How Much Do You Know About Power Tools?

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Maria Trimarchi

6 Min Quiz

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About This Quiz

Is your food processor a power tool? What about a professional kitchen mixer or heavy-duty blender? And the surgery drills and electric plaster saw an orthopedic surgeon uses?

If you said yes, you're correct. Technically, anything that uses a motor instead of the power of your muscles is considered a power tool. Power tools aren't just for the professionals, and many of us have at least one at home for our renovation, construction, and maintenance projects (and maybe a little crafting, too) -- and if we don't, we can rent them as needed. Although maybe not the food processor.

Without proper training or maintenance, though -- or without the correct tool for the job, power tools can cause eye injuries, lacerations, puncture wounds, and might even electrocute you. The Stanley knife, for instance, causes as many hand injuries as all power hand tools combined -- but it's the circular saw, found on many home tool benches, that commonly lops off fingers. Each year an estimated 400,000 people visit emergency departments for treatment for injuries from power tools. Additionally, 8 percent of electrocutions every year can be attributed to accidents with power drills, saw, sanders and string trimmers, as well as a long list of other power tools. More than 200 of those injured have fatal injuries. Despite improvements to safety guards, grips and controls, improper usage and improper tool choice are unforgiving.

While it's important to familiarize yourself with a tool before turning it on, it's also important to know how to use it safely -- and if it's the right tool for the work you're doing. See if you know which power tool is right for which project. And don't forget to wear safety googles!

Which power tool can be used to hang a picture frame, remove a wine cork and frame a house?

A power drill is basically a screwdriver -- and with interchangeable drill bits, you can drill small holes, large holes, assemble flat-pack furniture, hang a picture or, if you're looking for a big project, frame a house. Some people get a little creative with the "bits" they use, such as turning their power drill into an apple peeler, a tool to pull a cork out of a wine bottle, or grinder to maintain a dog's nails.

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Which power tool would you use to cut your own firewood?

Whether it's high power or low, gas or electric, all chain saws should be taken seriously -- they're a portable and helpful tool, but like any tool, there are risks. Be sure to familiarize yourself with a tool such as a chain saw before going out to cut your own firewood.

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Which power tool can you use to inflate your car's tires as well as run your air tools?

Air compressors can run on either electricity or gasoline, and they can do a number of things for you -- from inflating car and bike tires (or an air mattress and other things around the house) to powering pneumatic tools like airbrushes and nail guns.

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Which versatile tool, designed to drill holes, is more compact and portable than the corded type?

Its pros? The corded drill can handle more projects, and it has more power -- it has more torque, and it has high rotational speeds. But one con stands out: It's not portable. Cordless drills, in comparison, have less torque and low rotational speeds, but that's the tradeoff for a compact and portable tool.

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Which power tool is ideal for building decks as well as screwing down plywood subflooring?

Because an impact driver can, typically, deliver two to three times more torque (that's its turning force) than a cordless drill, it's the ideal choice for building a deck or laying a plywood subfloor.

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Which power tool is the best pick for shingling?

Have a shingling project? Or maybe you're installing baseboards. You can't go wrong with a nail gun. But not all nailers are the same. First, there are several designs for specific usage, such as stock nailers for framing or various other construction projects, or finishing nailers for like crown molding or baseboards. And then, there are two types of operation -- bounce-fire triggers or sequential firing.

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Which is the one tool to clean the deck, the gutters, and the siding of your home?

The pressure washer, also known as a power washer, is the ideal tool for cleaning outdoor items, from your home's roof or siding to its driveway or wooden deck. Electric pressure washers are more popular, but the gas-powered versions have as much as twice the cleaning power.

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Which power tool is used to grind and polish?

An angle grinder is your go-to tool for stripping rust off of metal, as well as cutting, polishing or deburring it. Plus, it'll cut mortar, pavers, and tile, and can be used to sharpen blades and grind steel.

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Which power tool is ideal for cutting a perfect circle in a piece of wood?

The jigsaw is often the first or second power tool a homeowner acquires, along with a drill. It's a versatile tool that can work with wood, metal, drywall and fiberglass, depending on the blade. Plus, the jigsaw is used to make both straight or curved cuts -- and even intricate shapes.

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Reach for which outdoor power tool when you plan to do general landscape work in your yard?

Also called a weed-whacker or a weed eater, the string trimmer is the tool to use to maintain those hard-to-mow areas around your home and take care of any of general landscape maintenance, including on steep or uneven ground.

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Which power tool is used in creating intricately detailed carvings in wood?

The power chisel is a freehand carving tool that is capable of both rough work and intricately detailed carvings. It works just like a manual chisel, but with a lot more power behind it.

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Which power tool would you use for cutting molding and trim?

Also known as a chop saw or drop saw, a power miter saw has a blade mounted to a swing arm, which lets you make cuts at a variety of angles. That makes it ideal for cutting crown molding and trim, as well as frames and more.

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Which tool is ideal for stripping paint or varnish?

Having a heat gun around can be handy. Not only is it the ideal tool for stripping paint and varnish, it will also loosen fittings, remove stickers and decals and thaw pipes.

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Which of these tools can be used to make "rip" cuts in wood?

A table saw is made up of a circular saw blade that's mounted on an arbor, and driven by an electric motor. It's a woodworking tool that's used to rip cut (parallel to the grain), cross-cut (cut across the grain), miter-cut (an angled cut), square, rabbet and dado joints, or shape the edges of wood stock.

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Which tool allows you to work with a substance that's like a metallic "glue"?

A soldering iron heats solder, which is metal, until it's melted. Solder, when cooled, is able to form a connection that allows an electrical current to flow between parts. It's especially well-suited for work on circuit boards and other electronics work.

