How to Choose a Bandsaw For Woodworking


Bench-Top saws can be mounted directly on a workbench or on their own stands. Their relatively compact size makes it the perfect choice for small shops and light scroll cutting.

Floor-Model saws are usually more stable and more powerful than bench top saws. The combination of increased stability and power make these saws excellent for heavy rip sawing and decorative work on thick stock, at the expense of floorspace.

Miscellaneous Features

Horsepower is the maximum power produced by the motor. Saws with high horsepower ratings are good for pattern cutting and cutting down thick stock. Higher horsepower also allows the saw to cut through thick stock without bogging down or burning the wood. Those intending to work with thick stock hardwood would do well to consider this.

Throat Capacity is the distance between the saw’s blade and frame. The throat determines the maximum width of the saw’s cutting capacity. Saws with wide throats allow you to make wider straight cuts and scroll larger pieces without obstruction from the frame.

Blade Width is important when purchasing a band saw. Most saws accept narrow 1/8″ blades for cutting detailed designs and tight curves. Better saws also accept wider blades. Wide blades don’t flex as much as narrow ones, but they make accurate straight cuts in thick stock quicker. There are also some wide blades available that can cut metal.

Miscellaneous Accessories

When purchasing a band saw, check to see what accessories are standard and find out what other accessories the saw accepts. If you are just starting out, the bells and whistles may seem extravagant, but as your skill level rises, you will appreciate the added capabilities provided by the right accessories. Some common accessories include:

Height Extensions raise the guide on the saw and allow it to cut thicker stock. Height extensions are especially useful for thick stock.

Rip Fences provide a stable guide for straight rip cuts.

Miter Gauges are used to make accurate angled cuts.

A Tilting Table allows the operator to make beveled cuts. When the tilt is used in conjunction with a miter gauge, compound miters can be produced on the band saw.

Circle Cutting Attachments help the operator cut perfect circles ranging from 1 1/2″ to 32″ in diameter.

Sanding Loops installed in place of the blade are used for sanding irregular surfaces.

Choosing Band Saws Blades

Width, number of teeth per inch (tpi), and material composition classify band saw blades. When making your blade selection, remember to match the blade width to the type of cutting you are doing. Also keep in mind:

Narrow Blades can make much tighter radius cuts, but tend to twist and wander when making long straight cuts.

Wide Blades can’t make the tight turns that narrow ones can, but they hold a straighter line than their narrow counterparts.

The tpi determines the speed with which the blade cuts through stock. Blades with high tpi cut slower but leave a very smooth edge. They are best for detail work on thin stock. Blades with low tpi cut quickly and leave a slightly rough edge. They are great for resawing or long rip cuts.

Steel Blades are inexpensive and work well for cutting softwood. Steel blades, however, dull quickly in hardwood.

Bimetal Blades are made of high-speed steel and can cut thin metal or wood.

Carbide Blades are for wood cutting only. They are more expensive than other blades but stay sharper longer than steel or high-speed steel.


How to Choose a Circular Saw For Woodworking

Probably the most basic and versatile handheld power tool, in the hands of an experienced user, the circular saw can substitute for many other tools. While it takes some practice for most beginners to get comfortable with a circular saw, it quickly becomes a standby tool to handle a lot of cutting tasks very quickly. This should be the first of the power woodworking tools every beginning woodworker should consider.

It can be used for cutting wood, masonry, metal, and even ceramic tile.

Its strength lies in its portability. A tablesaw is limited by the size of its table, a circular saw can be used on any piece of lumber, no matter the size. This is especially handy when dealing with full sheets of plywood, since full sheets are often very heavy and cumbersome to pass through a tablesaw, especially without the aid of an assistant.

Your choice of a circular saw should be based on what you plan on cutting, and how much you intend on using it. Sizes (of the blade) range from 3″ to 16″, but 5 3/8″ to 7 1/4″ are the most common. The models that support a larger blade offer the capability to cut through thicker stock, while the smaller models offer the portability and the ability to manoever better. Choose the size that suits your needs, but for a general-duty circular saw, I would recommend the 7 1/4″ corded model with in-line motor.


Two basic configurations are available today. There is the in-line circular saw and the worm drive circular saw.

