Best-Rated Woodworking Tools

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Best-selling books on: woodworking saws

Best-selling woodworking power tools

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Best-Rated Essential Carpentry Tools

A rewarding hobby, woodworking is engaging, compelling, and utterly satisfying—especially if you have a good set of tools at your disposal. Ultimately, the more time you spend woodworking the more complicated your projects (and tools) are going to get. But if you are just beginning, try choosing a simple project to start—a small box or an end table, for instance—and purchase the tools you will need to complete it. (For more hints, check out magazines like 'Fine Woodworking' and 'American Woodworker'. You will find good step-by-step woodworking projects aimed at pros and novices alike.) Below you will find a list of high-quality (yet affordable) basic power tools a woodworker needs.

A Router
The main task of a router is to shape the edge of a workpiece with a decorative profile. A well-engineered model, like the 'Porter-Cable 693VSPK Fixed and Plunge Base 1-3/4 HP Router Kit with Case & Edge Guide', gives you both a standard (fixed) base and a plunge base (for working inside the edges), with an interchangeable motor. As a handheld tool, a router is extremely maneuverable and gives quick results. You buzz around a workpiece quickly, transforming it as you go. Along with your router, consider a nice introductory bit set, like the 'Freud 90-100 15-Piece, 1/4" Shank Set', which gives a beginning woodworker a good range of patterns to choose from.

A Jig Saw
Also know as a saber saw, the jig saw is the best handheld tool for cutting curves. One of the most popular models is the 'Bosch 1587AVSK Top-Handle Jig Saw Kit': woodworkers everywhere use it to cut out scroll patterns for cabinets, furniture, and more. Eventually, most woodworkers invest in a band saw, like the 'JET 708115K / JWBS-14CS 14" Bandsaw with Enclosed Stand', for steady, more powerful cutting and resawing, but for starters, a good jig saw is an effective way to cut curves.

A Circular Saw
Traditionally associated with carpenters, a good circular saw, like the classic 'Makita 5007NBK 13 Amp, 7-1/4" Circular Saw with Carrying Case', is also an essential tool in the woodshop. Not nearly as accurate as a table saw or a miter saw, a circular saw is still is easiest way to reduce panels or long boards into smaller, manageable pieces. Use it with a fence or edge guide for greater accuracy.

A Drill
Woodworkers rely on a cordless drill/driver, like the excellent 'Bosch 32614 14.4-Volt Compact Tough Drill/Driver', to apply fasteners and to drill accurate holes for attaching dowels, pegs, and hardware. A high-quality cordless model lets you maneuver easily around the shop and lets you choose either high speeds for drilling small diameter holes or lower speed, higher torque settings for boring larger holes.

A Sander
To remove marks and blemishes, and to smooth wood before applying stain and finish, every woodworker needs a good sander—or two. A belt sander, like the 'Porter-Cable 352VS 3" x 21" Variable Speed Belt Sander with Dust Bag', with its powerful motor and relatively coarse sanding belts, takes care of the first stage of sanding, removing material--even over a fairly large surface--quickly and easily. The smaller, more-precise random-orbit sander, like the 'Porter-Cable 333VS 5" Quicksand Variable Speed Random Orbit Finishing Sander', can also remove blemishes, but it is best at smoothing surfaces and removing scratches when you are preparing a workpiece for finishing.

A Table Saw
The first big investment most woodworkers make, a well-built table saw, like the popular 'DEWALT DW746XB 10" Woodworker's Table Saw with 30" Fence', is used to rip (cutting wood with the grain), crosscut (cutting across the grain) and cutting miters or bevels (cutting at an angle). You will also use it to make joinery such as dadoes (U-shaped channels) and rabbets (L-shaped channels the join the edges of workpieces). For making quick accurate cuts, especially for larger, more complicated projects, a table saw is a woodshop essential.

What to Buy Next
Once you have purchased the basic tools, and you have achieved success with a few projects, you might want to consider the next exciting stage of shop tool shopping: planers, band saws, jointers, planter joiners, lathes, dust collectors, air nailers, and more! For now, though, take it one tool at a time.

Best Deck-Building Tools

Outdoor decks are among the most valuable home improvement projects. An intelligently designed and well-built deck increases your living space, makes entertaining guests a little easier, and gives your family a wonderful place to gather--or escape. Depending on the complexity of your design, a deck is a pleasing project to take on yourself. Doing it on your own saves a lot of money and—better yet—you only need to buy a few basic tools, all of which can be used for future home projects. To help you get your project started, here is a look at the tools you will need to build a great deck.

Circular Saw
Circular saws are the workhorses in most sizable home improvement projects, from decks to fences to major room renovations. . Circular saws make speedy 90-degree cuts, and you can adjust the saw's foot to produce 45-degree bevel cuts. You can buy a circular saw for as little as $50, but inexpensive saws generally have weaker motors and struggle with some cuts, making it difficult at times to follow a straight line. Better saws—such as the carpenter-favorite, the 'Makita 5007NBK 13 Amp, 7-1/4" Circular Saw with Carrying Case'--are built with contractors in mind and feature ball-bearing construction, 13 amp motors, and built-in scales. Unless you are planning a very simple deck, we recommend spending the extra money and buying a more powerful saw that will last.

