Beginner’s Guide to Woodworking Power Tools

A beginning woodworker has a huge array of power tools from which to choose. It can be quite difficult to decide on just what power tools to purchase when you are standing in front of the impressive displays at Home Depot. With some careful consideration and a few tips from an experienced woodworker, you can make your tool investment wisely.

There are a couple of rules to buying power tools that I believe are essential to consider before making your purchase. The first rule is to consider the projects you are interested in building. If you will be building small projects such as jewelry boxes or toys, you won’t really need that $2,000 table saw. If you plan to build furniture and cabinets a quality table saw is essential. The second rule is to always buy the best tool you can afford. When speaking in terms of power tools the phrase, “You get what you pay for” is usually quite true.

Now with a few ground rules in place here are the power tools that I feel are essential to a beginner’s woodworking shop.

A Table Saw

The table saw is one of the most important and most used tools in almost every woodworkers shop. The table saw is very versatile and can perform many operations other than just making rip cuts and cross cuts. With different blades and jigs the table saw can be used for machining many of the most common woodworking joints. When buying a table saw again consider what it will be used for. A good quality bench model is fine for jewelry boxes and toys. For larger projects, you will need to look at larger contractor saws and cabinet saws.

A Circular Saw

Circular saws are very handy and can be quite versatile. It is most often used for cross cutting lumber. A circular saw can also be used along with a cutting guide to cut large sheets of plywood into more manageable sizes. A good circular saw for the occasional user can be bought in the $50 price range. For its inexpensive price tag and usefulness, every shop should have a circular saw.

A Jig Saw

Jig saws can cut through a variety of materials other than wood. You can fit them with a variety of blades to accomplish many cutting tasks. The most often use for a jig saw is cutting curves or making inside cuts that cannot be made with a circular saw.

A Good Drill

You will find that having a good corded or cordless drill will be very useful as your woodworking skills advance. A corded drill will generally speaking be less expensive than its cordless cousin. The drawback to the corded drill is that it is limited by the length of extension cord attached to it and the hassle of having a cord in the way. A good cordless drill is more expensive but more versatile. As long as you have a couple batteries with a full charge you can use it anywhere. Cordless drills also tend to be heavier so hand and arm fatigue can occur quicker. If you are considering a cordless drill, hold several different models in your hand in a variety of positions that you may be using the drill in. This will let you get a feel for its balance.

An Orbital Sander

Orbital sanders will save you lots of time when performing the tedious task of sanding. Some woodworkers like the old block and paper method; I prefer to save time for other more enjoyable parts to building my projects. Orbital sanders are easy to use and almost eliminate the chance of fouling your finish by sanding in the wrong direction.

A Router

Routers are one of the most fun tools found in most woodworker’s workshops. They are extremely versatile allowing the woodworker to machine decorative edges. Coupled with a router table or different jigs the router can make an endless variety of woodworking joints. I even use my router mounted in a router table to make raised panel cabinet doors. For the beginning woodworker a standard fixed base router with a 1 Ã?½ HP motor is sufficient.

We have taken a look at several power tools that a beginning woodworker would need to consider. If your budget is limited, I highly advise buying a table saw first. The many functions and versatility of the table saw make the table saw the center of most woodworker’s activities. As your budget allows and your skills increase you can add more tools to your collection. Base your buying decisions on what functions you will perform to help you decide which tool to buy next.

Take some time to decide how much you can spend and then start researching different tool manufacturers. A good place to start is in woodworking magazines. Most woodworking magazines will at least feature a tool article now and then, some in most every issue. Once you know a few brand names, check out the manufacturer’s websites. There is always a ton of information on the websites. Finally, shop around at home stores, hardware stores, lumberyards and tool retailers and ask questions. Above all enjoy your time with your tools, work often and work safely.

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