While hand tools work very well if all you are doing is putting up the occasional coat hook, a power tool is often the best choice for more heavy-duty projects and can more than half the duration of the task.
Power tools are modern essentials for almost any DIY project. While hand tools work very well if all you are doing is putting up the occasional coat hook, a power tool is often the best choice for more heavy-duty projects and can more than half the duration of the task.
After you’ve settled on what tool you need for the job, you’ll have to choose between corded, electric, battery, pneumatic, or petrol and pick out a brand. Each power type has advantages and disadvantages, so you should consider carefully what you need.
Corded power tools are popular and very easy to use – just plug in and you’re ready to go. However, you’ll have to pay attention to where the cord is at all times to avoid either tripping on it or cutting through it while working.
Cords also limit the manoeuvrability of the tool which can make it difficult to work outside or away from sockets.
Battery power tools are also very popular as they’re easy to set up and convenient to transport. The main downside to battery power is that they can run out at inconvenient moments, forcing you to stop working. They also tend to be have less force than other options.
If you want battery power, we recommend making sure that all your battery-powered tools use interchangeable batteries so that you have multiple spares charged up and ready to go.
Pneumatic power tools are a great choice. They’re more powerful and compact than electric models and don’t require any fuel. They do have manoeuvrability limitations due to the air cord and require purchasing an air compressor, but if you’re already set up for air tools then they can be a fantastic option.
Petrol power tools are generally only used at the professional and industrial level as they can be very heavy and difficult to control. They are normally the most powerful option and have no limitations due to cords, but for most DIY projects, petrol power tools are overkill.
Drive screws or drill pilot holes with power drills. Whether you’re doing light DIY around the house, putting up drywall or starting a large woodworking project, a power drill can be invaluable. They are hugely versatile tools which can help you finish your project in a jiffy.
As you’ll rely on power drills year after year, it’s best to get one that you can rely upon to last so you should consider choosing a drill from a high-end brand such as Makita, Bosch, or Milwaukee.
Combi drills are the most common type of power drill available as they drive screws as well as drill holes in wood and plastics. These are the power tools that you will probably end up reaching for most often as they are hugely necessary for a variety of projects.
Hammer drills are used to drill into concrete and hard masonry surfaces as ordinary drills can’t drill into these surfaces without risking damage to the motor. These drills work by applying impact force in the direction you are drilling, allowing you to make short work of tough materials.
SDS hammer drills are more efficient versions that allow for more power to be transferred with less effort, so if you have a large project ahead of you and SDS hammer drill can be a great choice.
Right angle drills are used for tight spaces where regular drills might not easily fit. These can be especially useful when working in the home as you don’t have to cause damage to reach the place you’re working on.
Right angle drills can be less powerful than ordinary drills but are invaluable if you need to reach into restrictive spaces and don’t want to do any demolition work.
Grinders are fantastic for grinding, finishing, cleaning, and cutting a huge variety of materials. They are incredibly versatile as you can switch out different discs for different tasks, and come in two main varieties: handheld and stationary. These are powerful tools that you will use far more often than you might think, so you may want to choose a more expensive option from a quality brand like Makita.
Angle grinders are one of the most popular types of grinder as they can be used to easily cut metal, masonry, and ceramic, cut out mortar in brickwork, and sharpen large tools. They can also clean metal, remove paint, and shape wood – making them hugely versatile.
These tools are handheld and usually have a side handle to help you control it. However, they can be dangerous so keep your safety in mind while you’re using it.
Straight grinders, or die grinders, are more often used on projects where you can’t fit an angle grinder or for ones that require more detail. They are much lighter and easier to handle than angle grinders, perfect for detail and finishing work.
Saws are almost always the best tool for cutting materials to size for your project. While angle grinders can easily be used for rough cuts on thinner materials, if you want precise and straight cuts then a dedicated saw is the way to go.
Saws can be expensive but it’s worth the extra expense to get one that you can rely on to cut material easily and last longer. It’s a good idea to pick out a saw from professional quality brands like Bosch and Milwaukee so you know you can rely on them time after time.
Circular saws are generally used to make straight cuts in timber. The large teeth on circular saws can make cutting extremely fast and easy as blades with relatively few teeth can give a faster but rougher cut. For thick planking or posts you will need to go for a larger model that can take a larger sized disc blade.
Jigsaws are extremely versatile, used for cutting wood, metal, plastic, and more. They are so versatile because they can take a huge range of different blades designed for different purposes, and because they are incredibly easy to use.
As they have extremely narrow blades that can be used to cut curved profiles and even circles. These tools are usually used for cutting wood up to 4cm thick, although longer blades can be purchased to increase this.
Mitre saws are stationary bench saws used to make quick and precise chop cuts in wood. One of the best features of mitre saws is that they can be used to make very accurate angle cuts which is ideal for crown moulding, picture frames, door frames, and window casings.
Reciprocating saws are often used for demolition work. They work with the back and forth motion of a hand saw but without the hard work. They are much easier to control than circular saws when working above your head and can be used to cut through metal pipes and nails, wood, plaster, and more.
Reciprocating saws tend to be intuitive and can be very powerful, especially when working on your home.
Sanders are generally used for shaping and finishing woodworking projects, but they can also be used for priming as well as removing paint or varnish from wood. When using sanders, you should wear a dust mask as breathing in the dust can be harmful.
For larger or more intensive sanders, you should opt for a trade brand like Makita, but for smaller models you can find some great tools from domestic brands such as BLACK+DECKER.
Belt sanders are the powerhouses of sanding and can be used for a wide variety of jobs, such as trimming, sanding rough surfaces, levelling surfaces, and freehand shaping. They are very good at rapidly removing wood and are used for heavier projects such as levelling floorboards.
When using a belt sander, you shouldn’t need to press down with it, let the weight of the sander do the work for you. You should also try to work using clean new belts to avoid gouging.
Random orbital sanders move the sanding pad in an elliptical orbital motion while spinning to create a random pattern on your wood. This avoids swirl marks that can be caused by palm sanders and for a fine finish. The combination of these two sanding motions enables them to effectively remove paint and stains as well as creating a flawless finish.
Detail sanders are small sanders that excel at getting into small spaces for detail work. They are suited to dealing with curved surfaces, and their compact size makes them very easy to control so you can smooth your surface without damaging any of your detail work.
These are primarily used for finishing work, although they can also be great for sanding into difficult areas. These sanders are ideal for anyone serious about woodworking.
Take a look at our other power tool guides and how-to’s to learn how to use your new appliances. Why not begin with our guide to using a power drill?