Tool Dictionary

For those who may not be experienced with these things I decided to explain the various common tools we'll be using for the projects in this blog. Rather than detail them time and time again in each instruction I think it's better to just list them all here. This is not a list of every tool ever made, just the common ones that we use or could use for the projects in this blog. This is not a list of mandatory tools, don't go out and buy everything here because you think they are all necessary.; As far as what is necessary or recommended for a particular project, read that project before you buy anything so you understand what you need and don't buy unnecessary stuff.

Power Tools vs Hand Tools

Both have their place but for most projects you have the choice. For nearly every hand tool there is now a power tool that can do the job easier and faster. However, power tools can be expensive, hand tools are pretty cheap. Most beginners are probably more comfortable with hand tools since they rely on your power to move them. In other words, it's harder to get hurt with a hand tool unless you're not paying attention. But that's true of a kitchen knife as well. There are only a couple of jobs that absolutely will require a power tool. Drilling is one of them. But as far as things like saws go, it's ultimately your choice. The only downside of hand tools is that they require effort on your part to use them. And as a result, they take longer to get the job done. But they are cheaper and in the end you can get the job done the old school way if you prefer to use hand tools.


JIGSAW - The main purpose of this saw is that it can cut curves. When it comes to curves you've only got a few options. There's the jigsaw, a coping saw, or a rotary saw. In terms of performance versus cost, the jigsaw falls in the middle. It's more expensive than a coping saw but it's a power tool so it's faster as well. It's cheaper than a Rotozip but it can't plunge cut and can't turn on a dime like the rotary saw can. I personally don't have a jigsaw. I tend to lean more toward hand tools myself. We don't cut a ton of curves in these projects and coping saw will do you fine as long as you don't mind putting in a little work.

ROTO ZIP - This saw looks more like a drill. Essentially it is, but the bit has the ability to move sideways and thus cut through material, whereas a drill can only go down. Because of this, it has the ability to drill down into the material (plunge cut) and then continue sideways to cut the wood. It can cut curves, and can pretty much turn on a dime since it can cut in any direction at any time.

 CIRCULAR SAW - This is essentially a circular blade that spins. It's a handheld tool and while it cuts through wood fast it only goes in straight lines and unless you construct a guide rail it's up to your to keep it straight; though that's not a huge deal since the blade wants to stay more or less straight. This can be intimidating to use for a beginner since you're essentially holding a loud spinning blade in your hands. It is not a necessary tool since anything this can do a hand saw can also do (see below). But of course a power tool will always do it faster.

MITER SAW - This is similar to a circular saw in that it also uses the circular blade. The miter saw, however is not a hand held tool. It's fixed, which means it can only cut materials as wide as the blade can reach. All miter saws can be rotated to cut angles such as you might do when making a picture frame. Some miter saws are "sliding" which means you can pull the blade forwards some which gives you the ability to cut wider materials. Most miter saws are "compound" which means they can be tilted to make the blade angled more horizontally which allows you to cut angles through the depth of the wood.

TABLE SAW - An easy way to think of this is like a circular saw mounted to a table. To cut materials with this the saw remains stationary and you move the wood through it. However, using large pieces of material, say a sheet of plywood, can be hard to manage if you're alone. For the purposes of the projects in this blog there's not a great reason to go buy a table saw. I'd rather advise you to get a circular saw instead.

 HAND SAW - Though it's a general term, hand saw is what we commonly call a basic wood cutting saw as seen in the picture. This is the best hand tool for making straight cuts in wood. There is no limitation to the length of wood you can cut through. The depth of the material would only be limited by the length of the saw itself. And the blade is designed to cut through wood the fastest. If you don't plan on using power tools, then you'll need one of these since most of our projects involve cutting wood.

 HACK SAW - The hacksaw is generally used for cutting metal or plastic pipe. The frame doesn't allow it to cut through long pieces of material. You can certainly use it to cut wood if you had to but it won't work as well as a wood handsaw and you'll only be able to cut a few inches in length since the frame will block you. The hacksaw really shines when cutting through metal objects like screws or pipe. We don't do a lot of this in our projects though so this may not be a necessary tool as of now since pretty much any kind of saw will make easy work of PVC.

 WOOD BORING BIT - This is a drill bit that cuts a hole in wood. It removes all the material of said hole. It is particularly useful when you don't want to cut all the way through a piece of wood, such as we do in the Dip handles project.

HOLE SAW - A hole saw is an attachment for a power drill. it fits in like any other drill bit. As the drill spins, the serrated edge of the saw cuts through the wood in a perfect circle. They come in many different sizes. Unlike the wood boring bit, a hole saw only cuts the wood along the outer edge of the hole, leaving the inner material unscathed. Useful for projects when you cut all the way through the wood.

COPING SAW - The coping saw is like a mini hack saw. It's smaller and it has a smaller blade as well. The blade can also rotate 360 degrees on the fly. This means you can cut fine curves with it. The main use of the coping saw is to cut base board or molding corners. This is the best hand saw for cutting curves so if you lack a power tool that can do the job, a coping saw is your other option.


