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The Essential Power Tools List: 12 Different Types Everyone Should Own

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a power tool in action

Everyone needs a power tool every so often, whether you’re a homeowner or a professional. We are going to run through the top 12 power tools we believe everyone should have. We will also give some examples of what to use them for and tips to use them safely.

12 Must-Have Power-Tools:

1. Cordless Drill

A cordless drill is a screwdriver on steroids. Being cordless is convenient because it keeps you from tripping over cords and/or moving them all over. It also makes it handy to get into difficult areas, such as on a roof.

All cordless drills have a chuck on the tip that you can unscrew and insert any screwdriver or drill bit you need. You can purchase adapters for other things like sockets or paint mixers, but drill bits and screwdriver bits are the most common. There is also a switch near the trigger that you can use to change the direction the drill spins. Most cordless drills also have a ring you can turn to adjust the torque, or how much power the drill is putting out.

cordless drill

Common Uses:

  1. Assembling things, such as cupboards
  2. Carpentry work
  3. Drilling holes
  4. Mixing paint
  5. Twisting or untwisting wires

Usage Tips:

  1. Always hold the drill perpendicular to the surface you are drilling into, never at an angle.
  2. When drilling into soft surfaces, we recommend reversing the bit out of the hole periodically to clear out shavings.
  3. Only use bits that are made for your drill. Don’t ever force a bit that is too big into it.
  4. If you are new to using cordless drills, we recommend that you set yours at a lower torque until you get the feel of how it works and feel comfortable using it.

2. Circular Saw:

Circular saws cut through materials with a round blade. They have a handle on the top with a power switch, a nut to hold the saw blade in place, and a safety guard that surrounds the blade to keep the person using it from touching the blade. The depth of the blade can also be adjusted according to the material you are cutting.

circular saw

Materials A Circular Saw Can Cut Through:

  1. Plywood
  2. Sheetrock
  3. Plastic
  4. Masonry materials

Usage Tips:

  1. Choose the best blade for each specific job. Different materials need different blades.
  2. Make sure the blade depth is correct for each job. The blade should only extend ¼ to ½ of an inch below the item you’re cutting.
  3. Use sawhorses to support both ends of a full sheet of plywood, or any long object.
  4. Make sure the object you’re cutting is secure before you start cutting.
  5. Wear ear protection to protect your ears.
  6. Wear safety glasses.

3. Palm Sander:

A palm sander is exactly what it sounds like, but the power behind it is more electricity than your hand. They are meant to be used on small to medium-sized projects. You will need to choose the grit of sandpaper that is best for whatever you’re sanding, and attach it securely to the sander. You will see the slots where you insert the sandpaper, and the mechanism used to tighten it down. Some of the newest palm sanders on the market use sandpaper with hook and loop type sheets that just peel and stick to apply. Once it’s secure, just turn it on and get sanding. You will need to move around to reach all areas of your job and change the sandpaper often, but other than that, let the sander do the work for you.

palm sander

Common Uses:

  1. Sanding rough surfaces – like furniture that you’re refinishing
  2. Removing paint from furniture
  3. Removing stain from old wooden floors
  4. Removing rust and preparing metal surfaces for paint

Usage Tips:

  1. Always make sure the movement of the sander goes with the grain of your wood.
  2. Don’t push too hard on the sander. Good sandpaper will do the work.
  3. Replace sandpaper often.
  4. Wear safety glasses.
  5. Use a dust mask.

4. Shop Vac:

A shop vac is a special kind of vacuum that is used to pick up large quantities or larger-sized items. It is most often used for cleaning up sawdust and larger pieces of wood that are left behind when cutting while you’re doing woodwork. A shop vac is also good to use to suck up water. It comes with a wide diameter hose and a couple of different types of vacuum heads.

shop vac

Common Uses:

  1. Clean up areas with a lot of sawdust
  2. Pick up items too big for a normal vacuum but too small to pick up quickly by hand
  3. Vacuum in between cushions and under furniture
  4. Clean dryer vents
  5. Suck up water spills
  6. Clean out a barbeque pit

Usage Tips:

  1. Keep shop vac unplugged when not in use.
  2. Don’t vacuum up toxic or flammable items.
  3. Don’t pull the shop vac around by its cord.

5. Miter Saw:

A miter saw is a powerful saw that can cut through almost any type of material with its round blade. It is usually attached to a table with a lever to drop the saw down to make your cut, once you have everything lined up. It has a clear guard to protect users from touching the blade, while still allowing them to see through it and know where they are cutting.

miter saw

Common Uses:

  1. Cutting across grain
  2. Cutting angles

Usage Tips:

  1. Make sure the saw is unplugged when you are changing blades.
  2. Keep fingers away from the blade while it is spinning.
  3. Don’t reach under your cutting table while the blade is spinning.
  4. Don’t lift the blade until the blade has completely stopped spinning.
  5. Wear safety glasses.
  6. Wear ear protection to protect your ears.

6. Jigsaw:

A jigsaw is the second most important tool to own. It has a motor with a handle on the top and a blade on the bottom. The blades are removable so you can put in whatever thickness of blade you need. The motor moves the blade up and down to saw through material. It can make curved or straight precision cuts. The jigsaw is one of the safest power tools on the market because the blade is either in or under the material you are cutting, while your hands are on top. Though supervision is recommended for young children, jigsaws are safe for people of almost any age to use.


