Hand Tools vs Power Tools: Uses and Benefits
One of the facts of modern life is that you can’t really stop modern technology from evolving.
Clever take ancient tools and then turn them into more efficient electrically-powered machines that can help you do any task faster, with less effort and with fewer mistakes.
Yet in woodworking, the hand tools vs power tools debate rages on.
The real truth is that both types of tools have their advantages, and a fully equipped woodshop will have both hand tools and power tools at the ready.
Types of Terrific Power Tools and Their Advantages
To fully understand the need for power tools, here are some excellent power tools that are simply better than their hand tool counterparts:
- Pneumatic nail gun. Yes, a hammer will do just fine when you need to put in a few nails. But when you’re going to put in dozens of nails (or even hundreds) on your project, the nail gun is a much better choice. It’s a lot faster, it takes very little effort, and you don’t risk hitting your thumb with the hammer.
- Cordless drill. Some might be annoyed with cords when working with handheld power tools, but a cordless drill doesn’t have this problem. It’s also relatively small. It’s versatile too, since you can use it as a screwdriver. In fact, with this you may not even need to drill a pilot hole to get your screw in.
- Power circular saw. This is another tool that numerous woodworkers will want to have. That’s because it’s terribly tedious to use a handsaw for a large panel of plywood, especially when you need to cut plenty of wood pieces for your project. With this tool, you can cut wood a hundred times faster and you’re more certain that you’ll get straight cuts across the wood.
- Power jigsaw. You use this for cutting curves or circular patterns on your wooden workpiece. Yes, you can use a coping saw instead. But you’ll need a lot of time, and you better have a lot of experience controlling a tool like this. With a power jigsaw, however, a task that takes 30 minutes with a coping saw will just take a few seconds with the power jigsaw—and you also get a lot of control as well.
With hand tools, you can cut wood and have them all with the perfectly consistent sizes.
Everything’s fast and less effort on your part is needed. When you’re working with lots of wood pieces or large pieces of wood, then power tools are generally much better.
Advantages of Hand Tools
With the advantages of power tools, you might think that hand tools are anachronisms that only the dinosaurs use. But plenty of people still use hand tools, and there are many good reasons why.
Hand planes such as joiners and smoothing planes are an excellent example of hand tools that just won’t go away. Here are some reasons why you’d want to have them in your woodshop.
- Perhaps it’s simply a matter of your budget. Power tools are notoriously expensive compared to their manual hand tool counterparts. Some people just can’t afford to buy too many power tools.
- Space limitations must also be considered. Electrically-powered planers are large beasts, and you may not have space in your woodshop to accommodate them all.
- There are also simply situations when the hand tool is a much more convenient solution. Let’s say you find that your door sticks on the frame so it doesn’t open or closes easily. Will you then have to detach the door so you can shave off a bit to make it fit better? Of course not. You can instead have a smoother in your work apron that you can use to just shave off a bit from the door. No fuss, no muss.
- In some cases you can get better end results with a hand tool. Even when you’ve taken your wood through a machine to make it smooth all around, you will want a smoother plane to put in the finishing touches on the wood to make it really ready for the coat finish.
- There’s also the feeling of satisfaction you get when you do a task by hand. It’s somehow more real. For many, it’s the hands-on experience of working on wood that gives them the real thrill. Just putting wood through a machine doesn’t quite match the experience.
There’s no doubt that having only hand tools in your woodshop can be severely limiting. Work takes too much time and effort, and you don’t get to do as much. With hand tools, mistakes are also bound to happen. With power tools, all these problems are solved.
But hand tools have their hallowed place in the woodshop. They offer convenience in certain situations, and sometimes even better results. What’s more, there’s no denying the sense of satisfaction you get whenever you use a hand tool to finish a job.