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TABLE SAWS

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DUST COLLECTORS

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Saw Stop cabinet table saw 3 horse power

Introduction to Buying Power Tools for Woodworking

By Joshua Farnsworth

My woodworking website is primarily focused on using traditional hand tools, but I’m not the kind of person who is going to say that you should only use hand tools. I don’t. I absolutely love hand tools, and use them much of the time. But I’m also realistic. Woodworking hobbyists won’t build a whole lot of furniture if they only use hand tools…unless they don’t have to work for a living. And professionals would find it very hard to make money in our day using only hand tools.

I’m more concerned with how the furniture fits together than how the parts were made. I love to see woodworkers making quality, long-lasting furniture using traditional wood joints, regardless of whether their furniture is a traditional style or a modern style, or whether it’s made with hand tools or power tools. What matters is that you enjoy yourself and that you feel safe.

Grizzly G0490X 8

I just so happen to enjoy using hand tools for many tasks in my workshop, and find that they are quieter, safer, more historical, they sometimes give superior results (like with hand-cut dovetails), and are quite often faster than using power tools. But if I’m in a rush and power tools will save me time, then I’ll use power tools to cut my joints. Or if, for example, I really don’t feel like cutting a bunch of mortises by hand, then I’ll use a hollow chisel mortiser, a plunge router, or a drill press. And I almost always mill up my boards with power tools, unless I have boards that are too wide for my woodworking machines.

I’m recommending that YOU use the best tool for YOUR job that YOU enjoy using the most. Hopefully that means a good balance between hand tools and power tools.

Should I Buy New Power Tools or Vintage Power Tools?

Below I’ll introduce which power tools and accessories I use in my workshop, alongside my hand tools. If you’ve read my other hand tool buyer’s guides, then you’ll know that quite often I recommend buying vintage or used hand tools. But with power tools, I’m more inclined to recommend brand new tools because of the safety features required by law on more modern tools. Yes, the older huge cast iron tools were built to last, but they can be very scary to use.

Vintage power thickness planer in a woodworking shop and wood mill

Also, when I was using older power tools, I found that I spent way more time than I wanted to trying to figure out how to repair and tune-up the tools.  And finally, there have been some real advances in woodworking machinery technology (like helical head cutters) that offer superior performance over vintage power tools. But if you love mechanics (which I don’t) then don’t shy away from buying vintage tools. Buying newer, safer tools that have been lightly used is another good option. But just check user reviews to make sure the model was well built.

Where Should I Buy Power Tools?

I really like to support small businesses. There are a lot of small companies that make hand tools. But unfortunately it’s hard to find small companies that make power tools, and also hard to find small stores that sell power tools these days. Even the remaining retail woodworking stores are big corporations. Thanks to modern-day eCommerce, almost all of these large and small power tools are available online with reasonable shipping costs, and are often sold by small companies, or directly from the manufacturer (either on their own website, or through marketplaces like Amazon). I find shopping online for power tools to be an easier route than shopping a limited product line at a retail woodworking store. In addition to a greater variety of power tools online, you don’t have to load the huge tools into your truck at the store, and then find several friends to help unload at your workshop. I’ve done this many times, and it’s not fun. When ordering online, and having your power tools delivered, the truck usually backs up to your workshop door, and then transfers it inside with a fork lift.

General International Table Saw

And perhaps the most important reason for shopping for power tools online is the user reviews. Even a reputable and expensive brand occasionally makes engineering mistakes in some of their models, which actual customers are great at pointing out in their reviews. You won’t learn about these problems from a salesman in a retail store. Online shopping reviews now hold companies accountable, and leads consumers to buy the “best models”, rather than the supposed “best brands”.  I’d rather have a shop filled with the best value tools, rather than a shop filled with matching tools. Alright, let’s talk about which power tools you can buy for your workshop!