The in-line saw has the motor positioned to the side of the blade, and the blade spins at exactly the speed of the motor. This design is well suited for most applications, and is the recommended model.

The worm drive circular saw has the motor parallel to the saw blade, with the shaft of the motor pointing forward. The shaft turns gears to increase the torque available to the blade, making this design ideally suited for heavy-duty applications, such as for masonry.

Power Supply

Like most power tools, there is standard corded model and there is the battery-powered cordless circular saw.

Corded models offer an unlimited amount of cutting-time, and offers the power required when cutting through masonry or metal. The most common size available for corded circular saws is 7 1/4″.

Cordless models are available, and these offer the benefit of portability and manoeverability in tight or confined spaces. The limiting factor in cordless circular saws is the cutting time. Wood is the only material I would recommended that you cut with a cordless circular saw since harder materials like masonry or metal require far more power and will have a tendancy to drain the batteries quickly. Cordless models are often smaller than the corded varieties, and this can be an advantage in tight spaces. Sizes available range range from 5 3/8″ to 6 1/2″.

Miscellaneous Features

Blade Capacity determines the maximum depth of cut a saw can achieve. For cuts perpendicular to the wood, most circular saws can cut through lumber that is approximately 3″ smaller than the blade. The larger the blade, the deeper the cut. The most common blade diameter is 7 1/4″. Most saws with blade capacities of 6″ or more can cut through 2″ dimensional lumber at a 45° angle in a single pass. A 5 3/8″ saw can cut through 2″ dimensional lumber in one pass at 90° but requires two passes at 45°. As a general rule, saws with smaller blade capacity weigh less and are easier to control.

Electric Brakes reverse the flow of electricity in the saw motor when the trigger is released. Reversing the current stops the blade’s momentum quickly. Electric brakes can stop the blade in as little as two seconds, compared to up to twelve seconds for a saw without this feature. This is a great safety feature to allow you to stop the blade immediately once you are finished with your cut.

Shaft Locks make it easier to change the saw blade. The shaft lock immobilizes the shaft and blade, making it much easier to change the blade. Without a shaft lock, two wrenches are required to change the blade. With a shaft lock, only one is required, since the lock keeps the blade still.

Choosing Circular Saw Blades

The blade performs a vital function for the circular saw: It is the part that actually makes the cut. Choosing the appropriate blade can save you time and can improve the appearance of the cut. Using the wrong blade, though, can waste money (quickly dulled blade) or even be a safety hazard. Different blades are available for different applications.

If you find yourself having to use excessive force to cut through the wood, have the blade sharpened (if available) or buy a new blade.

Here are a few common blades and their uses:

  • Steel Blades are inexpensive and work well for cutting softwood; however, they dull quickly in hardwood.
  • High-Speed Steel Blades are harder than steel blades and stay sharper longer.
  • Carbide Blades have carbide tips attached to their teeth. They are more expensive than other blades, but they stay sharp much longer than steel or high-speed steel. You can identify carbide blades by the tiny “shoes” attached to every tip.
  • Tile-Cutting Blades are specially designed for cutting ceramic tile. Better tile-cutting blades have diamond-tipped blades.
  • Masonry Blades are made of abrasive material for cutting concrete, brick, cinder block and other masonry materials.

How To Use a Circular Saw

Always read the manual that came with your power tool! Always follow the safety percautions, especially while you are getting acquainted with your tool!

Tips for Perpendicular Cuts / Cross Cuts

Making cross cuts with the circular saw is quick and easy. The most important aspects to remember are to support your wood and to keep in mind which portion of the wood will be dropping once the cut is finished. You want to maintain control of the circular saw as the final section of the wood is cut through to prevent the saw from dropping towards your legs.

Long Cuts – Use a Straightedge

To cut accurate lines on large boards like plywood and MDF sheets, use a straightedge to guide your circular saw. Circular saws have a plate along which the saw glides. The width of this plate is usually different from the left or right side, but the measurement from the blade to the outer edge of the plate is constant. So if the distance from the blade to the outside edge of the plate is 2″, clamp a hardwood straightedge to your plywood exactly 2″ away from the line you want to cut along. Then run your circular saw with the plate pressed against the straightedge, and you will have a perfectly straight long line! Just be sure to keep in mind what part of your workpiece will be dropping when you finish your cut, or support your workpieces appropriately, to avoid any surprises.


