What to Look For When Purchasing Woodworking Tools

Even experienced woodworkers can go into “contractions” when it comes to trying to buy a new tool … can you imagine how a novice must feel?
The rule of thumb when buying anything is … “when you don’t know much, if anything about the product, select the cheapest or near cheapest price, or we pick the most powerful version, thinking that if one power is good, two must be better”.

We all do this with one thing or another, but doing this with power tools can be hazardous to your health. One example of buying too much was a friend of our family’s daughter. Finally got her first apartment and decided to fix it up a bit. She needed to fasten a bookshelf to the wall and decided to purchase a portable drill. There are dozens of them around. In her mind she wanted “a good one” and promptly purchased, at the sales person’s recommendation, an 18volt drill. Honestly, if this young gal is 100 pounds soaking we, I would be amazed, she is a wee bit of a thing, and you guessed, the first time she used the drill, the bit caught something in the wall and twisted out of her control to the point she had to seek medical attention and was off work for a few days and in a sling for two weeks. The drill was simply way too powerful for her.

Purchasing power tools goes beyond looking at power, just ask the woodworker who purchased a portable drill and the third time using it the battery pack actually blew out the bottom of it’s case, barely missing his leg … and this was an “experienced” woodworker.

Like purchasing anything, a bit of research can go a long way. As a rule, I have found most tool salespeople to be well informed, but remember, they will be trying to sell you the tools THEY sell and not what might be best for you, so keep this in mind when you are looking.

Without going into depth on many different tools, here are some points that I have found useful in purchasing tools.

Warranty – look for tools that have a long or even lifetime warranty. These tools will be among the better performers because they manufacturers do NOT want to see these tools coming back to them for repair or replacement.

Price – I always find that purchasing tools that are priced “middle of the pack” gives me about the best value. I can often find a very decent tool, with a good warranty that is competitively priced.

Power – As noted above, bigger is not always better. I am an average sized woodworker and I have no use for drill over 14 volts, they are too heavy and too powerful, even for me they can twist my arm … look for what will do the job for you.

Corded or Cordless – you will generally pay much less for corded tools, BUT they are less convenient. If think you will be using your tools a lot, battery power is good, if you are only going to use your tool occasionally, corded is probably fine for you.
Where to Buy – as always, a reputable dealer, preferably one who has a selection to choose from and who will stand behind what they sell.

If you use these guidelines in purchasing tools you will reduce your risk of purchasing poor quality tools or tools that don’t suite the work you need them for … save yourself some time, money and lot of frustration.

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