We all dream of having the perfect workshop stocked with all the tools of our choice, well at least I do. I created this section to cover the perfect workshop. Below I will go through each tool category and list which tool I believe to be the best tool for your perfect workshop.
Building your Workshop
Before you can stock your workshop you will have to build your perfect work space. You must decide which space in your house you will start with to create a comfortable place to work. You must remember that no project is done in a day, so you will need a space to store your work. A space that can be left dirty, if you chose, and one that can you don’t mind getting dirty. We usually only have two choices, the basement or the garage. I once tried to use my living room, but my wife made sure I wouldn’t do that again. There are pros and cons to both workshops.
A basement workshop is nice because you probably all ready have good temperature control, which is very helpful, especially if you have cold winters. Another good reason is you can probably work late and not bother your neighbors, just make sure you don’t wake your wife, (then you have a con instead of a pro). The downside to the basement workshop is you have to set up dust collection to make sure you are not tracking dirt all over the house, and this can be a little expensive. Another downside is you will constantly be bringing wood down the stairs, unless you have a walk out basement. This means you will eventually put some nice holes in the walls.
In contrast, with a garage workshop, you probably do not have to install a dusk collection system and it will be very easy to bring wood or materials from the truck straight to your workshop. Again, the downside is that if you have extreme heat or cold which can be very uncomfortable to work in, not to mention what it does to wood. Also, if you decide to build a workshop in your garage, you will lose a space to park your automobile.
Either way, once you decide on your location, the main item you want in your work space is space and space. Yes, space is that important. You don’t want to be working on a project and constantly be moving things around just to get more room.
I created my workshop in my garage because that offered the most space, and I knew I wouldn’t make my wife mad with the noise and dust. I lined the garage with 1/2 plywood, but you can use what ever you want. I went this way for two reasons. First, I think it looks more like a workshop and second, I can screw into the wall anywhere I want in order to hold any tool. If you would like pictures or a design on how to make very heavy duty shelves out of plywood, please contact me and I will send you pictures and the specs.
For the bench I screwed 3/4 plywood down. I used this because I could write on the table and abuse it if necessary. Worst case scenario, I could unscrew the top and put a new piece back on. I could go on and on in explaining how to create a great workshop environment, but after all we are here to look at the tools to supply your ultimate workshop.
If you would like some plans on building a workshop table or shelving, please visit my free project plans.
Below I have listed a category with my top tool company in the category. I grew up around a bunch of carpenters and also worked in the construction field for a number of years. So I am taking my experience along with my uncles, cousin’s and current friends who work in the trades and am applying a consensus opinion on a single page. If you disagree or have your own opinion, I would love to hear from you and share it with other visitors through our Power Tool Forum Page. We will continue to update the tool companies as we see fit. We are constantly buying and using new power tools.
I picked the tool below based on experience, name, balance, housing, functions and other small, but important factors.
An angle grinder is a tool that is not used that much at home, but is very handy when needed. An angle grinder is a power tool that fits in your hand and has a grinding wheel on the end that spins at a high speed. The type of grinder wheel you have on is based upon what type of material you will cut. There a lot of other wheel attachments, but most people use this tool for cutting metal and concrete. Personally, I have used mine a lot. I had to cut a bunch of rebar to install some landscape timbers, I tore out a room in the basement and used the grinder to cut the nails away that where imbedded into the concrete. I also used the tool to cut some concrete in the garage. The floor is very old and needed some patch work, so I cut some to level the floor out. I love using this tool because it cuts metal or concrete like it is going through butter.
In terms of the best angle grinder, I tend to like Bosch the best. Most of the time, if you stick with a professional power tool brand you will be fine. They are all pretty much the same. I like the Bosch the best because I have personally seen them take a lot of abuse on jobsites. I have a Bosch, a very old one, and it still runs like new. Currently Bosch is the number one seller of angle grinders and that tells you something.
Drill – Corded
A corded what? Why would anyone buy a corded drill when I could buy a cordless drill? Simply put, power. A cordless is nice having around, but if you are looking for torque and just plain raw power, a corded drill is a must have. Corded drills are very powerful and now they are very light. A 3″ hole saw or drilling through a lot of hardwood lumber can take a toll on any cordless drill. Why put that extra strain on a nice cordless.
