Afraid of Power Tools? Here’s How I Overcame My Fear to Start Building More!

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Many people are surprised when they find out that as a woman I am comfortable using all kinds of different power tools – whether its a saw, orbital sander, planer, power drill or even occasionally an impact driver.

Of course – I wasn’t ALWAYS happy to use power tools. I hate to admit it, but there were times I would painstakingly use a hand saw to cut lumber for hours when I could have made much smoother and cleaner cuts in way less time had I just used our table saw.

If you’re afraid to use power tools I totally understand why! They can be super intimidating, it’s often confusing to know what tool to use for what as a beginner AND … yeah, they can be dangerous if you don’t follow basic woodworking safety rules!

My hope by sharing how I overcame my fear of power tools as a woman I can help inspire YOU to learn how to use them and not only start building projects more efficiently but also open you up to all kinds of new projects you might have never thought you could create!

My Motivation to Learn How to Use Power Tools

I can thank my Dad and my husband for motivating me to learn how to use power tools. Not because they made a convincing argument that it was way faster and easier {they tried that technique unsuccessfully for years!} – but because it eventually became clear they did not have time to help build everything I wanted to make!

While both my Dad and husband would be more than happy to help build almost anything I like, there’s definitely that whole “a person can only do so much in any given 24 hour time span” limitation.

No doubt, the biggest motivator for me to overcome that pesky fear of power tools was I wanted to be able to make my own things, without waiting for my husband or Dad to have free time to make cuts or drill something for me.

So while I was scared, I did overcome my fear once I had the right motivation! Let me share with you the 5 biggest things that helped me overcome my fears of power tools.

overcoming fear of power tools

1. Read the Darn Manual

Look, I know a manual on how to use a tool is not exactly a page-turner. Yes, it can be downright boring and sometimes even confusing.

Still – you should ALWAYS read the instruction manual that comes with the tool. If you’ve bought tools secondhand or used, you can often find the manufacturer instructions on their website – just type in the product number and the maker and the words “instruction manual” in google and you’ll likely find it within a few minutes.

Here’s some important things you’ll discover in your manual:

How to turn the equipment ON and OFF. Yeah – this is important! You should ALWAYS know how to turn something off before you turn it on!

Other Important Safety Details: These details of course will depend on what kind of tool you’re using, but for example if you’re using a drill you definitely need to know how to change your drill bits AND make sure they are correctly mounted!

Parts + Anatomy of the Tool: Knowing the different parts of a tool is also important. Many tools have speed settings and adjustment knobs – it’s good to know what they are for!

Caring + Maintenance of the Tool: If you treat your tools well, they will serve you well for many years to come. Most operating manuals have specific instructions for maintenance as well as how to replace different parts such as blades.

I know, I know – reading an instruction manual is boring. But I promise you if you read the manual carefully you’re going to feel a lot more confident in using the tools!

2. Watch + Learn From Someone You Can Trust

There’s a good thing and bad thing about the bazillion DIY woodworking YouTube videos out there. The good thing is you can see almost ANY power tool you can fathom in action.

The bad thing? As a beginner you are not going to have any idea whether that person is operating a power tool correctly or following basic safety measures.

They say that it’s better to learn a good habit than to try and correct bad habits, so if at all possible try to make sure that whoever you are watching and learning from is someone you can really trust to know they are using the tools correctly.

If you read your manual in step 1, chances are you’ll be able to notice any glaring potential safety concerns.

Of course, you also have to make sure you learn and watch from someone who isn’t TOO over confident with the tools. I love my Dad and he’s taught me lots but dang there have been times when I seriously question his methods. The problem is he’s been building and fixing things for so long he’s too confident and doesn’t always remember basic safety rules!

If you can take a woodworking class locally to where you live, that’s often the best way to go. Instructors and schools have a lot more liability than a casual friend or family member so they take safety stuff seriously and will definitely teach you good habits in operating different tools.

3. Have a Neat + Tidy Workspace Free of Distractions and ALWAYS Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Look, I’m a mom of three kids, we have pets – distractions are ALL too common around here! But distractions are also dangerous.

