Sunday, 15 July 2012

What Powertools for a Garage Workshop?

I have covered what general handtools I think are necessary in a previous post:

Which Handtools?

So I will move on to power tools now. For the most part, I have bought powertools more typical of building and renovating projects. These however are useful in any handyman / tinkerer's arsenal of tools so I will divide the tools up into must-have and nice-to-have.

Must Have Powertools For the Workshop
Bench Grinder
I think every workshop needs a bench grinder. This tool is useful for re-profiling pieces of steel, sharpening drill bits, lathe tools mower blades etc..

I have mine attached to a rolling trolley so I can roll it outside to avoid getting the abrasive dust in the garage which destroys bearings very quickly.

Cordless Drill
Sometimes you just want to drill a quick hole. This is where a cordless drill comes into the picture. They are useful for light work and usually come with 2 batteries so if one runs out of juice, you still have a spare. I don't run a lithium ion drill because in my opinion the cost wasn't worth it at the time.

Despite having a "cheaper" drill, I am very satisfied with it. It has run faultlessly for 7 years now and I have used it to mix grout etc... Buy a decent brand name cordless and you will be set for quite a few years.
Cordless impact driver

When the 10V lithium ion tools came out they were revolutionary. My brother had the ordinary 10V screwdriver and said it was brilliant. I was using my codless drill at the time to drive screws and it was having a hard time with long screws, often stripping the heads. I had it happen one too many times and decided an impact driver would remedy the problem. Despite the small battery size, this little Bosch 10.8 Volt driver has a huge amount of torque, able to driver long screws into wood. I can't comment on how it would perform on hardwoods, but on pine and other softwoods it outclasses the drill.

Angle Grinder
An angle grinder is useful because it cuts and grinds. With different disks, you have the versatility of a grinder, cutter, sander and polisher. I have used my little Makita for a wide range of tasks and it is my go-to tool for axe reprofiling.

Corded Drill
Why would you need a corded drill if you have a cordless? Because corded drills have a lot more power, don't need charging and are much more capable in tough materials. I have 3 corded drills. The first is my general or light duty drill.

This drill has a quick chuck and is lighter than most drills. I use this when I have a lot of drilling to do that is repetative. It won't wear me out since it is so small and light. The next drill is my medium duty drill.

 This drill handles medium drilling and hammer drill tasks. It has more power, a heavier duty gearbox and also more wattage for more serious tasks. This kind of drill is expensive and you should only buy one if you really need it. If you do need this kind of drill and think it will see regular use, get a decent one right away. I am very happy with my metabo and would buy one again if this one fails. My last drill is used for heavy duty drilling and chipping tasks.

It is a Hitachi DH 24 PC3. It is a drill that uses SDS Plus tools and as such can handle much more torque. If I compare this with my metabo when drilling into concrete or stone, this Hitachi does the work in a 5th of the time. It will also function as a small jackhammer used for chipping duties such as removing tiles, concrete dregs dried on the floor etc.. I bought this Hitachi because I had the much larger DH 45MR and was so impressed with it's reliability and power. I have not been disappointed.

Circular Saw
Handsaws work, but who needs all that bother? When you are building a fence or a dog box, a circular saw will save you a great deal of time and effort. You don't need to go extravegant. I bought this one at a second-hand shop 8 years ago and it has been used to renovate 2 houses.

There are better saw available but this one works and I am used to it so I have not bothered to replace it. As a side note, make sure the saw you buy has enough power. This is especially important if you will be cutting hard wood or if your blades won't be changed so often. I would recommend at least 1000 Watts. Every power tool has this info on it:

 New saws have a riving knife to stop kickback from occuring. These saws are unforgiving so make sure you have someone show you how to use it or else risk losing digits.

Heat Gun
A heat gun is a great little tool used for stripping paint, softening plastics, unfreezing pipes etc... I have used mine to soften linoleum before laying it down and stripping paint. They are effectively a hair dryer on steroids. I didn't spend much money on mine yet it haslasted years and despite being mistreated by a friend (who melted my compressor hose with it among a long list of other things he chose to rest it on), it still functions well.