With that in mind I wouldn’t even question a corded drill, and I would buy a Milwaukee corded drill. Milwaukee is considered on of the best corded drills around, based on their internal gearing and housing. Some models have an easy two finger trigger and belt clip. I really like Milwaukee because of the balance they offer. When you hold a Milwaukee Corded drill in your hand, you can feel that it balances great, which will cause less fatigue in your arms down the road.
I have owned numerous corded drills, such as Dewalt, Makita and others, but I currently own a Milwaukee 1/2 Drill 0302-20 8 amp and love it. I would not trade this for any other drill. I have put a beating on it and it is like a Timex watch, it doesn’t break and keeps on drilling. This model is nice because it has a quick connect cord which means the cord can be disconnected from the drill. I like this feature because I tend to some how get cuts in all my power tool cords and this way I can just buy a new cord and replace it very easily. This drill can basically perform any thing you want, it didn’t even bog down on a 3.5″ hole saw cutting through some oak. Just be careful, if this tool binds up, it will do a number on your arm. The only downside to the drill is that is doesn’t come in a case. I have a Milwaukee tool bag I keep it in. Some drills do come in a case, but if your looking for a corded drill, don’t pass up the Milwaukee drill.
Drill – Cordless
A cordless drill is a must have. This is the tool that you will use the most on jobs ranging from hanging a small picture to working on large projects. Now-a-days, everyone makes a cordless drill, even the guy down the street in his basement. I would probably stay away from his tools.
This is a tough one to pick just one drill. I have owned them all and still do. I have a 12 volt Makita that I love. It offers enough power to do some trim work and hang some pictures. I like having a small drill for small projects because the 18 volt tends to get a little bulky after a while. The Makita has a nice balance and feel to it.
As far as the 18 Volts go, I own the Dewalt, Milwaukee and Craftsman. I bought the Craftsman because it was cheap and on sale. I planned on using this drill for stuff that I know would beat on the outside of the drill, like when we did a roof. I didn’t want to beat up the outside of my Dewalt or Milwaukee. I was actually surprised by the Craftsman, I really put this drill through a lot, including dropping it from a roof onto cement twice. I really thought this would be the end of the line for the Craftsman drill, but it still works. I love the balance on this drill, someone was thinking when they designed it. The only thing about the Craftsman I don’t like is the inside of the chuck is starting to strip. That just seems cheap to me, but other than that I would buy another one.
If your looking for something extremely durable I would go with a Dewalt or Milwaukee. I own both of these and love them. The drills I own have an all metal chuck. These drills are a little heavier than the craftsman, but they have a stronger outside case and better inside gearing. I haven’t physically abused these drills on the outside, but I know I have used them very hard on the inside, so I know the gears hold up. One of my carpenter friends owns his own business and has a Milwaukee drill that he uses all the time and swears by it. When it comes down to either the Dewalt or Milwaukee, both will perform higher than most expectations. If I had to pick one drill, I would go with the Milwaukee, because it has a 5 year warranty. In contrast, the Dewalt has a two year warranty.
A compressor is a great tool that will run a variety of air tools for sanding, blowing, painting, and a lot of other applications. Having a compressor in the corner hooked up to a hose makes all the difference in the work. It won’t get in the way and when you need it, the compressor can reach any where. I mostly use mine to blow off the work bench and clean out the tool motors. Before you buy a compressor, consider what you will be doing. I own a little pancake model that is 3 gallons. I would like to have more, but I really don’t use it that much.
The perfect air compressor would be the Porter Cable compressor. They have strong reliable motors that will out last most other brands. They are quite and light. To complete the perfect workshop, a Porter Cable compressor has to be present.
A cordless kit is probably the first power tool you should buy for your shop. Every company makes a cordless kit now. There are many kits out there, so before you shop, you need to ask yourself what am I really going to use. Will I use that impact wrench or the angle drill? Most of the time you won’t. I am not saying it wouldn’t be nice to have, but if your not going to use those things, take the money and spend it on another power tool. Most of the time a good kit comes with a drill, trim saw, flash light, two batteries and a one hour charger. I currently own two cordless kits, I don’t know why, but I do. I would suggest only one kit because the batteries are not interchangeable and it becomes a pain. I currently own the craftsman 19.2 and I like it. I bought this because it was on sale. I have to say I didn’t think they would be that dependable, but it has proved me wrong. Its weird to say, but that has a better balance and feel than my Dewalt stuff. Even though my Dewalt doesn’t have as good as balance as the Craftsman, I can definitely tell it is made a lot better and last a lot longer than the Craftsman, but you will be paying for it. The Dewalt has an all metal chuck, so you know the bit will stay in place.
