One reason many women shy away from woodworking is perhaps a bit of “tool phobia.” It’s understandable because so much of modern woodworking revolves around power tools and high speed spinning blades can be intimidating. Keep in mind though that fear of power tools is not unique to women. My father is a good example of that. Even though I own just about every woodworking power tool known to mankind (okay, perhaps a bit of an exaggeration!) my father will still go out of his way to use a hand saw and a chisel. It’s not a love of hand tools on his part; it is a fear of power tools. Way back when I was a mere child of 7 my dad was using his gas powered lawnmower when it hit a rock that flew off and embedded itself in my arm. It was not a serious injury, though it was good enough for ice cream, still my dad dumped the power mower and has never used one since. Power tools of any kind are just not in his comfort zone. Fortunately, power tools are not the only way to mow lawns or to work wood. However, before you consign yourself to monk’s life of hand tools only, let’s take a second look at power tools.
Sanders – sanding is probably the most tedious part of any woodworking project and also one of the most important. Sanding prepares wood for stains, paints, and topcoats. Random orbit sanders are at home in any shop and will save you countless hours of work. These sanders come in a variety of sizes and, by shopping around a bit you can find one that comfortably fits your hand. There are no blades to worry about, just secure your work piece, and have at it.
Drills- drills are a toolbox staple, at home in the shop or the house and used for everything from pocket holes for joinery to attaching new drawer hardware. Today’s drill/drivers can be fitted with drill bits or driver bits making tedious assembly work fast and wrist saving. It’s pretty hard to hurt yourself with a drill as long as you keep your hair away from the bits. Look for a lightweight lithium ion battery and a drill that feels balanced and comfortable in your hand.
Biscuit joiners – Okay, this is a step on the wild side. Biscuit joiners are used to create strong joints in wood. Bookcases, cabinets, table tops can all be assembled with biscuit joints. The joiner has a blade that plunges into the wood and carves out a slot for the biscuit. The beauty of this tool is that the blade is completely sheathed from the user. You need never even look at it.
You do have to secure the work piece to keep it from jumping as you plunge but, a simple clamp is all you need. The joiner can be just a bit heavy but it is really not hard to use. If you can manage an iron, or lift a pot of water from the stove, you can use a biscuit joiner.
Miter saws ( mitre if you’re a Brit.)- All right, you can sand your piece, drill holes for shelf supports and put it together with biscuits but first, you’ve got to cut the wood to size. Let’s start with wood that is already the correct width and only needs to be cut to length. You could do this with a tablesaw, a circular saw, a jig saw, or a handsaw. Or, you could cut to the chase and blow all those saws out of the water safely, accurately and quickly with a miter saw.
With a miter saw the wood is stationary and the saw is stationary. The only moving parts are the spinning blade, housed in a blade guard and the saw arm which you pull out, down and through the cut. If your work piece is properly clamped and tight to the fence, you’ll get a nice, clean cut every time.
Okay, I make it sound easy, I know but the truth is, all of these tools are easy to learn and safe to use. Just as you learned not to touch the hot iron with your hand (or, in my case, the hot waffle iron!) you can learn the proper safety habits for any power tool. Tool manufacturers are well aware of safety issues and are continually working to make ever safer, ever better tools. In addition, more and more manufacturers are catering to the DIY market which includes women. Try a few different brands and you’ll find a tool that fits your hand, your budget and your comfort level. To find more information please visit woodworking-tool-guide.com.