A lot of people ask me where I got all of my tools, and more importantly how I got them. There are so many tools out there, and so many different versions and brands of each one, it can take a while to read through all of the reviews and purchase the right one for the job. I’ve bought and returned twice as many power tools as I have in my collection at one point or another. Sometimes it just doesn’t turn out to be what you thought you needed.
So I thought I would do a post about the power tools that I use and love. This way, you don’t have to go through the tedious task of searching for the best tool, the best value, and read all the hundreds of reviews online, because I’ve already done that!
“Only a rich man can afford cheap tools.”
I used to think this little phrase was silly, until I started my own collection of serious power tools. But now I know how true it is. The moral of the story is, if you buy the cheapest tool, it will break and you will need to buy another tool. You are much, much better off spending the extra dough to get the most decent, best value for the money, quality power tool*. Especially when it has a motor, moving parts, or needs to be accurate. This is my number one piece of advice.
*The exception being if you know for sure you will only need a very specialized tool for one-time use, then you can buy a shitty one at Harbor Freight and just wear it out until it breaks, after that one job.
That being said, I didn’t get all of these quality tools in a day, and you don’t have to either. I slowly gathered these tools together over the past 2 years working on the COMET and other projects. My advice is to work with what you got, and just buy the tools as needed as the job/project/build progresses. (However, now that I’ve used these tools, which by nature make your life a hundred times easier, I wonder how I ever did anything without them. But what you don’t know can’t hurt you! So gather your tools as the project moves along and money becomes available). At the very least, you’ll need a good power drill. My recommendation is below.
But Mariah, why didn’t you buy used tools on Craigslist or something?
Well, as a matter of fact, many of my power tools are secondhand and come from friends and family member’s garages and sheds. But the ones I did buy new I bought because they come with a warranty, which is important with such an expensive purchase that you know is going to get a beating. I also wanted to know for sure I was getting something in great condition. These things are going to be my making machines for the rest of my life (hopefully!), and I wanted them to be as perfect as possible when I acquired them, so that I could keep them in good shape myself with proper maintenance. A good tool is worth it, because it allows you to do other things. The ROI is potentially infinite, and is only limited by your imagination of things you can make for yourself. My philosophy about finances and life: spend money on tools that can make other things.
Here’s my super awesome list of tools so you can build (and take apart!) just about anything.
The Dewalt Cordless Drill Kit, I have this same one. It was the first tool I purchased for myself with my own money, and I'm not just saying this, it changed my life. This is just a basic must-have. You'll use it every single day.
The Dewalt Jig Saw is something I use almost everyday when working on the camper or other projects. It's perfect for cutting out unique shapes in 1/4 inch plywood, rounded edges, and anything else that needs a saw. Use this tool to cut out a new table, make custom shaped/sized furniture, and replace birch paneling. Good for quick cuts too.
The DEWALT Large Angle Grinder, for grinding and polishing tarnished aluminum. Worth the investment. You need the large angle grinder (not the small angle grinder) because it has the correct RPM for polishing aluminum.
The Milwaukee Sawzall is the perfect tool for the demolition phase of vintage trailer renovation, and just about every type of renovation. We bought the Sawzall when we could not get the original steel water tank out of the COMET after days of trying everything. This baby cut through the steel like butter and we pulled that piece of crap right out. Since then, it's come in handy for anything demo-related, cutting down brush, cutting steel, etc: it just works so well.
I love the Porter-Cable Circular Saw for making long, super straight cuts. If something needs to be square over a longer length, this tool is the one to use. Perfect for both dimensional lumber and plywood of all thicknesses. If the Jig Saw is taking too long, The Circular Saw is the tool to use.
The Hitachi Chop Saw came into our lives recently, and oh boy is it nice to have. We used to cut all of our 45 degree angles with a miter box, but no more. This tool cuts job time down significantly, it sakes seconds to make accurate cuts. Now that I have it, I can't imagine building without it. If I could go back, I would have spent a little more and gotten the Sliding Compound Miter Saw, but that's on my want list now!
We end up using the Ryobi Router with Router Table so much now that we have it. I used to have to purchase molded trim and anything fancy at the store for more than I would like to spend on a piece of trim, but now I can make my own. We've made picture frames, custom cabinets for the camper, routed custom molding for the joints in the campers, and have saved a lot of money since we're not purchasing fancy trim pieces. It makes custom work a breeze. It's just nice to be able to round off edges so easily.
Another tool I wish I had gotten sooner is the Ridgid Pneumatic Nail Gun, for installing those custom cut trim and quarter round mentioned above. I didn't realize how much time I was wasting hammering in ring shank panel nails by hand (putting up trim and wall paneling) until I got this awesome nail gun. Makes everything go so fast! (You'll need a compressor to run this tool, this is the one that I use.)
The Rockwell Sonicrafter Oscillating Tool is an absolute must-have if you're going to be renovating a vintage trailer or anything like that. I wasted so much time and effort trying to surgically remove damaged parts of the COMET and the Beemer before I got this tool. It makes the job SO MUCH EASIER, it is the single best thing to have if you're re-doing a trailer. Absolutely worth the investment, because you can use it for sanding and a hundred other purposes too. I went ahead and got the "kit" version, which comes with a lot of good accessories for the money.
When you have the right tools, everything is possible. I used to get so frustrated trying to do projects in my garage, but once you have the right tools, you can really do anything.
Next one my want list? Definitely a welder. Last time we were at the hardware store I said to Matt, all giddy and excited, “Oh!! Can we PLEASSEE look at the welders??” His face said something like “You’re a nice lady. I like you.”
(Full disclosure: some of the links on this post are affiliate links, which means that if you buy something I recommend, I get a small commission, at no extra cost to you. I always give only my honest opinion, this type of thing just allows me to keep the blog up and running! Thanks!).