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Essential power tools for D.I.Y. beginners and beyond

Peggers
Experienced Contributor

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Hand tools can help you get started with your home improvement projects, but as you build your D.I.Y. confidence you will discover that power tools can often be quicker, easier and more powerful.

 

If you don’t know where to start, here’s a helpful guide to every power tool you should need as your skills develop. We explain what you need, why you need it, and provide tips from some of the Bunnings Workshop community’s most trusted members.

 

We would recommend you start with a drill and a jigsaw, then as your confidence grows and the complexity of your projects increases, we list a dozen other power tools that you will find essential to add to your collection.

 

Drill

 

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What: A tool with a rotating tip driven by an electric motor used predominantly for drilling holes or fastening screws.

 

Why: Ask almost any experienced tradesperson for their most essential tool and the majority will say an electric drill. Most projects require drilling holes and using screws, and the electric drill means you get better joins, much faster, and without blisters.

 

They say: “Electric drill has to be my most used tool, especially after more than 500 screws going into my new timber feature fence!” @ProjectPete 

 

Jigsaw

 

What: An electric cutting tool with a long thin blade that can cut curves, large holes or straight lines in wood and metal.

 

Why: It’s tempting to say that the jigsaw is the second missing piece of the puzzle! If you only have the budget for two power tools, buy a jigsaw and an electric drill. A jigsaw’s  main use is cutting out curves and shapes, but it’s versatile enough to cut long lengths of ply, or short cuts through pine.

 

They say: “Almost every project I’ve done I’ve used one. Gives you more options for projects. You don’t need to buy wood in an exact size if you can cut it yourself.”  @prettyliving 

 

Circular saw

 

What: A hand-held electric cutting tool that cuts straight lines with a spinning disc blade.

 

Why: While the jigsaw is quick and versatile, it’s very hard to maintain consistent straight lines - that’s where the circular saw comes in. A circular saw can be much steadier and easier to control when cutting timber or even metal or plastic.

 

They say: “The Bosch circular saw is a great tool, great value, highly recommended. Very easy to use with plenty of controlled power. The exhaust system is great making for a clear view of cutting.” @ProjectPete  

 

Mitre saw

 

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What: An electric cutting tool which works by lowering a circular disc blade down onto the secured material to be cut.

Why: The mitre saw, also known as a “drop saw” because of the way the blade is lowered, is far more accurate and controllable than the handheld circular saw. It can also be set up to make specific angled cuts - and so is ideal for creating frames for example.

 

They say: “When I do my renos, hubby is on the mitre saw and I'm doing all the finishing touches, mainly paint. I love how we work together on a project and have done so since our early 20’s." @2Belindas 

 

Table saw

 

What: Another variation on the circular saw, the table saw has a fixed rotating blade that protrudes from a table. Unlike other circular saws, you take the material to the blade, rather than taking the blade to the material.

 

Why: Not as precise as the mitre saw, the table saw is nevertheless accurate, accessible and much quicker than setting up individual cuts in a mitre saw. Large loads of timber can be cut at speed.

 

They say: “This really changed gear for me as a D.I.Y.’er. My most terrifying friend. They can unleash a lot of power to do bigger projects and to destroy if not treated with respect. I use mine via a remote-controlled power outlet.” @TedBear  

 

Reciprocating saw

 

What: A cutting tool with a blade like a jigsaw, protruding from a handle, that works with a push-pull movement.

 

Why: Lacking in the accuracy of the other saws we’ve mentioned, the reciprocating saw is great for demolition work. If you need to hack through branches, or cut away old wood, this is ideal. Trying to use a jigsaw for the same job can be awkward and unpredictable.

 

They say: “My favourite tool is the AEG 18v cordless reciprocating saw. It’s got me out of a few jams. Plus it makes so much noise and destroys stuff.” @Dave 

 

Finishing sander

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What: Can also be known as a sheet sander, these tools use rectangular sheets of sandpaper that are secured to the underside of the sander which then vibrates as you slide them across material to smooth it.

 

Why: If you’re working with wood pallets then this is truly essential for your sanity. You simply can’t achieve a smooth finish on two or three timber pallets using just sandpaper without Karate Kid-style dedication. You can even use the finishing sander one handed.

 

They say: “Definitely one of my most used tools, saves so much time compared to hand sanding and gives a better finish to a project.” @prettyliving 

 

Detail sander

 

What: Looking like a steam iron with a sanding pad attached to the bottom, this is also for smoothing material.

 

Why: While the finishing sander can smooth vast quantities of material such as timber pallets at speed, the detail sander has sharp angles to fit into tight spaces. Great for detailed sanding work - hence the name.

 

They say: “I’ve got the full sander set now as they all have subtle differences - I love the detail sander for getting into those small corners. The perfectionist in me hates having small patches of rough left untouched.” @Peggers 

 

Random orbital sander

 

What: This sander has a round pad, rather than a rectangle one or an angular one.

