Most woodworkers today need to equip their shop on a budget, preventing them from purchasing everything they might want. Thankfully, most projects can be completed using only a few power tools. Here are the top 5 power tools that should find a home in every woodworking shop.
1. Cordless Drill
Cordless drills may not offer the power of their corded brethren, but the convenience offered by not needing to be near an electrical outlet is more than worth it. When shopping for a cordless drill, the most important things to look for are a comfortable grip, reversible action functionality, and a keyless chuck.
The chuck measures the largest diameter bit that the drill may effectively be used with. The most common sizes are 3/8-inch and 1/2-inch, with the 1/2-inch models offering more power of the two.
Other considerations would include: Variable speeds; this will help you adjust the torque in your cordless drill to prevent you from snapping the head off of your screws.
Drills don’t have the multitude of safety features found in other power tools, but some common sense safety guidelines are still recommended. You should wear safety glasses whenever you’re using any power tool, and loose-fitting clothing should be avoided to ensure that your drill never gets caught on your person. Finally, you should read and follow all of the safety precautions found in your drill’s owner’s manual. Check out CordlessDrillZone as they review in-depth all things cordless.
2. Circular Saw
The circular saw’s unique blend of portability and versatility makes it the most important tool in every budget shop. With a circular saw, you can cross-cut or rip boards at bevels of up to 45 degrees, making it handy for carpentry jobs and fine woodworking alike!
You need to change your circular saw’s blade for maximum versatility. A straight edge is best for cutting sheet goods such as plywood, allowing the circular saw to fill the purpose of a table saw until you can get one. Other blades cut curved shapes that dramatically increase the number of projects you can tackle.
While the circular saw is a jack-of-all-trades, it is a master of none (see Protoolzone). Therefore, you can expect to use your circular saw much less frequently when you acquire more power tools.
3. Miter Saw
When you need to make a fancier cut than is possible with a circular saw, a miter saw is the tool you need. This machine makes beveled and mitered cuts while also combining the two functions to make “combination cuts” possible. In the hands of an expert, nothing makes more accurate cross-cuts than a miter saw.
An easy-to-read angle gauge and intuitive locking mechanism to lock your blade in place are the most important things to look for when purchasing a miter saw. Beginners may benefit from choosing one of the many models with preset detents at 0 degrees, 15 degrees, 22.5 degrees, 30 degrees, and 45 degrees in either direction to make lining up common cuts easier.
4. Table Saw
The table saw is easily the most expensive power tool on this list, but it is no place to compromise. This one tool can rip, cross-cut, miter-cut, square, rabbet, dado, and add shapes to the end of your wood stock, making it the most frequently used tool in most woodworking shops. As a result, it is sometimes referred to as the “soul” of the shop, with all other tools organized around it.
When shopping for a table saw, look for a miter gauge you are comfortable using and a dust collection system that keeps sawdust out of your way. Table saws are statistically the most dangerous power tools in the shop, so wear eye protection, earplugs, and appropriate clothing whenever you are operating one.
5. Jig Saw
Finally, a jigsaw (alternatively referred to as sabre saw) is great at cutting curved and circular patterns into your stock. It doesn’t have the power or accuracy of the similar band saw, but its superior portability more than compensates for this drawback.
The most important features to look for are variable speeds (so that you can slow the blade down for intricate cuts) and orbital action (so the blade has some flexibility to avoid bending and undesired slants in your cuts). An easy blade-changing mechanism, splinter control shoe (to reduce splintering), and a dust collection system are also nice features to have, though they aren’t absolutely necessary if you’re on a budget.
The tools above may be supplemented by a plethora of additional machines, but they’re really all you need to start woodworking. Have fun!