Must-Have Power Tools for a DIY Beginner

Whether you’re putting together furniture or building it or you’re doing some maintenance around your home, there are a few essential power tools that every DIYer should invest in.  

These must-have tools are for beginners and every skill level.  And let’s face it, as a DIYer can you ever have too many tools.

Here’s an absolute beginner’s guide on every type of tool used for home maintenance, construction, woodwork, metal fabrication or crafts.

Must-Have Power Tools for a DIY Beginner

Cordless Drill

This tool can be used for drilling holes in metal, plastics, wood, masonry and also used as an electric screwdriver for driving screws.

A cordless drill, like any other cordless power tool, has the convenience of freedom from a power cord. This means no cables to trip over or moving extension leads around to provide slack in the cord.

A Cordless Drill can also be used in awkward places, up ladders and on roofs without the inconvenience of the power flex catching in everything.

Another advantage is that a cordless drill is better balanced and easier to use with one hand, especially for driving screws. Corded drills tend to be top-heavy and difficult to use with one hand.

Cordless Drill have various torque settings. This ensures that the chuck will slip when a preset twisting force or torque has been applied to a screw, preventing the screw from being over-driven into timber.

Impact Drivers

These are primarily used for driving long or heavy gauge screws in tougher timber, faster than a standard cordless drill would be capable of doing.

Impact drivers have a hex socket rather than a standard chuck and this accepts impact rated screwdriver bits/bit extenders or drill bits with a hex shank (suitably rated to withstand the impact torque)

Corded Power Drill

A corded power drill is used for drilling holes in metal, plastics, wood, brick, stone, concrete, glass, and tiles.

Various types and lengths of drill bits are available depending on the material being drilled; HSS (High Speed Steel) bits for metal, flat bits for wood, and masonry bits for concrete.

Drills may have a fixed speed setting, 2 speed settings, or variable speed depending on how hard you squeeze the trigger.

Variable speed is most convenient as it allows a drill hole to be started easier without the bit moving all over the place.

Also lower speeds should be used with larger diameter bits to avoid overheating the bit due to friction.

Circular Saw

A circular saw is a high powered saw (1000 watt to 1800 watt) with a 7 1/4 inch (184 mm) diameter blade or greater.

It is able to rapidly cut through timber up to 3 1/2 inches (90mm) in thickness, and is an essential power tool for cutting sheets of timber.

A circular saw will give a more “square” cut than a jigsaw because the blade is more rigid.

The large teeth on the blade also make the cutting of boards much quicker than with a jigsaw which is more suitable for short cuts or curved cuts in thinner material.

An adjustable rip fence can be attached to the saw, and this acts as a guide to allow boards to be trimmed to size.

Blades which have a relatively small number of teeth give a fast but rougher cut. Blades which have a greater number of smaller teeth cut slower, but result in a finer cut.

Jigsaw

Jigsaws can be used to cut wood, metal, plastic, and other materials. Different types of blades are available to suit the material being cut.

Since the blades used in a jigsaw are slim and narrow, this allows curved profiles such as circles to be cut in sheet material.

Jigsaws are normally used for cutting timber up to about 40 mm thick (approx. 1 1/2 inch).

Long blades can be used in a jigsaw and manufacturers quote maximum cutting capacity up to 4 inches.

While a jigsaw gives reasonably good results with thinner timber, the outcome can be variable if thicker stuff needs to be cut.

Since the blade can flex if the side pressure is put on the saw, this can produce a cut which is not perfectly square.

A circular gives a much better cut and is a faster, more accurate solution for making long, straight cuts in thick timber.

Miter Saw

A miter or chop saw is used for cutting lengths of timber up to 9 x 2 inches. It is basically like a circular saw but the blade has a larger diameter, 8, 10, or 12 inches (200 or 250mm)

The cutting head/arm carrying the saw blade and motor is hinged at the back allowing the saw to be brought down on to a length of wood to cut it.

This woodworking power tool produces an accurate square 90 degree cut, essential for construction.

A basic type miter saw is adjustable so that miter (angled and less than 90) cuts can be made.

Compound miter saws enable miter cuts, beveled cuts or a combination of both to be made. A 10 inch sliding compound miter saw is a wise investment for the serious DIYer.

The slide action allows lumber to be cut (up to 9 x 2).

For square cuts on light timber such as dado rail, picture frame, an 8 inch non sliding miter saw is sufficient.

Take note to never use a blunt blade in a circular saw or miter saw. Blunt blades can catch or snag in timber which can potentially cause an accident.

Oscillating Multi-Tool

A multi tool or oscillating tool is a relatively recent power tool. The motor drives a head which oscillates or twists backwards and forwards through an angle of a couple of degrees.

