Let’s talk power tools.
Fun. Empowering. Strong. Scary. Heavy. Expensive.
These may all be words that you’ve heard to describe power tools, and I have to tell you, they aren’t wrong. Power tools make quick work of DIY & woodworking tasks, but they can sometimes get a bad rap because they can be dangerous without following the proper precautions.
For me using power tools was a no-brainer. I wanted to try something new in building, so that meant I needed power tools. I had some cautious fear that first time using a power tool, which you can read about here, but it led to a path of trying more new things. I’ve shared my tips for using power tools briefly before, but I thought a more in-depth post would be helpful on this topic.
Let’s break down my top 5 tips for using power tools:
1. Read the entire manual. Just like you would the instructions on a new toy, or a board game, read everything. Most people skip this step, because it’s definitely not the most glamorous or fun. I will always argue the importance of this though, because each model and each brand of tools have specific nuances & safety features that you need to be aware of. The power switch may be in a different spot of each tool. It may have a stop feature to keep you safe. There may be a different set of knobs to set the blade depth & angle on your saw. You need to know all of these things before you get started.
2. Start small. Don’t jump right into using a table saw where the blade may be exposed on the top, or a router where you don’t really know how to control the depth or speed. Work up to these things, and trust me, you’ll get there sooner than you think. Start with a basic drill & driver. Know the difference between the two and when each is best used. Get used to the shop noise and sawdust with these smaller tools. Slowly add in a miter saw making simple chop cuts. Then keep building up as you gain confidence on each new tool. This also helps you afford power tools, because you aren’t buying them all at once. With each new project, that’s when I generally add a new power tool to my bench.
3. Learn about power tools alongside someone with experience. A large part of many DIYers’ stories is that someone taught them how to build or use a tool growing up, and it started a lifelong passion. Having a teacher or guide can be that calming presence & wealth of knowledge in the shop. They can teach you each step to using each tool and you can visualize by actually seeing the tool in use. Then you can begin to gain confidence on each tool under their care and supervision. They will guide you in the process until you feel like you can work on your own. I worked with my dad on a few small projects and had used a jigsaw a bit before, but for the most part, when I decided to start DIYing & woodworking, I was on my own.
4. Use internet resources. Probably the most obvious of these tips. A lot of times even once I read a manual, I need to visualize. I can read about a knob on a tool here or there but watching a video of it in use can really help. Even if I have an idea of what I’m doing, I’ll often go to an Instagram account of a person I know who’s done a similar project to see if they’ve shared any tips or resources. YouTube, TikTok, Pinterest & blogs have many great tutorials to help you with just about any project that you’re looking to take on as well. If you’re like me, you’ll take a few notes while watching or reading to help.
5. You are in control. One of the most important things to remember. You hold the tool (or at least handle) in your hands. You control the plug, and power button. You control where you place your hands & fingers. You control the external safety precautions: eye protection, close-toed shoes, long hair up, if needed a mask & ear plugs. You ensure your work environment is safe. You are stronger than your fear. So, take a deep breath, keep your eyes open, & create.
I’d love to hear your tips for using power tools! Tell me in the comments below.
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