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Hobbyist Workshop Tooling

Notes on Hand Tools

Power Tools


  • drill + drill guide
  • angle grinder
  • rotary tool / die grinder
  • bench grinder


  • impact wrench
  • jigsaw (alternative for a cat door is a keyhole saw)


See DIYForKnuckleheads on YouTube

  • circular saw 7.25"
  • orbital sander
  • mitre saw
  • trim router


Will the future CNC machine be a robot arm workstation that can pick up any tool needed? Currently, the main CNC machines are:

  • mills
  • lathes
  • routers
  • grinders
  • 3D printers

Survey to support this conclusion

A mill, lathe and a 3D printer are probably the long term choices for me. A mill or lathe must be huge in order to have the rigidity needed to work on steel, but for softer metals and wood, hobby mills and lathes are sufficient. See: Small CNC mill that can cut steel, reddit. However, you can circumvent the requirement for rigidity on a smaller machine by making thinner cutting passes.

Attempting to Reduce Tooling to Minimum

Attachments to Common Power Tools

Attachments reduce the need for dedicated specialized machines. For example, a rotary tool attachment for an angle grinder or a drill guide for a drill instead of a drill press. There are many that are covered in the videos below.

Drill Guides

Video Reviews of Attachments

Impact Driver vs Impact Wrench

An impact wrench is nice to free up nuts and bolts quickly, and is less likely to break a frozen bolt than a breaker bar.

I can get by without an impact driver. My drill has a setting to slip after certain torque, so I can use it instead, but mostly, I'd rather use hand tools for fastening. I have always pre-drilled holes for screws. Slow and tedious, but quality.

Most cordless drills have about 50 ft*lbs of torque The strongest impact drivers are 220-350 ft*lbs

For large nuts and bolts in automotive work, a 600 ft*lbs 3/8“ Milwaukee mid-torque impact wrench is enough: reddit. 400Nm is enough:

It's easy to break stuff if you aren't careful, even with a 300Nm impact wrench:

An impact screwdriver (for use with a hammer) for those occasions where your impact wrench isn't enough? Nope! Klein impact screwdriver spec is max 200 ft * lbs. Craftsman also 200. Without a high power impact wrench, hammer and heat the bolt to hopefully loosen rust adhesion and then use a breaker bar.

Dremel / Rotary Tool vs Die Grinder vs Angle Grinder

The dremel or die grinder are much smaller for detail work. Angle grinders are big and bulky. Both are useful.

Between a dremel or a die grinder, a die grinder is more robust having a quarter inch axle instead of 1/8” diy-fixit on YouTube. See also reddit.

However, I'm going to first try using a flexible shaft rotary tool attachment for the angle grinder, with a 6mm adjustable chuck. Eventually if I need higher RPM I'll get a die grinder. Remember that the specifications for a rotary tool RPM are without load, and since a rotary tool doesn't have much power, actual RPM during usage will be much slower. See RPM table below.

Angle Grinder vs Plasma Cutter

Although you can just do with a small angle grinder to start with, this video shows the superiority of a plasma cutter. Plasma cutters can only be used on conductive material.

Drill Press vs Mill vs Router

I can probably skip a drill press and instead use a drill guide for the hand drill.

Between a mill and a drill press, definitely a mill:

A router has too many differences to a drill. You can't jig a hand drill for use as a router. See:

From a tooling manufacturer: CNC mill vs router - Why you should pick each and why you need both, Tormach states the mill is more rigid than a router, allowing work on harder materials like steel. The mill has limited workspace in order to maintain rigidity. The mill uses lower speed, higher torque than a router.

RPM table

Drill Press 50-3500 RPM
Mill 60-3000 RPM Andrew Dahlen on youtube
Lathe 45-3000 RPM
Router 24000 RPM
Angle Grinder 3000-8500 RPM (cordless, Total brand)
Rotary Tool 5000-35000 RPM (Dremel 3000-N/18)
Die Grinder 8000-34000 RPM

So depending on the job 1) RPM requirement 2) vertical or horizontal load on the spindle bearings… I connect a hand drill, angle grinder, or die grinder to a custom made CNC machine, assuming making a custom CNC is the chosen investment.

The following comment seals my current intent:

When it comes to (mini mills and mini lathes)….The only way to win the game, is not to play. …

The machinist that mentored me wouldn't even discuss light weight mills…he kept on message teaching me about what works….not discussing how to work around the problems of small mills.

I ended up buying the highest amperage dremel and all the attachments…press, router, etc…

$350 in all….I consider the dremel disposable, insofar as it really might not like being treated like a mill. …

BTW, same for 3d printing….I can afford the equipment, but getting consistent prints is still an art. peoplesen on reddit


  • Instead of a router, the hobbyist could make due with a handheld “palm router”, or a die grinder attached to a jig.
  • Instead of a milling machine, the hobbyist could make due with a hand drill attached to a drill guide.

In either case, the tool is moved by the user and the workpiece is stationary.

At, many use die grinders with adapter collets on custom CNC machines.

Eventually, the goal could still be a CNC milling machine: Beginning the Machine Shop Journey with a DIY CNC, Bryan on

Selecting the right components


  • A lathe needs lots of mass for rigidity
  • Precision dials for movement
  • Sufficient space for working on larger parts

According to the video, a hobbyist 7×14 lathe will not be rigid enough to work on steel. Acceptable for softer material like wood, aluminum, brass, etc.

According to the video, you can work on steel by making many fine passes to reduce the stress on the machine.

3D Printer

Fused deposition modeling (FDM), also known as fused filament fabrication (FFF), is the most widely used type of 3D printing at the consumer level. FDM vs. SLA: Compare Filament and Resin 3D Printers,

Is a 3D printer worth it?

Practically all 3D printers work fine on Linux: Best 3D Printer for Linux,


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engineering/tooling.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/20 10:47 by marcos