Power Tools and Their Uses: A Power Tool Guide

If you are relatively new to DIY or any sort of task that requires the use of power tools then you’ll want to be sure you are getting the right power tools for the work you want to carry out.

This a quick guide to help you choose the right Power Tools for your Projects.

Battery-Powered Drill

It is only right we start with the most popular power tool of them all… the drill.
Modern drills are powerful, cordless and capable of being used on a wide range of materials. The most common being wood and metal.

What is a cordless drill used for?

The most common use for a drill is drilling holes for screws/bolts or to feed cables through and being used as an electric screwdriver.

Commonly built with features like multiple speed settings for different materials and hammer action for tough masonry, the modern drill can take on tough materials like metal and thick masonry without any drama.
You will need to use the correct drill bits to match the material you are drilling for optimal results.

For driving screws a smaller 8V to 12V cordless drill or a dedicated driver is the professionals choice because they save so much time and effort that most tradesman would be lost without one.

For light drilling work like brick or wood, anything from 8V to 12v will be sufficient.
For heavy daily drilling on tougher materials like metal or constant masonry drilling a 24V lithium battery cordless drill or high powered corded model will not let you down.

The battery-powered models often come with a spare battery and super-fast 1-hour battery recharging, which is again going to be more important for contractors and tradesmen who have large amounts of drilling to get through.

Drill press
This is a fixed drill that is set up on a stand with different speed settings available to use on different thickness materials.
The depth is controlled by a turning handle operated by the user.

What is a drill press used for?

The drill press is a very common tool in engineering, metal, and woodworking workshops because of there fixed design they offer more precision and power than a conventual drill.

It can be used to drill holes to an accurate fixed depth and you can drill the same depth holes repeatedly.
They are powerful drills that can cope with drilling thick, tough metals and woods.
Drill presses are normally tough robust tools that can withstand heavy daily usage.

Drill presses come in 3 main design types which are the workbench fixed drill press, the portable drill press and the large fixed stand drill press that is mostly used in industrial workshops.

Now on to the many types of different electric saws available.

The compound miter saw
Much like the circular saw but with a fixed stand these offer stability and accurate cuts time after time.
This saw is mounted on a stand which helps to produce a straight accurate cut.

What is a Compound Miter Saw used for?

The compound miter saw, also called a chop saw, is a power tool used to chop wood across the grain quickly and accurately.
It can be used to cut angles and beveled cuts as well as straight cuts.
You can tackle things like crown molding, framing or trimming and they handle 2×4 wood easily.
In fact, you can cut the wood to frame an entire house using this power tool.
This will only cut in straight lines and it’s not possible to cut curves with it.

Circular Saw
Much like the compound saw in design but more portable and used on a larger range of materials.
These are very powerful saws that will stand up to really hard materials just as long as you use the correct blades that are designed to cut the materials you are working with.

What is the circular saw used for?

The circular saw can be used for many tasks and a large variety of materials with just a change of the blade.
It is a good all-rounder and not just a woodworking tool as it can cut metals, concrete, softwood, hardwood, stucco, glass, brick and ceramic tiles.

As far as its common uses are concerned, you can use it to cut wall openings in your house, holes for skylights, plywood and wood beams, and fence post tops.
Some common types of circular saw blades are high-speed steel, steel, diamond-tipped, carbide-tipped, and abrasive blades.

The Jigsaw
Another versatile machine is the jigsaw cutting tool.
Now regularly fitted with low vibration motors, laser guides and dust removal systems that allow for super-accurate cuts even when they are a challenging curved or decorative shapes.

What is the Jigsaw used for?

The jigsaw is one of the most maneuverable cutting tools of all the saws, allowing you to cut in straight lines or complex shapes and curves.
It’s the professional’s choice to cut curved holes in kitchen countertops and sinks or fitted cooker tops.
It’s the go-to tool for any type of curved cutting task and can cut woods, metal, plastic, perspex, plasterboard, and pipe with just a quick blade change.

There is a limit to the thickness of material it can cut through but a large jigsaw will manage to cut through over an inch thickness wood easily if you use the right blade for the job.
Most users will never need to chop through over an inch thick wood and so a small or average size will be adequate for most DIY tasks.
You can find the thickness of the materials it can work within the jigsaws description and they all have different capabilities so it’s important to check that before you choose one.

The jigsaw is also heavily favored for craft and art projects because of its capabilities to cut tricky shapes.

Table Saw
These come in a large array of sizes from the big daddy of saws used to cut full boards of wood in straight lines to the smaller hobby version and everything in-between.

