“Essential” power tools

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    Hugo Notti

    It really depends on your projects. In Germany, we have an expression: “Shooting a sparrow with a cannon”. If you want to shorten one broom-stick, using a table saw is a waste of energy (both electrical and your own, for cleaning up). But if you want to mass-produce dovetailed boxes, you probably need a router in order to be competitive… Etc.

    In my life, there are three “power-tools” that I really like: Electrical drill, electrical screw-driver and a small Proxxon “power-tool”. But I don’t think, that any of these tools is essential for fine woodworking. But, since I have them anyway, it would be silly not to use them, where appropriate.

    And I think, there is a very important question that you should answer to yourself: Do you want to learn using hand-tools or do you just want to get some stuff done? In the first case, you should not use any power-tools before you got proficient in using the manual equivalent. I often longed to get a router or thicknesser (not so sure about what exactly you would need) while preparing the wood for my work-bench, but I am glad, that I got along with my simple hand-plane. It was a lot of struggle and frustration and I am not yet done. But once I am, I have a nice work-bench and a new skill!

    So good luck, whatever your decision will be.


    Joel Turner

    I’ll admit upfront that I just joined and predominately use power tools. I want to incorporate hand work for joinery and wood shaping to bring my skills to the next level. I’m not dogmatic about any approach and will continue to use power tools for dimensioning rough wood. For a small project I might consider dimensioning by hand tools, but not for a project that calls for 20 or more board feet of stock. To that end, I own a 6″ jointer, a Dewalt 735 planer, and a table saw.

    Most of the rough boards I work with are in the 6″ to 12″ range and many of them exceed the width of my jointer. You only need to make one face relatively flat for the planer (thicknesser) to do its job. As dclare indicated, a planer sled will do the trick, but so will a jack plane. Once your first face is relatively flat with either method, that becomes your reference face, (place face down on the table) for the other side to be made parallel.

    For panels that are glued up to wider widths you can construct a carrier for your router and use a straight bit to flatten the top. However, if you don’t plan to do this very often, at least here in the U.S., I would bring a wide panel to a cabinet shop and for $40.00 or so, they will run it through their drum sander. This levels any glue joints and flattens the panel.


    I have power tools but hardly use them now I should get rid of what I don’t use but its hard to part with things I will list them in order of use

    10-speed long bed wood lathe from Axminster I use this most weeks I like turning
    12-inch band saw Rexon I use this most I think I am lazy I mostly use it for cutting my bowl blanks
    10-inch table saw SIP ripping stock when I have bought a few boards mostly oak
    10-inch thicknesser Dewalt I hardly ever use it unless I have a lot of timber to dimension and then I might not both with it
    ??-inch Jointer err don’t even now where it is or when I last used it
    drill press in my metal shop where it’s used quite a bit, on metal that is
    Battery Dewalt 14.4 volt drills I have got around six maybe more I can never find them when I want one and no one seems to want 14.4-volt drills so they are cheap off eBay
    Dumped on top of a cupboard somewhere never used now Power planes 3 may be 4 they are like my drills, circular saw a cheap one from Screw Fix again never use it
    Dewalt radial arm saw bought because it was cheap never used it

    Does this help I doubt it but there you go

    Wheelchair woodworker from Lincolnshire UK


    Dear ff,
    Punctuation is actually necessary.
    Thank you,

    SW Pennsylvania

    Dave Ring

    Punctuation is only necessary if you want people to read what you write.



    Dear @craig after the accident that put me in my a wheelchair it is about all I can do to put words together so to people like you that don’t think before shooting off their smart mouth stick to trolling youtube and I hope you end up like I have and lets have a laugh at how you cope with a life-changing event caused by a drunk behind a wheel of a car

    Wheelchair woodworker from Lincolnshire UK


    Philipp J had it bang on in my opinion. A jointer, thicknesser and bandsaw are such good value for the labour they save that I consider them essential to my work. Stock too wide for the thicknesser is ripped down, machined, re-glued then hand-planed or sanded (unless it really must stay full-width, or it’s just one board or two and not worth setting things up, then I will hand-plane from rough). I’m a joiner with a mix of site-work and commissioned work that I do in a small home workshop.

