10 Essential Woodworking Power Tools for DIYers
Bring the tool to the project instead of the project to the tool! Portable woodworking power tools open up endless opportunities.
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Whether you’re a master craftsperson or new to woodworking, you’ll need some essential woodworking power tools for your projects. Shapes, sizes and costs will vary. There are corded and cordless versions of most of these tools as well. With advances in battery technology, sometimes a cordless version might be better than a corded one.
When it comes time to drill, drive, cut, plane, join, route or sand, you’ll reach for one of these power tools.
Drill and Driver Combo
Any beginner should start with a drill and driver combo as their first power tools. A drill and impact driver are each useful in their own way, but it’s much cheaper and more convenient to buy them together. That way you avoid multiple batteries/chargers laying around your shop.
The DeWalt 20-Volt Max Lithium Ion Drill Driver/Impact Driver Combo Kit is an excellent choice for any woodworker out there. These models feature a compact and lightweight design, LED lights, and ergonomic handles for comfort and control. The kit also includes two 1.3 amp-hour (Ah) batteries, a battery charger and carrying bag.
With more than 36,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, this combo kit is the real deal. Here are a few power tools storage ideas to help you organize your workshop.
- Strong 20V motors;
- Great battery life;
- More than 200 other DeWalt tools use the same batteries;
- Three-year warranty.
- Wish they had larger Ah batteries.
A router is one of the most versatile woodworking tools in the shop and my go-to. By spinning cutters or bits at speeds between 6,000 and 24,000 revolutions per minute (RPM), a router can create slots and grooves, shape edges, straighten material and even make joinery.
Routers are powerful, usually rated between 1-3/4- and 3-1/4-horsepower (hp). Each come with 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch collets for bits with different sized shafts. If a fence is added, the router tracks along the board’s edge, or a plunge base allows precise depth cutting.
The variable speed Makita D-Handle Router features a 2-1/4-hp motor and comfortable pistol-grip handle for extra stability. It comes with a smooth start system, trigger lock button and sturdy grip that can be adjusted for right-handers and lefties.
- Pistol grip handle;
- Powerful motor;
- Base must be removed to access collet.
A palm router is smaller and less powerful than a full-sized router, making it ideal for edge details, beveling and other light tasks. The first versions of this tool were called trim routers because cabinetmakers used them when trimming laminate on countertops. However, it soon became apparent a lightweight one-handed router would be useful.
The small base plate improves visibility, and the lower torque makes the tool easier to control. The Bosch Colt 1.25 HP Variable-Speed Palm Router Combination Kit offers lots of features, including an edge guide and separate fixed and plunge bases.
- Includes edge guide and plunge base;
- Strong variable speed motor;
- Single wrench bit changing.
- Poor micro-adjustment system.
Most projects involve some smoothing of wood, and random orbital sanders are the practical way to accomplish this. Available in five- and six-inch diameters, these sanders feature abrasives discs that attach to the sanding pad with hook-and-loop or a sticker-like adhesive.
The Bosch Sander’s soft body reduces vibration and takes hook-and-loop abrasives with eight holes for dust collection. The unit features a variable speed dial and dust filter system. It can connect to your shop vac for larger sanding jobs.
- Effective dust collection;
- Variable speed motor;
- Included storage bag.
- Not for quick material removal.
The old saying goes, “Bring the material to the tool, or the tool to the material.” This is definitely the case here! Handheld power planers aren’t necessary for every shop, but they’re invaluable for flattening rough lumber, fitting doors and straightening studs.
It takes patience and a lot of elbow grease to operate a traditional hand plane for these types of tasks. A tool like the DeWalt 3-1/4-Inch Hand Planer, which spins at 34,000 rpm and can take up to a 1/16-inch-deep cut, can complete these tasks in no time. Plus, when blades wear out you can replace or sharpen them inexpensively.
- Automatic kickstand;
- Edge chamfering groove;
- Affordable replacement blades.
- Dust collection port not included.
Cutting curves can be challenging, but a humble jigsaw simplifies the process. The Craftsman 20V Cordless Variable Speed Jigsaw comes with an adjustable base for cutting angles, three settings to adjust cut aggressiveness, and a quick clamp for tool-free blade changes.
Jigsaws can cut wood, medium density fiberboard (MDF), aluminum, steel, plastic and PVC. Though less powerful than a band saw, the jigsaw is ideal for large projects where it’s easier to bring it to the workpiece due to its light weight and accuracy.
- Variable speed trigger.
- No work light;
- Battery charger not included.
This handheld tool is ideal for gluing up boards. It features a small blade that spins horizontally, notching a crescent-shaped slot into a piece of wood. A mirroring slot can then be cut into the adjacent board before they’re glued.
A fence makes the slots align perfectly. Then a compressed football-shaped ‘biscuit’ is inserted, bringing the parts together. Glue swells the compressed biscuit, making an ultra-strong joint. The Porter Cable Plate Joiner comes with a comfortable handle with trigger and a fence that accurately adjusts. Depth of cut can be adjusted for different sized biscuits.
- Includes dust bag and storage case;
- Ergonomic trigger;
- User friendly.
- Poor dust collection;
- Precision tool — don’t drop it;
- More expensive than its peers.
Cutting up full sheets of plywood isn’t the easiest on a full sized cabinet saw, let alone a small jobsite version. That’s why I purchased a track saw when I started out building cabinets out of my garage.
Again, it’s always easier to move a lightweight saw over heavy material than the other way around. And though it took much longer to line up each individual cut, the quality was comparable to even the nicest blades on a table saw, especially when crosscutting plywood or melamine.
The Makita LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 6-1/2-in. Plunge Circular Saw is awesome. The dual 18V batteries deliver plenty of power. This saw is super accurate with excellent dust collection.
Because a track saw cuts from the above, it needs an extra piece of plywood or a rigid insulation sheet to act as a spoil board underneath. This will be slightly cut to ensure the blade has made it through your workpiece.
- Limits the need for a table saw;
- Excellent dust collection;
- Plunge cutting takes getting used to;
- Factor in a spoil board;
- Best to buy the clamps to hold the rail.
In contrast to rotating or reciprocating power tools, these feature a post that oscillates back and forth at high RPM to create cutting force. Blades, scrapers and sanding blocks can be attached to the oscillating post to perform various tasks.
An oscillating multi-tool will change the way you DIY. They’re handy for sanding corners, trimming snapped hardware, plunge cutting for electrical runs and even removing tile and grout.
The DeWalt 20V Oscillating Multi-Tool Kit comes with a storage case and multiple cutters and sanding accessories for various projects. You’ll reach for the oscillating tool more often than you think!
- Variable speed;
- On/off trigger;
- LED light;
- Stout 20V brushless motor.
- Could use a larger Ah battery.