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Home > Setting Up Shop

Setting Up Shop: Power Hand Tools

Man Using Router This is the second part of our series on Setting Up Shop. In this month's section we'll be discussing power hand tools and which ones you need to get started woodworking. I'll also throw in a few "nice to have but not necessary tools" (and my wife said I couldn't say "not necessary tools" together in one sentence, I don't really mean it, I just said it).

1/2 - 2 Hp Router- This tool is such a work horse in my shop that I couldn't imagine getting along without it. The router is the king of versatility in the shop. A router can perform a variety of shaping operations using different bits. You can make your own mouldings, put a decorative edge on a table top, or round over an edge. Your options are only limited by your imagination. The router can also handle joinery, mortising, edge jointing, pattern routing, and inlay work. Adding all these options together you can quickly see why I rarely build a project without the router involved in the process.

Jigsaw- This is a great tool to have for cutting curves, circles, trimming, and crosscutting parts. A coping saw can do the job also, it just takes longer. And if you have a lot of curves to cut out you'll appreciate having a jigsaw.

Circular Saw- Just as the jigsaw shines in cutting curves, the circular saw's claim to fame is in cutting straight lines. I use a circular saw to trim down large sheet goods before I take them to the tablesaw. A circular saw is also great at crosscutting pieces that are too large to maneuver on the tablesaw. With the proper blade and a straight edge, the circular saw can do most things that a tablesaw can do.

Orbital or Random-Orbit Sanders- Sanding is probably the least liked activity in woodworking. Whenever I can save time and effort in the sanding process I will. And the best way to do this especially on flat surfaces, is with a random-orbit sander. I prefer the random-orbit to the orbit sander because it leaves a less noticeable scratch pattern.

Cordless Drill- This is a tool I use almost everyday. It's much more convenient to use than a corded drill. There are so many sizes and brands out on the market today that it can be mind blowing. The first thing to consider is what you'll be doing with it. For household repair and general woodworking, I think a 12 - 14 volt size is plenty. Weight becomes a big factor after you get up above 14 volts. It seems that woodworking magazines have an article every other month on cordless drills. Check these out and see which ones test better. Surprisingly, some 12 volts compare to 14 volts in torque and number of holes drilled, as do some 14 to 18 volt comparisons.

There are other tools that you may want to add later on, like a belt sander, a biscuit jointer, a 3 Hp router for a router table. An air compressor with a brad nailer would be nice, but the tools listed above are what I would consider the essentials. Remember, to always use your common sense when using any power tool. If it feels unsafe, don't do it. Read the manufacturer's instructions before using any tool. Some of these tools are very loud so use hearing protection. And as always wear safety glasses at all times in the shop.