At the annual ‘On The Tools Awards’ (online community of trade users), Axminster has just been voted ‘Power Tool Supplier Of The Year’, so now seems an opportune moment to have a look at the power tools currently in use in the ‘shop.
Given that trade users are a completely different kettle of worms and have more ‘robust’ expectations of their power tools, the average amateur or hobbyist will probably have a reasonable selection in their workshop on which to call. I suspect the most common is going to be the ubiquitous drill or combi drill/driver, a tool which is not only a power drill but a screwdriver as well.
My first drill was a smaller DeWalt which did me well for a few years until for some reason which now completely escapes me, it packed up and was replaced by an even smaller, German made AEG which in hindsight, was a mistake. Although it was a well made little drill, the battery in the pistol grip was far too small and needed to be recharged every half hour (or so it seemed at the time).
There’s sometimes a little confusion about batteries and it’s worth using the analogy of a performance car; the voltage equates to the size of the engine, or power available, and the Ah rating is similar to the capacity of the fuel tank. Greater Ah and the battery will last a lot longer between charges.
My drill is the earlier version of the current Festool C15 Li-ion with a slightly smaller capacity battery. This is a really great piece of kit, especially as it comes with an offset and 90° drilling attachment, which means it will shoot round corners; this has been very useful with the current project as I need to get into quite confined spaces to drive screws. The battery also seems to last for a very long time and there’s no issue with driving even the biggest screws.
I don’t use a table saw for rough cutting boards to size but instead use a Bosch GKS 65, the up-to-date equivalent being the GKS 190.
This is a good saw for cutting up thick chunks of timber where I don’t need to be too concerned about the finesse or accuracy of its cut; for that the Festool TS55 and its track can’t be recommended too highly. The TS55 is also used with the UJK Technology Parf Guide System on the power tool table recently completed in the ‘shop, the result of which means that I can cut sheet and other materials dead square with pinpoint accuracy.
I have two sanders, the first of which is the 2-speed Metabo SX E 450 Duo which I bought many years ago at the last Axminster show.
It doesn’t get used a great deal these days, but is ideal for larger surfaces where a bigger pad is an advantage. The second sander is the little Festool RTS 400 REQ which is capable of providing a superb finish, requiring very little in the way of hand sanding afterwards. It can be used one handed and the rectangular pad means that it’s easy to sand a table edge without fear of rolling over the corner. In addition, as with all Festool products, the extraction is excellent.
I have two routers, the first being my Festool OF 1400 which replaced my original Bosch ¼” machine, a much earlier version of the GOF 1250. I used the Bosch for many years without incident but I found that it was more comfortable to use router cutters with a ½” shank, especially when taking bigger cuts. Although it will accept the larger cutters, the OF 1400 is mid-sized in that it’s not too unwieldy to use at the bench; another worthwhile Festool purchase.
As with so many other woodworkers, if I can get away with it, joints are made with a Domino DF 500 Q which is quite superb and it’s no exaggeration to say that this machine and its bigger brother have completely revolutionised joint making in the workshop. Where once making a set of mortice and tenons on a framework might have taken several hours, the same job using loose tenons can now be accomplished in several minutes.
Prior the Domino, I used to use the excellent Lamello C2 biscuit jointer, the latest incarnation of which is the Classic X. The C2 is pretty basic affair, having none of the refinements of the later models, but it’s still capable of extremely accurate work and is a delight to use. I’m now on my second blade which has brought the performance right back to its original level!
Another tool which doesn’t see the light of day very much is my jigsaw, a Bosch GST 100, similar to the current GST 150.
That doesn’t mean though, that I’m not extremely grateful on those rare occasions when it has been used to cut out curves that would have otherwise been extremely tedious, if not to say time consuming to do any other way.
The last power tool isn’t one that you’d quite expect in a woodwork ‘shop, but it’s a Proxxon FBS 240/E drill/grinder which I use for all sorts of small jobs, from grinding the internal bevel on a scribing gouge (which is almost impossible to do any other way) to sharpening drill bits and cutting HSS – a job which is definitely better done with a machine rather than a hacksaw.
One burning question remains…which power tools are in your workshop?