What is the difference between consumer and professional woodworking power tools?

Most people know that tool manufacturers produce more than one line of a product for varying consumer needs. What they may not realize is how these tools differ in their manufacture, and what it is that makes one drill, for example, cost $25 and another "similar" one cost $125. We explain some of the points of difference here.

Design. The professional power tool is designed to be more powerful, last longer, and perform better under continuous-use conditions than consumer models. For occasional, around-the-house situations, you may prefer a less-expensive consumer woodworking tool.

Electrical cords. On most consumer tools, the electrical cord is 6 feet long or less. With the professional models, 8 and often 10-foot cords are the norm. With this length of cord, a worker doesn't have to use an extension cord in most situations.

Cord materials vary, too. With woodworking tools designed for professionals, who may have to work outside, it's important for the cord to remain flexible during cold weather. To protect the tools, natural rubber or high- cost elastomer jackets are used. Less-costly cords are sheathed with polyvinyl-chloride (PVC) material.

In addition, on the pro tool the cord protector leading into the tool is separate from the cord to facilitate replacement. On the consumer tool, the protectors are molded onto the cord.

Switches. Dust and frequent usage are the enemies of tool switches. Since woodworking professional tools are subjected to more of both, switches need to be heavy-duty and protected from dust.

Motors. Professional-quality woodworking tools have motors designed to generate more power and sustain overloading for longer periods than consumer tools. At the same time they must be light enough for trades people to use for a long time. To guard against short-circuiting at high temperatures and speeds, manufacturers coat the windings of better-quality motors with epoxy.
More-expensive woodworking tools have copper windings rather than aluminum ones because, while copper costs more, it makes the motor more powerful.

Precise positioning of the carbon brushes, which transfer electricity from the electrical outlet to the motor, also sets professional tools apart from consumer tools. On the former, the brushes are held by close- tolerance brass holders rather than by the high-impact plastic ones on the latter.
Another difference is the type of bearings used. Generally, consumer tools have sleeve bearings. For pro tools, manu-facturers use better-quality ball bearings to a greater extent to reduce the amount of lateral movement and vibration.
Gears. Often, a heavy-duty tool has wrought-steel gears, which are heat-treated to harden the metal. With some consumer tools, powdered-metal gears are used because they're less expensive.

Housings. Unless you know plastics, it's difficult to tell the difference between the materials used on pro tools and their consumer counterparts. Super-tough nylon often sheathes the former, and consumer tools have a less durable plastic covering.
Metal housings differ, too. The professional has mating surfaces that have been machined to fit against the motor housing. The consumer model is diecast with minimal machining.

Assembly. The major components of pro tools inter¬lock with one another. With consumer tools, the components often are held together with one set of screws.

Safety. No matter which type of equipment you buy there are certain maintenance procedures you'll want to follow for safety as well as extended tool life.

All electrical power cables should be in good repair, without frays, breaks or loose plugs. If your home workshop outlets aren't the three-prong type, always use a grounding plug adaptor.
If the woodworking tools aren't self-lubricating, follow the instructions in the manual to lubricate them at regular intervals.

And keep blades sharp. Dull blades can be dangerous as well as ruinous to work.