    Cordless drills too, don’t usually think of them as power tools but I suppose they are. Several’s handy so you can leave one set up permanently for driving screws.

    The other tool I couldn’t live without is a track saw, i.e. a circular saw guided by a straight track, for dimensioning sheet goods. A good one with a good blade will cut perfectly square, straight, smooth edges ready for joinery off the saw. Save’s my edge tools being used on ply or MDF.

    Routers are so versatile that they’re probably verging on essential, in particular the bearing-guided cutters make short work of many tasks involving curves that would be very time-consuming with hand tools alone and probably impractical for the inexperienced amateur.

    Most useless power tool in my opinion is the handheld electric plane, I don’t miss mine at all, even less when I see other people using one.

    Of course if your aim is to pass the time in the evenings productively, at your own pace, and without annoying the neighbours, no power tool is “essential”.

    Southampton, UK

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by chemical_cake.

    I’ve found a combined jointer / thicknesses invaluable, as it lets me buy recycled timber and get is square quickly. A cliche perhaps, but it pays for itself in the end.

    For boards too wide for the machine, I either prep them by hand or cut them to a size that will fit and then glue them back together. That actually works really well.

    My budget bandsaw is a godsend, and I would not be without it.

    I have a small table saw, but hardly use it as it scares me to death to be honest. 😳

    A track saw would be very helpful.


    Peter Bernhardt

    Me, I have a Laguna bandsaw (mainly used for resawing) and a table saw that serves mostly as a secondary table. And I have an assortment of hand power tools I’ve used mostly for finish carpentry tasks.

    I have a small workshop and so I do all my planing and jointing by hand (using no. 5 and 7. planes, mostly). It’s part of the process I enjoy the most, actually. It’s good exercise and doesn’t take that much longer than using machines. That said, I fully appreciate why others use machines for this, especially those running commercial shops.

    I recently installed and trimmed out doors at a commercial site and used hand planes to chamfer the edges of the stock for the trim. The guys on the construction crew thought I was crazy not to use a router (but I earned their respect – and, I think, admiration – in the end). I also used a nice Bosch miter saw on that project, too. I use whatever is most comfortable and accurate for the given task at hand.

    As for the table saw, I have thought seriously for awhile now about getting rid of it, but then another task comes along where I have to use it. Most recently, ripping a large number of long boards of reclaimed wood that I was too lazy and inpatient to break down using a hand saw. But then I went on to plane and joint them by hand, which I enjoyed immensely. Go figure.

    Peter Bernhardt
    instagram: peter.bernhardt
    twitter: AWoodworker

    Harvey Kimsey

    Get a good bandsaw! Learn how to set it up with the blade Square to the table. I do all my ripping and most crosscutting on a 75 year old Delta 14″. Doesn’t make a lot of noise or dust. Buy lumber that’s surfaced two sides so you don’t have to do too much ticknessing by hand and let the lumber acclimate to your shop, then start flattening. Planing a square edge is no big deal after sawing. Then use a good shooting board to prepare ends for joinery and you’re set! What more do you need?

    Stephen Vandermey

    For me the joiner, planer, and tablesaw would be what I consider most important. I don’t get a lot of time to be in my workshop and I’m alright with that but I don’t want to spend a lot of that time hand planing, (though I do like practising it.) My workbench is also not stable enough for dimensioning rough hardwoods. I have a lot of other power tools that I need for renovations but I try not not to use them. They are great if I’m trying to get something done but other wise I like being able to slow down and take my time.


    I’m with Rodat and Hugo Noti to on this. No need to shoot a sparrow with a cannon.

    There is no such thing as a universal essential.

    Its nice to have some power tools, and these are only essential to anyone churning out work pieces for a living. But I think that power tool salesmen have done the a lot of damage to woodworking. If they are to be believed, you would need an expensive machine to dispense toilet paper.

    I believe that the complete absence of human physical interaction with a workpiece from drawing to build-up can damage the quality of its design and the build quality.

    That being said. I’m surprised that no-one has mentioned the ubiquitous circular saw. Which, if essentiality is to be measured by sales, is probably the most essential power tool of all.


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