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Power tools for the beginner...

This was a question I asked a few years ago on another forum. The feedback from tool jockeys with years of experience was invaluable and will help out a lot of people visiting this forum. Feel free to add your recommendations. As Christmas is approaching quickly, this will also help out those looking for gifts that won't get returned.


"You get what you pay for." This old mantra definitely holds true for power tools. It is definitely better to buy fewer quality tools than to go cheaper and get more tools. Save up and buy the best tool you can, adding quality tools to your collection as your wallet allows.


1. Circular Saw

When used with a clamp-on straight-edge or speed square, the circular saw can handle many of the tasks and be just about as accurate as a table saw. When woodworking on a budget, the circular saw should be the first handheld power tool purchased.

2. Drill

Cordless tools, in general, are where a good share of the market is headed. Definitely a plus on the mobility and convenience front, they aren't necessarily wallet friendly if on a tight budget. When we're talking about basic power woodworking tools, a corded drill is more versatile and powerful. A variable speed, 3/8",  reversible drill can be used for more than just drilling holes. Driving screws, tightening nuts on bolts, striping paint, grinding, polishing, etc, all jobs that can be done with a good drill.


3. Router

Start with a good variable speed, soft start, fixed based router with at least a 2HP motor. Build or buy a router table to use with your router. Jobs such as easing the edge or a table or cutting a rabbet for a shelf are made possible for the beginner with a good router and selection of bits.


4. Jigsaw

Curved and circular cuts happen with this handy tool. Again, variable speed is a plus. Also look for an orbital action blade. Consider a model that allows for easy blade changes. Many are available that accept U or T shanks making blade selection easier.


5. Sander

Look for a random orbital sander. While palm sanders are cheaper and can use ordinary sand paper, they can leave sanding patterns in your work. Orbital won't. Whether you choose self-stick or hook/loop, personal preference and availability of discs will make this choice for you.


After these, you'll start looking at table saws, compound miter saws and more.


Some basic hand tools can make your power tools better. A good metal straight edge and clamps will help you make those long cuts with your circular saw nice and straight. For about $20, you can purchase a purpose built straight edge that comes in two 4' pieces and with clamps. Joined together, you can rip down a whole sheet of plywood. While on this topic of sawing straight, add a speed square for cross cutting your dimensional lumber.


Hand saw. Whether you buy a standard 20" hand saw or the Japanese style pull saws, either will come in handy. Some of the Japanese style saws have two cutting edges for ripping and cross cutting. While they may take getting used to at first, once you've used it for a couple of jobs, you won't want that standard hand saw again. They cut on the pull stroke rather than on the push, easier to control and more accurate.


Saw horse, saw bench, work bench, etc. Buy or build your own with your basic set of tools. They're invaluable.


A good set of drill bits and countersinking bits. Add to that a variety of screw driving bits. Many manufacturers make complete sets and with Christmas coming along, you can find great values.


A hot melt glue gun. Don't steal the craft gun from your wife, get your own and make it a cordless model. Hot melt glue makes for an easy way to tack pieces together, acting as that third hand, when you're trying to screw small pieces together.


Speaking of holding things together, can you ever have enough clamps? The more and varied the better. C-clamps, bar clamps, pipe clamps, band clamps, corner clamps, 3-way clamps, spring clamps, wood handscrew clamps... The list goes on and on. At the risk of sounding repetitive, you can never have too many clamps.


Now it's your turn, add your suggestions and thoughts.

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Posted 2011-09-20T18:13:13+0000  by Paul Paul

I agree with Paul on his list of tools to have to start and that the more you spend it is true you do get better quality. One thing I would say though is that before asking for a tool or buying a new tool do some research and see what others say about the tool you are interested in because sometimes I have found that price does not always guarantee that you are getting the best tool.


I have bought 10" table saws and ended up selling one at a loss because I did not like the fact that is had mushy settings on it. I ended up buying a table saw that was less but had all the right features on it that I am now very happy with.


And as a member of Red Green's Possum Lodge don't forget the Duct tape.


Posted 2011-10-31T21:21:23+0000  by 2011possumlodge

Hello 2011possumlodge.  Welcome to Home Depot’s how-to Community!


Great topic.  For beginners, finding the right choice for first tools can be a daunting task.  At my store, often I find customers looking at expensive cordless drill options for their first power tool. Delving further into what projects they are doing, I find that recommending a corded drill instead allows budget room for one or two other useful power tools.  The reason this works is that beginners are using their tools at home, where electrical power is always at most just an extension cord away.  The power tool business is quite competitive, making the “you get what you pay for” a pretty good guideline.  Generally professional level tools offer greater durability for daily usage, and often include other advantages as well.  As an example, pro level jig saws run glass-smooth, unlike most budget models.


Getting more to your point though, often the “right tool” is not the most expensive.  It’s the one that best meets the needs of the user.  Beyond function and durability, how a tool feels is a big part of that.


Thank you for your thoughts.  Please keep us updated on your projects and feel free to join in helping others.


Again, thanks for joining the community,


Posted 2011-11-01T17:00:40+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI
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