Tape Measure
Make sure you buy a 25-foot tape measure for your deck job, especially if you will be taking lots of measurements without the help of an assistant. The 'Stanley 33-725 25' Fat Max Tape Measure' tape measure is a solid choice, not only for its rubber nonslip grip, but for its superior 11-foot standout, the distance the blade extends without breaking.

Square
Maintaining a square layout from start to finish is critical for every home improvement project, but especially for an outdoor deck that will potentially hold a lot of weight as well as showcase various finish cuts. The 'Swanson Tool SO101 7" Speed Square' works as a framing square, T-square, miter square, and protractor. Another plus is its ability to function as a saw guide.

Drill/Driver
It is always best to fasten decking down with screws, which have more holding power than nails and can be removed without damaging the wood. And whenever you screw through the end of a plank--as with butt joints on larger decks--you should always pre-drill holes so the board doesn't split. A drill/driver like the 'Porter-Cable 9866 12-Volt 3/8" Cordless Drill Kit' does both drilling and driving screws well and keeps you in action with two rechargeable battery packs.

Level
Level joists and plumb posts are critical components of a well-built, safe, and long-lasting deck. The 'Johnson Level & Tool 9848 48" Contractor Aluminum Box Beam Level', is a sensible choice for any do-it-yourselfer. Longer levels increase the accuracy of readings and also double as reliable straight edges that can help with layout. Made of black anodized aluminum, the level's edges are precision-machined for greater accuracy.

Layout Square
Layout squares are larger than simple framing squares and are important tools when it comes to ensuring accurate 90-degree angles during layout. We recommend the 'CH Hanson 345EK A-Square 3' x 4' x 5' Folding Layout Triangle'; it measures 3 by 4 by 5 feet and folds up conveniently for storage.

These tools will get you building a high-quality deck that you will enjoy for years. Depending on the complexity of your plans and the depth of your tool collection, it is possible you will need a few other tools, such as a such as a shovel , a post-hole digger , a small sledgehammer, a water level , or a jig saw. And when you are done, you will find that you own the basic tools for a lot of other home improvement projects.

Circular Saw Essentials

Insider information you need...

Cut through a two-by-six or a piece of plywood with a hand saw, and there is likely to be not just a lot of huffing and puffing, but a meandering line as well. Yet switch on a circular saw, and the cut will come out straight and easy.

Circular saws are the workhorses of any construction job, from framing an addition to building a tree house. They glide through lumber in seconds, and can be fitted with an assortment of blades that rip through everything from nail-embedded wood to concrete blocks and bricks.

The saws come in a variety of sizes, but the most popular contains a blade 7.5 inches in diameter. The blade on most models can be adjusted to cut on a bevel up to 45 degrees, which is useful in cutting boards to frame the pitch of a roof. Larger jobs, such as cutting the timbers used for post-and-beam construction, require saws with blades of at least 12 inches in diameter. Correspondingly, lighter saws with reduced blade circumference should be used for smaller projects such as cutting plywood or two-by-fours. Regardless of the size of the blade, circular saws come in two varieties.

Worm-Drive Saws
A worm-drive saw is the toughest, most powerful circular saw, making it the right choice for heavy-duty jobs like framing an entire house or sawing through concrete. The saw derives its name from a pair of gears--the worm and the work gears--that position the motor shaft and the blade at right angles to each other. This gives the tool its characteristically broad shape.
The worm-drive saw also contains an oil-filled reservoir, similar to a crankcase, that lubricates the two gears and dulls the circular saw's ear-splitting scream. In addition, the blade's position on the left side of the motor makes it easy to see and follow the cutting line as you are working. Because of its power this saw is noticeably heavier than other models; the weight may add to fatigue if it is used for any length of time.

Sidewinders
Because of their lightweight portability, sidewinders are the most popular model of circular saw--ideal for anyone doing less than major construction jobs. The blade and the motor are aligned alongside each other, for a compact profile. The disadvantage to this configuration, however, lies in a slight difficulty in being able to see the cut while you are using the saw. In order to get a clear view you must lean over the saw, which can become tiring after long periods of use.

Blades
Without a good blade, a circular saw is about as useful as a hand saw. Less expensive blades are made from steel, but stronger and more durable ones are cast from carbide. Regardless of the material, the key to proper use lies in choosing the right blade for the job, and sending it to a tool shop for occasional sharpening.

-General-purpose blades: contain about 20 teeth, and balance speed with durability to create smooth cuts.

-Fine work: such as cutting window trim or crown moldings requires a blade with more teeth--between 40 to 60--for a smoother cut.

-Veneered plywood: used for cabinets or paneling should be cut with a plywood blade made up of a mass of tiny teeth like those on a hand saw. These blades cut slowly without splintering.