How to Choose a Miter Saw For Woodworking

While not as expensive as a table saw, a compound mitre saw is invaluable for cutting compound angles on the ends of stock.

Today, a miter saw (also called a chop saw or drop saw) usually refers to a power tool used to make a quick, accurate crosscut in a workpiece. It is most frequently used to cut wood, although some plastics and light metals can also be cut with the tool. Common uses include framing operations and the cutting of moulding. Most miter saws are relatively small and portable, with common blade sizes ranging from eight to 12 inches.

The miter saw makes cuts by pulling a spinning circular saw blade down onto a workpiece in a short, controlled motion. The workpiece is typically held against a fence, which provides a precise cutting angle between the blade and the longest workpiece edge. In standard position, this angle is fixed at 90°.

A primary distinguishing feature of the miter saw is the miter index. The miter index allows the angle of the blade to be changed relative to the fence. While most miter saws enable precise one-degree incremental changes to the miter index, many also provide “stops” that allow the miter index to be quickly set to common angles (such as 15°, 30°, or 45°).

Miscellaneous Features

Some features that differ across various models of miter saws include:

compound feature allows the angle of the cutting blade to be changed relative to the horizontal plane. This allows the saw to be used for bevel cutting. Most compound features allow the angle to be set between 0° and 50°, while a less-common “double-bevel” allows the angle to be set between -50° and 50°. A saw with this feature is known as a compound miter saw or CMS.

slide allows the cutting blade to be moved several inches along the cutting plane during the cut. This enables the saw to make cuts that are longer than the diameter of the blade. A saw which combines the sliding and compound features is known as a sliding compound mitre saw or SCMS.

laser guide provides a precise visual indication of where the cut will be positioned on the workpiece in the current configuration. Some models provide a single reference line for one side of the kerf, while others provide two lines to reflect the total kerf width.

blade guard is a cover for the teeth of the cutting blade. Most modern miter saws have self-retracting blade guards, which automatically retract when the saw is lowered onto a workpiece and re-cover the blade when the saw is raised.

dust bag connects directly to the saw, and helps to collect sawdust away from the workpiece during cutting. A dust extraction port allows you to connect your shop-vac to the miter saw to extract the sawdust.

safety clamp helps to lock a workpiece into position prior to making a cut. This is an especially important feature when cutting smaller workpieces (eight inches or smaller).


How to Choose a Router For Woodworking

If you’re a woodworker, you’ve probably considered buying a router, or perhaps you already have a basic model which may no longer suit your needs. With the wide variety available, it can be confusing to make a choice, and there’s no single model that’s perfect for every job. So, most professional woodworkers (and even serious amateurs) usually decide to buy more than one router.

While many routers available today offer two different bases (a stationary base and a plunge router base), for most beginners, a quality stationary base model will take care of quite a number of tasks, and it can be mounted in a router table should you choose to invest in one down the line. If you only invest in one router, choose a model that is at least 2-HP and variable speed (as larger cutting bits should use slower speeds).

Deciding on which router to buy has alot to do with what you will be using it for.

For light duties such as hobbies, crafts, light decorative woodworking and laminate trimming, a small router or trimmer of 1HP or less would fill your needs quite well. Higher horsepower units are larger and heavier, making it more challenging and unwieldly for delicate work.

For most other tasks, a 1 3/4 HP (or more) router with a 1/2-in. shank is recommended. This size of router is ideal for working with hardwoods, mounting on a router table, and general purpose shaping. The 1/2-in. shank gives the bit more stability when cutting denser materials, and also allows you to use a wider range of bits.

Miscellaneous Features

Collet Size represents the maximum bit shank diameter that can fit into the router. Most light-duty routers have a collet size of 1/4-in. and many heavier-duty routers have 1/2-in. collets (with adapters to accept 1/4-in. bits).

Variable Speed routers allow you to control the speed of the bit. Small bits should be used at a high speed. Larger bits are dangerous to use at high speed, and should be used at a much lower speed (indicated on the bit packaging).

Electronic Soft-Start routers take advantage of their electronic variable speed (EVS) control to startup the router slowly, preventing the jerk that is often associated with starting a non soft-start model.