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Which is the right tool when an angle grinder is too much and a hand file just won't do?

A rotary tool is a handheld tool with a rotary tip that can hold numerous attachments for numerous jobs. It can be used to cut, buff or sand -- or more -- metal and a variety of materials and surfaces.

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Which tool relies on a thermoplastic adhesive it melts before use?

Hot glue guns use a hot melt adhesive that's a form of thermoplastic. Hot glue guns are ideal for so many things, but remember: Use a high-heat gun and high-heat glue sticks (which are harder) when you work with metal and wood. Lower temperatures are better when working with paper and plastics.

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You need to smooth a few pieces of rough wood. What tool can do that for you?

The random orbital sander uses a round disc of sandpaper to sand in both an orbital as well as rotary motion -- and in addition to spinning in circles, it also vibrates in tiny circles, known as random orbits. It's ideal for smooth sanding.

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Which tool is useful for applying paint smoothly and much quicker than with a brush or roller?

Paint sprayers use compressed air to spray paint, and because of that they're good for painting surfaces of various sizes and shapes, including cabinets and furniture.

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Cutting irregular shapes in wood is the most common use for which tool?

The bandsaw is ideal for cutting irregular shapes in wood -- and with a different blade, metal, as well. Remember, this kind of saw is known to leave saw marks, so plan on time to smooth edges.

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Which of these tools is a reciprocating saw?

A "sawzall," also known as a hognose, is a reciprocating saw -- "sawzall" is actually trademarked by the Milwaukee Electric Tool Company. The saw has a large blade that can be used on vertical surfaces, and, generally, it's a tool commonly used in construction and demolition work.

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Which tool can help you keep your home's carpet padding secure as well as upholstery work?

Staple guns are versatile, and powered versions make quick work of small projects, household repairs and even upholstery work. And, while the staple gun is ideal for use with ceiling tile and carpet padding, reach for a brad nailer for picture frames and molding.

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Which tool will make short work of removing the lug nuts from your car's wheels?

It's really nothing more than a socket wrench-turned-power tool. The impact wrench, which is usually powered by compressed air (pneumatics) or electricity, delivers a high torque output -- a lot of power -- for minimal exertion on your end. Which is perfect for removing lug nuts.

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Which device can help you determine if an electrical outlet is live or not?

A voltage meter, or voltmeter, is a device used to test an electrical circuit. In your home, it can be used to help you determine whether an outlet has current or not -- and in the garage, it can help you diagnose a battery problem in your vehicle. A multimeter is similar, but in addition to measuring voltage it can also measure current and resistance.

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Which tool is used to unclog plugged sinks and drain lines?

Can't unclog a clogged or slow drain with liquid chemicals? An electric drain auger, also known as an electric plumbing snake, are used to clean out sink clogs as well as stubbornly plugged drain lines. Plus, some manual models allow you to attach an electric drill to them, to boost its clog-busting power.

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What tool can help you avoid damaging your home's walls when you're trying to spruce up your decor with some hanging mirrors?

Stud finders help you know what's on the other side of your wall -- like a wooden framing stud, which you want, or no stud, which you don't want. There are a few types of detectors, but generally you'll find magnetic stud finders and electric stud finders. Hanging those mirrors on a stud means their weight will be supported.

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Which is better than a basic shop vac for filtering fine particles of concrete, drywall, old paint or wood from the air?

A shop vac may work in many circumstances, but if you cut, drill, grind or polish concrete, or works with ceramic tile, stone or drywall, you're exposed to silica dust -- and silica dust is damaging to your lungs. Certain masks and respirators can help you avoid inhaling the fine particles, but to lessen your risk even more, add a dust extractor.

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When it's time to renovate, what tool can break up the concrete patio in your yard?

If you're a do-it-yourself home remodeler, you may find you could use a tool like the rotary hammer -- also called a combi drill -- especially if you need to drill or pulverize concrete.

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Which tool would you use to join two pieces of wood together?

Sometimes called a plate joiner, an electric joiner is a biscuit joiner. It's a woodworking tool with a small, circular blade used to join two pieces of wood together -- in particular, plywood, particle board and wood product known as medium-density fibreboard.

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Which tool is ideal for refinishing hardwood floors or restoring a backyard deck?

It you're doing any floor refinishing or restoring, it's a floor sander you want. There are different kinds -- for instance, drum sanders rely on a sleeve of sandpaper, while the oscillation of the sanding pad on orbital floor sanders removes the risk of directional scratches in the wood.

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Which tool can be used to level an uneven floorboard?

An electric planer, or power planer, cleanly shaves and smooths wood, but you don't have do a lot of woodworking to find that one can come in handy. It can be used for everything from leveling uneven floorboards and adjusting a door that rubs the jamb to building a stud wall. A portable type is ideal for door and window installations.

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Which is a metalworking tool used to remove rust or old paint from metal?

A needlegun scaler, also known as a needle scaler or a needle-gun, is a metalworking tool that can be used for jobs around the house as well as in car repair and boat maintenance.

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Which power tool is essential for a bathroom renovation that involves ceramic or stone tile?

A masonry saw is an electric wet saw that's used to cut materials including ceramic, granite and marble.

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Which power tool comes with interchangeable heads, including flat and Philips?

Even if you don't have a lot of screws to insert and remove, using a powered screwdriver will make much quicker work than a manual screwdriver of what can be a dull job.They vary from basic to variable-speed reversible, and have interchangeable bits to allow for the different types of heads -- more than enough to take care of any and all of the do-it-yourself work around the house.

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Which woodworking power tool is ideal for working with cabinetry?

While it is the perfect tool for working with cabinetry and for creating finished edges, cutaways and curved contours, it's known best for its basic ability: hollowing out, called routing, a piece of wood, metal or plastic.

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