When you're just starting out, power tools can be pretty intimidating. Especially if you're a female flying solo. Did you know there's an actual clinical term for the intense fear of power tools?
Watch out for the Killer Kreg Jig!
Haha, just poking a bit of fun at ya. But seriously, we've all been there. If you're even mildly anxious about power tools, the good news is these feelings are totally reversible with a little immersion therapy.
Now when I say reversible, I mean you will go from heart pounding fear to adrenaline-based euphoria. But first, let's dispel a few common misconceptions about why women shouldn't use power tools.
Secondly, to ease you into the mindset of conquering projects and power tools, I created a free guide to 10 Easy, Confidence-Building Handywomen Projects. The only tool you'll need to own is a power drill. Stay tuned for further details at the end of this post!
Misconception #1: POWER TOOLS ARE FOR MEN.
Horse poop. If there’s one thing we know as women, it’s how to wield our power in a benevolent manner. Power tools are no exception. In fact, I’m the handy one in our family. Our garage shop is littered with photos of Jamie Fraser since it's my designated work space.
The first time I ripped out a builder-grade window sill, I thought, Oh crap, no going back now! As my husband was leaving for work, he joked, “Don’t **** it up!” You can bet when he got home that night the first thing I did was show him the new window trim -- shining in all its glory 😉
Misconception #2: POWER TOOLS ARE TOO DANGEROUS.
Yes, power tools can be dangerous if you don’t read the manual or wear proper safety gear (see below). But some fear is good here, because it helps you remember the ever-present potential for serious injury.
For the most part, you’ll get into a rhythm and all those stress sweating, hand-shaking moments you feel in the beginning will fade away.
You and the machine will become one.
Respect the machine, and it will respect you.
Misconception #3: POWER TOOLS ARE TOO EXPENSIVE.
Home improvement projects are generally not inexpensive endeavors. Once you invest in the machinery, however, the pieces you produce will be far cheaper than anything you can buy at a store, especially if you can fix up secondhand furniture. Plus, it'll have your personal stamp on it, which is priceless.
Here's a breakdown of what you can expect to spend on some major staples:
Cordless Power Drill: $20-$100
Jig saw: $20 – $50
Miter saw: $75 - $800 (I've found the best miter saws are in the $200–$500 range)
Table saw: $150 – $1300
Circular saw: $50 – $200
Kreg Jigs: $40 – $140
Nail gun: $150 – $200
Let's say you have a small budget and decide to buy the cheapest jig saw, nail gun, and miter saw you can find. You can do a LOT of cool projects with just those three items (crown molding, anyone?). Your initial investment is going to be about $350–$400 (which for me just means no new clothes for a while, because, #priorities lol).
Outsourcing the labor for one project would probably cost at least as much as buying a new tool.
Going forward, any projects requiring those tools will be much, much cheaper than hiring a professional.
If you’re nervous about taking the leap and investing in heavy-duty equipment, sometimes you can buy a scaled-down version of what I like to call the “Big Daddies.” It's a good option for a newbie builder who doesn't need professional-grade machinery.
For example, the first saw I ever owned was this baby Ryobi miter saw (affiliate link). I eventually had to upgrade to a bigger machine once I realized it wasn’t adequate for large pieces of molding, but it was an excellent option for chair rail miter cuts.
A compact design works great on smaller pieces where you needed more control.
Misconception #4: POWER TOOLS TAKE UP TOO MUCH SPACE.
In the beginning, all you need is a corner. To get a sense of how much corner space you’ll need, many of the bigger saws come with stands. For my miter saw, I just placed a large piece of plywood on top of two saw horses. The saw came with four holes in the base, which was anchored to the plywood with bolts.
We could slide the sawhorses up against the wall and still fit both cars inside our two-car garage when it was snowing. I suppose once you expand your workshop to include more big pieces like other saws, you’ll have to designate a bigger area. It depends on your garage and if you absolutely need to park inside of it!
Misconception #5: I DON'T HAVE TIME TO LEARN.
I'm not the most tech-savvy person on the planet, but it usually only takes me about an hour to read the manual and do a test run on a piece of scrap material. The more complicated tools like routers and jigs may entail more trial and error, but the hand-held tools are typically not as time intensive.
Most aspects of home improvement are time-consuming. Plan on investing a significant amount of time researching your design, buying materials and mapping out your space.
Learning the ins and outs of your machine will drastically reduce the time it takes to install anything. Having to nail down shiplap by hand or use a miter box for all your cuts gets really old...really fast!
Once I was forced to use a miter box (a hand-held miter saw) when I installed the picture frame molding in our master bedroom. The pieces were just too flimsy for the strength of the saw. I was so spoiled from using a power saw that I just about died from the tedium of it all!
Power tools are like the gateway drugs to projects. If you can master one tool, you’ll feel more inclined to try others in the same family. If you can master some of the bigger tools like saws and jigs, you’ll have an entire universe of new project plans at your disposal.
Don’t let bias or fear stand in the way of your project goals. If I can do it, so can you!
Ready to role up your sleeves?
My Guide to 10 Easy, Confidence-Building Handywomen Projects
Get the password for the library with my complete guide to completing these starter projects around the house. Any of these projects could completed within a weekend!
Now go forth and prosper, and attack those projects like a boss!