woman using miter saw

Afraid of Power Tools? How to get over your fear & start building!

Power tools can be pretty intimidating to the beginner woodworker. I’ve been woodworking for nearly 6 years now, but I can remember a time when I was afraid to use the power tools in my garage. Big saws, fast moving blades – it can be scary if you don’t know what you’re doing!

I talk to a lot of women who have tons of amazing ideas for projects, but are too nervous to get started because of their fear of power tools. If that’s how you’re feeling I just want you to know that your apprehension is totally normal!

It’s true that power tools can be dangerous if they aren’t used properly. And while I don’t think it’s a good thing to be terrified of your tools, I do think it’s a good thing to acknowledge the power of your tools.

When you acknowledge the power behind your tools you are much more likely to use them safely and responsibly.

If you’re feeling stuck and totally freaked out by your power tools, keep reading. I definitely don’t want you to be stuck! Below I’m sharing 5 ways I work through my fears around power tools and I know they can work for you too.

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cut cedar fence pickets with miter saw to cut pieces for diy wedding center piece box

5 steps to get over fear of power tools

1. Know Your Stuff

I always read the safety manuals for my tools, especially the larger ones. It’s not an entertaining read, but knowing how the tool works is essential to knowing how to use it safely and recognize when things aren’t working correctly.

You need to know more than just how to use your power tools. You also need to know how to maintain them. This might mean learning how to properly change out saw blades, how to clean sawdust from the machine or the right way to store it when it’s not being used. 

All of this information should be covered in the safety manuals for your power tools. I keep my manuals in a drawer in the garage so I can reference them if I ever need to troubleshoot a tool. If you no longer have your safety manuals, most can be found online now.

2. Watch

Because using power tools is hands-on, just reading instruction manuals isn’t enough. At least it wasn’t enough for me to feel comfortable using my larger tools. Luckily I had more experienced people around who I could watch using the tools before I jumped in and used them myself.

If you don’t have people who you can observe using power tools, you can search for videos and tutorials on YouTube. The most reliable videos are likely to be from tool manufacturers or reputable woodworking companies.

cutting pine on table saw at an angle

3. Ask Questions

As I was learning about power tools I asked a million questions. I still ask questions. If I’m feeling unsure about something I asked a more experienced woodworker. If a more experienced woodworker isn’t available, I look it up for myself. Asking questions is the best way to learn and feel comfortable with your machines.

4. Be Safe

Once you’ve learned about your power tools, it’s almost time to actually use them. If you’ve been nervous to use your tools that’s because you recognize there is the potential for injury. Using your tools with this acknowledgement of their potential to cause harm will make you much more diligent in taking safety measures.

The safety gear you need will depend on the tool you are using. The minimum gear you need for nearly every tools is ear protection and eye protection. Depending on what you’re doing additional safety gear may be needed.

And, as a note, while wearing gloves may seem like a good idea it’s not recommended to wear them when using saws or other tools that spins. This is because the material of the glove can get caught in the spinning of the machine. I just wanted to add that in because people often don’t realize the potential danger.

The overall lesson here is always, always wear your safety gear! You will feel more confident using your tools knowing that you’re doing everything you should be to prevent injury.

5. Practice

And finally, practice! With your new knowledge and safety precautions you should be feeling more confident about using your power tools. If you can, I recommend having someone experienced supervise the first few times you use your tools, until you feel comfortable doing it on your own.

I started with smaller tools and worked my way up to using bigger, more intimidating power tools. I learned how to use a small chop saw before moving onto my larger compound miter saw. I mastered using the jigsaw before moving on to the circular saw and table saw.

By starting with tools that I felt more comfortable with I built my confidence and skills so that I felt ready to move on to larger tools.

Emilee Anderson from Mama Needs a Project learning woodworking skills at the wood hobby shop on Marine Corps base in 29 Palms in 2012

Power tools aren’t scary

Power tools really aren’t scary and you don’t need to be afraid to use them. Through knowledge, safety precautions and practice you can overcome your fear and be a pro!

Since getting over my fear of power tools I have tackled countless projects and gotten more and more confident in my skills. You can totally do that, too!