A multi-tool is useful for applications where a jigsaw, handsaw or reciprocating saw can’t be used.

The latter have blades which move relatively slowly over a large distance, so the blade can end up hitting stuff if there isn’t clearance.

A multi-tool on the other hand has a head which moves very rapidly (typically 10,000 oscillations per second) over a small angle.

So the accessory has a small range of movement perpendicular to, rather than towards the workpiece.

A typical application of a multi-tool is to trim the underside of a door jamb so that tiles or flooring can be slid underneath.

The tool can trim, but can also be used for plunge cutting, e.g. to cut out holes in plasterboard (drywall) for fitting socket outlets.

Sander

Sanders are used for smoothing down timber, removing paint, and sanding metal.

There are two major types: belt sanders and orbital sanders.

Belt sander

This has a continuous looped belt of sandpaper which is driven by the motor.

The belts are replaceable and available in various grit sizes, coarse for initial sanding and fine for finishing.

Belt sanders remove material quickly as the revolving belt tends to throw off sawdust and doesn’t become clogged unlike an orbital sander, however it is difficult to sand into a corner because of the curved rollers.

The belt is normally 2, 3 or 4 inches wide (50, 75 or 100mm).

Orbital sander

This uses sheets of sandpaper and the sheets are driven in a sort of circular motion when the sander is applied to the surface.

The sheets tend to clog more than on an orbital sander. An orbital sander can sand right into corners because of the rectangular shape of the sole plate.

Various versions of these are available including palm sanders which can be used with one hand in tight spots because of the small size and shape of the sandpaper used.

Sanding pad for angle grinder

A rubber backing pad and circular sanding disks are available as accessories for angle grinders. 

These are useful for sanding profiled surfaces and also for getting into spots which would be inaccessible to belt or orbital sanders.

Nail Gun

Nothing can beat the usefulness of a nail gun with an air compressor for larger projects such as framing, roofing and trim work.

If you are doing finish work, it’s a must-have, since the alternative is to bang nails in by hand, which usually ends up looking sloppy.  

Nail guns come in several gauges, all of which can attach to the same compressor and air hose.  

Reciprocating Saw

A reciprocating saw or rip saw is a useful tool for cutting timber, plastic and metal.

The tool is similar to a jigsaw but usually higher powered and the blades are longer, up to 8 inches (200mm).

The tool is also long and slim and can be held with two hands to give better control.

It is useful therefore for cutting lengths of timber in situ and flush to surfaces, floorboards, plastic piping, metal bar, and for demolition work.

When buying a saw, don’t go for anything less than 800 watt as the machine will struggle when cutting thicker sections of timber. Variable speed is also a useful feature.

What to look for in a tool

ToolRecommended Basic Specifications
Angle grinder650 watt, variable speed if possible
Miter saw254 mm blade, sliding compound
Circular saw1300 watt
Reciprocating saw800 watt, variable speed
Cordless DrillCombi with hammer action, 18 volt, 10mm chuck
Corded Drill650 watt, keyed 13 mm chuck
Jigsaw600 watt, variable speed on trigger
Belt Sander600 watt, 75 mm wide belt

If you are going to use the diy tools frequently, then it makes sense to buy a professional model.

It will last longer since it will usually be built more sturdily and the internal components will be more heavy duty and durable.

Motor windings are normally wound using heavier gauge wire, and armatures are often covered to prevent particles getting sucked into the motor and abrading the winding insulation.

Internal component parts such as fans and gears are often made from metal for durability.

Also parts will be easier to source. If a tool is only going to get occasional use, a DIY model should be fine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Better to Buy Bare Cordless Tools Without Batteries?

If you decide to buy a range of tools from the same manufacturer, a cheaper option is to buy the tool as body only, i.e. a bare tool without batteries.

Then you can just buy one or more batteries and share them between tools as needed.

Note that batteries aren’t standard, even if they’re the same voltage and therefore not interchangeable between different brands of tools.

Can I use a cordless drill in drilling ceramic tile or concrete?

Yes, you can use a cordless drill in drilling ceramic tile or concrete.

However, the drill needs to be set to hammer mode to drill concrete. To drill tiles, place a piece of PVC tape or Sellotape on the tile to stop the bit slipping.

Turn off hammer mode on the drill, set it on high gear and use a low torque setting to prevent the bit cracking the tile if it snags. Increase the torque setting if the chuck keeps slipping.

Conclusion

It is recommended that you take your time to purchase these power tools for DIY as your budget allows.

You can look out for great deals, and if you can swing it, you can purchase these tools in sets to further help with affordability. 

The next time you are at a home improvement store trying to figure out which power tools to buy, I hope this guide will make your decision easier as a DIY beginner.

Author