Get to know the different types of power tools, including both the traditional and contemporary power devices that are essential to keep around the house for home DIY projects and other applications.
While there are all kinds of power tools, there aren’t all that many power tool categories. Within each category, there are a good number of options (think different power saws or drills).
Table of Contents
- The main types of power tool categories are:
- 1. Air Tools / Air Compressor
- 2. Side Grinder
- 3. Power Saws
- 4. Biscuit Joiner
- 5. Power Sanders
- 6. Heat Gun
- 7. Power Drills
- 8. Impact Wrench
- 9. Jointer
- 10. Lathe
- 11. Nail Gun
- 12. Router
- 13. Wall Chaser
- 14. Power Ratchet Set
- 15. Combo Power Tool Sets
The main types of power tool categories are:
- Oscillating and rotary tools
- Woodworking power tools (lathes, planers)
- Concrete power tools
- Compressors and accessories
Whether you like working with machines or need them for a DIY fix around your house, it is likely that you will reach for your power tools and get to work. Today, power tools are so ubiquitous that most of us take them for granted. However, the reality is that these tools have not always enjoyed a pervasive stature. Prior to their invention, in the 1800s, ancient people didn’t have efficient tools to, let’s say, build a house, cut down a tree, construct a boat, or to perform any labor-intensive, machine-oriented task.
Fortunately, times have drastically changed since the invention of power tools. The same heavy tasks that used to take days to finish are now easily done within a matter of hours. It won’t be wrong to say that power devices have made work easier, faster, and productive. A quick glance at history shows that it all started by the ancient Egyptians who are credited for the invention of the first type of power tool. Although the initial tools were crude, they opened the doors for further advancement. And it wasn’t until the latter part of the 19th century that more advanced and modern types of power tools started to come about.
Did you know that Bosch, DeWalt, Makita, and Milwaukee were some of the most renowned manufacturing companies that pioneered the first power tools?
1. Air Tools / Air Compressor
An air compressor has compressed energy in the form of gasoline or electric energy. When you use this device, it continues to store the compressed energy in the tank until it reaches its limitation. Note that the capacity and pressure power of an air compressor varies, depending on its model.
Air compressors are used for a wide range of applications. For example, they are an essential component of an air conditioner, heater, and a ventilator. They are also used to power up pneumatic tools including jackhammers, nail guns, etc.
2. Side Grinder
Also known as angle grinders or disc grinders, side grinders are a handheld power tool which cut, grind, and polish metal and non-metal objects. A compressed tool, petrol engine, or an electric motor is required to power these tools.
They are available in both corded and cordless forms and can be used for cutting and smoothing out hard edges and materials like stone, metal, wood, etc.
3. Power Saws
One of the most popular types of power tools is the power saw which comes in many types (see our epic saw guide here).
A bandsaw features a steel band with a sharp, toothed blade that is stretched between wheels to cut materials like wood and metal. This impactful tool was essentially used in metalworking, woodworking, and lumbering. The purpose of a bandsaw is to split a material in equal lengths with ease and precision.
While stationary bandsaws are more commonly found in workshops, there are a few portable ones out there as well.
Chainsaws are mechanical power tools that are commonly found everywhere – homes, construction sites, car shops, and machine shops.
They are identified by their rotating teeth which are attached to a rotating chain on a guide bar. A cylinder engine with a battery pack or gasoline is essential to power the chainsaw.
Chainsaws are portable, handheld machines that can be used for a variety of woodwork/metalwork. These versatile devices can cut any material, regardless of how large or thick it is. That said, chainsaws are a dangerous tool and must be used with precaution.
c. Circular Saw
Circular saws are identified by their sharp, abrasive blade or disc that cut material in a rotary motion. Don’t worry the saw is safe to use as it consists of a frame on the top and sides of the saw for the protection of a user. The bottom part of the saw does the cutting which is why it lacks a covering.
These saws can cut any type of material whether it is wood, plastic, masonry, or metal. They also come in various forms – corded, cordless, portable, or hand-held. They are best for straight cuts and perform the job accurately and efficiently than any other power tool for a similar job.
d. Miter Saw
Also identified as compound miter saws, this heavy, powerful tool is designed to make cuts at different angles. This type of tool has a blade mounted to its swing arm, making it easier to pivot on right and left angles.
