Over the years, I have purchased and been gifted many useful power tools. For a while, I did my drilling with half-inch corded drill that I was given to aid me in my construction projects, but I have recently acquired a cordless drill as well since not all situations have a nearby outlet or require the power that a corded drill can deliver. Many of my metalworking projects are beginning to require more precise and perpendicular holes, so I bought a cheap drill press online.
Not only are the holes that I produce now with the drill press much cleaner than those made with my half-inch drill, but I can also tune the angle of the hole with its adjustable table and it can deliver more power than any handheld drill. The drill press sports a half-horsepower motor which, while not nearly as powerful as a mill, very rarely has issues with binding and can push through very tough materials. When I need to form non-uniform holes or grind away tough material with a good degree of precision, I tend to use my Dremel rotary grinder. At its maximum speed, it rotates at around 30,000 revolutions per minute. I have a set of synthetic-diamond bits and cutting disks as well as assorted ceramic cutting disks, small buffing wheels, wire brushes and sandpaper wheels that I often use to fine-tune holes and finish part edges and surfaces on my projects.
I haven’t done much precise woodworking, but my Nixie tube clock project ended up requiring ornately shaped wood sections for its base, so I needed to cut and route edge patterns into three wooden sections. My uncle aided me with most of the precision cutting and routing, however I used my own router later on to carve out pockets from the three wood parts to accept the clock’s electronic components and reshape some of the previously-routed edges. I like to think of routers as miniature portable woodworking mills, as they can be used to make both aesthetic and practical cuts in wood, with the only major differences being in the router’s smaller size and much higher RPMs. It’s difficult to make one-pass cuts in wood with a router, especially without a reference surface to work from, and it just generally isn’t well suited for cutting sections out of wood as one could achieve in multiple passes on a mill.
Instead, I have been using a Bosch jigsaw for most of my wood and large-scale metal cutting since 2012, however even the proprietary metal blades that I purchased for it wear out very quickly when they’re faced with thick steel. It’s a good, small, portable tool that has met my needs so far, most notably when I cut holes in oak plywood for my speaker project, but now with my lathe project I have steel between a half-inch thick and 1.5 inches thick that I need to cut through.
For that kind of cutting, and any other quick, straight cuts that I wish to make, I purchased a half-horsepower bandsaw. I’ve been modifying its output ratio to increase torque and reduce speed by a factor of 10 so that I can cut steel at its optimal surface cutting speeds, but also left the original mechanism intact to allow me to use it as a normal aluminum/plastic/wood band saw should I need to cut those materials.
I used to use my dad’s bench grinder quite a bit for all of my metal grinding purposes but picked up my own 8-inch bench grinder in 2014 which also operates on a half-horsepower motor. I replaced the coarse wheel on the grinder with a buffing wheel, so I can now use the grinder for both grinding and polishing. For the aggressive cutting and sanding operations that require more maneuverability, I purchased a cheap angle grinder. Due to its small size it can easily get into tight spots making it great for cutting thin metal sections, polishing and bringing down metal surfaces with sanding disks. In the past, I used a palm sander for smoothing wooden surfaces and removing high spots, but as my projects got larger, the palm sander became far too slow. I was gifted a belt sander which is capable of removing much larger amounts of material. At one point, while trying to center a new belt that I had just installed, I had the sander too close to my shorts and pulled them into it. It took me quite a while to unjam and escape the sander. There are many other useful power tools that I would love to add to my arsenal, which I plan to do as my budget increases.