The kit that will make any workshop an Ultimate Workshop is the Milwaukee V28, my next purchase. I had a chance to use these tools for a workshop and I loved them. They have great balance, they are very light for a 28 volt, and the battery has a power light indicator. Currently the kit is pricey, but knowing Milwaukee they will last a life time or at least until the 54 volt comes out. Even though this is new technology, I wouldn’t have a problem trusting Milwaukee. I like Milwaukee as a company because they are a true power tool company that doesn’t mess around and usually won’t stick their name on the line for anything.
A circular saw is a must have. Whether you are cutting a couple pieces of wood or a couple of trees, this saw will come in handy. There are two types of circular saws: in line saws and worm drive saws. In line saws usually have less power and less torque. If you try, you can get these to bind and stop while cutting. The plus is they have no maintenance and are very inexpensive to use, not to mention lighter. A worm drive uses a gear and is positioned parallel to the blade, which in return gives it a lot more power and torque. The downside is the saw is heavier and occasionally you have to oil the motor, and it costs more money. For the majority of applications, an in line model will get you by. But after all, we are building the ultimate workshop. This is one area I would spend the extra money and get a worm drive. I would rather have a little more power and not have to use it then need the extra power and not have it. Plus, the worm drive, as long as you add the oil, will last you a life time compared to the in line saw. I don’t want to say the in line saws are a throw away saw, but they kind of are.
The company of choice for a circular saw is definitely the Milwaukee circular saw. Their saws have the best feel and balance. Considering that they are a little heavy and they have a spinning blade that will rip through all most anything, you want to make sure you have good balance with no arm fatigue. They all have electric brakes, but it seems like the Milwaukee stops a lot smoother and faster than the rest. Most of the Milwaukee’s have a handle that is movable to a different position for different cuts. The last reason I would suggest the Milwaukee is the quik-lok cord, which means that even idiots like me who like to throw their tools around can get a cut in the cord and change it easily.
A Jig Saw is a fun power tool, well all power tools are fun. This is a great tool if you have to make short cuts. I currently own a craftsman and bought it because it had a lot of features and Skill made it for Sears. I was never able to make precise cuts with it, but it did a good job. I always thought a jig saw was just one of the tools that was made to make a quick rough cut, but as I found out I was wrong.
That’s why I am going with the Bosch as the Jig saw of choice. A carpenter buddy lent me his Bosch Jig Saw and I love it. This made my Craftsman look like a toy. With the Bosch I could make quick cuts, but at the same time, it was easy to control. All the cuts looked like finished work, I couldn’t believe it. I talked with a cabinet maker on one of the jobsites. He was a little more blunt, but once he vented on how Germany is screwing us and how he won’t buy any more German stuff, he did admit he loved his jig saw.
Compound Miter Saw
A compound miter saw is a great power tool. Actually there are three types of miter saws. A miter saw will pivot left or right, a compound miter saw pivots left or right but also will make bevel cuts, and a sliding compound miter saw will do everything, but it also slides front to back to cut wider pieces of wood. Before you decide which one you are going to buy, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. Will I be cutting wide boards? Will I be moving this saw around, such as carrying it outside? A compound miter saw is great if your cutting wider boards, but if you plan on moving it outside or to the location were you will be working, a slider is very heavy. If you are moving around a lot, I would go with a compound miter saw.
Since we are building the ultimate tool shop, I would go with the Dewalt Compound Sliding Miter Saw, no questions asked. Craftsman has recently come out with some nice saws that have excellent features, but they lack the dependability. The Dewalt does need to be updated with features like a laser, an easy bevel handle and a d-handle that can be adjusted, but Dewalt will out last any other miter saw on the market. Their internal gearing is all stainless steel and they use quality parts. The Dewalt tables seem to be rock solid. When I have used other miter saws, they seemed very cheap. When you use a miter saw, you are sawing because you want a nice clean prefect cut, and everything Dewalt offers will give you that cut. I know about four carpenters who have very old Dewalt miter saws and still love them, not to mention a lot of carpenters who own the newer versions. I currently own a Dewalt compound miter saw and love it. Eventually I would like to get the sliding saw.
