Friday, May 15, 2009

What are Your Favorite Power Tools for Women?

I like to do DIY jobs. I hate nagging Husband to do my projects – I think that’s mean (no nagging also helps preserve marital harmony.) I don’t believe in a Honey Do List. In my world it’s a Do It Yourself Honey! List.

One of my long term goals is to set up a little workshop in my garage. Operative word Lisa’s Workshop. Where I have a space to fix things or more accurately, an out of the way place to stick stuff that I need to fix or want to build until I find the time to get around to it. Just like my father and his father before me.

I’m in the market for tools. Unfortunately most tools made for women or a woman’s workshop are along these lines.


The biggest problem I find with power tools that are designed for women is that that just plain suck.

Why is it that most tool companies think that all women want are tiny tools in pretty colors? Sure, those cutesy tools may sell but what the tool companies don’t realize is that when those itty bitty cheap pink tools eventually break, and they will, the woman is going to march into the store and replace them with a real grown up version of the tool in question – the type of tool the industry typically thinks of as a “guy” tool like this.


This isn’t a super duper powerful hammer drill that will drill through concrete (unless that’s your need - then have a ball), but it’s more than adequate for the typical handy guy or handy gal who needs a good screw gun or to build something simple like a toy box for their kid. Think a mom (or awesome Aunt) could use that lavender “woman’s drill” to build a simple wooden toy box or turn a trash can into a compost bin? Me neither.

I wish tool companies had opportunities for women DIYers and bloggers to be consultants just like household and appliance companies do because I’d love to test and try out tools and tell them (and you my fabulous readers men and women alike) what really works and what doesn’t. *sigh* but a girl can dream…

Since that’s not reality, I’m going to spill my guts here. Hey tool companies listen up!

Here’s What Real Women Want in Power Tools:

Quality – I want a tool that will last. More often than not the cheaply made, lightweight women’s tools break too easily during routine tasks. That’s dangerous. I snapped the head off of a diminutive “girl” claw hammer when I tried to use the claw end to remove a nail from a wall and rehang a picture - a simple and straightforward task. The force of the hammerhead breaking knocked me on my butt. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t on a stepstool at the time because I could have been injured. I grabbed a grown up “boy” hammer from the toolbox and I was able to remove the nail without breaking the claw or snapping the head off of the hammer.

Weight – I’m 4’11 and I’d like to use a tool that’s physically light enough for me to handle without forsaking the power needed to do the job. Sure I’ll suck it up and heft a heavy tool if the jobs requires. I’ve done it. But if you can design a tool that allows me to work just as effectively as or more so than my current heavy tools not only will I buy it but I’ll shout about it from rooftops! I’ll also buy one for every guy I know.

Scale and Grip - Not every DIYer is a big burly dude with massive man hands. Husband is a lean long distance runner and is also on the short side. A tool that’s scaled for to a shorter person will work for both of us as long as you don’t skimp on the quality. Something that allows me to set the grip of the tool for my small hands but would also allow me to switch the grip so that a person like my Dad with his bigger guy hands could also use the same tool when we work on a project together would be awesome.

Better Ergonomics – This is what I think of when I say “tools made for women.” Tool companies I know you put a lot of research and development dollars into studying the body mechanics and how to redesign tools so that customers can use more efficiently. A good example of this are the hammers with the slightly curvy handle that allow you to drive a nail into a board better but without needing an extra “oomph” of power to drive a nail into a board. Typically those studies are being conducted and the resulting products are being aimed at older male DIYers who have more time to DIY during their retirement years but may not have the same physical strength as they once had during their younger years. Tool companies – these studies also apply to women! If you market to us we will buy these products! Or maybe the men in our lives will buy them for us (hint, hint.)

Color –In all honesty, if I see a pink tool for sale, I’m not going to buy it. Experience has taught me that pink tools are crap. Sorry toolmakers but you taught me that all you care about is making a woman’s tool pink and pretty not about quality or performance. By the way, my Husband and I share tools just like we share kitchen appliances. We have one refrigerator not a pink one for me and a blue one for him. That means I could care even less about tool color.

Tool companies, this is something the guys won’t tell you – as a women I get an extra boost of confidence and self-esteem when I complete even a minor job with a tool that looks like the real deal and not like I need to store it in Barbie’s dream house after I’m done using it. If you can design a tool that meets my performance needs, makes me feel confident when using it, and might even make the men in my life a bit little jealous because it looks like a kick ass tool that they’d want to own - mission accomplished – you’d have yourself a customer for life.

Real World Example: Tool Purchase Based on a Woman’s Needs

Recently, Husband and I needed to buy a mini sledge hammer to break up some concrete in our front flower beds. Here’s how our purchase stacked up to the needs and wants I have on my tool wish list.

Quality: We made our purchase at a home improvement store not a cheap closeout or discount store.

Weight: A four pound mini sledge (a little bigger than a traditional hammer) would do the job quite nicely. Husband could use the four pounder but it was a little too heavy for me. I could only comfortably use the two pound mini sledges on display.

Scale and Grip: We wanted a tool that both of us could use because chances were that we’d be switching on and off until the job was complete.

Ergonomics: We ended up buying a much more expensive three pound mini sledge hammer because the handle and grip were designed so that it was physically lighter to swing (so a small person like me could use it) but delivered the “whoomp!” of a 4-5 pound mini sledge hammer (something that a bigger person like Husband could use.)

Color: By the way the hammer was blue. Who cares? The tool worked and now it’s the color of the dirt in my yard.

That’s my wish list for women’s power tools. What are yours? What do you think about pink power tools? Love 'em? Hate 'em? What power tools would you recommend for women?

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Rita T. said...

