Maybe you're not terrified of power tools, but they scare you a little, they intimidate you, or you just plain don’t like using them.
So, what do you do when you want to DIY a big project that requires power tools?
Recently I admitted in a post on quitting DIY (mostly) that I hate power tools. I thought to be a good DIY blogger I had to present an image where I liked them, couldn't wait to try new ones, and craved projects where I could whip out my arsenal of tools.
The truth is I have one word for ending a project, or should I say starting one, covered in sawdust…yuck. And come on, using anything that could cut off your hand is scary, even if you get some sort of rush from the power of it. And who am I kidding, setting up shop, pulling out and assembling the tools whose blades can't stay on when they are in their cases (so annoying) makes me procrastinate even starting.
But I've managed to do some pretty impressive DIY work with the aid of the tools I hate. I installed my own cork flooring and baseboard throughout my basement. I built rolling storage crates. I turned a dining table into a rolling island. I own a jig saw, compound miter saw, electric nail gun, orbital sander, and a whole host of other power tools.
How to DIY When You're Terrified of Power Tools
1. A tool is just that, a tool.
A means to an end. When it comes to tools there is the hard way or the easy way. The hard way is hand tools. They don’t make any noise, other than your grunting. They don’t require a plug or batteries. And they are far less scary. But the sweat equity you have to put in is what makes it the hard way. Then there's the easy way. It costs more upfront, still scares you a teeny bit even after a dozen uses, and the battery dies at the most inconvenient times. But power tools help you get tough jobs done quickly, more precisely, and with a lot less sweat (if we disregard nervous sweating).
2. Safety First
If power tools scare you, the best thing you can do is get comfortable before using them. Knowing how to operate a tool and understanding all of it’s safety features will make you feel more at ease.
- Read the manual cover to cover. I know you want to skip it, because all the warning signs and hazard symbols make you nervous. But those are the parts you should pay special attention to. The manufacturer has to warn you, but it doesn't do any good if you don’t read and understand the manual.
- Take a free class or demo. Most home improvement stores offer free in-store workshops and demos, so you can learn about and try a new tool with an expert by your side. Seeing a demonstration, which will always include a safety segment, and getting to try a tool out in a low risk environment helps a lot.
- Have a skilled friend or family member show you how to use a tool. Almost everything in the world is less intimidating if you’ve seen someone else do it first. Unlike seeing a tool on TV or YouTube, you can see, hear, and feel how the tool operates first hand…without volume control.
3. Don’t Do It Alone
Aren’t most things you are scared of our don’t like better when you have someone else there with you? I personally feel a gazillion times safer when I am not alone with power tools.
When you need a break pass the sander to your friend. Give yourself a rest long enough for the sander-holding hand to stop shaking and get sensation back in the finger tips.
A second set of hands can also help you hold larger stock pieces, take over for a while and give you a break, and just be all around emotional and motivational support for the project you’re tackling.
With two or more people, take the Henry Ford approach…assembly line, baby! It won’t work for every project, but when it does work, it makes everything go by a lot faster.
- Set up stations for each of the tools needed for the project. Bonus points if you have a different person to man each station.
- Make all measurements (and double check them first).
- Make all cuts or pre-drill all holes at once.
- Install or assemble all the ready pieces.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice.
I know I made some mistakes early on which made me hate my tools more, because of the costly materials
they I ruined. I should have started smaller and cheaper. Don’t make your first cut with a saw on a piece of your new hardwood floor. Don’t buy the best wood possible to make your first piece of furniture. Don’t use a power nailer for the first time in a visible area that can't be patched.
Practice small to build up your confidence and skills before investing in good materials and tackling more complicated projects.
5. Get someone else to do it.
This is not wimping out. This is being realistic and true to yourself. If you hate power tools or still don’t feel comfortable with them, get someone else to do the dirty work for you.
Here’s 3 popular options:
- Have the hardware store make all your cuts at the store. Make sure you bring detailed and accurate measurements. Understand the store’s cut policy. Some may charge per cut or limit the number of cuts they will make.
- Have a friend or family member do it for you. When I installed the cork floors in my basement, I did everything myself. The entire time I reminisced about installing the bamboo floors in my last house. we set my dad up in the garage with the saw. We measured and installed, he made every cut. We had another family member running planks up and down the stairs to the garage.
- Hire a handyman to do the work you don’t want to do. By DIYing part of the project and getting expert help on other parts, you can still save money over a completely done-for-you solution. We did this on a large scale in our basement. We opted for a semi-DIY approach to basement finishing. We contracted all plumbing, electrical, framing, and drywall. Leaving the stuff we didn’t mind doing, like installing light fixtures, painting, and installing flooring and trim.
Bottomline, if it’s not for you, it's not for you. Just don’t do it. Large builds are out for me. After a few failed attempts at building my own furniture from scratch, I am saying no to larger furniture projects, and that's okay. There are plenty of alternatives, starting with the tips above.