-Heavy-duty work: requires different blades altogether. A remodeling blade with about a dozen square-edged teeth can rip through wood hammered with nails. And for cutting stone or concrete, choose a masonry blade. Rather than teeth, this blade has an abrasive edge that literally grinds through material.

Cutting Tips
Circular saws are designed to make straight cuts rather than curves or angles. Forcing the saw off a line will cause the blade to bind, which could make the whole saw kick backward--a dangerous situation. For the same reason, make sure that blades are clean of resinous gum from wood before using them. These sticky deposits could also cause the blade to bind, resulting in kick back.

Soup up your Woodshop

Beginning woodworkers often experience the same predicament: they love woodworking. What tool should they buy next? Assuming you have got the standards tools—router, sander, table saw—and you are hunting for the next best addition to your shop, consider the following options:

Band Saw
For scrollwork and resawing, a band saw is a must. The 'Delta 28-206 1 HP 14" Professional Band Saw, Closed Stand' is a smart buy for a hobbyist who is getting serious, featuring heavy cast-iron trunnions, a smooth 1-horsepower motor, and nine-spoke wheels for more accurate tension on the blade. Jig saws and scroll saws can cut curves, sure, but if you want to cut a round table top or salvage fresh boards from an old beam, you will need a band saw.

Plate Joiner
In the early 1980s, the plate joiner entered the world of woodworking. Suddenly, it was much, much easier to make strong, lasting joints--joints that invariably fit, too, because mating pieces can slide about 1/8 of an inch without binding. A model like the 'Porter-Cable 557K Professional Plate Joiner--Includes 1,000 Pack of Assorted Biscuits. A $19.99 Value!' is a godsend to almost any woodworker, whether you are building furniture, cabinets, doors, you name it.

Dust Collector
If the saw dust in piling up in your shop, it might be time for a dust collector. (Remember: a clean shop is a safe shop.) The 'Delta 50-850 115 Volt, 1-1/2 Horsepower, 1200 CFM Dust Collector' is a powerful, well-built machine with a 1-1/2-horsepower induction motor and curved steel impellers. A dust collector like this whisks away debris from tools' dust ports with surprising force, so the only thing collecting particles around the shop might be your old broom.

Portable Planer
Two of the hottest-selling woodworking tools at Amazon.com are benchtop planers: one from DeWalt, one from Delta. The 'DEWALT DW733 12-1/2" Portable Thickness Planer' offers resharpenable blades, a calibrated depth crank that adjusts 1/16 of an inch with each full rotation, and extra-long infeed and outfeed tables. The 'Delta 22-580 13" Two-Speed Finishing Planer' features a 2-speed feed rate, a blade zero indicator (which lets you set the cutterhead to the exact thickness of your wood), and reversible easy-change blades. The cutterhead on each planer locks differently, but both hold tight. Users love both.

Jointer
There is an elemental pleasure to using a jointer. You start with a ragged-edged piece of wood. You turn it on its side and run it over the jointer's spinning knives. The stock that comes out the other side has a smooth, straight, planed edge. For hobbyist work, a 6-inch jointer, like the B00006ANS5, with its easy-to-use hand wheels, opens doors for reusing salvaged or damaged materials.

Lathe
Why not turn your own table legs? A set of bowls? A baseball bat? With a new lathe, like the solid 'JET JWL-1236 / 708352 12" Variable Speed Wood Lathe with Stand', you can turn stock up to 34-1/2 inches between centers and add distinction and flare to your next furniture project.

(New) Table Saw
Still making do with a benchtop saw? Now might be the time to upgrade to a full-size woodworking saw, like the 'JET 708777K/JWSS-10SPF Supersaw With 30" Fence and Sliding Table'. The saw is JET's response to the popular 'DEWALT DW746XB 10" Woodworker's Table Saw with 30" Fence', and it is an impressive piece of equipment, with is all cast-iron table, enclosed motor, extension wing, micro adjustable fence with magnified cursor, cam-locks, and sliding left-side table with large miter gauge. If you have got a small shop, but you demand professional performance from your tools, this might be your saw.

Roller Stand
If your shop is a one-person operation, consider treating yourself to a handy roller stand, like the 'Record RPR400S Folding Roller Stand'. Whether, you are running panels through a table saw or resawing long stock with your band saw, having roller stand nearby is going to keep your from having to search out a buddy, every time.

Universal Mobile Base
If you are like us, you are cramming more tools into your workshop than can really fit. Luckily, the 'HTC HTC2000 Universal Mobile Base' can make a world of difference. The base is sturdy and easy to assemble, plus--unlike any other mobile base on the market--it adjusts to fit virtually any large woodworking machine, forming squares from 12 by 12 to 36 by 36 inches and rectangles as big as 20 by 52 inches. Buy a few, and you can roll one tool in; roll another tool out, making the most of the space you have got.

Information sourced from: Amazon.com

This page was last updated: Monday, 2005-08-01 13:15 PST