Starting out in woodworking can seem like an enormously expensive and space-hogging task. But it turns out that equipping your shop with a range of helpful power tools isn’t as costly as you might think. What’s more, power tools allow you to get so much more done in a short space of time than regular tools, making them ideal for people who lead busy lives and only have a few hours at the weekend to invest in using them.
Below, we’re going to take a look at what power tools are out there, at what they’re used for.
A table saw usually consists of a rotating circular saw attached to a bench. The saw spins up to high speeds, and then the woodworker feeds pieces of wood into it manually. Table saws are large pieces of equipment and usually take pride of place in workshops. They are best for cutting through large planks of wood and sections of board.
Because you’re likely to use your table saw regularly, experts suggest that you put as much money into your table saw as you can afford. Higher quality table saws usually come with a range of helpful features, such as measurement guides, and tend to be constructed from more robust materials.
If you’re new to carpentry, it’s unlikely that you will have heard of chop saws. But these tools are among the essentials of any reasonably-specced workshop. The primary purpose of chop saws is to make clean, precise cuts at square angles. A slightly more advanced type of saw, called a miter saw, allows you to make cuts at additional angles.
Although you can use chop saws to cut metal, most chops saws are designed for cutting through wood. They’re essential for anyone who needs to make regular, precision cuts in wood for, say, making furniture. Like the other tools in this list, chop saws are a hazard, so use safety equipment and always operate them in the way that the manufacturer intended.
Circular saws are usually considered a tool for carpentry, but these rotating blades are popular in woodworking shops too. Circular saws are often handheld, making them highly versatile. They either operate using a helical gear system or a worm-drive and come in blade sizes from four inches upwards.
Circular saws allow you to make all kinds of different cuts in wood. Because they can be held at any angle, they enable woodworkers to follow lines traced out in the wood for unusual shapes.
They can also double up to perform the same function as a table saw if you don’t have the money to put one in your workshop. Most models of handheld circular saws come with guides that allow you to cut in straight lines through materials like MDF and plywood.
Fixed jig saws are a particular type of saw that uses an oscillating saw blade mounted vertically, and a table on which to place pieces of wood. Wood can be fed into the saw blade at varying orientations, allowing the woodworker to carve out intricate shapes accurately.
Portable jig saws are almost the same – having an oscillating electrically-powered blade – but they don’t come with a supporting table.
Jig saws might seem like a tool designed for pro woodworkers, but they are perfectly suited to beginners too, thanks to their ease of use, and the fact that they allows you to create practically any cut in the wood that you like. Just make sure that if you are in the market for a jig saw that you choose one with good ergonomics and the ability to easily replace the blade (these can wear out quickly).
Lathes are tools that help to cut and shape wood as it is being rotated. Wood is mounted to a lathe at the headstock and tailstock, and then the machine provides the energy to spin it at high speeds, allowing the woodworker to create features on the rotational axis easily.
Lathes tend to be large pieces of equipment because of the need to accommodate all different sizes of wood, and so they can be expensive. But they are also indispensable for the creation of many of the everyday objects that woodworkers need, like chair and table legs. If you plan on making anything involving posts, then lathes are an essential addition.
Drill presses are drills mounted to fixed stands that allow you to accurately calibrate the depth and diameter of holes drilled in wood. Drill presses, for instance, can be particularly useful if you are trying to create particular types of joints in your wood, or you only want to drill a certain depth into the material.
Cordless drills are portable drills that use batteries that do not need to be connected to a mains power supply. They’re extremely versatile, allowing you to make holes in wood from practically any angle. For many beginners, cordless drills are among the first power tools that they buy. Cordless drills are compatible with a range of bits for drilling and boring.
Reciprocating saws are a type of powered saw that mimics the action of a regular, handheld saw, moving the blade in a push-pull fashion. Reciprocating saws are usually reserved for things that don’t require a large degree of accuracy but need to be done quickly, such as cutting up old wooden door frames. These types of saws are also good at helping you cut wood that is more difficult to access.
Planers are used in woodworking to create boards of even thickness. Traditional wood planers are handheld tools with angled blades, but modern planers come with planing platformers and the ability to set thicknesses electronically.
A sander is either a machine-mounted or handheld device that helps the user smooth down rough edges using a course material, like sandpaper. Sanders are ideal as a finishing tool when making things like furniture to remove potential splinters and sharp edges. Handheld sanders are usually inexpensive, and only require you to replace the affixed sandpaper periodically.