Shop Talk

The "How To" of March 2010


    How to Choose the Right Power Tool


    Choosing the best power tool for your individual needs is a delicate and important process. Learning how to define the specific tool that best suits you can be the difference between using a disappointing power tool, and making an investment that will continually pay it forward.


    STEP 1. Understanding what you need from your power tools

    First, it’s important to determine the ways in which you intend to use your power tool(s). Simple household maintenance jobs require an entirely different set of tools than do industrial projects. Of course, you may use industrial grade tools to tighten your cupboards and door jambs but this isn’t always realistic – nor is it ever a good idea to use sub-par power equipment on a professional project. You want to make sure you invest in the best power tools for the applications they’ll be used for – for example, you wouldn’t use a steak knife to spread butter on bread just as you wouldn’t use a butter knife to tear into a top sirloin. – If you use a drill, circular saw, or etc. only a few times each year, it’s certainly not necessary to buy the most powerful tools on the market, however, if you use your tools often and heavily, you’ll definitely want to throw down a few more dollars for a higher-quality tool.

    STEP 2. Researching manufacturers

    You may also consider a preferred or reputable manufacturer. Some craftsmen are loyal to one brand or another and some brands are certainly better than others (this difference is usually reflected in pricing). Determining whether or not you have a preferred manufacturer can dramatically narrow down any search. Additionally, just as all craftsmen have a specialty, so do manufacturers. Certain brands build the very best of a certain tool – for example, Milwaukee in known for producing some of the absolute best reciprocating saws, and Bosch for the best jigsaws. If you do a bit of homework, you’ll usually find the master behind the tool your looking for.

    STEP 3. Setting a budget

    Do some research and set a budget. It is easy to both over and under-spend when purchasing power tools; if you have a limit already in mind, you’re much more likely to stick to it. It is important to remember though, that cheap and expensive power tools are cheap and expensive for a reason. The expression “you get what you pay for,” is perhaps at its most true in the tool industry

    STEP 4. Understanding the “extras”

    Determine whether you are in the market for a tool kit or if you need only one single tool. Often you may find kits available that include the most frequently used power tools like a drill, impact driver, and reciprocating saw, or simply a few batteries, a charger, and a tool bag. This is obviously a more expensive investment than buying a drill alone, but if you need these other power tools or accessories, it’s certainly more economical to buy them in a kit than to buy them all separately. This is also helpful if you prefer cordless tools – buying multiple cordless tools from the same manufacturer means you can usually swap a battery between different tools.

    STEP 5. Choosing between cordless and corded power

    Choose between corded and cordless power. Before doing this, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each type – corded tools are usually more powerful, lightweight, and require no fuss over buying and charging batteries. They are, however, tethered to a wall which means limited mobility, use, and strained power with the use of extension cords. Cordless tools, on the other hand, can go anywhere you can go, and with always improving battery technology, they are a powerful, reliable source of portable power with no hassle of a dangling cord.

    STEP 6. Warranties

    Tool warranties are often an underrated asset. Having a good warranty with your tool usually means you’re buying from a company that entirely trusts their product will satisfy you – this is a good feeling to carry with you on the job. Most industrial manufacturers include a one year warranty on corded power tools, batteries and chargers, and a three year warranty on cordless tools. Of course, this is only standard – some manufactures offer less and some much more. Hitachi includes a ten year warranty on most of their cordless lithium-ion line.

    STEP 7. Tinker

    Lastly, if you can, it’s good to hold the tool before you buy it. This can be a problem if you’re an on-line shopper, but otherwise, if you can hold the tool in your hands to make sure it feels good and comfortable, it will usually be a good fit. Some manufacturers also offer a (around 30 day) Satisfaction Guarantee – this allows you to use the tool once or twice before determining if you’re entirely happy with the investment.