Electrically-powered tools have been around for over a century – without them, productivity and profitability in the building world would plummet. Before their invention, large teams of labourers were needed to perform tasks that today can be carried out much faster by one or two people equipped with power tools.
So if you’re someone who uses a power tool on a regular basis, stop for a minute to think about all the time and effort that tool has saved you, and be thankful that someone had the bright idea to invent it!
All power tools are similar in their makeup. They’re basically a power source, connected to a motor, which then moves an implement. The difference is the motion they create. While other types of power tool exist, the examples below cover those that are most commonly used in building and renovation jobs.
Electric drills and screwdrivers primarily employ rotation either to bore a hole in a surface, or turn a screw or bolt. There are a few different types to look out for:
Also known as a drill driver, a rotary drill is your basic electric drill/screwdriver. With a chuck that holds either a drill or screwdriver bit, the two functions are combined in one tool for efficiency. You can go from one mode to the other with a flick of a switch, as well as change the direction of rotation from clockwise to counterclockwise.
Standard drill drivers are great for use in softer materials such as wood.
Drivers are dedicated to turning screws and bolts, and have a great deal of torque at their disposal, which means they can put a screw into dense hardwood without stripping the head. One caveat: they use special bits that cannot be used by other drill drivers.
Drivers are useful when you have a lot of screws to take care of.
Hammer drills include a selectable hammer action, which moves the chuck in a rapid forward and backward motion while it rotates the bit. This simultaneously pounds and grinds the surface area, making clean holes even in tough materials like concrete and steel.
With the ability to switch to standard rotary drill and driver modes, the hammer drill is a great all-purpose drilling tool that packs a punch.
If it’s serious drilling power you’re after, then look no further than a rotary hammer drill. These are larger and have a lot more power than standard hammer drills, and can even be used with a chisel attachment to break up concrete. Due to their high power, they utilise special drill bits, and operators need to wear ear protection.
When you need a portable tool to cut something, there are a couple of ways you can go:
Circular saws employ a rapidly rotating toothed circular blade. Depending on the type of blade used, they can cut wood, plastic, metal and masonry. Equipped with helpful cutting guides, they’re good at producing straight edges, which makes them especially suited to woodworking.
Reciprocating saws have a straight blade with a serrated edge that moves back and forth to saw through materials. While powerful, they lack finesse and manoeuverability, so they’re best used when neat lines are not the priority. They’re great for hacking off tree limbs or even cutting through nails embedded in wood.
Grinders and sanders
Another tool to employ a rotating implement is the angle grinder. Its variety of attachable abrasive discs can be used to grind, polish, sand or cut a range of materials including stone and metal. Angle grinders are generally used in construction and metalwork.
For smoothing wooden surfaces, use a sander. Whether it has a rotating belt, a spinning disc or a vibrating pad, a sander uses a piece of sandpaper attached to a rapidly moving surface to create friction. These are useful for removing layers of material, such as a finish that’s been applied to furniture.