The Best Power Tools for Woodworking Projects
There are so many power tools for woodworking on the market that it can be a little overwhelming trying to figure out which tools are best for your projects.
Unless you have an unlimited budget, it’s always best to start with a few key power tools that will be most useful for different woodworking projects.
In this chapter, we’ll cover the best power tools for different woodworking projects, the essential power saws, as well as our top tips for woodworking.
Essential Saws for Woodworking
Almost every woodworking project will need some type of power saw for ripping, crosscutting, and creating patterns.
But which type of saw should you get? Let’s take a look at some of the most common types of power saws and what they are most useful for.
Best saw for all-round woodworking
If you like to do all different types of woodworking projects, you’ll need some all-purpose power saws that are versatile and multi-functional. Here are our top choices for all-round woodworking:
A table saw is going to be your best friend when building cabinetry or other furniture pieces. It gives you the ability to perform ripping, cross cutting and sheet material preparation. If you only have the budget for one power saw, this is one of the most versatile.
Key features of a table saw you should look out for:
- Weight: The heavier the table saw, the more stable it becomes. This gives a solid work surface with minimal vibrations. If you don’t have space for a large table saw, there are benchtop versions available, but these won’t be as sturdy.
- Rip fence: Make sure the fence is adjustable and ends just past the center position of the blade. This will stop any kickback from the timber as it’s passed through.
- Miter fence: Although most table saws come with a miter fence, some are flimsy and not very accurate. Look for a high-quality miter fence or upgrade to a separately bought one for the best accuracy of cuts.
A circular saw has just as much versatility as a table saw, however, it takes more skill to use. Since a circular saw is handheld, it takes more control to get precise cuts.
Having said that, they are invaluable when making smaller cuts that a table saw is too large for. They are also great for awkward spaces or when moving the wood to the table saw is too difficult.
- Base plate material: A flimsy stamped metal plate is heavy and easily bends. Instead, find a circular saw with an aircraft aluminum or magnesium base plate with a rolled edge.
- Blade Size: The most common size is 7-1/4” which will allow you to cut 3-inch thickness with ease. If you have an especially large cabinet or furniture piece, you can also get specialist larger blades, but these usually need a specialist saw to fit.
- Power: Circular saw power is measured in Amperage. The standard is 15 amp, which is sufficient for building cabinets regularly. However, if you are more of a weekend DIYer, 10 to 12 amp is cheaper and plenty powerful.
Best saws for making straight cuts in rough lumber
- Table saw: This is always the top choice for getting accurate cuts in rough lumber. Most portable or small table saws are capable of cutting up to 24” in width, anything wider, you’ll need a large table or to switch to a circular saw.
- Circular saw: A circular saw is another popular choice for cutting straight lines in rough lumber and plywood. This is especially useful if you have large pieces of lumber that are too wide for a table saw or hard to move.
Best saws for intricate shapes
- Scroll saw: A scroll saw looks a bit like a small band saw, but unlike a band saw, a scroll saw blade moves in both directions, not just in a downward motion. It has a thin, vertical blade that the wood is passed through, almost like a sewing machine. The thin saw blade is very suitable for intricate projects like creating wooden decorations and ornaments from plate material.
Best saw for cutting angles and bevels
- Miter saw: A miter saw is the next most important power saw for woodwork in general. Rather than bringing the wood to the blade, the miter saw is lowered onto the material to give a precise square cut. These are a must-have for creating angles or miters, which are needed for seamless cabinet joins, crown molding, door frames, decorative trim, and more.
Compound & Sliding Miter Saws
You can also get compound miter saws and sliding miter saws.
Compound miter saws blades pivot both left and right to give angled cuts as well as tilting in one direction for bevelled cuts.
Sliding miter saws have all this same functionality, but also have a slide function, giving longer cuts.
Although these are both more expensive than regular miter saws (with or without stand), they give the added functionality of cutting in two planes for dual angles.
Best saws for woodworking projects
If you’re a weekend DIY warrior, you’ve probably run into issues using hand saws for your projects. From creating feature batten walls to building a coffee table or a built-in window box, your weekend projects will go much more smoothly with some key power saws.
- Mini saw: A mini saw is a smaller version of a circular saw. They are easier to control and maneuver and are cheaper to buy. They’re great for small projects like cutting trim for doorways, baseboards, wooden stair treads, and other small projects.
- Jigsaw: If you have any decorative DIY projects like creating a round coffee table or wood ornaments, a jigsaw is a must. These allow you to easily cut curves and shapes in ply and other soft wood.
- Reciprocating saw: If you’re taking down a wall in your home or doing any other renovations, a reciprocating saw will make quick work of cutting through studs, pipes, and tile. Just be careful you don’t hit a live wire!
The best planers and jointers for woodwork projects
So you’ve cut all your pieces of lumber ready to begin building, but you’re going to need each piece to be uniform and flat. That’s where a planers and jointers come in.
Planers are needed to turn rough lumber and sheet wood into boards with a consistent thickness throughout. This is vital for cabinet doors, tabletops, chopping boards, and any other flat piece of wood.
Jointers, on the other hand, make flat edges. This is crucial when building cabinetry, bookcases, or boxes because you’ll need all edges to be totally flush.
