Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Power Tools (A Man's Best Friend)

What is it about men and power tools? Why do we love them so? My theory is that power tools make men feel like pee-pee.  Ummm...not that kind of pee-pee! But "P" as in Practical and "P" as in Powerful. Practical: Because you can accomplish tasks at a fraction of the time and energy of manual tools. Powerful: Because they make you feel drunk with power as you rip through large pieces of wood like a hot knife through butter. Plus - they make loud noises too! Yeah!

I was going to get into the flooring and framing but I think this is a good point to talk about tools. Having the right tools make all the difference in the world. That said, tools are not cheap and power tools are definitely not cheap but if you are buying tools that you know you’ll be using again you do sleep better knowing it was money well spent. I have been blessed enough to live by neighbors that are both generous and have lots of cool tools (great combination!). As with most things you buy, you have to find that happy medium between cost and value and with power tools it’s no different. There are a wide range of opinions on which brand you should buy and while I'm sure some would disagree but based on my amateur opinion, if I had to put brands in a general order of quality I’d probably order it something like this: Dewalt, Bosch, Makita, Hitachi, Craftsman, Black & Decker, Skil, Tool Shop (whatever Chinese brand Harbor Tool Shop is carrying). I'm sure I've left off a few quality brands and the list may vary depending on the tool in question but this is just off the cuff so don’t hold me to it. So let’s start with one of the most basic power tools:

The Power Drill – up until about 6 months ago the only power drill I owned was a Skil. This is a lower end brand and will do the job if you live in a townhome (like we did) and all you’re doing is assembling Ikea furniture but if you want any real torque in your power drills move up. I’ve noticed that professionals/contractors almost exclusively use Dewalt (easily identified by their yellow color). This is a very durable and high-performance brand and your best bet if you’ll be using the tool very frequently and for heavy duty projects but it is pricey. I couldn’t justify spending this much for something I don’t use every day. I did need an upgrade though and noticed a three-piece Bosch power tool set at the clearance rack at Menards and so I was able to get a power drill, circular saw and reciprocating saw (i.e. saw zaw) with 2 lithium ion batteries for about $300 (retails for $500). Score! I’ve been very happy with the purchase. This is virtually a life-long investment so don’t go cheap here. 

The Impact Driver – this is not a have-to-have but boy it is close. This is like a power drill on steroids because it can drive big screws quick and deep unlike any regular power drill. I was fortunate enough to have a neighbor who owned this Milwaukee one which made drilling 4 inch lag screws a piece of cake (or even smaller screws). They are loud and have a hammering effect when they meet resistance on a drill so they don’t strip your screws and get them in very quick. Very tempted to add one of these to my future tool collection because using this tool makes me feel like this:

The Miter (Chop) Saw - You will obviously need saws since you will be cutting lots of wood. Most people have a circular saw but given how much wood you are going to be cutting I would highly recommend a miter saw. This is also called a chop saw but it makes cutting 2x4’s especially for framing MUCH faster and cleaner. It’s also great for making quick angled cuts which you will need for framing roofs.
so easy even a 9 yo can operate!
uhh...make sure the blade is pointed outward
The Jig Saw – this is a tiny saw but it is a must have as well. It can perform almost any cut but where it is most handy is when you are trying to make exact cuts like framing a circular shape in wood to wrap floor boards around a tree. They are not too expensive either, as you can buy a decent one of these for under $50 and it is totally worth it. I went with a Black & Decker since it was only like $30 on Amazon and I’ve been very pleased with performance. FYI – this is a saw you push not pull. I spent the first day trying to pull it towards me and the blade kept popping off. So frustrating! It wasn’t until I went back to the store that I realized I was doing it wrong. I told you I wasn’t handy. You should have seen the look on the Menard’s employees face when I explained my problem to him.
can't do this cut without a jigsaw
Right Angle Square –Not a power tool but you absolutely need one of these. Makes framing much easier as it ensures you are drawing a straight line  since you can rest the beveled edge perpendicular to your cut as it sits at a square 90 degrees. This makes for a straighter cut.  

Screws - Not a power tool again but don’t go cheap here. This is what holds everything together. I found these GRIPFast Gold Triple-Coated screws from 1 3/8 inch to 5 inch screws to be solid and useful for putting up walls to – and no pre-drilling necessary which makes it so easy especially when using an impact driver.  You can get these at Menards for about $11 per box. By the way, these aren't real gold in case anyone gets any ideas about driving over and stealing all my screws. I'm building a treehouse....not recreating Solomon's Temple here!

Oh, I'd also recommend some clamps if you ever plan on working alone. Because I didn't always have someone available to hold stuff while I cut. 

Happy shopping!

Next posting will show you how I built the flooring, framing and ladder!


  1. Power tools in general have a lot of uses inside and outside the household as well as on the construction site and are relatively cheap. But when you decide to buy a power tool how do you know whether to buy cordless one or an electric one. But how do you know whether to buy a cordless one or an electric one when it comes time to make a purchase? They both do basically the same job so it really depends on where and how you will be using it. That's why your right that "Power Tools (A Man's Best Friend)". Nice blog!

  2. it was really a nice article and i was really impressed by reading this article. Thanks for the post.

  3. Thanks for your nice article. Here I like your quote "This is virtually a life-long investment so don't go cheap here" about Bosch Power Drill. Thanks again.

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