rubber.

  • Polish

  • Remove grout: both carbide and diamond blades are available.

  • Saw

  • Sand: carbide rasps can coarsely sand materials such as tile adhesive and concrete.

  • Scrape: both rigid and flexible scraper blades are available.

Best for: a handy tool for all types of small projects

Hydraulic log splitter

The log splitter is a creatively named power tool for splitting logs.

The tool allows you to split firewood from pre-cut soft or hardwood logs. These tools are rated by the amount of force they can generate. The higher the rating, the greater the thickness it can split.

Your home log splitter usually has a rating of around 10 tons.

This powerful force is generated by a hydraulic machine. The log splitter contains all the four components of a basic hydraulic machine.

The gas engine is attached to a hydraulic oil pump. It then creates a high-pressure stream. This turns the valve that moves the hydraulic cylinder to split a log. A tank is there to hold the hydraulic oil needed.

Most log splitters also have a two-stage pump. This saves time and is also extremely powerful. You get highest pressure possible but with a lower volume.

But if it’s within your budget, you can go for an electrohydraulic log splitter. This machine is the best of both worlds between electric and hydraulic powers. It is a light and small thing. But it only takes a few seconds to push a log through.

Best for: splitting firewood from pre-cut wood

Glue gun

The glue gun is not just for your kids’ crafts. And woodworking doesn’t just require nails and bolts.

More professionally known as “hot melt adhesive” is the glue gun. This handy power tool was invented in 1894. It is made of thermoplastic polymers that melt and re-solidify, keeping the materials together.

A continuous heating element is used to melt the plastic. The glue is squeezed out then solidifies in a short period of time.

This makes it highly versatile, which is its greatest advantage. To bond to different materials, you can modify the base polymer and change the glue’s properties.

In addition, the glue has a long shelf life. You can dispose of is without any special precautions. You can also reduce or eliminate volatile organic compounds and the drying or curing step of usual adhesives.

The hot melt adhesive can be used on: appliances, automobiles, furniture, electronics, packaging, fabric and more.

The hot glue gun can range from 250 to 380 degrees. The lower temperature range is better for more delicate materials. While high temperature guns are better for materials such as wood.

You can also choose between trigger and manual feeds. Trigger-fed guns use trigger pulls to push the glue stick out. With manual fed guns, just use your thumb to push.

Best for: hassle-free and strong adhesive for woodwork and DIY projects

Paint sprayer

Why use a paint sprayer when you can roll or brush it on? The obvious reason is that it’s much, much faster.

With one spray, paint will be uniformly applied to a large area. You can easily override rough surfaces, such as bumps and cracks. You can get into tight corners too, which are a pain for rollers.

It’s also easier to achieve an even coat with the paint sprayer. It’s still possible to have an uneven coat. The higher the sheen of the paint, the more visible the buildup will be.

Paint sprayers come in either airless or air models. The air paint sprayer uses air compression while airless uses pressure. Air paint sprayers are more expensive; however you’ll get a more even coating.

However, if you do choose to go for a paint sprayer, there are some precautions to take note of. There’s a higher potential for over spray, so it’s more suitable for large exteriors projects.

Because of the power and range, you must cover everything not being painted. All the masking tape and tarp can make the prep work headache inducing.

To make life easier, you need a clean sprayer. However, it can be difficult to clean the paint sprayer. You will also need to shell out a bit more cash. While the lower end of other power tools may still be useful, cheap and low quality paint sprayers are virtually worthless.

Best for: large exterior paint projects

Vertical milling machine

The milling machine is one of the most important ones in manufacturing. It is most often used to shape metals into flat and irregular surfaces. But it can also perform other tasks, such as: cutting gears, drilling, routing and more.

Vertical and horizontal milling machines are named after their orientation of the spindle axis. There are two main types of vertical mills: the bedmill and the turrent mill.

The spindle of the bedmill can only move parallel to its axis. The table can only move perpendicular to the axis.

On the other hand, the turrent mill has a stationary spindle. The table can move in both directions. This type of mill is smaller, but it is more versatile.

If you need end and face cutting, you can consider horizontal mills. With them, you can feed the workpieces from three axes and perform the cuts.

For a better finish, use climb milling. This is when the workpiece moves with the cutter. But the work must be held securely and should support high forces. Otherwise, use conventional milling and feed the work into the cutter.

