Essential Power Tools - Updated 2023

Circular Saws

Essential Power Tools for Carpentry - the circular saw is first on the list. There are two primary designs of circular saws: the Sidewinder and the worm drive. I have never owned a worm drive, but I know framing carpenters who swear by them.

The best circular saw I have ever owned was the Makita 7-1/4" Sidewinder (corded). I rate it as the best circular saw because it has served me well for over 40 years! I have had to replace the power cord a couple of times, but other than that, zero maintenance. I still use my Makita for remodeling projects when cutting through existing roofing or sheet metal is required. Discarding an old, quality tool is rare.

I bought a new DeWALT 7-1/4" Sidewinder (corded) for my primary circular saw. My Makita was still in working order, but the screws and clamps that control the table depth and bevel settings were getting old and hard to use. I have used DeWALT circular saws on construction projects over the years and found them to be high-quality power tools with table settings that were easy to adjust. When shopping for circular saws, try comparing the table adjustments on the different models.

DeWALT Circular Saw

Some carpenters (mostly framers) I have worked with prefer using the worm drive type. Because of the nature of the drive mechanism, they are considered more durable under heavy daily use.

This worm drive (corded) comes with an 8-1/4" blade and can cut thicker pieces of wood with a single pass. It can also cut sharp angles because of the larger blade.

I purchased this 7-1/4-inch Milwaukee (cordless) and used it to replace my wooden privacy fence. I could have used my corded circular saw, but I wanted to see how well the batteries held out on a project where I had to make multiple cuts. The result? No complaints.

While you read through circular saw reviews on your quest to find the best circular saw, compare the cost of the non-professional and professional series. The professional series is usually a few dollars more but is well worth the money spent. The first circular saw I bought cost around $40 and didn't last six months. The second one (the Makita) cost around $100 and has lasted 40+ years.

Power Drills

I bought this new cordless Milwaukee drill to build a new 500-square-foot deck. I used it to screw all the joists, beams, and decking. With the extra battery always in the charger, I could continue working while charging the depleted battery. The drill had plenty of power to drive the 3-1/2" deck screws.

Milwaukee M18 Drill

The 1/2-inch low-speed drill is perfect when drilling with drill bits like a wood auger or hole saw bit. It comes with a handle you can attach to the neck of the drill so you can hold it with both hands while drilling (highly recommended). The extra torque of this half-inch drill made it perfect for mixing thick grout in a five-gallon bucket.

Miter Saws

Miter saws are number three on the list of essential power tools. I own only one miter saw - a 10-inch compound saw that works great for most moldings and trim, but if you work with large-size crown molding, I recommend a slightly larger compound miter saw.

I've been looking at this 12-inch miter saw (below) and plan to purchase it (or a similar saw) when my 10-inch saw gets old (or until the need for the larger saw comes up).

If you don't already own a compound miter saw, consider purchasing the 12-inch version since it also does the work of the smaller saw.

Essential Power Tools - Table Saws

A table saw is on the list of essential power tools and will make a fine addition to your collection of carpentry tools. The first table saw I owned was only capable of ripping materials that were 11 inches or less in width. At the time of the purchase, that's all I needed.

Soon after I purchased this saw, I started a new project that required a saw that could rip 24-inch material. I bought a Ryobi portable table saw that still works great, but I couldn't find it on Amazon when I wrote this article. I bought the Ryobi at a hardware store with a shocking discount. They were discontinuing that model.

The portable table saw (shown below) is a similar design. Portable table saws are not as heavy-duty as the shop floor type, but I prefer them for their lightweight and portability. I needed a table saw that I could fold and store easily in my garage. The saw you buy should depend on your needs.


Another essential power tool is the router. I currently own an inexpensive corded hand-me-down Craftsman router that I have attached to my Rockler router table.

I will replace the old model soon with this corded DeWALT router. I used a similar router when I worked for a deck builder years ago and always appreciated its solid and compact feel.

I recently purchased this cordless Milwaukee router that I use as my portable router while my corded router stays attached to my router table. You can also buy a detachable "plunge base" for this model.

Reciprocating Saws

Another essential power tool is a reciprocating saw. I was a carpenter for five years before I owned one, and once I bought my first reciprocating saw (commonly called a Sawzall), I don't know how I ever lived without it. I use it for cutting everything like wood, metal, or PVC, where a straight cutting tool is not required or won't fit. My father quickly discovered that a reciprocating saw works well for pruning trees.

My old corded Sawzall was a quality product, but it finally quit working after about 20 years of use. I purchased a cordless Sawzall to replace it. It is one of my favorite tools that I use almost every day.

Leaf Blower

I bought this cordless Milwaukee leaf blower to replace an old corded model. And because I already owned several Milwaukee batteries.

Jobsite Speaker

I purchased this new cordless Jobsite Speaker to use in my garage. It paired with my iPhone without issues. It replaced a 30-year-old AM/FM/CD radio that finally quit working.

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 See Also (on

Carpentry Tools - Read about other tools used in carpentry.

Carpentry Squares - Learn about squares used in carpentry.

Carpentry Hand Tools - View a list of essential carpentry hand tools.

Carpentry Levels - Types of levels used in carpentry and construction.

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