A rotary hammer drill is something that not everyone will have in their shop, but when you need to drill into concrete it will definitely come in handy. A rotary hammer is made to drill into concrete. With Granite you could get a bit and use your hammer drill, but if you plan on ever putting in anchors or using it for a long period of time, you might as well invest in a rotary hammer. You can get a good rotary hammer for around $200.
If you decide to have a rotary hammer in your ultimate workshop, I would look no further than the Bosch7/8 SDS Rotary Hammer or any other Bosch Rotary Hammer Drill. This is one incredible tool. I first discovered this one on a job I was working drilling some Tapcons into cement. This tool is light weight and very easy to handle. Everything I threw at it, the hammer answered, it would not over heat or bog down. This drill has three settings, drill, hammer and hammer rotary. I like the SDS system, meaning the type of bits it takes. SDS drill bits have a little indentation at the top of the bit, so it easily locks into place in the drill with out having to tighten the bit by hand or with a chuck. Once the bit is in place, it will not go anywhere. The only downside is that the bits tend to be a little more expensive and you are stuck on only buying SDS bits.
Any real jobsite you go to that has a rotary hammer normally has a Bosch. Even though I do not do much at home with this tool, it has come in very handy when I have needed it.
A reciprocating saw is one of my favorite tools because it is made to destroy. Well not really, but I use mine most of time for destroying things. A reciprocating saw is a tool that has a blade on the end that moves back and forth. This tool is made for cutting up wood and cutting pipe. This is one of those tools you can not live without, you will probably use it on all your projects. I have even used mine on cutting off tree branches in my back yard.
If your going to buy a reciprocating saw and I suggest you do, I would go with the Milwaukee Sawzall. Milwaukee sawzall is to reciprocating saws what band aid is to bandages. Milwaukee has made this tool everything it is today. When someone calls for a reciprocating saw they always ask for a sawzall, just like asking for a band-aid when looking for a bandage. The Milwaukee Sawzall is awesome. They have quick connect cords along with orbital action, which means that not only does the blade go back and forth, the blade will also go up and down while it goes back and forth, making a cut easier and quicker. The best part of the Milwaukee Sawzall is the steel quik-lok blade clamp system. This is truly the best holding system for the blade. When you use a reciprocating saw you will inevitably be putting a lot of pressure on the blade, so you want the blade to stay in place.
When I bought a reciprocating saw I knew from my experience and what everyone was telling me that I should go with a Sawzall, but I didn’t. At the time Milwaukee only had a 10 amp and Sears had a 12 Amp saw, and I wanted more power so I went with the Sears, only to return it 1 week later. The Craftsman could not hold the blades at certain angles. We were putting in new windows and had to make the opening a little bigger, and the blade kept coming out. Again, I should have gone with the Milwaukee, but went with a Dewalt because it was cheaper. Well the blade definitely stayed in place, so well I couldn’t get it out when I was done. Again I returned it and was told Dewalt is known for this problem. Finally I did what I should have done in the first place, I bought the Milwaukee and I love it. Don’t do what I did. By the right tool the first time and save yourself headaches and hours of aggravation.
Rotary tools are neat tools. They are designed to cut into drywall, but will also cut into stone. They are very handy. I really don’t use mine that much, but I did use it to take all the grout out of tile to regrout it. With this tool it was a piece of cake. I have talked with numerous carpenters and they all say they own one, but again they don’t use it that much.
If you must own one or have bought one before, and are looking for a new tool, you need to own the Dewalt Rotary tool. The Dewalt has a nice feel to them. Certain Dewalt kits come with a nice case and extra side handles to complete various jobs. The bits are very easy to change and have ample power to take on all most any task.
A router is one of the greatest tools. It turns any piece of wood working into a master piece, as long as you have the right router bits. A router is great for putting the finishing touches on a project. You can use it to round out a picture frame or make corner fit together nicely. When it comes to routers there are a lot of manufacturers who make them, but only one true router is made.
Your ultimate workshop would not be complete unless you have a router and the router with out a doubt would be a Porter Cable Router. Ask anyone who knows the first thing about routers and they will all tell you a Porter Cable router is the king of routers. They have an incredible feel when you are using them. They hold the bit incredibly tight, but when you want to take the bit out, it slides right out. You can fine tune the router, as you can with other routers. I could explain all the ins and outs to the Porter Cable Router, but this is just one tool that when you hold it, you know it is the right tool.
