The advantages and disadvantages of the two main types of tools are relative. Power tools and hand tools as categories both have their drawbacks and their strong points. Rather than to grossly generalize the two types of tools based on their basic natures, it is more advantageous to consider which types of tools are better suited to specific types of jobs.
Hand Tools - Advantages
Hand tools offer the advantage of precision. Fine carving and detailed work such as cabinetry, building of musical instruments and decorative work requires minute control over a tool that is sometimes easier with hand tools. Hand tools also always work. You require no power, fuel or air pressure and can utilize the tool at any time. The smaller and more compact nature of hand tools compared to power tools makes them easier and lighter to transport as well.
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Hand Tools - Disadvantages
The primary disadvantage of hand tools is the time that it takes to complete simple tasks. Hammering shingles into a roof by hand, for instance, takes much more time than nailing down shingles with an air-nailer. Industrial woodworking companies could never meet demand with handsaws. Also, more skill is required to use hand tools than most power tools. Making a clean and straight cut using a handsaw is much more difficult than when using a tool like a table saw with guides and a high cutting speed.
Power Tools - Adantages
Power tools have the obvious advantage of speed, but they also have the advantage of scale. Cutting through a massive tree trunk with a hand saw is a slow and dangerous process. A chain saw gives a logger the control and power he needs to do his job. Power tools are also more efficient. A powered saw with the right blade cuts right through nails, something that would be difficult with a regular saw. Some power tools also do jobs that are simply impossible with hand tools. Jackhammering isn't a task that has an equivalent hand tool method. It is also next to impossible to drive screws or nails into concrete with hand tools, but with the right power tool, concrete anchors can be driven in to anchor walls to concrete floors.
Power Tools - Disadvantages
One of the primary disadvantages associated with power tools is that they are more complex than hand tools. The drive mechanisms, engines, gears, power connections and other components of power tools wear out and fail over time. Regular maintenance, such as oiling, sharpening, replacing parts and other repairs are also needed. Over time, the cost of power tool ownership constantly increases because of these maintenance and repair requirements. The risk of injury is also higher with power tools due to high speeds and increased power.
- Center for Furniture Craftsmanship: Precision With Hand Tools
- Rockler Woodworking and Hardware; Power Tools Vs. Hand Tools: Can't We All Just Get Along?; Ralph Bagnall; Dec. 11, 2009
- Forbes; The Most Dangerous Power Tools; William Baldwin; Dec. 21, 2009
- The Wood Whisperer; Power Tools For a Hand Tool Shop; May, 2010
- OSHA: Hand and Power Tools
- WK Fine Tools; Hand Tools Vs. Power Tools; Alan DuBoff; September 2006