Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Girl's Best Friends...

of the inanimate variety at least.  And no, I am not talking about little, shiney, useless rocks dug out of a mine in Africa.  Nope, a girl's best friends are Power Tools...
There are a couple of tools that everyone should have, even if you live in an apartment.  The single most useful, versatile, handy tool I own is a cordless drill.  I have used it for everything from building my house to making soap.  Everyone needs a good cordless drill.  The second most useful tool is a circular saw.  Add in a tape measure, a square, a couple of clamps and the right fasteners and you can build just about anything.  If you want to get fancy or you feel intimidated by using a circular saw, then you should have one of these as well...
Good quality chop-saws are now so adjustable and easy to use that anyone can create fancy angles and tight joints with very little effort.  However, this type of saw will cost considerably more than a circular saw.  I bought this saw new off of eBay for a fraction of what it costs in a retail store, so look around for bargains.  In spite of the higher cost, this may be worth it if you want more precision, ease of use, safety or if you have a big job to do.  This type of saw is about as safe to use as saws ever get.  All of them can hurt you badly with a moments carelessness, so do be careful.  Practice with them unplugged so you get a feel for them before you turn them on.   

If you just want to do some things around your house or barn, then you don't really need a chop-saw.  It's nice to have, but not essential.  What is essential, is having the right fasteners.  Your building is only as good as the nails or screws that hold it together.  These serrated, narrow, sharp-tipped, star-drive screws are my favorite.  They are pricey, but so much easier to use then other choices that they are well worth it.  Especially since doing the job yourself is so much cheaper than hiring someone else that they are still a bargain.  These are also an absolute must if you are working with pressure treated lumber.  The chemicals used in treated lumber changed about 10 years ago and they will eat through ordinary metals.  The only thing that is safe to use are either stainless steel (REALLY pricey) or these ACQ compatible screws (I don't know what ACQ stands for, but if you are using treated lumber look for this on the package).   You really don't want your deck to fall out from under you because the screws all rotted away.

I am not trying to sell anything here.  I am not endorsing any one brand or make.  It is just that I have had a lot of people ask me about some of the work I have done here and the tools I use.  I have learned a lot about building in the last few years and would be happy to share some of it.  I especially get a lot of comments from other women who would like to do some of these things, but feel too intimidated.  Having a few tools and knowing how tho use them can be very liberating.

My philosophy on what tool to buy, is to buy the one that fits your hand and your price.  My budget is always stretched as far as it can so I bought nearly all of my tools off of eBay.  I researched and did more research until I knew exactly what I needed and then I looked for bargains.  I found some great deals.  Buy good quality, but don't get obsessed about having the best.  Often you are paying for name recognition and fancy features that you won't ever use.  Find the tool that is easy for you to use and fits your budget. 

The most important thing, especially for women, to keep in mind about power tools, is that they are tremendous levelers.  It does not take any great strength to pull a trigger on a saw.  Anyone can use them.  Don't let yourself get sucked into the myth that you have to be a big, strapping man to do carpentry.  It isn't true.  Granted, brute strength is useful, but not necessary.  There isn't anything overly complicated about basic carpentry.  It is a matter of making sure that the materials you use will support the end result and putting the pieces together.  It isn't rocket science. 

If you are just starting out, take the time to practice, be safe.  Get a feel for how your tools work and what they do.  Get comfortable with them, then go build something.  You'll be glad you did. 


  1. Enjoyed this post. My wife is now a master of the miter saw and nail gun after helping with the building of our loft, stalls, and tack room.

  2. It looks easy the way you explain it.But more than intimidating,for me it's finding the time, and that some type of things can be expenses than asking a carpenter,because the price I get when buying wood. :(