Miter saws can be found in different types such as compound miter saws, sliding compound miter saws, and dual compound miter saws. Each of them has different tilting abilities, depending on your required use.
e. Table Saw
A table saw as the name suggests, is attached to a table with the blade pointing through the slot. In this way, whatever needs to be trimmed, cut, or saw, can easily be glided against the power machine. Table saws, like many other tools, function by an electric motion. However, some of them are driven by gears or belts as well.
The best feature of a table saw that other tools may not offer is the ability to adjust according to the users’ need. You can move the saw up and down, depending on how much of saw you may require. Table saws are best for verticals and horizontal cuts, especially the cuts that are too tough to saw by other hand-held and power saws.
Traditional table saws lack portability; having said that, there is a type of table saw – bench-top table saw – which is highly portable in nature. This is a form of table saw that can be taken to construction sites. They come with wheels which makes it easier to move or roll around.
f. Scroll Saw
Scroll saws boast a number of cutting capabilities which is why they are highly preferred by tailors, crafters, quilters, and artists. Since the focus of these professionals is cutting fine and intricate materials, they need more than a basic tool to achieve their goal. And that’s where the use of scroll saws kicks in.
Scroll saws feature a fineness blade that cuts materials delicately. Because of this, they are way better than hand-saws or jigsaws. They are operated using a pedal and have a plate to rest the wood or any other material on. This includes projects like making small sculptures or jigsaw puzzles. Besides that, they are also used for splitting art patterns, dovetail joints, etc.
g. Reciprocating Saw
Reciprocating saws come with a blade that functions in a push-and-pull way to cut material. The blade of these saws bears a resemblance with a jigsaw since they both are large and toothed with a long nose and handle at the end of the tool.
The most common application of reciprocating saws is found at construction sites, repairing or remodeling jobs. The power tool can be customized with accessories like clamps or smaller blades, according to your requirements.
Also known as a “bayonet saw”, a jigsaw is the most effective power tool for cutting materials in versatile shapes. This handheld device works with the help of an electric motor and a saw blade.
Any time you want to cut wood or metal in a unique shape or style, a jigsaw is the power tool you should opt for. Jigsaws are also best for home-use applications as they can be used to cut bevels, carve pumpkins, and so much more!
4. Biscuit Joiner
Often labeled as a plate joiner, biscuit joiners are used for joining two pieces of wood together. A plate joiner consists of a rounded saw blade that helps cut small-sized holes to join wood pieces.
The compressed biscuit is then glued together to stay apiece. Depending on the project, you can use the compressed biscuit where you need them. Generally, it is used in joining sheet goods like plywood, particleboard, and medium-density fiberboard.
5. Power Sanders
Sanding is a crucial aspect of carpentry as it removes dents, mill marks, and other flaws from an object. Many types of sanders are used to carry out this purpose; the most useful and largest of all is a belt sander.
It features an electric motor, a pair of cylinders, and sandpapers, helping in trimming and finishing wooden objects. They are also used for the purpose of smoothing rough surfaces, leveling out and shaping objects.
Example: Orbital Sander
Orbital sanders are a specialized tool that features a vibrant sanding surface. As the name implies, this sander is circular in shape and functions in a rotating motion. The tool operates by an electric motor which runs at a super high speed. The sanding disk spins in a circular way, making it easier to get into edges and corners.
Orbital sanders are used for a variety of projects, especially those that need a light sanding. It helps prepare a surface for painting, refinishing, or sealing. The finishing of a surface is not possible without orbital sanders which are a part of the reason why they are also called “finish sanders”.
6. Heat Gun
As the name suggests, heat guns are handheld machines that generate hot air for a wide variety of tasks. For example, heat guns are used to strip old paint, shrink materials like film, dry wood, or tubing, bend hard plastic, or thaw frozen pipes.
These special guns need electricity to produce heat; generally, the temperature of hot air is around 100 degrees Celsius to 550 degrees Celsius. The heat directed toward the target is through a nozzle and spreads around by an electric fan.
7. Power Drills
A power drill is the most essential tool for any tool collector. Driven both manually and electrically, a drilling machine is used for a variety of tasks such as piercing a hole in a wall, fixing screws in solid space, etc.
