If you find yourself reading this then you are most likely located in the UK and you are looking for information on a power tool … or two. Well, hopefully that is what we will help you find and hopefully answer all of your questions and more in the process.
But first off, most people just want to get the best power tool in a particular category without having to go through all the rigamarole of analysing and trying to decide which of the many brands and models out there are the best. To help answer that question, here at DIY-High we have taken our favourite power tools (available in the UK) in each category based on quality, features and overall value and grouped them together into ‘Our Favourite Power Tools’ list below. The list will be updated if different brands or models of a power tool are deemed better than the current favourite, so stay tuned for future updates especially if you haven’t taken the leap into purchasing one yet.
So suffice it to say, below you will find what power tools we ourselves would buy (if we haven’t got them already!) for our workshop if we had to get them right now. For further more in-depth analysis of each of our favourites as well as close contenders for the coveted top spot – click on the appropriate category of power tool in the list below.
Our Favourite Power Tools
|SIP 06242 Airmate TN3.0/50-D|
18G Brad Nail Guns
16G Finishing Nail Guns
|Bosch PSM 100 A|
Air-powered, Mains-powered, or Battery-powered
Now that we’ve told you what we like, let’s focus a little bit on the background of how to choose a power tool. One of the first decisions to make when buying a power tool is to determine what type of power system to go for. There are, for the most part, only three choices of power system available:
- Air-powered – where the tool is powered by compressed air
- Mains-powered – where you plug the power tool into a household or workshop wall socket
- Battery-powered – where the tool receives power from a battery that requires recharging every so often
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to each system but deciding on which system to adopt is relatively simple:
- Firstly, decide whether it is worth going for an air-powered ecosystem or an electric-powered one.
- If air-power is chosen, then there are no further system decisions to make; if electric-power is your choice, then you next need to weigh the pros and cons of mains- vs battery-power for your new tool.
Air vs Electric Power
Most newbies to the DIY and handyman arena will immediately opt for electrically-powered tools without even considering air-powered ones and in many cases this may be the right thing to do. If you are doing the odd bit of household DIY, then electrically-powered tools, especially battery-powered ones can be the more convenient option to reach for. There is no getting out the (sometimes hefty) air compressor, there is relatively little noise, and sometimes you don’t even have to plug the tool in if it is running off a previously-charged battery. But if you are or intend to be a serious DIY-er or even make the activity semi-professional, going for an air-powered system can present several advantages.
- Less-Expensive: To begin with, air tools are generally less-expensive than their electrical equivalents as they do not contain expensive components such as power systems and electric motors. Essentially, the power for every air tool comes ultimately from the compressor motor which you only have to buy once instead of buying the motor and associated power systems that come with each electric-based tool.
- Lighter yet powerful: For the same reason, air-powered tools can be much lighter than their electrically-powered equivalents and can be a far superior option if operating the power tool vertically or above shoulder level for extended periods of time. In addition, air tools can generate more torque than an equivalently-weighted electrical tool, that’s why professional car mechanics tend to use air impact wrenches as opposed to electrical ones.
- Easier to store: Air-powered tools also have the advantage that they tend to be smaller than their electrically-powered brethren. As a result, storing and transporting multiple air-powered tools can be a magnitude easier than electrically-powered equivalents.
- Convenience: This very much depends on how often you use power tools and how your set-up is organised. If you use power tools only on the odd occasion and they tend to be stored away most of the time, then getting out the air compressor every time you need to use a power tool will surely become tiresome. However, if you are a regular DIY-er or even a tradesman and have your power tools arranged so that they are pretty much ready at the touch of a button, then having to turn on an air compressor when you need to do some work will require no more effort than operating an electrically-powered tool.
