Every woodworker needs good power tools. But where can you get the most bang for your buck when you’re just starting to build a collection? Let’s start from the top.
If You Can Only Buy 3 Power Tools, Buy . . .
First on every handyman (and woman’s) list should be a circular saw, also called a Skilsaw after the popular manufacturer that invented the electric handsaw back in the 1920’s. It makes it easy to cut through not just wood, but heavy materials of any kind, and if used carefully with a couple of benches, you can use it in most situations where you’d normally need a table saw. If you’re just starting out, this is one power tool that will go the extra mile for you.
A power drill comes in cordless and corded varieties, and what you want depends on the kinds of projects you need to tackle. If you need a lot of range, naturally you’ll want a cordless drill, but a corded one is less expensive and wields a lot more power. A power drill of either variety will punch a hole in just about anything, letting you do anything from hang a picture on a brick wall to tackle a huge construction project.
Your circular saw will cut, your power drill will bore, but for everything that needs precision, the oscillating multi-tool does the job. The head accepts attachments that will let you sand, grind, cut wood, scrape, rasp, and polish, letting you do everything from remove grout to fit flooring to make precision cuts. It’s also available in a huge variety of price ranges, letting you choose the one that fits your budget.
If You Can Buy 6 Power Tools, Add . . .
Commonly called a Sawzall after the most well-known brand of this type of tool, the reciprocating saw is excellent for demolition work, remodeling, plumbing, and electrical work. It’ll help you get behind those pesky stripped screws and forgotten bits of piping stuck in the walls and ceilings, and it’ll cut through pretty much anything you throw at it.
Random Orbital Sander
You can sand by hand, but why would you? A random orbital sander uses a random motion (rather than a repetitive pattern) to smooth stock, which means you’re less likely to get sanding marks in your materials. A quick word of caution: random orbitals take different sizes of sandpaper, so be sure your hardware store stocks all the grits you want for the sander you buy.
A jigsaw takes over where the circular saw leaves off; while the circular saw can handle precision cuts like beveled, mitered, and combination cuts, it does only cut in a straight line. The jigsaw can cut shapes and make curves in wood and metal. With these two saws and some careful cutting, you can handle most jobs.
If You Can Buy 9 Power Tools, Round It Out With . . .
You didn’t think it was going to take us this long to get to a table saw, did you? A table saw is indeed a critical part of every DIYer’s power tool collection, but you can get by with a circular and jigsaw when you’re just starting out. Adding a table saw makes accurate cutting much easier, faster, and safer, and allows you to cut large volumes of material quickly. It’s also a rite of passage: congratulations.
A router is used to hollow out an area in wood or plastic, and you’re going to need one for recessing door hinges and locks, building cabinets, or doing any kind of fine woodworking. Start with a stationary base model with at least 2-HP and variable speed controls. Make sure you invest in one that can handle both ½ inch and ¼ inch shank router bits.
With a standard screw driver, you have to get your weight behind the screw lest you chew up the screw head. With an impact driver, you get enough torque to drive screws without having to rely on your own strength and leverage, making it ideal for bigger jobs or situations where you have to stretch an arm out to reach what you’re driving. You can also use it to bore a bigger hole than your power drill can handle.
With these tools in your arsenal, you’re ready to handle just about any job imaginable. From fun projects like building a cool sandbox for your kids to necessities like installing a water powered sump pump during storm season, you’ve got the equipment at your disposal. There are many more precision tools that are made for specific situations, but these 9 will ensure that you can tackle the vast majority of the carpentry work you’ll encounter. They also come with the added bonus of giving you a bit of a rush every time you see them laid out on the workbench.