Drill machines can be found in a number of drill varieties; the most popular one is the hammer drill which is discussed below:
a. Hammer Drill
Also known as rotary hammers or hammering drills, this type of drill machine is used for tasks that require speed, efficiency, and power.
Hammer drills work faster than a traditional drill, meaning that it can punch holes more accurately and powerfully. And the best part? All of this can be achieved in a short amount of time.
b. Impact Driver
For a strong, full-throttled force, an impact driver is a go-to tool for workers. As compared to drill drivers, it is lighter and smaller. However, it is covered with an outer sleeve that makes it safer to use whilst drilling screws and tightening nuts. The driver produces both downward and rotational force which helps loosen screws and nuts.
As opposed to hammer drills that function only in an in-and-out motion, impact drivers are versatile in the sense that they spin also.
You can find both corded and cordless impact driver on the market.
8. Impact Wrench
An impact wrench is also called air guns, torque guns, air wrenched, and impactors. This form of power tool provides a high amount of torque with a small amount of exertion. They function with the help of compressed air. However, you can find them in electric and hydraulic models as well.
Impact wrenches are popularly found in tool chests of mechanics. They are primarily used for loosening nuts from cars and trucks. Please note that impact wrenches make loud, whirring noise so it is best to wear hearing protection aid when using them.
A jointer is a tool that helps smooth or flatten the edges of a surface like wood. This power tool also cuts the wood into a desired width and breadth. Most of the times, when people cut the wood by hand, it results in uneven edges. But luckily, with a jointer, you can evenly level the rough edges instantly.
People often confuse jointers with planers because of them being similar in use. However, both of these tools serve slightly different purposes. Jointers should be used to flatten out the wood or even out the unleveled edges. On the other hand, planers are used to give parallel surfaces to both sides of a wood piece.
A lathe is a popular power machine used for shaping a variety of materials such as metal and wood. It consists of a rotational drive that rotates a workpiece which is set against the cutting tool. The machine provides operations like sanding, knurling, cutting, drilling, facing, and turning.
Professionals like watchmakers, pottery creators, metalworkers, and designers, heavily rely upon lathe for their everyday work projects.
Some of the objects that can be created from lathes include candlesticks, gun barrels, cue sticks, table legs, screws, bowls, crankshafts and many more.
11. Nail Gun
Nail guns or nailers are a type of tools that are used for driving nails into wood or any other type of material. But there are so many other tools that can give you the same result; one of them is a hand-held hammer. So what makes a nail gun different? Nail guns are specifically used in circumstances when simple tools like a hand-held hammer fail to drive into an object. This happens when the material is super tough that a basic power tool is unable to drive the nail.
How do they work?
The device is powered by pneumatic compressed air, electromagnetism, or flammable gases like propane or butane.
This type of tool is mostly used by carpenters for roofing, finishing, and flooring. Besides professional workers, amateurs with no carpeting skills and knowledge can also consider using it.
A router is a powerful tool that “routs” a hole of materials like wood or plastic. Commonly, woodworkers use routers for the construction of cabinetry. For them, these tools are exceedingly portable and versatile which is why they are a must-have.
The most common router comprises a spindle that is driven by an electric motor and a hand plane. While it may be one of the most essential tools for woodworkers, a router can come in handy at homes as well. You can use it for trimming, shaping, and cutting edges. It further helps carve out neat rabbets and recess door hinges, carve contours, and lots more.
13. Wall Chaser
A wall chaser is a specialized tool designed for cutting grooves/channels into walls so that electrical pipes or wiring can easily be installed. They are powered by an electric motor which put discs into motion. Since they are hand-held, they provide versatility to the user. This makes it easier to get into packed wall spaces that are hard to reach otherwise.
Some of the common applications of a wall chaser include laying an electrical table, cutting grooves, installing pipes into walls, inserting channels into masonry walls, etc.
14. Power Ratchet Set
Like the drill, you can dispense with manual ratchet work and opt for a power ratchet set. Most power ratchet sets these days are powered by battery (no cord).
15. Combo Power Tool Sets
If you’re getting started assembling your tool collection, one cost-effective approach is to get a combo power tool set like the one above which is an 8-in-1 power toolset including drill, impact driver, circular saw, reciprocating saw, oscillating tool, jigsaw and orbit sander… which pretty much gets you nicely outfitted with a solid power tool set.