- Tether-Risk: Air-powered tools are essentially tethered via an air hose to the air compressor so compared to a battery-powered tool without any ‘tether’, an air tool exhibits the same risks that come with being tether to a fixed point. First off, the tether represents a tripping hazard, so on safety grounds presents a slight increase in risk for workers in general. More importantly, the tethered air hose makes the air tool itself at risk of accidental damage caused by being dragged off an elevated surface (such as a ladder) if the tether is accidentally caught on something or someone (Anyone who has ever worked with a tethered tool (wire or air hose) will almost certainly recognise this as a not uncommon occurrence). However, air-powered tools due to their lower mass and absence of fragile internal electrical components are generally more robust than electrically-powered tools and are able to withstand far harsher impacts than their electrical equivalents. As a result, compared to a mains-tethered electrical tool, the air tool wins hands-down in the case of tether-risk.
- Operable in the absence of power: Like battery-operated power tools, air-powered tools can also be operated away from a power source if necessary. Simply by charging the air tank of the air compressor, the air tool can be operated off the stored compressed air without any electrical connection. However, the length of time the tool can be used, in most cases, is more limited than battery-powered tools.
- Other uses for the air compressor: The air compressor is used to power air tools, but there are some other activities that also require the use of compressed air, so often owning an air compressor can be particularly useful. The table below includes some of the other uses for an air compressor.
|What can I use an air compressor for?|
|Inflation (eg. tires, dinghies, basketballs, pool-side accessories, air mattresses etc)|
|Powering air tools (Nailers, Impact Wrenches, Sanders, Grinders, and lots more)|
|Cleaning of work-surface areas of debris (eg. sawdust)|
|Dusting off sensitive or inaccessible areas of electronic equipment, vacuum cleaners, cars, etc|
|Air brush painitng|
|Spray painting, Spraying weedkillers, etc|
|Blowing out water lines (eg. winterizing sprinkler or pool systems)|
Mains vs Battery Power
If you don’t think that air tools fit your needs or you are just not convinced of the advantages of going the way of air power, then you are left with one more fundamental decision for your next power tool purchase, namely, should it be mains-powered or should it be battery-operated? Below are some of the important pros and cons of each:
- Power-to-weight ratio: Mains-powered tools tend to have higher power-to-weight ratios compared to battery-operated equivalents as they don’t have to include a heavy battery as part of their design. Logically then, mains-powered tools should be lighter than battery-powered equivalents but what manufacturers are able to do is include more powerful and heavier motors in mains-powered devices, which generally means that mains-powered and battery-powered tools are usually of similar weight, but the mains-powered ones are just more powerful.
- Cost: Mains-powered tools are, in general, less expensive than battery-powered ones since they don’t have to include expensive Lithium-ion or other battery components nor do they have to include the recharging units as part of the final package.
- Intensity of use: Mains-powered tools essentially can run indefinitely (as long as they don’t over heat!) due to the ‘unlimited’ electrical energy they can derive from the mains. In contrast, battery-operated power tools have a limited use time before they run out of energy and need topping up again. However, in practice, battery-operated power tools usually can be operated with more than a single battery pack in play so that one battery can be charging while the other is working (although overuse of the tool can sometimes lead to both batteries out of charge). Incidentally, this is another reason why mains-powered tool motors can be made more powerful than battery-operated ones since mains device manufacturers don’t have to take into account power consumption as they do with battery-operated ones.
- Tether-risk: As with air-powered tools, mains-powered devices are tethered to a fixed point, namely the electrical socket. As a result, the connecting wire creates a tripping hazard for the user and his or her co-workers. The wire tether also creates a risk to the power tool itself in that it can be accidentally dragged off a table or other elevated surface through the accidental snagging of the power wire. Unlike air-powered tools, electrically-driven ones are heavier and much more vulnerable to impact damage due to their more fragile internal components. Battery-operated power tools present no tether-risk (but are still as vulnerable as mains-powered devices to impact damage)
- Electrical-supply: Battery-powered systems are especially useful when there is no electrical supply immediately available or when work has to be done on household electrical systems where the local power has had to be turned off for safety reasons. Mains-powered systems are at a loss without locally available power.
- Convenience: Mains-powered tools are always ready to work immediately – just plug them in. With battery-operated systems, the user has to ensure that his power tools are pre-charged before using them. This may seem to give mains-powered tools the absolute advantage in convenience, but in practice, Li-ion batteries used today tend to hold their charge for very long periods of time allowing battery-operated power tools to be stored away fully charged, ready for use.