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Power Tools 101

Almost every home in America probably has at least one power tool. But people often feel timid about using them because they're not sure how to use the powerful tools safely.

Danny Lipford, host of "Today's Homeowner," visits The Early Show on Wednesday to give a basic lesson on how to use some common power tools at home.

Lipford says safety always needs to come first when working with any type of power tool. By following the following guidelines, you will be able to use your power tools in the safest manner possible.

  • Wear eye protection
  • If wearing gloves make sure they are leather
  • Make sure that safety guards are in place and working
  • Tie long hair back and wear clothing that does not hang or dangle loosely
  • Replace damaged parts or damaged tools before using them
  • Always keep a firm grip on your tools
  • When sanding, wear a dust mask
  • When operating a noisy power tool for an extended period of time, wear ears plugs
  • When using tools outdoors, plug them into a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet, which is a safety outlet; If you have an electrical short, it will trip the breaker instead of causing a shock (Lipford says any outside plug should be a GFCI, and people with old homes should have one installed).

Using Power Tools

Jigsaw (Sometimes Called A Sabresaw)

A jigsaw is a small, handheld saw that moves a narrow blade up and down. Because the blades are narrow and the cutting action is vertical, these saws are ideal for curved or intricate cuts. Jigsaws are very easy to use for more delicate woodcutting. This type of saw is frequently used by hobbyists and do-it-yourself home improvers. A large variety of blades can be purchased for these devices.

Common Uses: Cutting a radius and notches in woodwork. A radius cut is a a curve of any kind; not a straight line.

Item Used: Skil brand saws
Jigsaws range in price from $30 to $170

Circular Saws

Lipford says circular saws are one of the most used and versatile power saws. This is the main tool that a carpenter or framer will use. These saws enable you to cut boards, plywood, larger pieces of trim, etc. Most circular saws are packaged with a standard blade. But, you may wish to purchase additional blades. Lipford says you should replace the blades with a new one rather than have it sharpened because it's so cheap. Circular saws are available in both corded and cordless, battery-operated models.

Common Uses: Cutting 2 x 4's for framing

Cutting deck boards for decking
Cutting a full sheet of plywood into smaller sections
Circular saws range in price from $39 to $200

Item Used: Riyobi

Miter Saws

Miter saws are most commonly used for smooth, accurate cuts of wood trim. But, these saws can also be used to cut 2 x 4's and 4 x 4's. This saw has a number of pre-set angles that you can use, which is a great feature when you are making repetitive cuts. Miter saws are also known as chop saws.

Common Uses: Making miter cuts on moldings

Item Used: Ryobi (7 1/4)
Miter saws range in price from $99 to $600


Even the best tool will leave rough wood. Lipford said that you should use one for anything you're working on that is going to be seen. Sanders mechanically speed up the movement of sandpaper to move in a faster motion to smooth out a rough surface. The most basic sander is a 1/4-sheet pad sander that allows you to create a more finished look on your surface. If you do a lot of sanding, Lipford recommends getting one with larger pads.

Common Uses:
Refinishing furniture
Preparation of new wood for finishing

Item Used: Rigid
Sanders range in price from $25 to $70

Power Drill

A power drill is not only good for drilling various-sized holes, but it also allows you to use other accessories such as driver bits, wire brush wheels, sanding drums and many other attachments. Drills can either be corded or battery operated. Cordless models are available in various voltages including 9.6, 12, 14.4 and 18 volts.

Common Uses:
Drilling holes in wood, metal and masonry
Driving Screws

Drills range in price from $25 to $270

Maintaining Tools:

Try to keep the accumulation of sawdust down. Keep tools clean and sharp. As mentioned earlier, replace dull blades with a new one when the tool starts laboring. It's a good idea to get an extra blade when you buy a tool.

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