Using and selecting power tools is basic for success in the workshop. To help you better do just that, study the features in this section.

Woodworking Power Tool Uses

Always plan to buy the best tools that you can afford, but don't expect to buy all the tools that you'll eventually need at once. Instead, add tools as your woodworking knowledge and skills increase. Here's a guide to woodworking power tools that can help you make those purchase decisions.

You can buy several types of stationary (versus hand-held and portable) woodworking machines as either floor models or benchtop models. Floor models handle heavier woodworking chores.

Drill Press A drill press drills small holes and bores big ones. The depth can be accurately set. The table adjusts for angled drilling. Use the Drill Speed Chart (below) to help get the best results.

Router They are fixed-base or of the plunge type. The plunge router has more versatility because its up-and-down sliding motor housing enables you to start and end a cut in the middle of a board.

Jointer Jointers allow one to create a straight edge on a board and also to remove slight warps.

Tablesaw Besides their availability as either floor or benchtop models, tablesaws are sold in a contractor's style or a cabinetmaker's style. Both have the same blade adjustments, but the cabinetmaker's saw has more heft, power, and less vibration. The cabinetmaker's saw also normally requires 220 voltage and costs more than a contractor's saw.

Portable Circular Saw They have either a helical-gear or a worm-drive mechanism for driving the blade. The helical-gear is popular, but the worm-drive has more cutting power. In blade sizes from 4".

Drill/Driver Cordless drill/drivers look and feel bulkier than corded models because they contain a battery pack that draws up to 18 volts. Drill-drivers cost more than drills or drivers due to the clutch that controls the torque for driving crews.

Planer Thickness planers self-feed, taking the work out of dimensioning boards. They come in portable and floor models with board-capacities to 15" wide and 6" thick.board-capacities to 15" wide and 6" thick.

Portable Belt Sander Typically have belt sizes of either 3x18", 3x21", 3x24", or 4x24". The larger belt sizes cut more quickly.

Radial-Arm Saw If you can figure the angle, the pivoting blade and motor assembly of a radial-arm saw can cut it. The most popular size for home shops has a 10" blade.

Lathe A lathe provides the rotary power to spin a piece of wood, which you shape with a chisel. You make bowls by mounting wood to the headstock, spindles by mounting the wood between the headstock and tailstock.

Scrollsaw Much safer than any other power saw, a scrollsaw is often a hobby in itself. Its thin blade can maneuver through the tiniest pattern detail.

Bandsaw Table size and blade height determine the size of wood that you can saw. Smaller blades will cut tighter circles.

Drill Press

  • Accurately drill and bore
  • Make repetitive holes
  • Drill angled holes
  • Sand curved surfaces


  • Shape edges
  • Create profile molding
  • Cut grooves, dadoes and rabbets
  • Make raised-panel doors
  • Do decorative joinery


  • Give straight edges to boards
  • Remove slight warps
  • Cut flat surfaces


  • Rip boards to width
  • Saw mitered joints
  • Cut flat surfaces
  • Crosscut boards and panels
  • Saw dadoes and grooves

Portable Circular Saw

  • Rip sheet goods of plywood to workable size
  • Cut dimension lumber to size for construction
  • Make cutouts in larger material by plunge cutting


  • Drill holes
  • Drive and remove screws


  • Mill boards to exact thicknesses
  • Turn rough stock into surfaced boards

Portable Belt Sander

  • Remove heavy amounts of wood quickly with little effort
  • Smooth vertical and horizontal surfaces
  • With the help of a stand, sand small objects

Radial-Arm Saw

  • Accurately cross-cut wood to length
  • Make angled cuts
  • Saw dadoes
  • Rip wood to width


  • Make bowls, platters and other vessels
  • Create table legs and spindles


  • Make puzzles and jewelry
  • Saw intricate fretwork


  • Quickly cut curves and circles
  • Make angled cuts
  • Resaw thick stock