Quick-Change Cutters are a feature that some routers have that allow you to change the bit using only a single wrench or spanner to loosen the collet. This is done by pressing a button or lever that locks the rotation of the router shaft. Models without this feature require the use of two wrenches: one to hold the shaft from spinning, and the other to loosen the collet.

Plunge Depth is a feature on plunge routers. The depth quoted on the router will be the maximum depth the body can move towards its base starting at its maximum height. Note that the depth quoted is not always realistic, since the quoted depth does not take into account the bit height: Most “normal” bits in plunge routers will not cut wood until it is plunged an inch or so!

Plunge Stop or Depth Stop is a feature allowing you to pre-set the maximum plunge of the router. This allows you to make repeated plunges all to the exact same depth.

Dust Extraction is a highly desirable feature on a router. An operating router can produce copious amounts of sawdust that can result in poor visibility, and alot of cleanup time spent afterwards. Having a router with some form of dust extraction allows you to connect your shop vacuum or dust collector to remove the dust as soon as it is produced, instead of sending it flying.

The Base Plate is the portion of the router that slides against the wood being routed. Ideally, the facing of the base plate is replacable, since it can become damaged through normal use.

Miscellaneous Accessories

Template Guides are metal (usually brass) discs that attach to the router’s base, resulting in a sleeve that projects downwards. A template is fixed to the wood to be worked and the guide follows the contours of the template, allowing the bit to rout the wood below in the shape of the template. Different templates require different diameter guides, and therefore most guides are sold as kits of various diameters.

Router Tables allow you to attach your router under the table, so the bit protrudes up above the surface of the table. This allows you to quickly rout profiles on multiple boards with only one setup.

A Side Fence or Edge Guide is an accessory that allows the router to follow the edge of the wood, so you can rout parallel to the edge.

Choosing Router Bits

The materials from which bits are manufactured play a big role in the life and performance of the bit. Router bits are available in:

High-Speed Steel (HSS) bits are relatively inexpensive and are good for general routing in softwood and light plastics.

Carbide-Tipped bits are more expensive than HSS, but they stay sharp much longer and are a better choice for hardwood and other hard materials.

Solid Carbide is normally the most expensive bit material. They’re usually small and designed for specific applications such as mortising, laminate trimming or pattern cutting.

How To Use a Router

Always read the manual that came with your power tool! Always follow the safety percautions, especially while you are getting acquainted with your tool!


Always select the bit with the largest shank diameter that your router will accept. The larger the shank diameter, the more securely the router holds the bit, and the more stable the bit’s body becomes as it spins.

Keep your router clean by keeping the air intake areas cleared of sawdust. Clogged intakes can cause the router to overheat and damage the motor, or start a fire in the worst case.

Heavily used motors may require its brushes serviced or replaced. Some routers have easily accessible brushes, however others are “buried” inside. If your router is not operating as expected, check the brushes, or bring your router to a technician to have it serviced.


How to Choose a Power Sander For Woodworking

While palm sanders are less expensive and can use plain sandpaper, the random orbital version doesn’t sand in patterns, but in a random motion. This will reduce any sanding marks that may appear on the stock. Be certain that your local woodworking supplier has sanding disks readily available in a number of grits to fit the model that you choose.


Pad or Palm Sanders are small and light, and use 1/4 or 1/3-sheets of sandpaper that you cut yourself. Depending on the model, you can attach the sandpaper to the sanding pad with hinge-clips, hook and loop fasteners (velcro style) or simply use precut sheets with peel-and-stick backing. Palm sanders vibrate in a slight circular pattern and must be moved in the same direction as the wood grain to avoid leaving scratch marks in the stock. Palm sanders are versatile and handy in many different applications.

Random Orbit Sanders have round pads that move in a circle. The pad is attached to an offset bearing that gives a random pattern to the pad’s motion. The random motion lets the operator move the sander in any direction without scarring the work surface. Some random orbit sanders have variable speed control allowing the operator to customize the tool to the material. For example, if you are working on a soft species of wood or have little sanding left, you can easily switch the sander to a slower speed which provides better control. Random sanders require special sanding sheets that vary between manufacturers, so keep these on-going costs in mind when making a selection. The pads have holes through which sanding dust is removed during operation. In order for the dust removal system to be effective, the holes in the paper and the pad must line up. If you’re looking for a multipurpose tool for most sanding jobs, check out random orbit sanders.