Best for: shaping metals into flat and irregular shapes

Reloading press

There are many variations of the reloading press.

The simplest is the single stage reloading press. It only holds one die and one shell casing.

Next is the turret reloading press. It works similarly, but you can install multiple dies at once. The dies can be indexed into position. This makes for faster work.

The progressive reloading press is the most complex. Therefore, you can have much higher output rate. However, being more complex increases risk of mistakes. The machine is prone to jams and other stoppages.

Best for: quick reloading of dies

Soldering gun

Soldering heats and melts the metal at the point. When the solder cools, a bond is formed. So you can use the soldering gun to make neat connections to electronics, jewelry, plumbing and more.

There are some small differences between a soldering gun and a soldering iron. The gun is mostly used for jointing jobs of metal surfaces.

Compared to welding, a lower temperature requirement is required. Soldering only needs temperatures around 400 degrees. At this lower heat, the metals don’t warp. They maintain their original shape, even if you mess up.

In addition, the solder flows between and bonds electrical connectors. And it is metal, so it can conduct electricity. Multiple connections can be formed with a single operation as well. This makes it great for heavy electrical connections, such as cable lugs.

Lastly, the soldering technique is much simpler than welding. You can learn to solder easily. Although you still must be careful while performing the task.

Best for: metal connections for electronics

Propane torch

The propane torch is also known as the blowtorch. Propane is a hydrocarbon gas used for fuel.

This tool is most commonly used for soldering. You can join pipes and help with plumbing. But its uses don’t just stop there! For example:

  • Thaw frozen joints

  • Unstick nuts and bolts

  • Get the vintage aesthetic

  • Singe frayed ends of rope

  • Kill weeds

  • Strip paint

  • Gloss frosting

  • Cook good steak

Best for: versatile tool for emitting fire

String trimmer

You can use a lawnmower for your lawn. But for grass and other plants on an irregular terrain, a string trimmer will save you a lot of effort. Rather than a blade, this power tool uses a flexible monofilament line.

Hold the tool at a slight angle to taper lawn edges. An angle can also be used to cleanly chop down weeds. Put it vertically to a flat surface for edging. The string trimmer can also be used to “scythe” when you can’t walk along.

There are two variations of the string trimmer: straight shaft and curved shaft. Which one you use truly depends on your own needs and preferences. However, the straight shaft is easier to get under shrubs and other small plants.

If needed, you can replace with shaft with other accessories for more uses. For example, you can replace it with a small chain saw, hedge trimmer or even a cultivator. Newer quick-release shafts help you easily change between the accessories.

Best for: cutting plants on an irregular terrain

Sandblaster

The sandblaster is a quick way to blow away unwanted residue from a surface (usually a metal.) This includes rust, paint and corrosion.

When using, you must be careful not to damage the surface you aim to sandblast. Some common uses include:

  • Cleaning away peeling, cracked or blistered paint

  • Prepping automobiles and boats for a new paint job

  • Restoring outdoor furniture

  • Cleaning large outdoor structures

  • Cleaning machinery and tools

There are many different types of sandblasters. They all work with the same basic principle though. Fine ground sand, such as silica sand, is fired out with an air-powered pressure gun. The high velocity of the sand cleans and abrades the surface. A ceramic barrel or coating is included in the pressure gun to prevent erosion.

The most common one for handymen is the siphon sandblaster. This model is suitable for cleaning of large surfaces. In comparison, it is budget-friendly.

Comprising of three parts, suction is created when the pressure gun is fired. This pulls the sand from the reservoir and out the barrel of the gun. Then, it’s collected and placed back into the reservoir to be reused.

Best for: ridding large surfaces of unwanted residue

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Welding helmet

The welding arc gives off dangerous infrared and UV radiation. Both are extremely harmful to your eyes. They can cause retinal burning, cataracts and something known as welder’s flash. Symptoms aren’t noticeable immediately but can cause temporary blindness.

This is why you must be properly protected while welding.

Welding helmets can provide the protection you need. You can choose from the wide range of options for the one most suitable for you. Here are some features you can look for.

Auto darkening lenses does not need you to snap the helmet into position. These lenses use electromagnetic sensing. The sensors detect a lit arc and automatically adjusts to the UV and IR coated glass. This way, you don’t have to move the helmet. It’s easier to work with and safer too.

