Power Tools Buyer's Guide

When tackling your household to-do list, most projects can be done using simple hand held tools. But for many DIYers, often simply swinging a hammer won't cut it. Adding a few power tools to your collection will help speed up any home project, from hanging a shelf or some blinds to repairing a hole in your drywall.

Power tools are typically classified as portable or stationary and can be used for drilling, cutting, sanding, grinding and much more. Portable power tools are extremely versatile and can be used for a wide range of household tasks. Stationary power tools supply more power than their portable counterparts and are used for more substantial home improvement projects such has framing a room or building a deck.

There are many options to choose from when adding power tools to your home workshop. Here we will take a look at some of the more common types:

Common Power Tools

Drills

Power drills are a fundamental part of a toolkit for use in any apartment, home or job site. One of the most frequently purchased power tools, a good drill can be used for a variety of projects both big and small. When choosing a power drill, you will have two options:

  • Cordless drills : These are battery powered and a popular choice because they are easy to use, portable, and extremely versatile. When choosing a cordless drill, consider a variable speed drill which gives the operator control over the bit speed. This allows for use on a variety of materials including wood, metal and masonry.
  • Corded drills : This type of drill is more powerful than its cordless counterpart and can be used for a variety of heavier drilling tasks including concrete drilling and even paint mixing. Because they need to be plugged in, electric drills are great for use in home workshops and eliminate having to wait for a battery charge. Since electric drill power is measured in amperage, make sure the drill has enough amps to meet your needs.

In order to get the maximum use out of you drill you need to use the right drill bits. Drill bits are available for just about every occasion. Whether you are drilling through steel or soft wood, choosing the correct bit will make any drilling task easier.

Impact Wrenches and Drivers

When tackling automotive repairs in your garage, impact wrenches can be used for tightening and loosening bolts on car tires. Impact wrenches are considered "high-torque" power tools and are essential for removing "cemented" on or corroded vehicle and motorcycle tires or bolts. Impact drivers give you that extra force needed to drive a fastener into a hard surface. Impact wrenches and drivers come in both cordless and corded models. Similar to drills, the cordless impact wrench is popular due to its portability, while the corded version tends to add more power thanks to the constant power supply.

Grinders

Another helpful tool for your collection is the power grinder. Available with a variety of accessories, angle grinders can be used to cut through steel, remove rust, and even polish or buff your car. A hand grinder can be used to remove paint from an old door or cut tile for your bathroom. The options for your grinder usage are endless!

Accessorizing your angle grinder with different types of grinding wheels makes it a versatile tool. Using a sanding wheel, the grinder is a powerful sanding machine for serious material removal. A masonry grinding wheel will easily cut through stone and concrete, while a metal grinding wheel will make weld seams flat and smooth in no time. This tool is great for cutting, shaping, grinding, and sharpening all materials from concrete to metal.

Saws

Power saws take all the effort out of cutting wood and other materials, and, when used correctly, they can be safer than hand held saws. Power saws can make a large job more manageable and will help you get your job done quickly and efficiently. Since there are several power saws to choose from, let's focus on some of the more common models:

  • Circular Saws : These saws are one of the most popular power saws on the market. They feature a powerful circular blade used mostly for cutting wood. A circular saw can make many types of cuts such as crosscuts, rip cuts and bevels.
  • Reciprocating Saws : A great choice for demolition, reciprocating saws can saw through most any material. Used primarily for rough cuts, their powerful blade is perfect for easily cutting through plaster, drywall, metal and other surfaces. Consider a cordless reciprocating saw if you need more maneuverability. Add different attachments/blades to buff, scrape, brush, cut and file the material you are working with.
  • Jigsaws : With a jigsaw you will be making precise straight and curved cuts. A bit of finesse is required when using a jigsaw to make intricate cuts through wood, soft metals, tile and stone. While a corded jigsaw offers more power, a cordless jigsaw allows for portability.
  • Table Saws : When you need to cut larger pieces (and amounts) of wood, look no further than a table saw. Because their blades are adjustable, table saws work well for precisely cutting plywood sheets and different sizes of lumber. Consider using a saw guide to ensure cuts are to your exact measurements.

Routers

A router is used to hollow out, shape or "route", an area in a piece of wood. Routers are commonly used by woodworkers for cabinetry and other custom furniture. Available in both handheld and table top models, routers use a variety of router bits and attachments to hollow and shape wood to create beautiful patterns and edges.