Detail Sanders are small handheld sanders designed for sanding around odd shapes and small nooks in woodwork. They are also referred to as contour sanders and used frequently for craft projects and millwork, such as window and door casings. Detail sanders are available in corded and cordless models and usually come with multiple attachments. Once again, keep in mind the availability of the special sandpaper these sanders require, as they may not be as readily available (or as economical) as you might want.

Belt Sanders have a continuous loop or belt of sandpaper that stretches across two wheels. When the drive wheel is engaged, the belt spins and removes stock. They are excellent for the initial phases of rough sanding jobs. Since belt sanders remove a lot of material quickly, they are definitely not for finish sanding. Some have variable speed controls, which allow the operator to adjust the sander to run at a more comfortable level, but even with lower speeds, belt sanders can remove alot of material. Belt sanders are often heavier than palm or random orbital sanders, which may be a consideration.

Disc Sanders are bench-mounted tools with a circular pad that accepts specially-made sanding sheets. Most disc sanders also have a belt mounted vertically or horizontally on their frame. Some disc sanders have tilting tables with sliding miter gauges. The tilt feature is for sanding angled edges, and the miter gauge helps maintain specific angles during sanding operations. A disc sander finishes end grain and angled edges quickly and efficiently.

Spindle Sanders are bench-mounted tools with a cylindrical spindle located in the center of a large worktable. The spindle holds special sanding tubes of various grit sandpaper. Some spindle sanders have an oscillating feature that raises and lowers the spindle as it rotates. The oscillating feature increases the rate at which the sander removes stock. Spindle sanders are good for edge sanding, especially around curves and circles.

Power Supply

Palm, random orbital, detail, and belt sanders are all available in corded and cordless models. Corded models offer the benefit of unlimited sanding time, but cordless models offer portability and manoeverability. A limiting factor in cordless models is the amount of sanding time available.

Miscellaneous Features

A palm sander that has a dust collection bag or a hookup for a dust collection system helps to maintain the air quality in the work area. Wood dust from some species (and wood finishes) is known to be allergenic and some are even toxic. Always wear a dust mask, even if the tool you are using has a dust collection system.

How To Use a Sander

Always read the manual that came with your power tool! Always follow the safety percautions, especially while you are getting acquainted with your tool!


Keep a Smooth Base

If the base of your sander is not reasonably flat, it will aply extra pressure in some sections, and little or no pressure in other areas. At the extreme, this will lead to your workpiece being gouged in some areas.

Edge Use

Your sander will either be a rectangle, circle, or some customized shape. Keep in mind that when you sand one surface beside another surface that is perpendicular to the first, your sander will hit and bounce off the perpendicular surface. This may cause your sander to mark the perpendicular surface. When choosing a side of the sander to hit the perpendicular surface, choose one what has no clips or protrusions.


How to Choose a Jigsaw For Woodworking

A jigsaw allows the user to cut curved and circular patterns in stock, combining the benefits of a scroll saw and band saw into one. For versatility, choose an orbital-action, corded model that feels good in your hand and has an easy blade changing system.

Power Supply

Like most power tools, there is standard corded model and there is the battery-powered cordless Jigsaw.

Corded models offer an unlimited amount of cutting-time, and offers the power required when cutting through hardwood or metal. Corded jigsaw motors range from 3.5 to 6 amps, with the higher amp models offering more power for cutting through harder or thicker materials.

Cordless models are available, and these offer the benefit of portability and manoeverability in tight or confined spaces. The limiting factor in cordless jigsaws is the cutting time. Softwood is the only material I would recommended that you cut with a cordless circular saw since thick wood, hardwood or metal require far more power and will have a tendancy to drain the batteries quickly. Cordless models are often smaller than the corded varieties, and this can be an advantage in tight spaces. Voltages will determine the torque, but the mAh listed for the batteries will determine how long the batteries will last.

Miscellaneous Features

Variable speed saws allow the user to adjust the blade speed according to the material being cut. When used in conjunction with properly matched blades, this feature provides cleaner, faster cuts in different materials. Most variable speed saws have a range from 500 to 3,100 strokes per minute.