Sander – Belt
Belt sanders are very handy and they can remove a lot of wood in a matter of seconds. I use a belt sander on everything from the wood floors to making table tops. The idea behind a good belt sander is position of your hand and speed. A good hand position accomplished two things. First, it allows you to move the tool very easily and keep good control. The second thing it does is prevents fatigue. In addition, speed is another important factor. Most belt sanders have a variable speed, which I would suggest. With some projects you will go full force and have the belt cruising, while with other stuff such as softer wood, you will want to slow the speed down. When you use a belt sander, don’t get frustrated, it takes time to master this tool.
The belt sander of choice for an ultimate workshop is the Porter Cable sander. They have excellent tracking, which means the sand paper will last a lot longer and the hand position is ideal for any project. The best thing about the sander is their motor. They have an excellent motor that will out last any other manufacturer. The other great thing is the position of the motor intake. Most have the vents towards the bottom of the sander. This sucks a lot of dust in and causes heat build up. The Porter Cable has its vents towards the top and therefore has less heat build up. The Porter Cable is the best Belt Sander to own.
Sander – Orbital
Orbital sanders are nice for putting the finishing touches on a project. This sander will definitely save you a lot of time and aggravation. If you are looking for an inexpensive sander, Craftsman makes a couple different models. I am not sure how long they will last. With all the people I have talked to, I couldn’t find anyone who owns a Craftsman. The main concept behind a good sander is also the sand paper. Make sure you get good quality sand paper
A good orbital sander is the Porter Cable. Again it is just one of the tools that real feels good in your hand. The vibration is kept to a minimum with their design. Most of their models, along with other manufacturers, have variable speeds. To help complete your ultimate workshop I would go with a Porter Cable variable speed orbital sander.
A screw gun is a tool that makes you look good. A screw gun is a tool you can use for a wide range of applications, but the main application is for drywalling and decking. The reason this tool makes you look good is that you can put up a large amount of decking or drywall and have all the screws go in the same depth. It is not a must own tool, but if your going to be doing some decking or drywalling, it is a great investment.
The perfect screw gun is the Milwaukee screw gun. For the most part a screw gun is a screw gun. I like the Milwaukee because they make a great drill; therefore their screw guns should be good also. Most of their models have a two finger trigger. Their noise cone is very easy to adjust compared to other manufacturers. Again, the best thing is the quik-loc cord. I love this just because I am very ruff with my power tools and cut the cords all the time. With the Milwaukee quik-loc I can just plug in a new cord with out having to take the tool apart. Again, I know a lot of carpenters who will use either a Milwaukee, Dewalt or Makita.
Table saws are a nice piece of equipment to own, you can make perfect cuts all day long. One main question to ask yourself is are you going to be moving the table saw around? Most of the time people do move the saw to where they are working. With this in mind for the ultimate workshop, I am going to go with a portable table saw instead of a big heavy one. Recently I won a craftsman portable jobsite table saw. This is nice to own if your looking to cut 1/4 plywood or under, but anything thicker will burn the motor up. I really don’t think it would even handle a dado blade. The only reason I have this is because I won it.
The ultimate workshop table saws would be the Dewalt table saws. These are bad boys and I love everything about them. Sounds goofy, but they are light enough to move from place to place, but also have great balance when your trying to cut a full sheet of 3/4 plywood. It won’t move on you! The Dewalt table saws all have more than enough power to cut through any wood you throw at them, plus they will easily handle a dado set without putting a lot of wear on your motor. I think the biggest plus is the locking guide arm. Most table saws have cheap arms that make the saw very unsafe. The Dewalt has a lock feature that will not move no matter what you throw at it. This makes for better cuts and a lot less kick backs.
To sum up all the tools, below is a quick list that will make your ultimate workshop.
Angel Grinder – Bosch
Drill Corded – Milwaukee
Dill Cordless – Dewalt, Milwaukee, Makita, Craftsman
Compressor – Porter Cable
Cordless Kit – Dewalt Milwaukee Craftsman
Circular Saw – Milwaukee
Compound Saw – Dewalt
Rotary Hammer – Bosch
Jig Saw – Bosch
Reciprocating Saw – Milwaukee
Router – Porter Cable
Sander – Belt – Porter Cable
Sander – Orbital – Porter Cable, Dewalt
Screw Gun – Milwaukee
Table Saw – Dewalt
Rotary Tool – Dewalt
Now that you have everything, you truly have the Ultimate workshop that would make any pro have tool envy.