Beginner Power Tools: The First Three

Everybody likes lists and I’m often asked by beginners which power tools they should get first – so here I’ve assembled a rundown of the three power tools I think beginners can start with comfortably and for the least amount of money.


No surprise here. Every house and apartment should at least have a drill, if no other power tool. Most are used for assembly of store-bought pieces of furniture, or various other “some assembly required” household items. Drilling pilot holes for screws is a must-have skill for many beginner-level projects. With additional jigs, such as a pocket hole jig, a drill can help a beginner gain confidence in pursuing more woodworking adventures.

Drills are relatively inexpensive, especially chorded and lower voltage battery models. Just know that the lower the price, the lower the quality. If you’re just getting started, I’d say go for one that’s priced somewhere in the middle of the pack. Be sure to pick up a good bit starter kit, with several drill bit sizes (from 1/16- to 1/2-inch) and driver bits.

Jig Saw

Arguably the first saw most people use learn to use. Of course it gets used most in cutting curves, but with a straightedge guide you can make adequate cross cuts (cutting across a board to length) for most projects. They’re not as powerful or effective as a circular saw for this task, but if you’re planning only to get by with one power saw to start, a jig saw would be it. Some models allow for the base plate to tilt, which would allow you to cut bevels. I don’t recommend jig saws for trying to rip (cutting down the entire length of a board to result in a more narrow piece).

With the right blades, you can cut through metal, plastic, and wood. Make sure you purchase a good assortment of blades.


Sanding is frustrating, especially for beginners when they realize how much time it takes to get a smooth surface. A power sander beats sanding by hand for sure, but it can also help shape a project.

Take corners for example. You could use a power sander to roundover a corner or an edge to add a softer look (and reduce a potentially sharp hazard). It might not be as perfect as using a router with a roundover bit, but you’ll get an adequate job done and not have to use another tool.

Here I’d recommend two types: a detail sander and a random orbit sander (ROS). If you can only get one, go for the detail sander. It will allow you to sand larger surfaces (but will take longer than an ROS), but it will include attachments that will allow you to sand hard to reach and unique surfaces. Be sure to get replacement sanding pads in various grits (roughness), from 60 grit (which will remove wood quickly and will be rough) to 180 or 220 grit (for creating a smooth finish).

Before you purchase a tool, make sure you research them thoroughly by looking for reviews and asking user opinions on social networks.

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