Orbital action moves the blade side to side as well as up and down. The added motion allows the saw to cut through stock faster. Most orbital action saws have settings to change the amount of side to side motion based on the material being cut.

An adjustable foot (sole) lets the operator make cuts at an angle to the face of the material. Most saws have a range between 0 and 45° .

Vacuum or blower features keep sawdust and debris from obscuring the cut line during operation.

Tool free blade changing lets the operator change blades quickly and saves time when cutting multiple materials.

Blade supports eliminate or greatly reduce blade flexing during use. The reduced flexing provides straighter cuts and extends blade life.

Choosing Jigsaw Blades

Your choice of jigsaw blade will be determined by what you will be cutting. There are two blade features to consider: teeth-per-inch (tpi), and the material it is constructed with.


In general, a higher teeth-per-inch (tpi) count will result in a smoother cut edge, but will take far longer to cut through a particular piece of wood. A lower tpi blade will remove much more wood in each pass, but the cut produced will have rougher edges.

Blade Material

Jigsaw blades are offered in a variety of different materials, and each offers different advantages. For general use, I would recommend the high-speed steel (HSS) blades.

High Speed Steel (HSS) blades are usually used for wood and light metal cutting.

Bi-metal blades are used for wood and light metal cutting.

Cobalt steel blades are harder than HSS or bi-metal blades and should last longer. They are commonly used for wood and metal cutting.

Carbide grit blades are used to cut masonry board.

Scrolling blades are narrower than typical jig saw blades and used to make tighter turning cuts.


How to Choose a Power Drill For Woodworking

While cordless drills are very popular and convenient, corded drills are a bit more versatile and have the power to handle a number of drilling tasks. Additionally, corded drills are usually variable speed, which allows the user to drill anywhere from a very slow RPM all the way up to the drill’s top speed. I’d recommend a quality 3/8-inch corded version for the beginner’s first drill.

Power Supply

Like most power tools, there is standard corded model and there is the battery-powered cordless drill.

Corded models offer an unlimited amount of drilling time, and offers the power required when drilling through masonry or metal.

Cordless models are available, and these offer the benefit of portability and manoeverability in tight or confined spaces. The limiting factor in cordless drills is the battery life. When looking for a cordless drill, you will be bombarded by a variety of voltages, such as 12V, 14.4V, 18V, etc. In general, the voltage determines the amount of torque (twisting power) that a drill can produce. If you intend on using your cordless drill to drive screws, or use large spoon-head drilling bits, higher voltages offer more torque. Of more importance, perhaps, is the mAh that is listed on the battery. This will give an indication of how long the battery will last before it requires another charge. 2mAh is a good average starting point.

Miscellaneous Features

Variable-speed drills offer the opportunity to run the drill at less than full speed. Some drills offer two speeds, one slow speed for driving screws and one high speed for drilling. Other full-variable speed drills allow you to control the speed by how strongly you pull the trigger. I strongly recommend a variable-speed drill if you have any intentions on using screws in any of your projects, since this feature will save you much time and wrist-ache.

Reversible drills can turn the shaft in the opposite (counter-clockwise) direction. This is especially useful if you intend to use your drill to drive screws, since it gives you the option of removing the screws as well.

Voltages such as 12V, 14.4V, 18V, etc. determines the amount of torque (twisting power) that a drill can produce. If you intend on using your cordless drill to drive screws, or use large spoon-head drilling bits, higher voltages offer more torque.

Keyless Chucks give you the ability to change drill bits with a twist of the wrist. Standard keyed chucks require the use of metal “keys” to release or tighten the bit into the chuck. Keyless chucks keep you from searching for lost keys.

Choosing Power Drill Bits

There are many options available with drill bits. The folks over at Wikipedia have an exhaustive article on all the options, but I will just highlight what you will probably find the most useful.

Low carbon steel bits are used only for wood, as they do not hold an edge well, and require frequent sharpening. Working with hardwoods can cause a noticeable reduction in lifespan. They are, however, inexpensive.

High Carbon steel bits are made from high carbon steel and are an improvement on plain steel due to the hardening and tempering capabilities of the material. These bits can be used on wood or metal, however they have a low tolerance to excessive heat which causes them to lose their temper, resulting in a soft cutting edge.