 POWER DRILL / DRIVER - This is something that you should get regardless. You need it to drill holes in many of the projects on this blog but it's also a screwdriver. Sure you could drive them by hand but that can take a while. And since you need it for the drill ability anyway this becomes a mandatory tool. Whether you get cordless or not is up to you. Cordless has the benefit of being cordless. But one that plugs in will never run low on power. An extension cord will eliminate most limitation of having to plug in. And since you're probably not building your gym gear on your roof I think an outlet will be readily available.

I have cordless drills but when it comes to labor intensive projects such as a squat rack or spacer plates I use my Grandpa's old drill. I had to clean it up to get it working smoothly but it's crazy powerful. I even filed down my hole saw bit so it would fit in the old drill. Now I can make short work of any wood boring or holes that I need to drill. I think it goes without saying that, even with corded modern options, they probably don't make them like they used to though.

 HAND SCREWDRIVERS - Like I said above, you need a drill anyway so that will double as a power screwdriver by using screwdriver bits instead of drill bits. There are a few applications where you can get by with just a hand screwdriver but on the whole you're going to need a drill.


 I'm not going to list all the different types of basic wrenches. Essentially they all do a variation of the same thing, with some being more beneficial depending on the location of the bolt or nut you're trying to turn. Your best bet, if you have nothing, is to get a pair of Vice Grips. It's an adjustable wrench that clamps down onto whatever you're turning. I've used them on everything from bolts to soda bottle caps.

When it comes to wrenches though, many times one won't do you any good since you have to brace both ends of the bolt/nut. So in addition to Vice Grips, get another standard adjustable wrench (see the picture). That's assuming you have nothing to start. Those two wrenches should allow you to do most things.

We don't use them a whole lot for projects on this blog and we certainly don't need anything fancy even if we do need to tighten a bolt. Vice Grips are so versatile for general life tasks as well.


 HAMMER - Probably the most basic tool that one thinks of when they here the word tool. I don't use nails much in the projects in this blog. I tend to prefer screws. But I can only assume that the majority of people have a hammer in the house for hanging pictures at least.

 LEVEL - It's probably pretty common knowledge but maybe you don't know what a level is. No problem. It's basically a measuring tool which tells you if something is straight, relative to gravity that is. It works by suspending an air bubble in liquid. It can basically tell you two things, if an object is straight up and down, such as the leg of a desk, and if an object is straight horizontally, as in the top of your desk. This is usually a good thing to know, especially when building structural things such as Squat Stands or Power Racks.

 TAPE MEASURE - This is essential. Measuring dimensions is critical to carpentry. If you don't have a tape measure, go get one.

 PENCIL - In this day and age you never know. With everything being digital and even notes being taken on smart phones, tablets, or Ipods, you may not even have a pencil in the house. But you're going to need something to mark your materials. You could use a pen if you had to but a pencil will easily sand off making it ideal. A carpenters pencil is flat so it won't roll away, but depending on where you're working that may not be an issue. For the purposes of this blog, we won't be on ladders or roofs so a normal pencil will do. Don't forget a pencil sharpener though or you won't be using that pencil for long.

 HEAT GUN - Essentially this is a blow dryer from hell that gets up to 1000 degrees. As of this writing, I don't know how many potential future projects will require this, The main purpose of this tool is to strip finishes, such as paint, off of surfaces. It's also used to shrink wire covers when doing electrical work. The interesting use for this tool, for our purposes, is its ability to heat PVC pipe to the point of total flexibility. In other words, you can bend it into any shape you want, then when it cools it becomes hard plastic again. This is applicable to making nice handles, say for a kettlebell.

 STAPLE GUN - The main use of this is for upholstery work. Not a big part of what we do here, but it is essential if you have a project that requires it, say a bench. Note, a staple gun is not the same thing as a common desk stapler. It uses bigger staples and is far more powerful since it's main purpose is to drive them into wood. And when I say staple gun I'm talking about the hand tool, not the guns powered by compressed air. We rarely use and it would only be for making seat cushions on equipment so doesn't warrant spending money on compressor tools.

 SCISSORS - Technically they are a tool and while you probably have some in the house, if you don't you might want to get some. I don't really have to explain their use do I?

 STRAIGHT EDGE - Basically anything long and straight works. Could be a yard stick or a T square or anything. Typically your level will work, depending on how long it is. But you need something to draw a straight line so you know where to cut. Another thing that works , arguably the best, for this is a chalk line.

 CHALK LINE - Essentially it's a string that winds up into a casing that contains blue chalk. This coats the string. You use it by securing both ends of the string in line with measured marks you made on the material, usually wood. Then you merely pick up the middle of this string and snap it back, like a bow and arrow. This leaves a straight chalk line on the material for you to cut along. This is better than a straight edge because it can mark lines that are very long and can store in minimal space.