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Last Updated: , Created: Sunday, June 19th, 2005

Choosing Power Tools -- from a woman's perspective

Arlette from Victoria BC is trying to dig through the confusion of all the power tool marketing. Let me copy much of her letter here, because she really is asking the kind of questions we all ask sometimes when looking at that wall of tools where each claims to be as good as the next and we are not sure what we need.

She writes: 'I have an impact drill/driver (Mastercraft) on order from Canadian Tire (14.4V) which I think might be a good replacement for my 7.2V Black and Decker drill since it is primarily for simple in home installation of shelving. I found the B&D ran out of torque when I have been lucky enough to hit studs? Now I am looking to find an appropriate cordless power saw. I want the saw to do the work for me. However, I don't know the difference between a circular saw and a reciprocating saw insofar as versatility, ease of use and power. I want to use a cordless saw to cut 2x4s, MDF, and even the odd plastic or metal piping.

What AMP rating should I be looking at? What kinds of features should I be paying attention to? What should I avoid? Should I be buying a combination set of tools that include reciprocating saws with multiple blades that are easy to change that include an impact driver/drill? Do the tools in sets perform as well as individual tools? Is that a more economical way to buy power tools?

As you can see, I'm not even sure I have the right questions, and the selection of tools (without really knowledgeable salespeople) in the marketplace is overwhelming.

I would like to purchase whatever I need in the way of driver/drill/saw tools that are powerful enough for me to do things with ease, not too heavy, and reasonably priced. I also want ergonomically designed tools for ease of handling.

I think I'm looking for good girl power tools.

What would you suggest I watch for?'

It is confusing, even for those of us who work with tools all the time. First, the difference between consumer tools and pro tools are price and the ability to work without stopping and without dying. You are looking for consumer tools which will be lighter, not quite as powerful but able to get the job done without frustration.

Battery operated tools will always be weaker and heavier than the same tool with a plug in cord, and they will cost more -- you have to pay for those batteries. They are convenient, but not the most powerful of tools - you get more power for the dollar with a plug-in cord. Cordless tools are measured by voltage, not amperage. The higher the voltage on batteries, the more powerful it will be, but the heavier it will be as well, 14.4v is a good homeowner level of power. But as a homeowner, you have to remember to charge those batteries a couple of hours or the night before using the tool as batteries slowly discharge even when just sitting on a shelf. (Corded tools only run out of electricity when you pull the extension cord too far.)

B&D is the low but reliable end of consumer tools. MasterCraft is improving its quality probably coming up to and maybe even surpassing B&D. There are a wide variety of unknown brands, usually Chinese copies, which are hard to judge their quality. DeWalt and Bosch will be too heavy for you. Skill is an excellent company with great consumer tools. As a woman you may want to check out Tomboy Tools at . They are good quality and designed specifically for women working around the home - and Tomboy specializes in education as well as selling tools. They will not laugh at you when you say you don't even know if you have the right questions. In fact they were formed precisely because a lot of woman said as you did: ' I think I'm looking for good girl power tools'.

Buying tools in kits are usually the same tools as sold separately but you do save money, if you really need all the tools in the kit. You can well use a jig saw around the house, but not a reciprocating saw, which is a giant jig saw used for demolition. A 3/8 inch variable speed reversible drill and a simple jig saw are a good 'home starting kit'. You can buy special jig saw blades for cutting just about any material. With those two tools you can cut, drill and drive just about anything, not very fast, but even 2x4's. A circular saw will cut much faster, with more dust and more danger than a jig saw. Around the house, a circular saw is really not necessary until you undertake building projects like the back deck.

I hope this helps, and thanks for the question.


Keywords: Power Tools, Ergonomics, Women, Tools

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