Soldering Iron
This should be on anyone's list of power tools. This little tool will help you repair or make electronics, shrink heat-shrink or even burn your name into the kitchen table. When my washing machine stopped working, this $10 tool allowed me to melt the solder and remove the burned-out speed controller and solder in the 50 cent replacement. This saved me a $300 call out fee or a $1000 replacement machine. You can get fancy soldering irons but I just have a cheapie because it does not get used very often.

You should have at least 1 sander in your tool list. These save you a huge amount of time and effort and given their relatively low price, it isn't hard to get a few different types for differnt tasks.

I have a half sheet, a quarter sheet and a belt sander. The half sheet is used when I have a large surface that needs finish sanding. It covers a wider area than the quarter sheet. When I need to sand small areas and I have to be a little more carefull, I use the quarter sheet. If I need to remove large amounts of material, I use the belt sander. This bad boy will rip through paint and wood without mercy. This is used for rough work and care needs to be taken not to gouge the work. I bought the green "handyman" Bosch sander because unlike other brands, it is made in Switzerland which is renowned for producing excellent tools

Hole Saws
Although these are not power tools, they are used with drills and are a valuable accessory to have. I would consider these as necessary as a good set of wood drill bits. I have a Starret set which is HSS. These will cut through steel as well as wood and as such I don't have to be worried if I hit a nail with them as they will chew straight through it.

Nice To Have Power Tools
Now that I have finished with what I consider to be essential tools, I will move onto the nice-to-haves.

Air Compressor
This tool is so nice to have it is borderline compulsory in a handyman's kit. I have nail guns, rattle guns and air driven drills. They save trips to the petrol station if you have a flat and you can use an air-gun to blow dust out of your tools when you are finished with them  

My compressor is 2HP direct drive unit. It has a water seperator so I can spray paint with it and it has 2 regulators in case I want to use 2 different air tools at once. When looking at a compressor, you need to decide how much air you will use and buy one with the appropriate tank size. Belt driven units generally last longer, but, they need higher current so if you will run it from a long extension lead, a direct drive will have less chance of triggering your circuit breaker.

Routers are nifty little things that are used for joinery or profiling the edges of wood. I have used mine to manufacture my own architraves and skirting boards so I didn't have to run back and forth to the hardware store. Mine is a Bosch GKF 600 and is pretty tiny. I bought the full kit which allows me to trim laminate or use stencils. I have been really happy with mine. 

Make sure you buy a good set of router bits since it spins at 33,000 rpm. You don't want a piece of tungsten carbide flying off at that speed.

Sometimes you just need to shave a few mm from a piece of wood to make something fit. Sometimes you want a pice of wood to have that glassy finish. This is where the planer comes in. Instead of using abrasives to remove wood, it uses knives to shave a layer of wood away. I never realised how nice it is to have a planer before I bought mine. I used it alot for preparing rough stock or getting windows or doors to fit. It has been used to make door floor plates and furniture. I bought a mid range Bosch because it handled the depth of cut I needed.

Sliding Compound Mitre Saw
I have a lot of different saws. Each serves a different purpose. The most used of these is the sliding compound mitre saw.

I bought a Makita LS701 because the larger Bosch I had previously was too hard to manuever up stairwells. When I first moved to Norway I worked as a carpenter and it became back breaking. I replaced the Bosch with this lighter Makita and couldn't be more pleased. It is a very accurate saw, has great dust collection and the laser makes life much easier when trying to make accurate cuts. It will trench cut too which is a bonus. The relatively small blade size means that there is less wasted material and less dust. They are also cheaper to buy. I attached mine to a set of Bosch saw feet so it will attatch to my portable saw stand.

A jigsaw allows you to cut curves due to the small thin blade it employs. A circular saw blade will catch if you try to turn the saw but a jigsaw will not. A good saw will have orbital cutting, variable speed, quick blade chang and tilt function. It may even have a built in light which is a huge bonus. I chose the Makita because it had all these features. I have been really happy with this saw and use it for installing floating laminate floors since a jigsaw blade is cheaper to replace than a circular saw blade (the laminate trashes blades!)

