Few things thrill me more than getting emails from readers saying, “Kristi, you’ve inspired me to tackle such-and-such project in my house!” And since I started my bathroom makeover, I’ve been getting an increased amount of these emails. (Seriously, ya’ll make my day!! 🙂 ) So just in case any of you are new to the world of DIY, I thought this might be a good time to share my “Essential DIY Tools” list with you.
I’ll share them one by one, in the order of importance (in my humble opinion, of course), so that I can give you some more detailed info on each one, rather than just giving you a “Top 20” list that might leave you newbies even more confused than you were before you read the list. 🙂 If you have specific questions about each tool, I might even consider making a video to demonstrate each one, so let me know if you think that would be helpful.
In thinking about my list, I asked myself, “If I could only have one power tool…just one…what would it be?” My answer?
A Miter Saw
My miter saw is absolutely, positively my most-used tool. I honestly don’t think I could DIY (and certainly couldn’t have a DIY blog) without it.
I never buy the top-of-the-line tools. I leave those for the building contractors who use their tools all day every day and need the really powerful ones with all the bells and whistles. I stick with the lower to mid-range tools.
I personally have a 10″ Ryobi miter saw that cost me $119 at Home Depot (pictured to the right), but I’ll admit that if I lived in a bigger place with more room to spread out, and to have my tools set up permanently in a workshop, I would invest in something bigger — a 12″ sliding compound miter saw.
Miter Saws, Compound Miter Saws, and Sliding Compound Miter Saws
Wondering what the differences are between all of these? It’s simple:
A basic miter saw only does an up-and-down cut with the blade. You can swivel the base, so that you can change the angle of the cut. So if you were making a frame and needed to cut 45-degree angles, you would just swivel the base until it was set to 45-degrees, and then make your cut.
It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve seen a basic miter saw. It seems like today, even the most basic miter saws are compound miter saws. Even my little $119 Ryobi saw is a compound miter saw.
A compound miter saw not only does an up and down cut with the blade, but you can also tilt the blade so that it cuts at an angle. So in addition to swiveling the base to cut an angle, you can also tilt the blade to cut what are called “bevel cuts”. A compound miter saw is imperative for projects like installing crown moulding, where you have to set a miter angle plus a bevel angle.
A sliding compound miter saw is a compound miter saw (obviously) with a blade that slides back and forth so that it can cut larger pieces of lumber. With the previous two saws, the width of the wood that you can cut is limited by the size of the blade. For example, my 10″ miter saw struggles to make it all the way through a 1″ x 6″ piece of lumber. With a sliding compound miter saw, the width of the wood that you can cut is limited not by the size of the blade, but by the length of the sliding track.
The Most Essential Feature
Whether you choose a compound miter saw or a sliding compound miter saw will be fully dependent upon what kind (and what size) of projects you plan to tackle. But no matter what kind of miter saw you decide on, the most important feature, in my opinion, is…
A Laser Guide!!
My first miter saw didn’t have a laser guide, so often my miters on projects like frames wouldn’t join together perfectly. (Even being off as little as 1/16th of an inch can throw off your miters on a project like a frame. Seriously.)
When that saw finally broke, I bought a new one (the one I have now), and it came with a laser guide. I couldn’t believe how that one simple thing completely changed how I cut miters! I was cutting some of the most beautiful, perfectly fitting miters I had ever seen. All because of that little laser guide.
Now seeing that I have a very basic miter saw that cost me all of $119, I would assume that laser guides are now coming standard on most new miter saws. But still, look specifically for that feature if you’re ready to purchase. And keep this in mind if you’re considering purchasing a second-hand saw.
Now let’s get to the fun stuff, and see how I’ve used my miter saw.
Projects I’ve Done With My Miter Saw
My most recent project that I used my miter saw on is my mosaic tile frame that I made out of wood yardsticks.
There’s simply no way I could have made that frame without a miter saw. I used the saw to cut the hundreds of “tiles”, and also to cut the miters on the corners of the frame.
In that bathroom, I also used my miter saw to cut all of the pieces for the faux wood plank wall. (Home Depot cut the wood into 4″ strips for me, but I had to cut each strip to the right length for my wall.)
Moving on to other rooms of my condo…
I used my saw to make my chevron table…
And to cut my battens, baseboards, and quarter round for my walls…
Similar to my bathroom walls, I also used it to cut the pieces for my wood slat ceiling in my kitchen and breakfast room…
And of course, I don’t just use it for home improvement types of projects. I use it all the time to create decorative items as well, like creating the frame for my pistachio shell succulent garden…
And the big, chunky frames for my fabric dye impressionist artwork…
And to cut the sides for my herringbone serving tray…
I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that my condo would look nothing like it does today if I didn’t have my miter saw.
I really don’t think I could go without it. It’s definitely my #1 pick for essential DIY tools.