Power Tools for Beginners Course

Hands down the best money I have spent this year, was the Power Tools for Beginners course presented by DIY Divas.  It was a morning workshop for women to learn about tools.  I have never felt so empowered in my life! That woman is going to cost me a fortune one of these days, cos now I just want those toys to start making stuff.

I met the most amazing, passionate women there. Most ran their own businesses or were planning new businesses, my kind of people!  I have signed up for all the rest of the courses and can’t recommend them highly enough if this is what you are in to.

We got to try our hand at drilling, it’s actually not as easy as it looks, you gotta put some muscle into it.  I think all of us were being a bit light on the touch, there were lots of odd sounds coming out of the drills.

I took 14 A4 pages of notes in 5 hours, that’s how much we learnt, but here’s the highlights:

  • Builders Warehouse is ok for buying accessories, but not for timber and board. Get that from manufacturers rather.
  • Bosch tools are very women friendly.
  • Women make up 65% of the DIY market at this point.  We see it as a creative process rather than work.  (I must agree).
  • Do not buy anything made in China, it will melt or break after first use.  When it comes to tools and their accessories, you need German, Swiss or Austrian technology.  You get what you pay for.
  • Torque is turning power.  The power controls the torque.  Soft wood needs less torque, so less power.  You never just go straight to full power on your drill, you need to control the power so as not to damage the wood.
  • Black and Decker is apparently pulling out the country.
  • Cordless screw drivers are a must, but you still need a cord one for the tough jobs and big drill bits.
  • South Africa has more screws than anywhere else in the world.  We also introduced a stupid one called a Robertson 3 years ago, it’s square and a real pain in the butt cos you can’t get drill bits anywhere for them. Avoid using them.
  • The 3 other main screws are flatheads, Phillips (PH) and Pozidriv (PZ).  Just skip the rest and go straight to Pozidriv.
  • Screws come in different sizes from PZ0 to PZ4.  The lower the number, the smaller the screw.  The one you’ll use the most is the PZ2,keep them in stock.
  • Screws are either full thread or smooth shank.  Smooth shank is for strength when joining two pieces of wood together.  Full thread is used for decorative work.
  • Ponal wood glue is stronger than No More Nails.
  • Get good quality drill bits or they will melt after first use.
  • There are 4 main kinds of drill bits – wood, high speed steel (HSS), masonry and all purpose.  Alpen All Purpose Bit kits are the best on the market.
  • Get an electronic detector – do not drill into walls without using this first.  It will pick up plumbing and wiring that will get damaged if you drill in that spot.
  • There are crazy things out there like spade bits, MAD bits, hole saws, tungsten carbide tips,orbital sanders, jigsaws, scroll saws … (I love it when you talk foreign).  It really helped having a course to decipher this all.
  • Fischer wall plugs will stick for life.  Eureka wall plugs will break if you just look at them funny.
  • WD40 is better than Q20 cos it has more uses, it will even take crayon out of carpets and off walls.
  • Do regular maintenance on your power tools so they last a long time.
  • Buying second hand cordless tools is risky, but the bigger electric tools should be ok second hand.  Put them on then and there before forking over money for them.
  • The most sustainable wood is pine, but it’s processes in a rush because of high demand so it warps and splits often.
  • Next best is marine plywood, shipped from China and made from recycled wood. It’s more expensive.
  • Meranti is the best alternative to pine, but not the red one.  That’s precious, do not buy it. Get white rather, it comes in 2 shades, mostly white and almost pinkish.  Great North Timbers is a good source for this I hear.
  • Bamboo is the most eco friendly, but again, shipped from China!  And we are being seriously ripped off.  It lands here at R300 a sheet and sold to us in stored at R2200 a sheet.
  • Chip board is cheap rubbish from China.  Bison board or particle board is more compressed and better quality.  You have got to specify that you want bison board or you will be sold chip board at bison board prices.  (The ethics just continue huh….).
  • Superwood / MDF is one up from bison board again, it is a compressed by-product.
  • Superwood / MDF does however contain formaldehyde, but it’s ‘gassed off’ by the time it gets to you.  Besides, do you really want to be cutting down even more trees just for your project?  Use composites.  Superwood is manufactured locally at least.
  • Superlam is painted bison and very expensive.  There are laminate versions which looks like real wood which are a better option.
  • The first things to get when embarking on the DIY route, is a drill driver, sander and jigsaw.

Can’t wait for the next course!!  Here’s the pics:

Janice welcoming everyone.

Janice teaching

Demo’ing cordless and wired drills.

Drill types

Types of hole saws.

Hole Saw Options

Learning about wood and how to pick up flaws and issues.

Learning about wood

It’s important to match the screw with the right drill bit.

Matching the screws to the drill bitsMy attempts at drilling.

The jack of all trades screw and drill bit that you must always have around.


Using a mitre box to cut wood at angles.

Mitre box in action

Orbital and random orbital sanders.


Toys that just work.

Tork Craft

Biscuit joiners have become a lot more affordable for the DIY’er.

Biscuit joiners


  1. Hi Veronique,
    Excellent post!
    One of the most common errors made with powerdrivers is that the operator doesn’t exert enough force on the machine which causes the bit to cam out very quickly, damaging both the screw and the bit.
    Push into the screw as hard as you can, and it is far less likely to cam out and get damaged.


  2. Fantastic tips I’m an ex woodwork teacher and I will copy down your tips now let’s make something keep it simple at first.


  3. Veronique, I admire your love of learning new things and being self-sufficient while attaining a sustainable lifestyle.

    Best wishes with the bees and power tools! What next?



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