Reciprocating Saw
This saw is the Ivan Drago of hacksaws. It will outcut and outclass a hand hacksaw. I used mine for cutting out windows and door. It sliced through screws and nails and since it had a 4 way adjustable blade, it could cut very close to wall. I bought a DeWalt because it was manufactured in Germany where as the others were Chinese. I wanted a quality saw since my last experince (an Ozito Recip Saw), shook the freckles off my face.

Fein Multi Master 
This little guy is a saw that relies on an oscilating blade. I have used this tool when I have been faced with a job with poor access where I need to make the neatest cuts possible. This tool is in class of it's own. It comes with a vast array of attachments from scrapers to grout removers and is the best multi-use power tool I have ever used. It's not a tool you use everyday, but when you need it you are very glad you have it. 

 Since the patent ended for this saw, many companies have begun making copies including Bosch. There is an adapter available so you can use Bosch blades on the Fein:


Why is this a big deal? Because the Fein blades are super expensive wheras the Bosch blades are not.

Drill Press
The drill press can handle heavier drilling than a hand held drill. It also has a table so that you can drill at 90 degrees. A good drill press will have a belt or gear system so that you can alter speeds. It will have a depth indicator and a depth stop to help you measure how far you have drilled. These can be expensive but are very useful tools to have. I bought a rusted up junker and fixed it. With a drill press, mass equals more rigididty and less viabration. Mine weighs about 60 Kg.

Once you have the press, get yourself a good vice or clamp set-up. I use a vice grip type with a T nut. It slides along the cut outs and locks work to the table. It's fast and convenient.

Well, I didn't intend on this post being so long and in honesty, I have used several hours putting this together so I hope you guys get some use from it. The tools you need are always dependent on what type of projects you undertake, but for a general handyman, this guide will be a good starting point. Stay safe.


  1. Nice to see Aussie Abbot & Ashby grinders make it to the other side of the world. :) Nice post.

  2. Thanks mate. I have had my grinder for close to 15 years now and have never regretted getting it. Admittedly I use my belt grinder more but the bench grinder has still seen it's fair share of use.

  3. this is a great blog, i have used my Makita Garden tools for over 5 years now, and they are still going strong, i suppose if you are looking for long lasting tools Makita is the way forward!

  4. Nice! I can feel your readiness in fixing and creating different sorts of device. Your tools are one of a kind, and it’s impressive that you were able to collect various sets. I’m sure you are going to make good use of all of them. Anyway, I hope you have your protective clothing and gears to pair with those sets of equipment. Remember to keep it safe!

    Alphonse Daigle

  5. I think you are missing the table saw, rotating vise, and a shop vac... Another surprisingly handy tool is a biscuit joiner. It can edge join wood with a bond stronger than the wood itself. All my work surfaces are edge joined 2x6's

    1. Thanks for the comment Sott. I do have a table saw and a shop vac, but I wouldn't consider these to be essential to general renovations as a circular saw with straight edge can handle most tasks a table saw can and a standard vac can handle the clean up. I have tried to make this list generic and although I have a rotating vice, I find I use a fixed vice much more often. The biscuit joiner is useful but is a little specialized to furniture making.

      The list can vary depending on what projects a person undertakes and your suggestions would be very useful for someone working on furniture or specifically wood working.

      Thanks again for the comment.

  6. I really like your blog it excellent. this blog is very helpful and informative. Thanks for sharing with us. garage tools

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Excellent list! Thanks for sharing it with us.
    I am thrilled to see Makita there. I've been using Power Tools for a long time now and Makita is one of my favorite brands.

  9. Very nice power tools and review of yours are you a power tools specialists?

  10. Hey,excellent blog, it provide the information about Garage tools, thanks for posting.

  11. Wow, where did you find that great router bit set? Compact, portable and very slick!

    1. Chickey, the router bit set is a Bosch set and although not rated to 33 000 rpm, it has survived use by my router which is rated to 33 000. You just need to keep the carbide blades clean if routing pine as the sap build up will start to affect the chip ejection, causing overheating.

  12. Great list of power tools! We may also try Makita lxt on your next project, we're using it.

  13. Thanks for sharing a great collection of power tools. Here somebody will find a more collection of Power Tools . Thank you !

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  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

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