I have no desire to own a power tool - I have four sons who are my power tools! But seriously, women are becoming more and more handy aren't they?

Polly said...

Are you reading my mind today or what?

My area, Southern IL was hit by a meso cyclone Friday May 8th and here I am, looking for tools so we can clean up. I went to the local farm supply store looking for waterproof boots. What do they have to offer me in a size 9 women's? Rubber boots that either have flowers or little horses printed on them that are clearly not meant for work. Reminds me of the rain boots my mom bought for me when I was in kindergarten.

Here's an example:

We have standing water ankle deep out there. I want some boots meant for work, not some fashion statement. Steel toe would be the smart thing to have. One heavy tree branch falling on my foot and it would be a trip to the ER.

Other tools, designed ergonomically for men - bow saws, pruners, lopers, etc. Small sized gardening gloves for women won't hold up with what's ahead. The tools you showed in the photo, I like that they are sized for a female's hand but want to know about torque and power. Do they have enough to get a screw in a tough piece of wood or are they more for just little projects like home decorating?

Is there a happy medium between function and women's needs for power tools and if so, will someone please market what we need?

I tried the boy's department for boots but they are too wide.

Yes, women are getting more handy. Not necessarily wanting to be handy but Mother Nature has other plans.

Hubby will be on chain saw duty. I did get out there and use the pruners and lopers to get smaller branches cleared. Got a new wagon to go on the back of the riding lawn mower too. My job will be to keep the branches as they are cut moved off to the side. The biggest causes of accidents with chain saws is tripping over debris.

I may be different but I actually enjoy mowing. Put on some headphones and just ride around in circles and see results in a short amount of time.

We didn't have power in a six county area for close to a week so if anyone is reading, think ahead and be prepared. That's what I like about this blog. The blogger is more than happy to address topics like this and does a great service doing so.

As soon as I get some time, I'm buying a thank you card and mailing it to my old Girl Scout leader since all that wisdom sure came in handy last week.

Word of advice, keep your tools organized. Never know when disaster is going to strike and you might need them. My hubby has a bad habit of doing some chore, tossing the tools in some plastic tote and then forgetting about it. When the storm hit, I was frantically hunting down hammers, nails, old boards and whatever else was lying around so we could get the fence back together and keep our dogs safe. That was after we had to walk down the road and retrieve two privacy fence panels that actually pulled away from the posts and blew down the road.

As soon as we get this mess cleaned up, I am taking all my garden tools somewhere and having them sharpened.

Morgan said...

Yeah!! Good for you. I always feel like those power tools for women are just like getting those doctor kits for kids. Like they look like the real thing, but they're so minimal and don't quite work like the real thing.

It's kind of like "Oh if a woman wants to play 'handy man' here's a pink tool box and set for her!"

Now-- if they want to start making heavy duty just-like-the-real-thing tools in orange and purple, I am not complaining... :)

Great post-- informative and creative. Hopefully they will get some better marketing research for this.


A L said...

You're only 4'11"? Me too! 4'11" and 3/4.

My boyfriend is 6'7".

Yes, I know.

He's become my power tool, but when I was single I would deal with fixing things myself, or call the landlord. Lately my boyfriend's encouraged me to learn things on my own. So when a door handle fell off, I pulled it apart down to the last screw and fixed it myself. It took hours, but I was so happy in the end that I celebrated with martinis with my girlfriends.

And then I arrived home drunk and broke the doorknob again.

(Just kidding)

Linda said...

Yes! the tool manufacturers have not come into the 21st century as far as women are concerned.

I am a tall women who can sometimes use the power tools (love it!) and by the time I am done, I have little strength left due to the heaviness.

So, If they are reading your post, maybe they will get their heads out of the sand and produce good tools for us!

Allie said...

I totally agree! I don't want pink tools. I want tools that perform well and fit my hands and strength.

I have the same issue with outdoor gear. When I went to get trail shoes the other day there were twice as many options for men. The variations in the pairs for women involved one pair being purple and another being green. Come on! I don't care what color they are! They're covered in mud already. I do, however, wish they were waterproof. There were 3 pairs of waterproof shoes for men and not one pair for women!

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Rita T. – The home improvement shows of the 90’s really showed women that we can do this DIY stuff and how to do it. I saw Amy Wynn Pastor, Leslie Segretti, or Norma Vally do something really complicated like build furniture from scratch, it makes me think, “well heck, if those chicks can do that, then I can surely hang some pictures on the wall by myself!”

Polly – I hope you are all OK despite the mess! My parents first home was a poster child for the term fixer upper. If my mom and my grandmothers hadn’t pitched in to help the guys, it would have taken much longer to get the place into move in condition and even after that, there were a lot of things to do to the house. It would be nice if we women have access to the right size and quality tools to do those “have to” jobs too.

Morgan, Linda, Allie – I couldn’t agree more! My first drill was a black one speed Craftsman like the one in this post. I got it as a gift from an uncle and it served me well as an apartment dweller. I like to brag that I brought our lone power tool into our marriage.  When we moved into the Condo we realized we needed a multispeed drill for drilling into wood & steel studs. I went out and bought an upgraded multispeed Craftsman that drills through just about anything. We call it Mommy’s Little Helper – it’s the drill in my About Me photo. My father in law covets my new drill. That’s when he realized that I was SERIOUS about doing DIY projects and now he buys me REAL tools as gifts. Since it makes him happy, I let him!

A.L – It’s awesome that’s you have a guy who encourages you to try it yourself. I’m going to learn from your example and won’t drink and doorknob tee, hee.

Susan said...

I make little tiny miniature stuff for dollhouses...I would like an electric saw that works like an electric knife...why not??? light weight, easy, a perfect tool for me...can't someone invent one? Thanks, Susan

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