I will admit it. I am truly lucky that I have a husband who takes handy to a new level. He can fix, build or invent just about every crazy idea I have so I am a little spoiled when it comes to using power tools. This year I have made it a point to learn to use quite a few of the power tools at my disposal. I am still no expert, but I feel like understanding how things work has helped me to know what is possible and what is not possible.
I am not now nor will I ever be as handy as Sawdust Girl or Pretty Handy Girl or Ana White. Those ladies are serious business when it comes to building things, but I also am not afraid to try most of the tools we have. Some still scare me. I am often the chief shopper for wood, screws, bolts, paint, etc. so I get really ticked off when a sales person is demeaning. I may or may not have reported a dude to the store manager for asking me what a “little lady” was going to do with an item one day.
Before we go any further, I need to let you know that all the tools I am “showing” come from the Lowe’s website. I have included prices at my local store. I really, truly do have access all the tools shown, they are just safely put up right now because of the massive paint job at Star Hill and the move at The City House. They are for sure older and crustier. My tools also, could possibly, umm sometimes have issues. My sander has a new cord because it accidentally got sanded through, my drill has some paint on it. I was impatient and got busy putting something together while it was still wet. I know what you are thinking. Don’t judge me.
I do like the Lowe’s website better than Home Depot. It will tell you if your local store has the item. (Don’t buy tools online until you are proficient and don’t need someone to teach you how to use them.) www.lowes.com
Here is my list of power tools that every crafty woman should be able to use:
1. A Cordless Drill– The most amazing tool on the planet and in my opinion it is the great equalizer. A drill will allow you do things you don’t think you are strong enough to do. Go to Lowe’s or Home Depot and ask for help in the tool section. Yes, ask for help. When the tool person comes tell them that you are just getting started and you want a basic cordless drill. Have them show you how to work it. Be persistent. Don’t leave until you know how to charge it, change the bits, and change the direction the thing turns. Buy some drill bits. Not super expensive fancy drill bits, cheap ones that you can practice with. Buy several screw tips. Phillips and flat head. Go home and get some scrap wood then drill holes and screw things in and out until you feel comfortable. You really have to press hard on the screws or you will ruin the grooves in the head and the screw bit. I get fussed at for that some. Throw away the screw bits when they are worn down and buy more. Harbor Freight sells them cheap! I can now unscrew/ tighten screws on the treasures I bring home if I need to. I can fill in holes with wood putty and put new holes where I want hardware to go on drawers and cabinets, I can drill a pilot hole so that when I screw in things they don’t spilt the wood and I can hang a picture all by myself. I can put on the picture hanging hardware, and put a screw into a stud to hold it. I have also been trying to help out more in the construction phase of our projects. I think I am getting better.
I REAALLY want one of theses. They make working in tight spaces like furniture so much easier. Saw it on DIY the other day. Right now Hubby has to come get it started with a screw driver if I need a screw put in or taken out in something tight. It is going on my Christmas list.
2. A sander (electric)– I have two sanders. ( I know, pretty awesome huh?) I love my mouse sander. It helps me get everything ready for paint or stain. It gets used on almost every project. I have one at the city house and one at the lake house. The sanding pads are stuck on with Velcro and they are super easy to change. This is not a take bark off a tree type sanding- finish sanding or varnish removal. Get one and just play with it because you will love how it cleans things up. I also have an orbital sander. If I have something that needs to be sanded more aggressively I get this out. Still easy to use, still has Velcro sanding pads but if you are not careful it will leave circular grooves. Don’t try to learn on a piece you love. Practice on junk first. We also have a belt sander that I can use but it is a work-out. I have to have everything locked down or it will take off. It definitely leaves marks in the wood if you don’t hold it level and apply steady pressure. (I have done that a time or two.) I also cannot change the sand paper on the belt sander alone. I have tried and I am just too uncoordinated to do it without help. FYI, the higher the number on sandpaper, the finer the finish. Get a lower number if you are removing paint or a stain then switch to a higher number (220) to make it smooth.
3. A stud finder– This finds where wood is behind sheetrock or paneling. With this and a drill you can hang shelves or pictures on your own. Get a good one and practice. You will only be frustrated with a cheap stud finder.
4. An electric staple gun– This is not an air-nailer that requires a compressor; this is just a staple gun that uses electricity instead of hand strength. I have used mine to upholster chairs, wrap fabric around bulletin boards, make a padded headboard for example. I can use the air nailer but the cost for this is steep with the compressor and all. Mine does not have the hump that this one has. Not sure I would like that because sometimes I need to get into a small space.
5. A Jig Saw- This makes rounded cuts. Not too bad to use and not super expensive. Clamp down your wood before using it. Read the instructions above for the drill (#1). Ask for help and don’t leave until you know how to use it.
You can have straight cuts made at Lowe’s or Home Depot. It just requires patience waiting on the person to come cut the wood and you have to know the length you want it cut before leaving the store. I hate using a circular saw because I never stay on the line. I have learned to use a compound miter saw too and love it but it is a lot more expensive and is a little scary to learn. If someone is not at your home to teach you on this one, take one of those Saturday classes because they can do serious damage if you don’t know what you are doing.