Powered vs. Manual Hand Tools

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Powered vs. Manual Hand Tools

When shopping for hand tools, the first step is deciding between manual or powered. Both have advantages and disadvantages. While powered hand tools are widely available and speed up work, they are also costly, often cumbersome, and frequently more dangerous than manual tools. Manual hand tools are more portable and less expensive, but add significant time to the duration of a project. When choosing between the two consider the task at hand, the location and capabilities of the job site, and the qualities inherent in both manual and powered hand tools.

Qualities of Powered Hand Tools

Powered hand tools boast many benefits, including speed, accuracy, and ease. They are the best fit for professional builders and crafters who must produce a high volume of work quickly. A table saw, for example, cuts a stack of boards to precise specifications in a matter of seconds, while a hand saw requires much more time to cut a single board and can result in uneven cuts and rough edges. Efficiency is a key concern for anyone who makes a living using hand tools, such as furniture builders or cabinet makers. Power tools such as routers do take time to set up and align, but this pays off when turning out a large quantity of pieces of the same shape and size, such as cabinet doors.
For smaller projects and home hobbyists, however, powered hand tools are often overkill. Powered hand tools are bulky and large items like table saws do not transport easily; setting up a power tool often takes more time than performing a task with a manual tool. Powered tools are also hampered by their reliance on an electricity source. Battery packs provide some mobility but these require foresight to keep them charged, as they can run out of power in the middle of a project. All tools are dangerous if used improperly, but powered tools especially so; it is possible to sever a finger, for example, with a manual hand saw, but it can happen much more quickly with a power saw. To counteract this danger, manufacturers build many safety features into power tools. Most power buttons, for example, must be depressed with a finger the entire time the tool is in use; this ensures the mechanism will cut off if the tool slips or is dropped.

Qualities of Manual Hand Tools

Manual hand tools are less expensive and more portable than powered tools. They require no power source or batteries. Manual tools are valuable to have during an emergency, or while camping or on the road in the event of a breakdown. They allow fine detail work, such as hand planing and carving. They are ideal for the hobbyist, especially woodworkers who value leaving a personal mark on handmade items. Manual hand tools require finesse to use properly. For example, a powered nail gun supplies all the force needed to drive a nail; the user only needs to focus on aiming. However, when using a manual tool such as a hammer, the user must supply enough force to drive the nail while also concentrating on aim and on holding the nail in place. Developing fine hand tool skills is rewarding for many people. Those looking to carpentry and repair work as a hobby benefit from the use of hand tools precisely because they take so much time to use.

Hybrid Approach

When choosing hand tools, consider adopting a hybrid approach; select both powered and manual hand tools, according to the intended use for each tool.


Manual Tool

Powered Tool


Crank or hand drill.
Bit brace.

Combination power drill/driver with interchangeable bits.
Battery powered or corded.

Driving nails. Hammer. Nail gun.


Hand saw.
Hack saw.

Table saw.
Jig saw.
Circular saw.


Hand plane.
Sanding block.

Belt sander.

Orbital sander.

Driving screws.


Power driver.

It is beneficial to have a variety of tools on hand and to know multiple ways to accomplish a task. Most seasoned professionals and hobbyists understand how to use both powered tools and manual tools and the benefits of each for a particular project.

How to Buy Hand Tools on eBay

When shopping for either manual or powered hand tools, check eBay for selection and low prices. Use the search bar on any page to search for broad categories such as ‘hand tools’ or for particular items such as ‘bit brace’ or ‘table saw’. Used tools are an affordable way to build a collection of tools, but be sure to ascertain the condition of an item before committing to a purchase. Also be sure to search eBay for a variety of building and home repair supplies, such as nails, hardware, and electrical components.

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