At best, you’ll cut something wrong or mess up your project. At worst, you’ll be taking yourself or worse – one of your loved ones – to the emergency room.

I NEVER let my pets anywhere near our garage / wood shop space when we’re working on building things. While my husband shows our dog Cocoa in almost every DIY YouTube video he makes – Cocoa is usually NOT anywhere near the scene when he’s running his tools!

We love our dog, but she’s all too curious and excited by noise. We also have cats and cats tend to also get in a way. I can’t tell you how many times a cat has snuck into the garage by accident and toppled stuff over – thankfully this has only been while NOT running my tools!

Kids are another important thing to think about. Yes, kids definitely can learn how to use power tools safely, but kids also don’t always pay attention to their surroundings or sometimes curiosity gets the best of them too.

Another thing that can cause a lot of problems? Clutter. You don’t want to be tripping over power cords or boards.

The simple solution to feel a LOT more relaxed about using your power tools is to have a neat and clean environment to work in that is free of distractions. Always be aware of what is behind you, beside you, above you and below you. Make sure you have room to move comfortably and freely!

Now that my kids are all in the teenager stage, it’s easy for me to tell them to not distract us while using tools {and sometimes they even enjoy working along with us!} – but when they were little I always made sure someone dedicated was watching them while I was busy making cuts.

4. Start Small and Slow With Easy to Cut Woods

When you first start out, it makes sense to start with super basic things that are relatively easy and to go slow.

You definitely don’t need to run a tool on its fastest, most powerful setting the first time you use it! You do not want to be Tim the Toolman Taylor!

For example, let’s say you want to get comfortable in using a table saw. It makes sense that your first time using the tool is using manageable pieces of wood and only make straight cuts. Only when you’re comfortable making the straight cuts should you start moving onto more advanced cuts!

With a power drill, it makes sense that the first holes you drill be basic ones in a large piece of wood. Drilling in very thin pieces of wood can be challenging as a beginner.

Another thing to consider is the TYPE of wood you use for your first projects.

Softwoods, such as pine, are great for beginners because they are relatively easier to cut and drill through. Hardwoods like white oak on the other hand can be tricky for beginners because they usually require more power and speed and experience.

Plywood and Engineered wood products can also sometimes be difficult to work with as a beginner because they can sometimes act unexpectedly.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

You know the saying, practice makes perfect? Well, nobody is perfect, but you’ll definitely feel a lot more comfortable and at ease the more experience and practice you get.

For this reason, many of the basic beginner woodworking projects we share feature a lot of repetition. Why? Because repetition is a good way to get practice!

Here is a very simple project for a beginner to use a power drill: Get a 4×4, cut it to be about 8 inches long and drill 3 lines of holes in it using a 5/16 drill bit. When you’re done, you’ll have a neat pencil holder and it’s great practice for using the drill!

A great way to practice using a power saw is to make simple wood blocks. Wood blocks are useful for a number of scrap wood crafts and projects – or you can even sand them and give them to a kid to play with for endless hours of imaginative play.

Many studies have also shown the only way to overcome ANY kind of fear is to gain exposure. This applies whether you are afraid of heights or spiders or public speaking – and yes, power tools!

If necessary, take baby steps. Hold the drill in your hand without even plugging it in or turning it on. Next, try just turning it on and off a few times. Drill one hole. Drill 20 more. Then practice changing bits. Drill 20 more holes.

Does it take time to gain experience? Of course it does! But anything you enjoy is worth that time and you will definitely enjoy knowing you can build almost anything you put your mind to!

Power tools might seem scary at first, but with basic safety precautions and practice you totally can do this! Need some motivation? Just spend some time browsing through our free woodworking projects and plans and imagine all the different things you could build!

I am so glad I was able to finally get over the fear of power tools and learn to build things and I hope this helps empower you to do the same!

Tell me your thoughts: were you ever afraid to use power tools? What helped you overcome the fear?

If you haven’t overcome the fear yet, what are the things that scare you most? Tell us in the comments section below and maybe we can brainstorm some ideas to help you start using power tools confidently and comfortably!

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