In Part The First of this series, I spoke about hand tools only but now let’s talk about power tools and which ones you should drop your hard earned coin on if you’re new to the whole making stuff on your own world.
My opinion is that the first power tool a person should get is an electric drill. While hand saws, files, sandpaper, and other tools can all do the job their powered counterparts can, just slower (and more controlled), it is nigh on impossible to drill a hole without an electric or similarly powered tool. There are hand powered drills but if you’re ever going to drill a hole in anything harder than soft wood, pack a lunch because you’re going to be there a while. Speaking of power systems, electric drills come in both corded varieties that you have to plug in and ones with rechargeable battery packs and both have their advantages. Rechargeables are really nice in that you’re not dragging a cord around but having a battery go dead mid way through a project is a serious drag. The corded varieties often are far more powerful than their battery powered cousins and rechargeable batteries have a finite lifespan which will have to be replaced over the life of the tool whereas a quality corded drill will last generations. As an intelligent person, you’re probably already aware of where I’m going with this; unless you have a specific reason to go with a cordless/rechargeable, a 3/8 or 1/2 inch drive corded drill is a solid choice for a first power tool and dragging an extension cord is worth the extra, unlimited power.
Okay, so now what? Here’s where I’m going to have this thought train branch three different directions: wood projects, metal projects, and all of the above.
Wood working (he he he he “wood”) is an entire skill set in of itself in that mankind has spent several thousand years figuring out how to get the most out of this material but I’ll be honest and tell you I can and often do build stuff out of wood but it’s not my preferred material to work with. That being said, in my opinion, if your interest is making stuff out of wood a handheld circular saw is invaluable. They can do everything from ripping huge pieces of plywood to manageable pieces to trimming a piece of moulding to length and are relatively inexpensive. You can certainly do everything with a handsaw that you can with a circular saw, but they radically increase the speed at which you cut stuff, including your fingers so be careful.
Why would heavy metal ever go away?
But what if wood (he he he) isn’t your thing and you’d rather play with steel, aluminum, brass, and copper? Tell us, oh random internet dude! Without a doubt, an angle grinder is a must have and darn good beginner tool for anyone who wants to dabble in metal working or simply wants a seriously multitasking tool around the house. By simply swapping wheels, they can sand, cut, grind, polish, and clean everything from oil drums to cast iron and they even make chainsaw style blades for these things. Like I said about drills above, cordless varieties area available and have their place but I like never having a battery to go dead.
“That is all well and good, Patrick, but what if I’m not sure what I want to do and just need some tools around the house?” Well, if you’ve already got a drill and you see yourself cutting a large variety of materials, sometimes in weird and hard to reach positions, then maybe a reciprocating saw is what you need? Basically, a reciprocating saw can cut damn near anything, including metal and stone, simply by switching out the blades (I cut an 8″ diameter tree down with one a couple weeks ago) and generally is like a handsaw that operates at Superman on meth speeds. While technically an angle grinder can do “more” they are limited in cutting capacity by the width of their wheels in a way reciprocating saws are not. Now you can get metal and stone blades for a circular saw, they often won’t get into the places or make the weird cuts a reciprocating saw will.
So there’s my suggestions for a person’s first few power tools. I hope this helps anyone unsure of what they need.