What is a table saw used for?

A table saw is used to cut wood boards in long lengths, and can also be used to make some angle cuts and chop cuts.
These saws are often used in workshops or by manufacturing companies who will be working with full boards of woods and chopping them down to various sizes.

Some examples of the type of businesses that will use these are kitchen, doors and furniture manufacturers.
There are many big commercial models but more commonly the portable model is used by more people and businesses.

As with any electric saw safety is paramount and there are safety guidelines you must follow.

You can set the angle and depth of your blade and you feed the wood through it using the adjustable guide to keep the wood perfectly straight as you feed it through the saw blade.

Reciprocating Saw
Another portable saw that is versatile and tough.
The jigsaw wins when it comes to cutting curved and patterned shapes out of the wood but this saw is the most versatile when it comes to getting into tight gaps and limited spaces to cut materials flush.

What is a reciprocating saw used for?

It is commonly used to chop wood, metal, plasterboard and tree branches.
These are aggressive saws with a high amount of power. You may have seen the fire brigade using them to free trapped crash victims. That’s how powerful they can come.
Really useful for cutting things flush to a wall or a flat surface because the way they are designed they can get right in there.
This makes them a particular favorite for trimming branches back in the garden.
There are corded or cordless models available, the cordless version is the most popular choice and can impressively match the performance and power of the corded version.

Now let’s move on away from the saw power tools and take a look at the different models of sanders available.

Detailed Palm Sander
Called a palm sander because it’s a small sander usually maneuvered by the palm of your hand.

What do you use a palm sander for?

The palm sander is very useful for sanding detailed or patterned wood to get it prepared for a recoat.
With its small design and pointed front, it’s a nimble sander that is more suited to smaller sanding jobs because of the smaller sanding base size offering less coverage than a belt sander.
Although it will complete larger tasks it will take much longer than a larger sanding based sander.

Where this sander really comes into its own is working on detailed wood workpieces like banisters, patterned fireplaces, coffee tables with decorative patterns.
This can get into really small and tight shapes where other sanders cannot reach making it really helpful when you have shaped or decorative wood you need to take some layers off before applying a recoat.

What is an Orbital Sander?
The orbital sander has a round sanding pad and works the same as a disc sander by rotating at around 12000rpm.

What is the Orbital Sander used for?

This sander is ideal for flat wooden surfaces.

They can be used on a good range of workpieces like chairs, banisters, and tables to prepare the flat surface for a recoat.
Make sure you use the correct grit rated pads to get the finish you desire.
One of the advantages of using an orbital sander is it doesn’t scratch the wood even when used against the grain.

What is a Belt Sander?
The belt sander is the most commonly used sander of all the electric sanders. It’s a portable tool that comes in various sizes and power models.

What is a belt sander used for?

The belt sander is used for large, medium and small flat wood surfaces to remove unwanted layers of paint or varnish to prepare it for a full recoat.
They really save time on large sanding tasks and are used to sand wood furnishings and furniture doors, door frames, tables, skirting boards, cupboards, and fences.
It is best to go with the grain when sanding with a belt sander because it will leave fine scratches if you don’t.
They are also sometimes used on plaster surfaces to give a smooth finish.
As with any sander you need to match up the sandpaper to match the work you are facing, (see below for help selecting the correct sandpaper).

Sandpaper choice
We can’t cover electric sanders without going over the choices of sandpaper pads, belts and sheets as they are a big part of getting the right results.
If you are facing multiple layers of paint or varnish you will want a low grit count sandpaper that will get through stubborn layers.
If the workpiece is nearly down to the wood or is down to the bare wood it’s best to use high grit sandpaper which will give the best smooth finish.

Sandpaper size guide

Many people understandably get confused by what size sandpaper, sanding pads or sanding belts they will need for their sander, and with such a large number of different models of sanders on the market, it’s understandable.

I could list the hundreds of different sizes and types here but there is no need.
Most of the sanding pads, sheets, and belts are a universal size and have cross-compatibility across all the brands so you don’t have to find the ones that are sold by the same manufacturer.

The most important part is matching the size and type.
If you check the size of your sander and then look online for that size you will find a huge selection to choose from.
If you search by brand you will limit yourself and there won’t be nearly as big of selection to pick from.

You will need to make sure they are the correct type of sanding pad, sheet or belt and add the size and hey presto hundreds of results to choose from.

An example of how you can search online would be…

orbital sander 5-inch sanding discs
or belt sander 4-inch sanding belts

As you can see it’s better to start with the type of sander and then the size and you will be spoilt for a choice instead of having a smaller selection to choose from.