High speed steel (HSS) is a form of tool steel where the bits are much more resistant to the effect of heat. They can be used to drill in metal, hardwood, and most other materials at greater cutting speeds than carbon steel bits and have largely replaced them in commercial applications. HSS drill bits is what I recommend you most woodworkers purchase for most applications.

Cobalt steel alloys are variations on high speed steel which have more cobalt in them. Their main advantage is that they hold their hardness at much higher temperatures, so they are used to drill stainless steel and other hard materials. The main disadvantage of cobalt steels is that they are more brittle than standard HSS.

How To Use a Power Drill

Always read the manual that came with your power tool! Always follow the safety percautions, especially while you are getting acquainted with your tool!


Keep a Straight Shaft

The first test for your drill is simple. Select your smallest drill bit (1/16” or 5/64” is ideal) and chuck it you’re your drill. Plug in your drill and pull the trigger. Carefully look at the tip of the drill as it spins. What you want to see is a tip that does not move. If it does move, you don’t want to see the tip making a circle in the air. If the tip of the bit wobbles slightly but you cannot see a circle, your drill will still deliver acceptable results. If you see a circle in the air, your drill will not give good results. The holes you drill will be oversized (at best) and most probably off-center from where you intended to drill.

If you have determined that your drill does not drill straight you can either purchase a replacement shaft or chuck (depending on the model), or you may be in the market for a new drill.

How do drills get out of shape? One possibility is it truly is a manufacturer’s defect, in which case you should return it to the store as soon as possible and request another unit. If it is a drill you had for a while, the most likely cause is simply rough treatment. It does not take much of a hit to misalign the chuck from the main body of the drill. You should try to keep your drill in its original storage case, and be careful when picking up or putting down the drill. Also avoid the temptation to pickup or put down your drill by using the cord. The balance point on most drills will lead the chuck to hit the ground first, and though each individual hit may seem insignificant, repeated blows can knock the drill out of alignment.

Check Your Bushings

The electric motors in drills will usually have bushings. These are small conductive pieces that are continually pressed against the spinning portion of the motor by springs. These bushings will wear over time, or may simply become clogged with sawdust or other debris. To perform maintenance on these bushings, you should refer to your manual. Well-engineered drills will have easily accessible bushings, and these are usually concealed under screw-off covers located near the handle, along the drill’s shaft. Twist open the cover, carefully remove the spring, and tap out the bushing. Clean out the hole they were located in, clean off the bushings, and replace everything. Repeat the process on the other side. If one bushing is significantly more worn than the other, or if the bushing is less than 1/8” thick (again, refer to your manual), purchase a replacement.

Bad Bits Can’t Bite

This is one time that you can blame the tool, but ultimately you were the fault… Drill bits are meant to be perfectly straight. If there is the slightest bend in one, return it or purchase a new one. Attempting to re-bend a bent bit bound to be a fruitless endevor that will cause you much frustration, and will probably end in a snapped bit.


How to Choose a Table Saw For Woodworking

The table saw is the heart and soul of every woodworking shop, so you want to buy the best tool you can comfortably afford. Take the time to learn which features you really want and the saw that best fits your budget and your needs. This tool is one that you will use on virtually every woodworking project, and a prudent purchase will provide a lifetime of good service.

The table-saw is designed to cut in straight lines. Whether you intend to cut with or against the grain or on any angle, you want the table saw to create a straight line. There are some factors that conspire against you, and your ability to fix them will depend on your willingness to make the necessary adjustments. Refer to the tips section below for advice.


Stationary Table Saws are usually setup in one location as a permanent fixture and generally have more power than portable saws. The added power enables the saw to run knives and cutters designed to mill and remove large amounts of stock. Stationary saws usually accept more accessories than portable saws. Stationary saws also suffer from fewer blade alignment issues than portable table saws.

Portable Table Saws make long, straight rip cuts (with the wood grain) and repeated crosscuts (across the wood grain) much more quickly and accurately than ordinary circular saws. Portable table saws perform many of the functions of larger stationary table saws but have a definite advantage in their mobility. High mobility makes them the perfect choice for framing and deck building. They’re also a good choice for small shops with limited space.

Miscellaneous Features

Extension Tables mount to the side of the table saw and provide a larger and more stable work surface when cutting wide stock. These extend to the sides of the blade/saw.

