Three Power Tools Every Urban Homesteader Should Own

On nearly all the work I’ve done on our house, everything from chicken coops to wood floors I’ve used just three power tools:

  • corded drill
  • circular saw
  • sabre sawjig saw

While I also own a router, a miter saw, a sander and a few other miscellaneous power tools, the three tools above I consider essential. Even if you don’t own a house, but would like to build some furniture or help a friend or relative with a repair project, this great triumvirate of tools will get you through 99% of all jobs. For that 1% of problems that require an exotic tool, you can rent one.

I prefer corded tools as I hate it when a battery dies in the middle of a day’s work and corded tools have more power. That being said, there are a few times when I wish I had a battery powered drill. I’d also recommend spending a little extra to get high quality models of these three tools. They’ve all lasted 10+ years of heavy use.

I’ve got a non-powered backup for each of these tools, with the exception of the drill. Sometime before that that zombie Apocalypse/Mayan 2012 meltdown thing happens, I’d love to learn how to use hand tools. But in the meantime, I’ll stick with electricity.

Leave a comment


  1. Mr. Homegrown says:
    “I’ve got a non-powered backup for each of these tools, with the exception of the drill.”

    Actually, when I was young and poor, I did a fair amount of work with an egg-beater type drill that I bought at Sears. Of course, it worked better for small holes in soft wood than for larger holes in hardwood, and when I bought my house, I also bought a power drill, but if they still have the eggbeater ones, it’s probably a good thing to have on hand for the meltdown/Apocalypse.

  2. Ha! The Mr. and I bicker over the notion of purchasing hand drill. I’d love one. There’s something about the power drill that I really dislike–its weight, its noise, the damned cord, something I should just get myself a hand drill and end the bickering.

  3. Great list. This is what we have too, only instead of the sabre saw we have saws all. It is less nimble for small work but good at chopping tree limbs.

    The only thing I would add is to get a good quality set of bits for your drill with a good variety. A worn out cheap bit is just as annoying in the middle of a project as a dead battery.

  4. When I was a child, about 60 yrs ago, Daddy only had hand tools to use on all kinds of woods. He built our houses, furniture, everything, with only hand tools. He even built his own wooden miter box and tool box. I really loved the hand drill, maybe because it did look like an egg beater. We children all had tools that were miniature versions of some of his tools. Eventually, he went to power tools, but he died with all his old tools intact.

    That was a much different time than now.

  5. We had a manual drill when I was a kid…I loved it as a toy and drilled a lot of holes in pieces of scrap wood.

    That being said, as an adult I am deeply enamored of my 12v DeWalt cordless. It is just the right size for a lot of small household work and not too heavy to move around.

  6. Hey! I got me all of those! I do have a cordless drill (and a regular one). The cordless sees a lot of use building garden beds, cold frames and such.

  7. I have completely worn out a corded electrical drill. I have another that no longer has reverse, so when I am building, I use it for drilling pilot holes. I have another corded drill which I use for setting screws when building. I have used these two in tandem on projects. Then, a few years ago my lovely daughter got me a cordless drill for Christmas. It is rare that I use my two corded drills now. I no longer have to drop an extension cord for my projects. I also purchased a set of drill bits and drivers so that I can take my cordless and that case and I am good to go. No longer do I have to make several trips, or haul my 5 gallon bucket of various tools to do a project.

  8. What are the BEST manual versions of these?

    ALSO, re: ground squirrels, I’ve just used big mouse traps (thanks to Dave Canterbury’s Pathfinder youtube videos on trapping and fishing), sold for a buck something, drilled a hole on the base tied it to a fixture and lo and behold the next day two dead ground squirrels caught in an old fashion mouse trap.

  9. I like the vertical mouse trap idea! I have regular mice and they keep coming back. argh

    Oh and I just bought myself another miter saw/box because it was on sale cheap at Walmart and my old miter box someone had sawed off part of it. So now I have one good box, one lame box and 2 saws.

  10. For my money, an impact driver, or drill/driver is a better tool than a drill. It has lower torque, so more power. I currently have a little 10.8V Hitachi that I like very much because it’s smaller and I can handle it. It also has adjustment settings between drilling and driving. Most cordless drill drivers are 18V, and have plenty of power, but I’m a wimpy little woman, so 18V are too heavy for me. The Hitachi came with a case and an extra battery, so even though I’ve had it stop on me before, I’ve never been without a back up. My drill driver is the only power tool I use regularly; I find that I have a lot more control with hand tools.

  11. I’m a furniture maker and quasi carpenter, and I feel lucky to already have these tools. The comments though are right on sawzall can cut through nails on taking down stuff and was a big discovery for me. Festo ( a super fancy German brand) has a guide and can be used instead of a table saw. It is quite expensive but I use it all the time.

  12. sawzall is the brand name by milwaukee tools that is being used as a descriptor like xerox. it’s actually “reciprocating saw” i mean… if we want to get all technical now………. i hate that i’ve become a grammar nazi.

  13. I don’t know what I’d do without our cordless drill. It gets near-constant use in our house and garden. Last summer, we built 3 cold frames with it. I’ve also got a lot of use out of the cordless drill using a mixing blade to stir thinset and grout… some day, we will have a finished bathroom!

  14. I consider myself a pretty fair shadetree carpenter, and I have a good selection of non electric tools for building. Some of them I purchased at yard sales, some were passed down to me from my dad. But, I would hate to have to build a house from scratch using these hand tools. I could do it but it would take much longer than with electricity. It would go much smoother to have some twenty-something year old men to do the grunt work!

  15. I would have also gone with the sabre saw / sawzall instead of the jig saw because of the potential outdoor uses. My drill is the makita hammer drill (AWESOME) and the Skil radial saw (also awesome). I recently bought a cordless Porter Cable set (24v drill and 5″ radial saw) for smaller jobs (i.e. attic, >25′ into the back yard, etc) though…..

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