Electric Planer
Looking and working much like the hand plainer but with an electric motor and moving blade.

What is an electric plainer used for?

Its purpose is the same as that of a hand planer it shaves off thin wood slices off the surface to help produce smooth or better fitting wood workpieces. The most common use of an electric plainer is to trim one of the lengths of a door to make it fit better.

Well, houses shift with temperature and age, so if you are facing the problem of doors not fitting or windows not closing, this tool will give you the perfect solution because it’s more of a gradual trimming tool than cutting with a saw but faster than using a sander to sand it down to size.

It can be used to cut corners off wood and scribes. It can also be used to remove thick paints in extreme cases when there is multiple stubborn layers.

An electric planer works automatically, so it is much faster and easier to use than hand planers.
Since it is very similar in design to a hand planer, it’s easy to use it with stability and accuracy.

A router has many uses it’s a portable and a unique power tool because of its spinning bit that is sharp and rotates at a very high speed to create a clean, precise cut and grooved, patterned finish.

What is a router used for?

A router can be used in various ways as a blade to finish edges as well as for contours and patterned grooves.

With the variety of router bits available, you can create many different styles of edges and patterned grooving.

This versatility comes from the router bits which let the power tool be used for multiple tasks.
Instead of using a jigsaw to cut holes, you can use the router. You can also use it to create patterns or curved edges like the ones you see on fancy coffee tables and details like dovetails on cabinets and a raised panel.

Router table
This is exactly as it sounds it’s a table that helps give you a solid table to work from.

What is a router table used for?

Router tables come in many different sizes from large fixed router tables to small portable router tables.
They have adjustable guards to help you arrange the workpiece into the precise position need and give the person carrying out the router work an easier time than just using a table or workbench.
This is because the time it takes to set up the workpiece on a standard workbench is longer and more difficult whereas the dedicated router table has been made to be convenient for the router operator and comes equipped with adjustable guides and parts.

Some router tables even have the router permanently attached to the table and it is adjusted and set up in position on the table.

Biscuit Cutter
A biscuit cutter is a power tool with a metal base and a hard plastic case while a circular metal saw blade emerges from the base. This circular blade comes out at a certain depth and cuts oval-shaped holes in the wood.

What is a biscuit cutter used for?

It’s commonly used to cut oval-shaped holes so that biscuit-shaped timber pieces can be inserted. It’s a common tool for woodworkers and finds many uses in home improvement as well. Its best feature is that it can be adjusted to work on different timber widths and it’s extremely portable.

Air Compressor
Powerful bursts of compressed air supply energy air tools and applications.

Even a small one can pump up bike tires, manage delicate airbrushing, blow sawdust from tight spaces, and manage strong pneumatic tools such as finish nail guns, staple guns, wrenches, and sanders.

Rotatory multi-tool
The rotary multi-tool is another versatile tool that is very popular among hobbyists and professionals alike. it’s manageable and versatile, the blades and accessories can get a bit expensive.

What is the multitool used for?

You can use a MultiMaster tool for small tasks like sanding, cutting, scraping, polishing and sawing with great accuracy and a great degree of control.
They are not suitable for anything but small precise tasks.

Nail Gun
Nail guns are the power tool alternative of a hammer and nail. They drive nails into materials with brute force and are not to be taken lightly.

What are nail guns used for?

The nail gun has been designed to save time and save effort by driving nails into normally wooden materials.
Using a system that allows for the storage and the use of a large number of nails that can be driven into wood at a very quick rate.
With an impressive 500 nails loading capacity the nail gun can keep going for a couple of days before you need to reload.
The smaller versions are capable of driving a 5cm nail and the larger nail guns can drive much bigger nails into the wood for framing work.

Angle grinder
These are very powerful cutting and cleaning tools used on various metals.
The angle grinder is handheld a tool that should be taken seriously whenever it’s being operated because the rotating disc can be moving at high revolutions per minute and the discs can break up if the grinder is being used incorrectly.

What is an angle grinder used for?

These power tools are very common in metalwork, engineering and welding, and fabrication workshops and industrial sites. They are also often used by mechanics to cut away or clean up metal.
They are generally used to cut through metal pipes, angle iron, and any small metal bars.
They are also very commonly used to clean up metal surfaces and pipe ends so the welder has a nice clean edge to weld the pipes together.

That’s the round-up of the most common power tools and there uses.
I will update this weekly adding new tools on a regular basis.

To be continued…