Out Feed Extensions give extra support during long rip cuts. These extend behind the saw/blade.

Accessory Tables increase the versatility of your table saw and can turn your table saw into a router table, shaper, or even a scroll saw.

Sliding Miter Tables slide in the miter slot, square with the blade and provide very accurate miter cuts.

Dado Heads cut wide, straight slots in a single pass. Dados are especially useful in joinery and shelving applications.

Mobile Bases give stationary saw mobility. Most mobile bases have casters that lock to keep the saw stationary when it is in use. Mobile bases are good options for small shops or shops in shared spaces so you can roll the saw out of the way when not in use.

Choosing Table Saw Blades


Eight-Inch Table Saws are a good choice for crafts and other applications associated with thinner stock.

Ten-Inch Table Saws provide the extra cutting depth needed for angled cuts in thicker stock.


Steel Blades are inexpensive and work well for cutting softwood. Steel blades dull quickly in hardwood.

High-Speed Steel Blades are harder than steel blades and stay sharp longer.

Carbide-Tipped Blades are more expensive than other blades, but they stay sharp much longer than steel or high-speed steel.


Food Safety

The durability and beauty of wood make it an attractive material for bowls, butcher blocks, and other items used to serve or prepare food. Wood also tends to be less prone to harbor bacteria than are some other materials such as plastic.

Finishes can enhance the beauty and extend the useful life of wood. Water-repellent finishes will reduce the effects of moisture. When wood soaks up water, it swells; when it dries out, it shrinks. If the wood dries out rapidly, its surface dries faster than the inside, resulting in cracks and checks (lengthwise separation of wood fibers).

Finishes that repel water will reduce the effects of brief periods of moisture (washing) and repel liquids, making the wood easier to clean. Wood salad bowls, spoons, forks, and other utensils used for food service need a finish that also resists abrasion, acids, and stains. Finished wood countertops are less likely to show stains, such as those from grape juice or other acidic juices.

There are two types of finishes, film-forming and penetrating. Finishes that form a film on wood, such as varnish, lacquer, and shellac, are also called coating finishes. Although the film protects the wood, it eventually chips, peels, or cracks.

Penetrating finishes come in two types, drying oils and nondrying oils.

Drying Oils

Drying oils penetrate the wood and harden the material. They include linseedtung, and diluted varnish. Also called wood sealers, drying oils are one of the most satisfactory finishes for wood surfaces. They reduce water absorption and make the surface easy to clean and resistant to scratches.

Wood sealers are easy to apply, requiring less skill than do other finishes. Worn places in the finish may be patched without showing lapmarks around the edges, which ordinarily cannot be done with other types of finishes.

Nondrying Oils

Nondrying oils simply penetrate the wood. They include both vegetable and mineral oils. Vegetable oils (such as olive, corn, peanut, safflower) are edible and are sometimes used to finish wood utensils. Walnut oil is particularly suitable.

The natural nondrying oils are applied heavily in several coats and can be refurbished easily. Vegetable oils do eventually become rancid. Although this condition is not considered hazardous, it may impart an undesirable odor or flavor. Treated utensils should be allowed to dry thoroughly for several weeks before use.

Mineral (or paraffin) oil is a nondrying oil from petroleum that has been used as a penetrating finish for wood utensils. Baby oil should not be used because it contains some ingredients that should not come in contact with food.

Paraffin Wax

One of the simplest ways to finish wood utensils, especially countertops, butcher blocks, and cutting boards, is to apply melted paraffin wax (the type used for home canning). Melt the wax in a double-boiler over hot water and liberally brush on the wood surface. Excess wax may be left on or scraped off as desired. Heating the excess wax on the surface with an old iron (similar to waxing skis) helps improve the absorption of the wax.


Whatever finish you choose for wood utensils that are to be used for storing, handling, or eating food, be sure that the finish is safe and nontoxic. Also be sure the finish you select is recommended for use with food or is described as food grade.

For information on the safety and toxicity of any finish, check the label, contact the manufacturer, contact the Food and Drug Administration, or check with your local extension home economics expert or county agent.

Mark Knaebe is a chemist in Wood Finishing Research at the USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, One Gifford Pinchot Dr., Madison, WI 53705–2398

January 1998

Source: United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory