What Are Power Tools?

by MOTORHEAD Tools Team on March 23, 2021

For inexperienced DIY-ers, the concept of a power tool might induce irrational fears of freak accidents and loud noises- Don’t worry, we get it! And we’re here to demystify the concept of a power tool and how to better understand their usages to make the most of your next project! 

Let’s explore learning to use power tools. The core definition of a power tool is “a tool powered by any power source outside of direct human provided power and propulsion.Power tools can be used in construction, home or DIY projects, industry-related tasks or simply home improvements. 

With this guide you’ll understand the differences between power tools, namely:

  • Electric (corded and cordless)
  • Pneumatic (air powered tools)
  • Gas (petroleum based)

Get ready to be armed with knowledge on the best application for each style of power tool, and their various strengths and weaknesses. By understanding the overarching power tool types available on the market, you’ll know exactly what type of power tool is right for the job you’ve got on hand. Let’s jump right in!



Types of Power Tools

Much like everything else in the world, power tools have certainly evolved over the years. No longer do you have to clunk around your garage with a sander bigger than your torso for that new shelf finish, simply go wireless!  Let’s get to know the various types of power tools available today.


Electric Power Tools

Electric power tools are those that are portable. Typically for home use, these are the most wanted and accessible to the average Joe looking for home DIY power tools. These cordless tools are given power through an electric motor used for the machining of materials. Electric power tools use battery platform systems to manage the rechargeable batteries by monitoring its state, protecting the battery, controlling its environment, and/or balancing it. Basically, protecting the tool from volt damage.

Cordless power tools include:

  • Drill
  • Impact driver
  • Hammer drill
  • Reciprocating saw

Types of Battery Platforms

  • Lithium-Ion - These battery platforms work by the positive electrode giving up its lithium ions, which move through the electrolyte to the negative, graphite electrode which then stays there. The battery then takes this in and stores energy during this process.
  • Nickel-Cadmium - This platform converts chemical energy to electrical energy once released and converts electrical energy back to chemical energy upon recharging, allowing it to charge it’s cycle repeatedly.

Benefits of electric power tools

Power on the go! They’re mobile, so no more cords to worry about. With one battery system, the batteries can be spread across all tools that share the same battery platform. From gardening to woodworking, all your tools can be charged on one platform.


Weaknesses of electric power tools

If a tool runs out of battery and you don’t happen to have extras, you’re going to have to wait for the tool to recharge. These tools tend to have power fade, which means when a battery begins to get low, generally the performance will drop. The overall performance can be less powerful than corded power tools. These power tools are not equipped to deal with heavy duty projects.


Corded Power Tools

Corded power tools give you consistent and immense power. Much better suited to those who need to perform heavy projects, they’ll benefit from using corded tools which, have the ability to exert immense force.


Types of corded power tools

Hand Power Tools

Handheld power tools are more commonly found in the average home of a DIY enthusiast or a handyman. A few examples of these are:

  • Angle grinder
  • Sander
  • Power saw
  • Drills
Stationary Power Tools

Stationary power tools are typically found in a shop or garage, within a fixed location. Examples of these include: 

  • Table Saw
  • Miter Saws
  • Sanders
  • Band Saws

Benefits of corded power tools

With consistent power, there is no risk of power fade. Corded power tools are generally much more powerful than cordless varieties. As long as you’re plugged in, you’ve got the power!


Weaknesses of corded power tools

An obvious weakness of corded power tools would be that their portability is limited. You would need an AC power or a generator in order to use these machines. If you’re in an area that has no close power outlets or electric power cables, you’re going to run into some issues. 


Pneumatic Power Tools

These power tools are ones that are powered by compressed air. Pneumatic tools pair with a compressor which forces air through the tool to drive its action. Typically, these power tools are used heavily in shop environments to power impact wrenches, polishers, snips, grinders, nail guns and hammers.


Benefits of pneumatic power tools

If it’s really power you’re looking for, pneumatic tools generally feature very high torque and experience little to no power fade. Your power is only limited by the size of the compressor driving it.


Weakness of pneumatic power tools

Much like corded tools, pneumatic tools need a compressor in order to run, which can be bulky and usually require AC power to run. Great for a fixed work environment like a shop or garage where specific hardcore work is being completed. Don’t turn to pneumatic tools if mobility is required.


Gas Power Tools

Gas tools are more often found in the outdoor power tool space. A few examples of gas power tools include:

  • Chainsaws
  • Lawnmowers
  • Trimmers
  • Tillers
  • Augers

Benefits of gas power tools

Gas power tools have a longer run time due to the fact that there is no waiting period for batteries to charge. They are also more powerful than both corded and cordless electric power tools and are extremely beneficial if you’re felling trees where you have no corded power source.


Weaknesses of gas power tools

Some of the weaknesses of gas power tools include noise, pollution and upkeep. Gas powered tools need more maintenance and upkeep due to internal combustion. They can be difficult to start if they’re  not properly primed or maintained. 

With a high-level knowledge of power tool types and technologies available on the market, you’ll now know what type of power tool works best for your desired application. 

Knowing the overarching power tool types and technology will let you know exactly which type of power tool type and power source is best for your overall DIY goals and future projects.

Knowing the core advantages and disadvantages of a particular type of power tool will let you pick the best tool given your working environment, power source limitations and overall performance. 

Ready to shop for your desired power tool?


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