Hacks for planing small pieces of wood
Most planers don’t take small or thin pieces of wood well, but you might need to plane a piece of trim, so what do you do?
- If it’s too narrow: tape several beams together and feed them through as a group. This will be taken much more smoothly than trying to feed a single thin piece through.
- If it’s too small: if you have a chopping board or other tiny piece that you can’t feed through safely, tape two long pieces to the sides which you can hold as you feed it through.
This is safe to do by hand, but extra caution should be taken when inserting the pieces into the planer to avoid injury.
Jointer planers: the best option for large projects
If you do a lot of large woodworking projects that require uniform, flat boards (such as building boxes, cabinets, bookcases, chests, etc.), a jointer planer is a great option.
A jointer planer is a large combination machine that boards are fed through. The result is parallel boards with completely flat edges that are ready for building work.
Jointer planers are an investment, but if you’re doing regular projects, it will pay for itself in the time and energy you’ll save using separate planers and jointers.
Do you need a router for woodwork projects?
Uses for routers
- Dado joints – A three-sided channel that another piece slots into to form a strong joint.
- Dovetail joints – a slot to support shelves or cabinetry.
- Rabbets – a small recess carved into the edge of the wood, used on cabinets, bookcases, door jambs.
- Recessing door hinges
- Shaping molding
Power tools you need for drilling wood
Now you have smooth, even boards with all the necessary joints and shaping, you’ll be turning to a power drill for boring holes.
Drilling and boring holes in your wood is going to be an essential part of the project, whether it’s to attach a door to a piece of furniture, add legs to a table, or add brackets to a shelf.
Invest in a good cordless drill driver for your workshop. Although corded drills are more powerful, they are annoyingly restrictive because of the cord. A cordless drill is easy to move around and a high quality one will have plenty of power.
Some woodworkers invest in a drill press, though it’s not a necessity. This is a stationary power tool which is lowered onto wood to create accurate, precise holes. From coat racks to shelves and mantels, a drill press gives needed precision that is difficult to do by eye.
The best sanders for woodworking projects
The final process of any woodwork project is sanding to give a beautiful finish.
The best sander for you will depend on the projects you’re doing. Let’s look at some of the most common types and what they are for:
- Belt sanders: These have a loop of sandpaper that spins around a continuous belt. They’re one of the more heavy-duty options for removing old paint and smoothing down rough lumber and other hard wood.
- Random orbital sanders: These move forward, back and in a circular motion to give an ultra-fine finish. They reduce swirl marks and are a popular choice for refinishing wood flooring.
- Disc sanders: Disc sanders have a wheel of sandpaper that spins to give a powerful sanding. This can be used for rough or fine sanding, depending on the grit of sandpaper attached.
- Finishing sanders: These are square, handheld tools used for light sanding. These can remove residue paintwork but are best for giving a smooth surface on finished pieces to prepare for staining or painting.
There are also some specialist sanders that are needed for specific projects:
|Oscillating sander||The drum spins and moves back and forth giving a rotating motion||Creating a swirl-free, super smooth finish on wood and metal, polishing, smoothing|
|Detail sander||Small, triangle sander for small jobs||Light sanding and finishing, removing chipped paint|
|Drum sander||A loop of sandpaper continuously moves around a drum||Sanding down and refinishing hardwood flooring|
Top tips for using power tools for woodworking projects
Whether you’re new to using power tools for woodworking projects or you’re a seasoned pro, here are some of our top tips to make the process smoother:
1. Buying all your tools from the same brand
Whatever tools you plan to buy, it is handy to buy most of your power tools from the same brand. This will allow you to use the battery packs interchangeably and brands usually make their tools to complement each other well.
2. Start with a basic set of tools
If you currently don’t have any tools, start by building up a basic kit which will get you through most standard projects:
- Circular saw – a versatile tool that is good for most cuts
- Jigsaw – for making curved cuts or irregular shapes
- Router – for hollowing out space for hinges and creating joints
- Palm sander – for giving a good finish on your wood pieces
- Electric drill – for driving in screws and boring holes
3. Invest in power tool safety gear
The last thing you want is a nasty injury when you’re getting to grips with new tools. Keep yourself safe with some basic safety equipment:
- Safety goggles: When ripping lumber, chances are you’ll get chips and splintering wood flying up. When this happens, you’ll be glad you’re wearing goggles.
- P100 mask: These are oil proof and filter 100% of dust and fumes.
- Earplugs: power saws can be pretty loud!
- Kevlar gloves: These are cut resistant and will reduce the risk of nasty cuts if you’re a beginner.
4. Never use drywall screws
Screws all look the same, so you might simply pick up the cheapest bag from your local hardware store. However, drywall screws are threaded the full length which can force two pieces of wood apart when you’re trying to screw them together. Invest in proper wood screws for a better finish.
Best Hand Tools
In the next chapter, we’ll cover the essential hand tools you need to accompany your power tools. From clamps to combination squares and the best kinds of hand saw, there are some vital hand tools you’ll need for finishing woodwork pieces. Without these, you’ll find it hard to get the professional finish you’re looking for.