Tools have been used since the dawn of time by mankind in order to build, create and evolve. We can’t deny the fact that we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for them. Still to this day, we use tools for countless daily duties. Since the moment the first tools were ever created, we’ve upgraded them into more refined and sophisticated work companions, ones where we could countlessly multiply the strength and precision to tackle any task that is at hand, ones who could help us wage any workload war : Power tools.
In this guide you will find just about everything you need to know about power tools and their utility, ranging from drills to planers to just about any power tool a seasoned DIY’er would have stored in his garage. We’ve got you covered. In each section I will later include a more in-depth analysis of the tool so we really cover it all. It is to note that we’ll focus strictly on electrical power tools used in construction and DIY settings, whether it be corded or cordless. To accommodate browsing our guide, we have prepared a table of contents to the left to quickly navigate to each section.
Drills can be used to fasten or loosen materials together using screws, or pierce holes into various soft materials (wood, plastic, metal) given the appropriate drill bit. It is generally a good idea to drill harder surfaces with a hammer drill or a rotary hammer drill to not ruin your drill bits or cause excess wear and tear on the drill.
Most drills come equipped with an integrated light for easier visibility in dim conditions. It also comes with a slip clutch, giving you control on over how much fastening resistance it’ll withstand before slipping. Keyed chucks aren’t really used anymore on hand drills, they now use the more efficient ratcheting chuck, which allows you to secure a bit without the need of additional tools. Variable speeds are achieved through different pressures on the trigger and medium to higher end drills come with a gear selector (slower gear speed for more torque and more precise fastening, the other for quicker drilling).
Power drills come cordless or corded, but the practicality behind a cordless drill is well worth the price difference between the two. In today’s day and age, even the smallest batteries from corded drills take quite an impressive time before they start giving out. If you plan on using the drill in a small environment and you don’t need to lug it around and price is an issue, I’d definitely suggest getting the corded drill.
Typically you can find drills paired up with impact drivers, sold at a great price as a combo and often come with 2 batteries. The drill is perhaps one of the most used and the most purchased power tool of all time. It is also the first power tool I’d suggest to anyone who’s looking into investing in a tool set. On a side note, I would strongly suggest reading our Ultimate Guide to Power Tool Brands if you’re about to start yourself a tool set!
IMPACT DRIVER / IMPACT DRILL
Impact driver uses
The impact driver is used for screwing or unscrewing long screws or bolts through thick and dense materials. Some impact drivers come with smaller batteries (8v-12v) for much lighter duties such as cabinetmaking.
The impact driver gives sequential rotational impacts to the screws or bolts (mimicking a hammer’s impact) thus greatly aiding in either fastening or loosening. Unlike the drill, it has a hexed style chuck securing the bits, preventing them from slipping during impact, plus, it allows for a quicker change of bits. Like the drill, it also comes equipped with lights for better visibility.
The impact driver definitely the runner-up when it comes to tool practicality. It is to note that the impact driver does not come equipped with a clutch and will continue driving until it either doesn’t have enough torque or doesn’t have enough battery, so watch out if you do light work with an impact driver.
Be sure to also use impact-ready bits (colored black) because they’re designed to withstand a certain torsion given there’s too much resistance. Regular bits can shatter and cause you harm, and we surely don’t want that to happen. Typically sold with drills, the impact driver is considered a staple for any DIY’er and can be seen in most American homes. Compact impact drivers usually have more than enough torque to easily handle 90% of situations you’ll throw at it. I also suggest getting a cordless impact driver if the price difference isn’t an issue or you have already invested in a cordless battery platform.
Jigsaw tool uses
Aside from a scroll saw and band saw, the jigsaw is about the only other tool used to make straight or curved cuts with a reciprocating blade powered by an electrical motor. Common materials you would use a jigsaw to cut are particle board, plywood, certain metals and even ceramic tiles. It could also be used for some light demolition work in tight areas where a saw or reciprocating saw/sawzall would not have access.
Most jigsaws come with a sole that lets you adjust it to make cuts of up to a 45 degree bevel, although not used most of the time. Well equipped ones will also let you put it in orbital cutting which makes the blade slightly pivot forward and back.
If the option is included, some jigsaws allow you to adjust the speed of the blade, thus preventing a blade from burning and getting ruined. It is imperative to use the proper blade for each material in order to get cleaner cuts and have a prolonged blade life. Although a cordless jigsaw would be slightly heavier than a corded one, you have to bear in mind that you won’t be interfered by the cord nor will you have to fight the pull it may give. The orbital cut is neat to do quick rough cuts as it allows you to chew through the material much faster, but for precise work it’s best to keep it at regular cut.
Circular saw uses
The Circular saw uses a fast spinning blade to cut through lumber and other materials depending on the blade in use. The depth of the cut can be adjusted on the tool and so can the bevel. It’s very practical due to its smaller size and portability.
Circular saws mostly have a sole that lets you adjust your angle of up to 50 degrees. Being a potentially dangerous tool if misused, they come packed with safety features such as an e-brake, blade guard and safety triggers. Other options that may come with the circular saw are led lights for better visibility and laser guides. Dust management options are also offered for this tool.
The typical blade you will find on a circular saw is 7 ¼ inches diameter, but it important to know what you will be cutting in order to get the adequate blade and circular saw. Corded vs cordless once again depends on budget, but I personally suggest investing in cordless because you can later on buy other cordless tools and use those same batteries, given you have the same battery platform.
Another important detail to consider is the power of the circular saw (measured in amps). The more the amps, the more the power. If you need to cut through hard, dense material, a higher amp saw would be best.
WET / DRY VACUUM
Wet / dry vacuum uses
The wet / dry vacuum uses an electrical motor inside its shell and uses vacuum to pick up debris, dust and liquids. They usually come equipped with a blower function, although nothing compared to an actual blower tool, it can quickly clean the dust off mitre saws and other various objects.