Some new science allows helmet lenses to track the arc while you’re welding. This can be used to improve efficiency and productivity.

Best for: eye protection while welding

Power inverter

Whether you have a cordless or corded power tool, you’ll need an electricity source some time. But with the power inverter, you can change DC power into AC power.

The DC power is used by batteries. While conventional AC power is used to operate power tools, appliances and much more.

Preferably, the battery is a 12 volt deep-cycle battery. Or there are several batteries wired in parallel. The most commonly used battery is the car battery.

When purchasing a power inverter, consider the following features:

  • Watts: small electronics only require around 200 watts

  • Outlets: AC outlets are most commonly two or three prong

  • USB port

  • Safety shut-off: this protects your inverter from overheating or draining the battery

Best for: charging power tools without an electricity source

Inverter generator

If it is within your budget, you can consider an inverter generator as an upgrade. It is a newer science, using advanced electronic circuitry and high-tech magnets.

The traditional generator results in AC current. But with the inverter generator, it is converted back to DC. And then back into clean AC power. The output is a pure sine wave at the voltage and frequency you want.

Some other advantages to the inverter generator, as compared to the conventional generator:

  • Portability: the inverter generator is much smaller and lighter

  • Fuel efficiency: the engine can adjust to meet load requirements, using less fuel

  • Noise: newer inverter generators have features to reduce noise

  • Power output: the AC output is of higher quality

  • Parallel operation: the inverter can be linked to another unit for twice the power capacity

Unfortunately, due to the size, the inverter has a lower maximum power output. It is also more expensive, thanks to the extra features.

However, the ease and efficiency offered can definitely be worth it!

Best for: creating “clean” AC power from battery power

Garage heaters

The benefits of a heated garage are pretty obvious. Nobody wants to work in a freezing place in the middle of winter. However, there are a few choices you can consider. Choose the one that fits your needs and budget.

Ceiling mounted gas heater

A gas-fired and forced-air heater is pretty expensive. It requires gas work, ventilation and electrical wiring. If you do wood or paint work, the unit should be in a separate combustion chamber. Otherwise, there may be risk of internal combustion.

When installing, place the heater in the corner of your garage, pointed diagonally. Then, the fan will distribute the heat through the entire room.

Infrared heater

Rather than heating the air, the infrared unit heats the objects. You will get warm, but not your tools. These heaters aren’t energy efficient either. And they’re expensive.

So what’s the point?

Infrared heaters radiate considerable amounts of heat. It can then be directed where you need it. Low-intensity units can be suitable for closed garages.

Propane heater

Propane garage heaters are powerful and cost-efficient. A fan forces air over the heating element and distributes it evenly through the garage.

However, you must have good ventilation. Water vapor will be produced too, which can rust your tools. And if there is dust or chemicals in the air, there is always the risk of combustion.

Portable electric heater

The portable electric heater may be the best choice. They might not be powerful enough for extreme temperatures. However, they can easily make a small garage nice and toasty.

The installation process is more straightforward. Being smaller, you can also bring them with as your work area changes.

Best for: heating up your workspace in the winter

Sump pump

Though not used in metal or woodworking, the sump pump is a crucial machine. This pump removes water buildup, usually from basements and crawlspaces.

If the water isn’t removed, it can collect in the basement, creating damp areas. If it seeps into the walls, paint can peel off. In extreme cases, even the cement and mortar can peel. The sump pump can protect the foundations of the building too.

In addition, using the sump pump can prevent growth of algae. Since algae grows and proliferates in water and damp places. The algae can make the floor slippery. This creates a hazard, especially if your workspace is in the basement. Plus, insects thrive in algae.

Best for: removing water buildup in your workspace

Step ladder

Everyone has a ladder in their home. Most likely.

The step ladder is self-supporting and portable. There are flat steps for comfort and stability. The hinged design helps with easier storage.

They can range from 4 feet to 20 feet. Those that are shorter are known as step stools rather than ladders.

You will find the highest standing level marked on the side rail of the ladder. For safety reasons, don’t try to go over that step. You can also use this to calculate the maximum work height.

Because the length is non-adjustable, the step ladder is only suitable for projects within the length. However, it is also self-supporting. You can use the ladder where other ladders won’t be supported.

