Power Tools Buying Guide
What is a Power Tool?A power tool is a tool typically powered by an electric motor, a compressed air motor, or a gasoline engine. Power tools are usually classified as either stationary or portable and are used in industry, construction, and around the house for cutting, shaping, drilling, sanding, painting, grinding, polishing and more. Portable power tools are cheaper than stationary power tools and have greater versatility, enabling them to be used for various types of operations. Stationary power tools for metalworking and other specialized uses are usually called machine tools.
Power tools could potentially be divided into three categories, heavy duty, light industrial and handyman or utility. Heavy duty power tools are designed for industrial use where continuous operation under load is necessary. Industrial type power tools usually cost more, but should not be disregarded on those grounds alone. If a job requires constant and heavy use of the tool, this might be the best type of tool for the job. Light industrial power tools are designed for medium to heavy intermittent use. They should not be used continuously under heavy loading, as the motor could over heat, causing damage to the tool. Handyman or utility power tools are designed for light to medium intermittent use, these power tools are more suited to a handyman or home workshop where the tool is used infrequently and for short periods of time. They normally are constructed from cheaper parts, therefore they are typically cheaper and it’s possible that they can heat up and wear out quicker.
Power Tool Tips
Electric power tools are usually corded with a standard three prong power plug allowing them to be powered by a normal power outlet. Cordless power tools are usually powered by an attached battery which can be available in a variety of voltages.
Power voltage and battery type is one of the biggest variables when it comes to cordless power tools. Batteries are typically available in NiCad or Lithium Ion and run from 3 to 36 volts of power. Usage should determine how many volts of power are needed to run the cordless power tool. The higher the voltage, the more power you will get from the cordless tool.
Variable speed motors or adjustable motors are an advantage when working with varying material density types.
Keyless chucks or easy blade change can provide elevated safety and convenience.
Some power tools have adjustable handles which makes them more flexible for tight spots, angles and overhead use.
Electric brakes provide an automatic stop which is typically included on saws. It’s a safety feature which makes the saw stop spinning when the motor has been shut off.
Dust ports make it easy to connect a tool to a dust collector or shop vac for cleaning.
LED lights are added to some tools which light up the work area as the power switch is pressed.
Durable housings such as magnesium housings are lightweight as well as strong and durable.
Common Power ToolsDrills are capable of rotary action and are used for drilling a variety of materials including wood, steel, plastic and ceramics. Drills are typically classified by the type of work they perform. Rotary hammers or hammer drills are also available which offer a hammering feature as well as rotary functionality to get through tough materials such as masonry.
Reciprocating Saws are a type of saw in which the cutting action is achieved through a push and pull reciprocating motion of the blade. Also known as a recipro saw, sabre saw, or sawzall, reciprocating saws have a large blade resembling that of a jigsaw and a handle oriented to allow the saw to be used comfortably on vertical surfaces. Designs range widely in power, speed, and features, from less powerful portable, handheld models that are usually shaped like a cordless drill, to high-power, high-speed, corded models.
Circular Saws are powerful, portable and able to be set up quickly to do many types of cuts, such as rip cuts, crosscuts and also cut many non-wooden materials. Typically ranging from 125mm (4-15/16”) up to 230mm (9-1/16”) with the most common size being 190mm (7-1/2"), circular saws can also be rated by horsepower and/or RPMs of the saw blade. When choosing a circular saw take into consideration what the saw will be used for and how thick the wood or other materials are that it will be cutting.
Impact Wrenches are socket wrench power tools designed to deliver high torque output with minimal exertion by the user, by storing energy in a rotating mass, then delivering it suddenly to the output shaft. Compressed air is the most common power source, although electric or hydraulic power is also used, with cordless electric devices becoming increasingly popular. Impact wrenches are available in every standard socket wrench drive size, from small 1/4" drive tools for small assembly and disassembly, up to 3.5" and larger square drives for major construction.
Grinders or Cut-off tools are versatile tools which can be used to grind, shape, cut, polish and hone a wide variety of materials. Typically available in bench grinder, angle or straight grinder and die grinder configurations, grinders work by spinning a wheel or other attachment to complete the task.
Jig Saws are used for joinery work, kitchen cupboards or cutting curves and odd shapes. Due to its limited power and depth of cut, it is best suited to solid timber up to 32-38mm (1-1/4" – 1-1/2") thickness, any type of pressed board up to the same thickness such as plywood, masonite, chipboard etc. A standard-action jigsaw will move the jigsaw blade solely in an up-and-down motion, where an orbital-action jigsaw will angle the blade slightly forward and into the stock on the up-swing. The angle of the action can typically be adjusted for different types of materials, and can minimize wear on the saw blade and in many materials make for a smoother cut.
Sanders are power tools used to smooth wood and or other materials. Sanders have a means to attach the sandpaper that does the work. Woodworking sanders are usually operated by electrical power while the ones used in auto-body repair work on compressed air. Sanders are available in belt sander, disc sander, random orbital sander, orbital sander and other configurations.
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