I’ve never been a fan of battery-powered woodworking tools – except for a begrudging acceptance of cordless drills. (And only because of their clutch technology.)
Tool manufacturers, however, have been trying to introduce cordless everythings – routers, sanders, jigsaws, nailers, miter saws, circular saws – into furniture-making shops since batteries were invented.
Heck, one year Black & Decker came out with both a battery-powered tape measure and a C-clamp. I tested both. Both broke immediately.
For the most part, woodworkers have resisted battery tools. Here’s why.
When a battery reaches the end of its cycle life and cannot hold a charge, you are faced with two expensive solutions: buy a new OEM battery or replace the tool. You might think these options have different price points. But typically, they don’t. Try buying a 12-volt battery for a 10-year-old cordless drill. It is usually cheaper to buy a new drill.
(Yes, I know you can have the battery rebuilt or buy a gray-market battery; I have yet to be satisfied with those products.)
My skepticism on battery tools extends beyond the economics. At Popular Woodworking Magazine we were deluged every year with all manner of battery tools to test. In general, battery tools are built to a lower manufacturing standard than their corded brethren. I can say this after burning up a fair number of cordless doo-dads during typical woodworking operations, such as drilling a 3/4” dog hole in yellow pine.
In use, battery tools are generally less powerful. And when you need them, the batteries always seem to be discharged – so you need to wait while they recharge.
And that’s why I usually recommend new woodworkers buy corded tools or sweat-driven hand tools. I have the first corded drill, jigsaw and circular saw I bought in the mid-1990s. They are still going strong. I also quite like my meat-powered hand drills, braces and coping saw, which have been going strong since my grandfather was in college.
So why do I own a battery-powered drill? The multiple speeds and the clutch. Craftsman came out with a corded drill with these features, and I loved the heck out of it. Sadly, these features are rarely put on a corded drill.
Last caveat: I’m not a contractor or a carpenter. Battery tools might make sense to those professions, but I can’t say.
— Christopher Schwarz