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Choose the drill that best suits your needs

Drilling and screwing tools are essentials for do-it-yourself hobbies, construction projects and jobs around the house. As indispensable as a hammer, a drill will allow you to easily and efficiently drill into various materials. Keep some basic criteria in mind to make an informed choice.

Power drill, power screwdriver, hammer drill

A few distinctions in power drill terminology:
  • The word drill usually refers to an electric drill with a cord and only one speed. Though they do screw, they are used primarily to drill, and the chuck accepts various types of shank.
  • The power screwdriver is meant to screw, has one speed and takes hexagon-shaped shanks. Smaller than a drill driver, it is more powerful and the battery lasts longer. When it encounters resistance, it hammers in the direction of rotation to sink the screw more easily.
  • The drill driver refers to cordless drills that operate with rechargeable batteries. They usually have two speeds and the chuck accepts various types of shank. Torque settings can be adjusted to screw as well as drill.
  • The hammer drill takes an SDS or cylindrical shank, depending on the model. It has a minimum of two speeds and three modes, making it possible to drill, screw and work through concrete. It has an additional handle for increased control. In the “drill” mode, the bit hammers back and forth within the chuck, which strikes the concrete.

Corded vs. cordless

As is the case with most electric power tools, the choice is between corded and cordless drills.

Corded

The main advantages of a corded electric drill are power, speed (revolutions per minute, or RPM) and increased endurance.
  • Power is measured in amps, generally between 3 and 7 amps; the higher the amp rating the more powerful the drill.
  • Speed of the motor is between 400 and 3000 RPMs and is controlled by means of pressure on the trigger switch.
  • Though proximity to an electrical outlet is necessary, it is always ready to use and can be used as long as you want. Extension cords are a must.

Cordless

Its biggest advantage is mobility.
  • You have greater flexibility with speed and torque control settings on cordless driver drills than corded drills.
  • The speed selector allows you to adjust RPM, which can go from 400 to 1500 RPM, depending on the model.
  • Battery life is affected by the demands of the job; the harder you work the drill, the quicker your battery will run out.
  • Requires more than one battery; you should recharge one battery while you're using the other.
  • More expensive models will give you equivalent power to corded electric models.
Power is determined by its voltage, generally between 7.2V and 36V, and aH (amps per hour), normally between 1.2aH and 3aH. A higher voltage means more drilling power, and high amperage is translated into longer use.

Anatomy of a power drill

Understanding a drill's main components and their usage will allow you to make better use of the tool.

Chuck

The drill chuck is the mechanism, with or without key, which holds the shank of the drill bit or screwdriver bit.
  • The chuck key is used to open or close the drill chuck, mainly on corded electric drills. It locks the chuck and makes it more vibration-resistant.
  • The keyless chuck is standard on cordless drill drivers and makes changing out the drill bit much faster.
  • The SDS Chuck mechanism is found on certain hammer drills used for concrete.
maximum chuck capacity is normally ½" but certain models offer 3/8" or even 5/8" on some hammer drills. Most drill and screwdriver bits can be inserted to 3/8" chuck.
  • Note: certain components may not be available on all drills. Features also vary between different electric drills and cordless drills.

2- Speed range switch

The speed selector means that you can choose between slow and high speeds on cordless drill drivers and hammer drills.
  • To screw, choose a slower speed to avoid blunting the screw head, driving it too deep, or damaging the material you're screwing into.
  • To drill into wood, use a high speed; to drill into stone (with a hammer drill) or metal, use a slower speed.

3- Forward/reverse function

This switch determines the motion, either clockwise or counter clockwise. A definite must as it means you can screw and unscrew, and also loosen drill bits more easily after you've drilled a hole.

4- Torque selection / clutch

The torque selection switch on cordless drill drivers means that you can adjust the torque setting. Torque is measured in pound inches and varies between 200 lb. inches on basic models and 600 lb. inches on high-end tools.

If the bit (drill bit or screwdriver bit) encounters too much resistance, the torque clutch will stop the drill. This will prevent you from stripping screw heads or sinking them too deep. Adjust the drill to a higher torque setting for more power.

5- Trigger switch

Pressure on the trigger operates the drill and controls speed.
  • On cordless drill drivers equipped with a main speed selector (two speeds), pressure on the trigger is used for subtle variations in motor revolution.
  • There is only one way to control speed on corded electric drills, and that is by means of pressure on the trigger, although you can also depress a button that will block the trigger so that speed will be locked into that position.

6- Battery

Cordless drills run on batteries. Each manufacturer has their own model, which is not compatible with other manufacturers' batteries. Removable, the battery is housed in the battery terminal in the bottom of the handle. Some models have a gauge that tells you how much battery life is left; the life of the battery and time required for recharging vary.
  • Nickel and Cadmium batteries – Ni-Cad
    These constitute the first-generation batteries and are still available for old models still being made and sold, but not for newer models. Must be recharged when they're low but not completely empty.
  • Nickel-Metal-Hydride batteries – NiMH
    Widely available, these batteries are inexpensive and possess high energy density, very little memory effect.
  • Lithium-Ion battery – LiIon
    Lighter and faster to recharge than the two previous batteries. Huge energy density and no memory effect, but they are very expensive and lose their charge in the cold.

7– LED Worklight

Shines a light on the task at hand. Comes on automatically when the drill is in use.

8- Drill bit stand

Makes it possible to insert a drill bit directly into the drill.

Other components:

Electric brake
When you lift the switch, the drill bit stops immediately, increasing precision (i.e. not driving a screw too deep).

Laser level
Shows whether the drill is level; very useful when it's necessary to drill or screw at a perpendicular angle.

Extra handle
Available on hammer drills, it gives you greater control and helps maintain forward pressure.

Accessories

There are many different accessories to choose from that can help with finishing the task, some with surprising functions.

Must-haves:

  • Drill bits for wood, metal, concrete
  • Driver bits: philips, slot, square, short, long
  • Belt holster

Interest-specific:

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