Canadian Woodworking

Top 10 essential power tools for the woodworker

These 10 power tools will make your DIY jobs easier to do and quicker to complete.

In the October/November 2023 issue’s Top 10 we looked at home improvement hand tools. In this issue we look at home improve­ment power tools. Combo kits can save you money, but avoid those that have superfluous tools you’ll rarely use. Buying tools from the same brand means you can swap out batteries and won’t end up with multiple battery chargers.

1. Compact Drill/Driver – A compact drill/driver will pro­vide ample power for most day-to-day drilling and driving tasks. A 12-volt model with a 2.0 Ah battery is a good choice for most DIYers. Get one with a 3/8″ keyless chuck so you can use a wide variety of conventional round-shanked drill bits.

2. Circular Saw – Bigger and heavier is not always better. If you won’t be working with dimensional lumber, a 4-1/2″ com­pact, cordless circ saw will deliver up to a 1-1/2″ cutting depth at 90° while a 6-1/2″ saw delivers up to a 1-5/8″ cut depth. Smaller saws can be more easily used one-handed, fit in tight places and are less tiring to use.

3. Oscillating Multi-Tool – These versatile multi-purpose tools take attachments that enable you to saw, cut, scrape, grind, polish and sand. With an OMT you can reach into constricted spaces that are too small for a full-size power tool. Look for a variable speed model.

4. Random Orbital Sander – An ROS is essential for smoothing wood, stripping painted surfaces and even remov­ing rust from garden tools. Either a 12V or 18V cordless 5″ ROS, or a corded version, will ease your sanding tasks greatly.

5. Rotary Tool – Nothing beats a rotary tool for small jobs that require precise cutting, grinding, sanding, sharpening or polishing. They’re easy to control and there are numerous accessories that increase their versatility.

6. Stud Finder – A stud finder is the tool you want before you even think of hanging art on the wall, installing wall shelving or mounting a flatscreen TV. An electronic stud finder is a better choice than a magnetic model as it’s easier to use and more accurate. Look for a model that scans to about 1″ deep.

7. Cordless Glue Gun – They’re not only useful for crafts and children’s projects, you’ll also find copious jobs for them around the home and in the workshop. Avoid lightweight guns with a power cord as it tends to cause the gun to be unsteady and tip easily when set down on its stand.

8. Laser Measure – Most laser measures are accurate within 1/8″ up to about 30′, some up to 1/16″. A good quality unit will not only measure length, but also area, volume and indirect measure­ments. Some have a built-in inclinometer for finding angles.

9. Bench Grinder – If you dabble in woodworking or woodturn­ing, or like tinkering on the car, a bench grinder will enable you to grind cutting tools and shape or deburr metal. A grinder with a 6″ 120-grit grinding wheel and wire wheel is a good choice. A variable speed grinder, or one that runs at a lower speed, makes it less likely to overheat a tool edge.

10. Shop Vacuum – If your plans include large home improve­ment projects opt for a heavy-duty 12-gallon or larger vac that can suck up nails, sawdust and other debris. Most are corded. For those sticking with small jobs inside the home, a compact vac in the two-gallon range (corded or cordless) is the way to go.


Carl Duguay - [email protected]

Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

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