Best for: reaching heights for projects around the home

Telescoping ladder

The telescoping ladder is much more versatile than the step ladder. You can extract it to reach as high as you would like. But you can also retract it and store it in a small space.

This makes it easy to store and carry. While still giving you the height needed. It is a perfect tool when you need closer detail work. You can use it in your home or on site locations.

Best for: versatile and portable ladder on the go

Extension ladder

The telescoping ladder may seem like the obvious winner when choosing between it and the extension ladder. But the latter still has some selling points.

In a comparison test conducted, it was found that the extension ladder is more durable. The testers pounded both ladders with a hammer, timber and a wall. The extension ladder was able to take all the beatings. On the other hand, the telescope ladder’s circular stiles were no competition against the wall corner.

For safety, you shouldn’t use a ladder for more than 15 minutes at a time. For those 15 minutes, the extension ladder was found to be more comfortable. Thanks to its “D” rungs, rather than square rungs.

Best for: reaching heights for heavy duty work

General safety precautions

Now, with better power tools comes the ability to create better workpieces. But as with everything, there are some things to pay attention to. Especially with safety.

The safety precautions for electric tools may seem like common sense. But better safe than sorry!

1. Use the right tools

Power tools are very specific for their niche. So make sure you use the tool for what it’s meant to do. Don’t take a wrench and use it as a hammer. (Unless it’s one of the versatile tools, that is.)

Also make sure the one you’re using is high quality. Most tools should be made of steel and heat-treated. Even hammers.

And even high quality tools should be regularly inspected. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and take good care of the machines. Maintain them by grinding and sharpening as needed.

If a tool is damaged, notify the person responsible at once to repair or replace it.

2. Dress for success

Dress for the job. Loose clothing and articles such as jewelry can get caught in the tool’s moving parts.

An appropriate outfit also includes personal protective equipment. This can mean:

  • Leather gloves

  • Dust mask

  • Protective goggles

  • Sturdy shoes

3. Create a safe environment

A safe environment includes you. As well as everyone and everything around you.

Be aware of the people nearby. Make sure they are clear of your work space.

If you’re working up high, don’t leave tools out in the open. They can fall off and be a hazard to the workers below you. When needed, secure your workpiece with a clamp or vise.

When carrying tools, put them in a toolbox or cart. Use a portable bucket or bag when carrying them up a ladder as well. Don’t just keep pointed and dangerous tools in your pocket.

Store your tools in a safe place when you’re not using them.

Tips for using electric power tools

1. Watch the cord

If using a corded tool, be wary of the cords. You don’t want to trip and cause an embarrassing and painful fall. Don’t carry the tool by its cord either.

Also, it would be best if the cord is three-pronged. This reduces risk of accidentally pulling the cord out of the socket.

For best safety, your corded tools should be double-insulated. This means that the cord either has a plastic casing. Or the live wire doesn’t touch the casing.

Then even if the wire becomes loose, the casing won’t give an electric shock.

2. Stay grounded

Plug your corded electric tool into a grounded receptacle.

You should use a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter.) This device detects when the current is flowing along an unintended path. Such as through you. It then shuts off the electric power circuit automatically.

This reduces the risk of electric shocks and fires.

3. Recharge station

If using a cordless tool, keeping it charged is the most headache-inducing. So set up a recharge station.

Get a power strip and plug all your chargers into it. This gives you the organization you need. No more running around looking for an electricity source. And you get surge protection too!

In addition, you can easily switch everything off when the batteries are charged.

4. Keep things nice and dry

Water and electricity don’t exactly mix. (Unless the electric tool is approved for use in wet conditions.)

Keep the floor of your workspace clean and dry. Not only does it prevent shocks. It also helps you avoid slipping while working.

Tips for using pneumatic power tools

1. Secure everything

Before using, be sure that all parts of the machine are securely fastened.

Use safety clips or retainers to keep the attachments in place. Otherwise, it’s very possible for the attachments to be ejected when using.

Screens around your workspace may be needed. This helps protect other workers from flying fragments.

2. Cleaning

For cleaning and maintenance, use high-pressure compressed air. But always use a chip guard. And limit the nozzle pressure to 30 pounds per square inch.

