I loathe letting anyone else do work around the house that I can do myself, but sometimes even the most committed do-it-yourselfer runs out of time and patience. To avoid that, I’ve built a core group of essential power tools that make nearly every job faster and easier.
I’m not sure if I can call them all necessities. I could waste a couple of beach days pounding nails into new two by fours if I really wanted to, but I like the feeling of sand between my toes and don’t need to feel like a long-suffering hero to have a beautiful, custom-made deck.
The thing about today’s power tools that people seem to miss is how easy they are to use. Really, I promise. If you can open a box and read a simple set of instructions, your projects will get done in half the time without blowing the vacation budget on a contractor.
Here are the eight I reach for most.
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I feel cooler than Captain Kirk with one of these in my hand. A laser level takes the guess work out of making cuts, hanging wallpaper and putting art on the walls. If you’ve ever juggled a hammer, a manual level and a fifty pound wall sculpture while clenching nails between your teeth, you’ll appreciate that this dandy tool projects a level line of light on the wall in front of you. It’s indispensable.
I admit it. When I look at rotary tool kits, my eyes light up like Christmas morning. I got my first one to help me get some nasty grout out of my shower and I’ve been hooked since. These tiny wonders come with bits for nearly purpose under the sun from cutting tile and engraving tools to polishing jewelry and even trimming my dog’s toenails. If you have to pick one tool to buy today, this is it.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking a drill is just for putting holes in things. Sure, it’s great for driving screws and boring into nearly anything, but attach a grinding wheel or a buffer head and this humble tool becomes one of the most versatile you’ll own.
Related: Top 10 Best Cordless Drills
Air makes everything better. I blow up tires, spray out filthy fans and blow up the big inflatable chaise for the pool. I don’t have a large collection of air tools, just a simple ten piece attachment set, but since most home compressors don’t generate enough force to handle things like big pneumatic impact wrenches, the jobs it does well are good enough for me. Best of all, I can attach it to the nail gun that comes next on the list so I can grab the sunscreen and go!
Pneumatic Nail Gun
I don’t pull this one out of the garage too often, but when I do, the saving in time and aggravation make it worth every dime. Don’t be intimidated, they’re a cinch to use. The power of air takes the place of the manual elbow grease it takes to drive hundreds — maybe thousands—of nails into big projects like fences and decks.
Random Orbit Sander
My first tool buying mistake was purchasing a cheap sander that oscillated instead of a random orbit sander. The difference is that because the way the sanding disc turns is random instead of fixed, it’s very forgiving of rookie mistakes like the gouges I put in the first chair I refinished. Frankly, I like sanding things by hand. It’s simple, but relaxing work and I always feel like I’ve earned the results, but a random orbit sander easily cuts my work time by more than half.
I’ve been known to not use tools exactly for their designated purposes at times and have learned more than once that there’s a reason they say the right tool should be used for the right job. Oh, well! That’s when the sharpening wheels on my bench grinder bail me out of trouble by smoothing over the damage I did to my ax while trying to tear a car apart. If you’re not into demolition, they sharpen lawnmower blades, too!
This one feels like cheating since it’s part power tool, part yard equipment, but my recent experience with one his has me wanting to tell anyone who’ll listen about the glory of these mechanical marvels. I have four chainsaws. Every one of them is, at this moment, leaving an oily mess on my shelves while it waits for a repair. No, wait — another repair.
I was hesitant to get one of these, figuring there’s no way it can compete with a gas-powered version, and the truth is, it can’t — but it doesn’t really have to. The thing is that ninety-nine percent of the tree trimming I do around my property doesn’t require a gas behemoth. My new cordless is lightweight, needs virtually no maintenance, requires no messy oil-gas mixtures and isn’t overkill for cutting down storm damaged limbs and even carving up some firewood. That, ultimately, is my number one rule for power tools — remember you’re not rebuilding the Titanic.
So, there’s the must-have power tool round up. When you’re used to these, it’s time to upgrade to saws. If you start building your holiday want list now, you may score a few of them before year’s end. I’m talking to Santa right now about a cordless tool kit with one of every kind. You should, too!