Some tool brand wet / dry vacuums now come with an electrical cord, some are cordless and interestingly enough, some come with both. They’re also usually small in size to make carrying to job sites a breeze. Alongside most wet / dry vacuums you will find a different array of nozzles to facilitate the mess you’re trying to pick up. Like we’ve mentioned above, they also have the option to act as a small blower pushing away dust and debris.
Sometimes overlooked, I’m positive we can think of moments where we had a wet / dry vacuum to save the day. The cordless feature is a great addition, but doesn’t provide much runtime (we’re talking between 15-30 minutes of vacuuming), but should suffice for small household and jobsite tasks. Best of both worlds would suggest to have both corded and cordless on the tool, and I certainly agree. Keep in mind that you’ll need a bigger wet / dry vacuum with more power for tougher and longer jobs.
Oscillating tool uses
Perhaps the most versatile power tool one could have, the oscillating multi tool is designed to saw metal or wood, grind, polish, rasp and sand. You could use it to remove grout, silicone, mouldings cut various pipes, drywall, and even perform deep cuts in wood. Powered by an electrical motor, the tool attachment sways sideways at very high speeds allowing it to perform delicate and precise work efficiently.
Oscillating tools usually come with a quick interchangeable attachment mechanism where you only need around 3 seconds to swap out attachments. You can also find some with LED lights for better visibility and even a depth stopper, so you can predefine how deep you want to cut. Some even let you install the attachment at an angle for a better work position. Not to mention that some come equipped with a variable speed trigger.
The oscillating tool can easily replace several power tools if carrying is a problem. It gained praise and popularity in the 2000’s as more and more DIY’ers found more utility using it. I personally own one and it has helped me in countless kitchen remodelings and demolitions, where backsplash tile adhesive and silicone proved to be tenacious. Definitely a must to any professional or home owner.
Mitre saw uses
Mitre saws have a blade attached to the head of the tool that pivots downwards in order to make a cross cut on lumber and can also make mitre cuts (angled cuts). Unlike a table saw, the piece you’re cutting is immobile and the blade does the work. Often used in woodworking, it is used to make consecutive chop cuts of same length once you set a stopper. Compound mitre saws allow you to get a miter and a compound simultaneously, although not frequently used.
This saw comes packed with tons of safety features, similar to the circular saw. It is a semi-stationary tool that has a blade cover, safety trigger, and some even come with laser guides, LED lights and an e-brake. The size range of mitre saws can be determined by the diameter of their blade: 7 ½, 10 or 12 inches. The bigger the blade, the bigger the cutting capability. To my knowledge, only Dewalt offers a cordless mitre saw and it is simply great because it also comes with a cord so you can use it either way and delivers great performance.
Mitre saws are a great cutting tool if you have the space to set one up. Generally I’d suggest getting at least a 10 inch mitre saw because it will allow you to easily any mitre cut in a 4 inch thick piece of lumber. If you’d want to make a compound cut on a 4 inch piece of lumber you’d best use a 12 inch mitre saw. It is possible to perform said cut with a smaller saw but you’d have to flip the piece around and it just isn’t practical. Getting a mitre saw with an e-brake is a worthwhile investment as not only can it potentially spare you a limb, there is less downtime between cuts because you don’t have to wait for the blade to stop spinning in order to cut again.
Hammer drill uses
Hammer drills are used mainly for drilling into hard materials such as concrete or bricks (masonry). In addition to having the capability of drilling, it delivers several small and quick impacts to chip away at the material as it drills. The hammer drill’s hammering system has two ridged discs that slide onto each other as the drill spins, creating consecutive mini impacts.
Most hammer drills come with a clutch similar to regular drills and have the hammer option, used when drilling into masonry. They come with variable speed trigger and usually with a speed selector (slower for more torque and faster for drilling). LED lights are just about standard on hammer drills and they mostly come with a ratcheting chuck.
If you plan on drilling through masonry often or use it for work, i definitely suggest purchasing a good hammer drill and maybe even consider a rotary drill, as they are heavier duty for masonry drilling. Also to consider is the depth and width of the hole you need to drill. I will be writing a more in-depth guide in the coming weeks on how to pick an appropriate hammer drill / rotary hammer.
Angle grinder uses
Angle grinders have multiple uses, all depending on which disc you equip it with. This power tool uses an electrical powered engine to spin the tools attachments at over 10,000 RPM to complete tasks. You could use it to cut, polish, remove excess material, sand and grind on many materials such as metal, wood and masonry.
You will find different sizes of angle grinders out on the market, ranging from 3 ½, to 9 inches. The angle grinder is a potentially dangerous tool if misused, and due to the nature of how the tool works, not many safety features were added to this day. Aside from your standard debris guard, companies have started including an e-brake to their tools, which greatly decreases the stopping time of the tool once you release the trigger, preventing accidental cuts.
The attachments you can find for angle grinders are of wide variety for a multitude of uses, but I will get to them in another post for a more in-depth analysis.
The safety feature of an e-brake is definitely interesting, as we should not put a price on our safety – Once you get hurt, it’s easy to justify that extra amount of $ in the form of “I should’ve got it” but the key is prevention. I’d also suggest to get the angle grinder size that’s appropriate for the job. The attachments you will be getting for your angle grinder will cost you much more the bigger your angle grinder is. If you also don’t mind spending some extra dollars on a cordless angle grinder, it may be interesting. I say may because while the tool will have the cordless freedom, it will be noticeably heavier if you give it a big battery. I’d suggest going in store and weighing it for yourself.
This should sum up most questions regarding the most commonly used power tools out there. If there’s any missing information you think is pertinent to add, feel free to contact me and we’ll get that added!