Sanders

A sander is an essential part of any woodworking shop. Sanders offer a flawless finish to your woodworking projects in a fraction of the time it would take using a hand sander. There are a variety of different sanders available that are appropriate for various tasks. Here are some of the more common types:

  • Belt Sanders : A belt sander uses a continuous loop of sandpaper to easily smooth rough spots or remove paint from old wood. Belt sanders tend to move pretty quickly, so choose one with a variable speed switch to have better control over your sander. These are designed for fast material removal.
  • Orbital Sanders : An orbital sander is a hand-held sander that works great for sanding right to the edge of a surface. Orbital sanders can be either round or square. Another category of orbital sander, the random orbital sander, sands in a completely random orbit leaving behind a smoother finish. These sanders spin at speeds of up to 25,000 rotations-per-minute (RPMs) and are used for larger areas.
  • Detail Sanders : A detail sander is designed for fine sanding and getting into tight areas. It uses triangular-shaped sand paper to help the operator maneuver into compact spaces with ease.

Planers

A planer is used to level a piece of wood by shaving layers off of its surface. A portable planer is great for smaller jobs and produces smooth cuts. Planers with a depth stop give you the ability to choose how thick your layers will be cut. Look for planers with a dust bag to contain any spun off debris.

Multi-Tool Kits/Oscillating Tools

A multi-tool kit can include two or more of these common power tools in one kit. There are also several oscillating toolkits on the market that streamline usage through a single tool with multiple attachments. These interchangeable attachments are typically used for scraping, sanding and cutting tasks.

Having access to multiple tools at once gives you the ability to complete your project without having to run out to purchase each tool separately. Consider the type of work you will be doing, to determine the type of multi-tool kit that will best serve your needs.

Power Tools Buying Tips

While power tools can be relatively easy to operate, it's important to take several factors into consideration for the best experience. "Should I get a corded or cordless power tool?" or "What types of batteries can I choose from?" are just a couple questions you should ask yourself when buying a new power tool. Following is a closer look at some of these common considerations:

Corded or Cordless Power Tools : The choice between a portable or electric power tools comes down to your personal needs. While electric tools provide more power, you are confined to areas that have a power outlet. If you need to be able to maneuver and get into tight spaces, a cordless power tool may be the better option.

Power Tool Battery Types : If you decide to go with a cordless tool, you will need a battery. When choosing a battery for your portable power tool, there are three options: nickel cadmium (NiCad), nickel metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium ion (Li-Ion). Here's a closer look at each:

  • NiCad : Nickel cadmium batteries are the original power tool battery. They are considered to be the most reliable of batteries since they gave a high recharge cycle and can be charged over and over for a long period of time. NiCad batteries are not temperature sensitive and therefore can be used in all climates.
  • Li-Ion : Often found in cell phones and cameras, Lithium Ion batteries are significantly lighter and run longer than NiCad's. Li-Ion batteries also hold a charge up to 18 months and get more charging cycles than NiCad batteries. Electronic signals between the tool, charger and battery insure the tool is running most efficiently for the job application. Li-Ion batteries are also more environmentally friendly than other battery types.

Power Voltage : Most cordless tools are measured in volts ranging from 3.6 to 36 volts. The key thing to remember here is the more volts you have the heaver your power tool will be. A 36 volt cordless drill could weigh up to 10 lbs.! Consider what you will be using your power tool for and choose based on your findings. Tools that are 12 and 18 volts are the most common and work well for every project or job, small to large.

Power tools offer speed and ease of use unparalleled by traditional hand tools. Choosing the correct power tools to meet your needs is fundamental to efficiently completing all your household tasks. Using this buyer's guide will help you better navigate the power tools aisle.

Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

© 2014 Ace Hardware Corporation. Ace Hardware Corporation and Ace Hardware Corporation logo are registered trademarks of Ace Hardware Corporation
HACKER SAFE certified sites prevent over 99% of hacker crime.

Add Item to To-Done List

To use this feature you must be signed-in to your account, please sign in now. If you do not have an account, please create an account to participate.

Ace Rewards

Ace Rewards is a free and rewarding membership program that lets you earn rewards with every purchase you make! Join now.