When using the compressed air gun, never point the nozzle at a person. Including you and anyone else.

After usage, unload the air gun. Never store the gun while it’s still loaded.

3. Finish smoothly

When you are done using the pneumatic tool, release the pressure. Then you can break the hose connection. And give it a wrap.

Handy tips for DIY power tool work

1. Say goodbye to rust

Getting a headache over rusty tools and a rusty toolbox?

Just throw in some pieces of chalk. Surprisingly, chalk is a desiccant and can absorb moisture. Other handy helpers include bamboo charcoal, calcium chloride and silica gel.

You can experiment and create your own moisture absorbing sponge.

As for the toolbox itself, consider the material when purchasing the box. You want something budget friendly, but durable. A plastic box is definitely cheaper. But the hinges and clasp will break more easily than metal.

2. Sharpen drill bits

Sharpen the drill bit by grinding it at the correct angle.

Determine that angle by clamping two 3/8 inch hexagon nuts together. The outer angle would be the correct angle for the drill bit end.

Use this as your guide while sharpening the bit.

3. No more wandering bits

But no matter how sharp you make your bit, it can still skid. You can get some ugly scratches on hard materials, such as metal, glass and tile.

To steady the bit, start with something a bit softer.

Simply cut apart a cereal box. Take the thin cardboard and tape it firmly in place. It should take care of the problem.

4. Corded drill chuck safety

Ah, yet another safety tip.

When using a corded drill, tape the drill chuck key near the plug’s end. This will remind (force) you to unplug the power cord whenever you need to modify the drill bit.

In addition, you won’t have to look around the for the chuck key anymore. It’s right there for you.

5. Tight cord connections

If you need to connect cords and extension cords, loop them together. Then plug one into the other. Do the same with the power tool itself.

This lowers risk of the power cord from unplugging itself. It’s especially helpful when you’re working at a height. Or other situations with increased tension at the connection.

If your plug becomes too loose in the receptacle, gently bend or twist the prongs. This will make things tighter. But you must be gentle!

6. Hand saw teeth protection

Create a cover for your wood cutting hand saw.

Simply take a piece from a garden hose and slit it through the center. A plastic pipe with a 3/4 inch slit would also work.

Then you can place the plastic over the teeth. Slightly twist it to lock the cover in place.

7. Maintain your circular blade

A circular blade can get covered in gunk such as tar or resin. To clean it up, get an old pizza pan or another shallow pan.

After placing the blade on it, spray generously with oven cleaner. Then use an old toothbrush to work at the gunk.

The oven cleaner can be dangerous and emit toxic fumes. Be sure to wear appropriate protective clothing. Such as goggles and latex gloves.

Do this in a well ventilated area as well.

8. Prevent wood splintering

Prevent wood from splintering when using a circular blade.

Place masking tape over the area you are planning to cut. This will help keep the wood from chipping. Draw your guidelines directly onto the tape.

As a dull blade will cause splinters, sharpen the saw as needed.

9. DIY saw support

The uses of T-blocks are endless. Use them for saw support too.

You can put them on your workbench to raise projects up. You can prop assemblies and more easily slide clamps under them. You can also make a drying rack. The list goes on. Surely you can think of a few creative uses too.

Just take some scrap wood and build your own!

10. Glue with finesse

Glue can get squeezed out when you press together the workpieces. But dried glue can be extremely difficult to remove.

Before it dries, wrap a rag around a sharpened dowel. Wipe around the joints to lift the glue. Dampen some Q-tips with warm water to finish up the cleaning.

11. Measure tight spaces

It can be hard to measure places such as inside a boxed area. To make things easier for yourself, use two straight wooden sticks.

Place them inside the area and slide until they reach each side. While holding them, measure the total length between the two sticks. This is a DIY way to measure the length of the area.

12. Hold onto the edge

How do you hold a board on the edge? You can use a woodworker’s vise. But if you don’t have one, a pair of hand screws is a handy alternative.

It might be helpful if you insert strips of cardboard under the board. This will help protect it from the hand screw’s sharpness. But it depends on how you set things up.

13. DIY work table

You don’t really have to buy an expensive worktable. You also don’t have to throw out an old hollow-core door.

Just set it (or a wooden board large enough) on some sawhorses. And you get a flat and strong surface that is lightweight and easy to store.

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