 

Why: Perhaps not as relentless as the finishing sander when it comes to getting quick results, the orbital sander is more versatile and so ideal for a limited budget. Can be used for big jobs, but ideal for quick buffing work.

 

They say: “My orbital is fantastic for larger jobs or rough timber. It’s also great for smaller detailed jobs.” @Tara86 

 

Router

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What: Like a small and accurate jigsaw, the router has a flat base and a blade that extends below it.

 

Why: Ideal for detailed trimming, the router can create grooves in timber or create great finishes when making cabinets. Incredibly versatile, but probably one for experienced woodworkers rather than beginners.

 

They say: “Man... how did I live without it? There are so many things you can do and so many jobs you can finish to a higher standard with one of these little puppies.” @Adam_W 

 

Angle grinder

 

What: A handheld cutting tool that uses solid abrasive discs to cut through tough materials.

 

Why: One of the scariest tools in the workshop, take extreme care with an angle grinder - it can cut through the strongest of materials in seconds. Used predominantly for metal, it is often seen in machine shops and is ideal for cutting off unwanted chunks of steel that would take hours with a hacksaw.

 

They say: “Working on caravans, I’ve had to cut off some unnecessary metal brackets or bolt-ons that the previous owners have decided to add - and sometimes the angle grinder is the only thing up to the job. It’s frighteningly efficient at cutting through metal.” @Peggers  

 

Nail gun

 

What: Like a stapler crossed with a hammer, the nail gun drives nails into wood or other materials with extreme power and ease.

 

Why: If you’re building anything substantial, then make sure this is in your armoury. Rather like using an electric drill to fasten screws, the nail gun saves far more time (and injuries) than using hammer and nails.

 

They say: When I'm making something I have my drill and my nail gun side by side. So if I'm not drilling, I'm nailing!” @Prof 

 

Planer

 

What: A precise slicing tool for shaving off small thicknesses of wood or metal.

 

Why: When the piece you’ve cut for your project is slightly too big and needs refining, but sanding will take too long, and using a saw might take too much off, then enter the planer. Almost like an industrial vegetable peeler it slices off top layers of wood to achieve the exact size.

 

They say: "I find my planner essential for leveling out timber transitions, especially when joining boards together. It saves me hours of tedious sanding work". @MitchellMc 

 

Cordless blower

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What: Like a small handheld leaf blower.

 

Why: When you want to get rid of the dust you’ve created but know that brushing or wiping will ruin the work you’ve just done. The blower can clear the area and allow you to tidy up your project without damaging it.

 

They say: “These mini-blowers look like toys but you have no idea how powerful they are! Brilliant in garage or workshop, on a job-site and just cleaning around the home things like sliding door tracks.” @Adam_W  

 

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3 Replies
MitchellMc
Bunnings Team Member
Bunnings Team Member

What a great guide @Peggers, many thanks for sharing it with us. 

 

It's so important to research your options when taking that step from hand tools to power tools. This guide certainly makes things easy to understand. I'll need to spend some time investigating the detail sander and cordless blower as they are the only two not in my collection. I've got a project that calls for the detail sander, and I currently use my 240v garden blower to dust off my workbench. 

 

I'd be really keen to hear what brands and models our members have gone for when taking the plunge into the power tool arena. I thought I'd have a look through my own tools. Not surprisingly, I have a lot of what would be considered budget options. I've found they've performed admirably over the years and allowed me to complete jobs I otherwise wouldn't have bought the premium tool for, as I just couldn't afford it. 

 

Here's my selection of power tools, including the battery-operated versions I use most often. I have their 240V equivalents, but I normally go for the battery option due to convenience. This was a great exercise, as after trying to find all these tools, I now realise I need to sort out my power tool storage badly.

 

Mitchell 

 

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TedBear
Valued Contributor

A bit off topic perhaps (or is it "All of House") but I use a Blower once a year (when my wife is away visiting relatives, because this use is messy in the short-term) to do a clean of the hidden spots inside our house.  I blast inside wardrobes, behind, over and under cupboards, furniture, the curtains... wherever it is hard or impossible to get at without dismantling or moving things.

It requires a room by room approach, with each door closed, googles, ear-protection, patience and another vacuum cleaner. After the dust has settled, I return to each room with the vacuum cleaner to get rid of what got disturbed - i.e. redistributed into the room (thus the need for patience). It's amazing what accumulates and I think it refreshes the clothing to give it all a good air blast where it hangs.

(Too bad that Covid-19 restrictions mean the big blast will probably have to be missed this year. I don't think my wife would approve of my industrial approach to domestic cleaning.) 

** Important note if you try it - put all breakables and paperwork safely away first, or you may never see them again!

Peggers
Experienced Contributor

@MitchellMc Great collection! Puts mine to shame!

 

@TedBear Not off topic at all - I put a blower in there. So handy!

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