Materials A Jigsaw Can Cut Through:

  1. Wood
  2. Steel
  3. Drywall
  4. Fiberglass
  5. Tile
  6. Aluminum
  7. MDF
  8. PVC
  9. Plexiglass
  10. Cement board

Usage Tips:

  1. Choose the correct size of blade for each individual job.
  2. Make sure that your blade is sharp.
  3. Make sure the blade is inserted correctly for each individual job. The blade should not stick out more than one inch under the material you are cutting.
  4. When cutting tight curves, use a smaller blade and move slowly. Don’t force the blade through or it will snap in two.
  5. It’s best to cut slowly, letting the blade do the work, for any type of job.
  6. Always wear safety glasses.

7. Cordless Impact:

A cordless impact is a lot like a cordless drill, except that it has a hammering action inside. It also has a lot of different accessories that you can attach to it. The impact is used instead of a drill when you are doing more heavy-duty jobs.

cordless impact

Common Uses:

  1. Tightening or loosening different hex-head bolts or lag screws
  2. Tightening or loosening lug nuts on your car
  3. Raising or lowering stabilizing jacks

Usage Tips:

  1. Always hold the impact perpendicular to the surface.
  2. Wear gloves.
  3. Make sure the bit is locked in before turning the impact on.
  4. Always wear safety glasses.

8. Sawzall:

A sawzall is also known as a reciprocating saw. These saws have a handle in the back with a blade that sticks out the front. The motor moves the blade back and forth to cut, so that the user can hold onto the saw firmly with both hands. It is great when used on items that are standing vertically or in places that are hard to reach.


Common Uses:

  1. Cutting through tree branches
  2. Cutting notches into wood or walls
  3. Cutting through nails that are difficult to remove
  4. Cutting through PVC pipe

Usage Tips:

  1. Always have the saw unplugged when changing blades.
  2. Know what you’re cutting through. Beware of wires or pipes when cutting through walls.
  3. Sawzalls can have a pretty good kickback. Make sure that you have a steady stance and a good grip on the saw handle.
  4. Always wear safety glasses.

 9. Table Saw:

A table saw is a circular saw that is mounted under a table and rises up through a slit in the table. The material being cut is supported by the table, and you can attach a fence to guide it along, making sure that your cut is straight and even throughout the whole cut. It also has a clear protective shield over the blade.

table saw

Common Uses:

  1. Making long cuts (rips)
  2. Making short angled cuts (crosscuts)
  3. Making straight cuts

Usage Tips:

  1. Keep your table clean and smooth.
  2. Make sure the saw is unplugged before changing blades.
  3. Adjust the blade so that it is about ¼ inch higher than the wood you are cutting.
  4. Attach and adjust a fence to keep cuts straight and consistent. Make sure you keep the wood pushed up against it.
  5. Use another piece of wood, or other item, to push the wood you’re cutting through to the other side of the blade. Never use your fingers.
  6. Never touch the table, or remove the item that has been cut, until the blade has completely stopped spinning.
  7. Always wear safety glasses.
  8. Wear ear protection to protect your ears.

10. Cordless Rotary Tool:

A rotary tool is designed for all different kinds of small jobs. Being cordless is convenient because it gives you the ability to move around as you please without tripping over cords. Most cordless rotary tools run on AA batteries.

cordless rotary

Common Uses:

  1. Grinding with a stone wheel
  2. Polishing with a buffing pad
  3. Sanding with sandpaper sleeves
  4. Filing with special filing bits
  5. Cutting with a cut-off disk

Usage Tips:

  1. Use clamps to hold what you are working on securely in place.
  2. Always unplug the tool before changing or adjusting the different accessories.
  3. Turn off all power before cutting into a wall that may contain electrical wires.
  4. Be aware of the location of the power switch when picking it up or putting it down, so you don’t accidentally turn it on before you’re ready.
  5. Always wear safety glasses.

11. Nail Gun:

A nail gun is a tool that forcefully drives nails into pretty much any surface.

The nails come in strips or reels (depending on the gun) that are put inside the gun itself. A nail gun requires that you press it against the surface you are shooting the nail into with enough pressure to push the head in a little bit. That head is the safety and this pressure releases it, allowing the gun to shoot the nail.

nail gun

Common Uses:

  1. Attaching crown molding or baseboards
  2. Construction, like framing houses
  3. Carpentry, such as building cabinets
  4. Any job that requires a lot of nailing

Usage Tips:

  1. Keep fingers away from the tip while shooting.
  2. Apply accurate pressure to switch off the safety and drive nails into place.
  3. Don’t shoot the nail until you are sure it is where you need it to be and you are ready. The nails are difficult to get out since they are driven in so deep.

12. Air Compressor:

An air compressor is a pump that pressurizes air into a tank. There is usually a hose attached to the tank, and you connect your pneumatic tool to the other end. Air compressors come in many shapes and sizes.  They can be run on electricity, gas engine powered, or run on a 12-volt power outlet from your car, depending on what your needs are.

air compressor

Common Uses:

  1. Inflating tires and rafts
  2. Working on cars
  3. Painting with paint guns
  4. Sanding

Usage Tips:

  1. Always use gas-powered air compressors outside.
  2. Always make sure electric air compressors are plugged into the correct type of electrical source.
  3. Make sure the tools are securely connected before pulling the trigger.
  4. Make sure a shut-off valve is nearby in case of an emergency.


About the Author Adam Harris

Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!