By John Rumm (Internode Ltd) March 2005 with thanks to all those who commented on the drafts.
This FAQ is all about portable power tools; what types there are, and what they do. How to choose the right tool to buy, and sort the good, from the bad or just plain ugly. If you are a novice to DIY then start reading here with the introductory sections for some background, and then move onto the categories section to understand about the different ranges available. More experienced users may prefer to jump straight in with the Buying Policies or the individual tool types.
One question you need to ask before buying any power tool is: What do you mean by DIY? This is not as daft a questions as you may think! Since it will have a big impact on the tools you will consider “suitable” and “appropriate”. For some people DIY will be about saving money, for others it may be a relaxing hobby. It can be as simple as putting up a shelf, or as elaborate as building a house.
For many, DIY is a means to an end, since it is often the only way to get some jobs done (finding good trades people willing to actually quote or turn up for work is getting increasingly difficult! (particularly in the south east of England)).
In addition to the DIY-er described above we have the hobbyists. These are woodworkers who often regard the things they make as pieces of beautiful furniture to be carefully crafted, or DIY-ers, who do DIY for the satisfaction of knowing that they can, and don't want the risk of a getting in a contractor who may cut corners and not do it quite as they would.
A tool purchased for occasional use may well be very different to one you expect to make extensive use of every day. So before deciding on much else, it is advisable to decide what you are planning to do with the tool, and the level of use you anticipate making of it.
If you are in the market for a new tool, have a look a look at the menu to the left for specific advice.