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What are the Different Types of Power Tools?

By Brad Cole
Updated May 16, 2024
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Power tools are some of the most time-saving devices ever created. Through the use of compressed air, electricity, or combustion, they allow those using them to complete jobs that others using traditional tools either could not accomplish or would take significantly longer to do. Power tools can be divided into numerous categories including portability, power source, and purpose.

Power tools usually come in one of two categories – stationary or portable. Stationary power tools are either large machines that are not easily moved or machines that must be tightly fastened to a stationary object in order to properly function. Portable power tools can be easily carried from one location to another, and are usually light enough to be used while being held in a person’s hands. Stationary models usually have the advantages of precision, power, and smoothness; portable versions of versatility and travel.

Another way to consider power tools is by the energy they use to function. Power tools usually run on one of three types of power: compressed air, electricity, or combustion. When compressed air is used, air is pushed through the device in order to move various mechanical parts. The tool’s air compressor is usually powered by an electric motor or a combustion engine. Tools powered by electricity most often use some form of electric motor. These tools either need to be plugged in to an electrical outlet or are battery powered. Finally, a few tools are powered by combustion. The combustion can take place either through the use of small explosive charges known as cartridges or in combustion engines.

Power tools can also be categorized by their purpose. The different types of power tools include the following:

Chainsaw. Chainsaws are the quintessential power tool. They are used to cut trees and trim branches, with specialized versions also available for cutting stone and concrete. These portable devices use a small engine to pull a bladed chain along a slotted guide bar. Modern chainsaws are powered by either an internal combustion engine or by an electric motor.

Drills. The power tool version of this tool uses a motor to turn a bit. This results in the fast cutting of circular holes. Types include the stationary drill press and the portable cordless drill. Handheld drills can often be fitted with adapters so that they can drive screws, torque bolts, and even function as sanders.

Joiners. Joiners are specialized woodworking tools that use a saw blade to cut a thin slot into a piece of wood. A similar slot is cut into another piece, and the two are joined by placing a single piece of glue-covered wood into the slot and pushing the pieces together.

Jointer. This tool uses specialized blades to cut the surface off a piece of wood, making it flat.

Lathes. Lathes hold and spin materials so that they can be worked and shaped. Powered lathes allow the crafter to focus on working the material instead of having to constantly turn the spindle.

Nailguns. These devices shoots out nails, propelling them into wood and other materials. They work much more quickly than the traditional hammering method.

Pneumatic Torque Wrench. This wrench uses compressed air to quickly and powerfully turn nuts, bolts, and other objects.

Sanders. Sanders smooth a surface by moving another rough surface over the top of it. They are one of the most varied types of power tools, and include belt sanders, disk sanders, drum sanders, and mouse sanders.

Saws. A saw is a type of cutting tool. Powered saws move a blade or band extremely fast, resulting in significant cutting power. Band, radial arm, and table are all different types of saws.

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Discussion Comments

By Fa5t3r — On Oct 18, 2013

@irontoenail - Honestly, most of the time people aren't going to be using anything that dangerous. I agree that everyone should follow safety rules, but it's not like the average person has a chainsaw in their garage, unless they are the kind of person who will know how to use it properly.

And power tools these days have so many safety features, in some cases it's impossible to hurt yourself with them.

By irontoenail — On Oct 17, 2013

@KoiwiGal - If anything I think that's a healthier attitude to have than teenagers who take power tools for granted. It's so easy to get them and use them these days, particularly cordless power tools that can seem like toys, that people can end up hurting themselves.

You really need to pay close attention to safety rules when using power tools and ensure that you teach any young people who will be using them to do the same. Don't use them in wet conditions. Don't use them if your footing is at all unsteady. Don't use them when you are tired. Make sure you know exactly how they work and how to shut them off quickly. Keep them in good condition.

They are safe as long as you have common sense, but there are too many people out there without any sense at all.

By KoiwiGal — On Oct 16, 2013

I have to admit that, as a teenager, I was far too nervous to use power tools. I was constantly worried that I would drop one or use it incorrectly and cut off my hand. It was a great disappointment to my father!

But recently I've been given some discount power tools to do a bit of an art project and I've realized how fun they can be. As long as you use them deliberately and make sure that you aren't being unsafe, there isn't much to worry about. It's just like driving a car.

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