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Drills: Add Power and Versatility to Your Toolbox

Whether you're a novice do-it-yourselfer or a seasoned pro, a reliable drill is one of the most versatile and practical tools to have in your home, garage or workshop. Today's drills offer multifunctional power in both lightweight and compact designs. With a drill by your side, you can perform a variety of drilling tasks quickly, with both power and ease.

Selecting the Right Drill

First and foremost, choose a drill that is comfortable to hold and use. If you have small hands or expect to perform only light tasks, you may not want to purchase the biggest, most powerful drill on the market. Power is an important quality to look for in a drill, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Examine the different types of available drills to determine which ones best suit your needs.

Cordless Compact Drills

Cordless compact drills are valued for their convenience and ability to tackle tough jobs. Voltage (V) is the primary indicator of power of a cordless drill, and can range anywhere from 4V to 36V, although models between 12V and 18V are commonly used for general tasks. Low-voltage drills are often used for light jobs such as replacing door hinges or installing handles on cabinets, while more powerful drills, such as cordless hammerdrills, can be used for drilling into masonry or steel.

Keep in mind that a cordless drill is only as good as its battery. Look for a cordless drill with high-capacity lithium-ion batteries that will hold their charge four times as long as traditional nickel batteries.

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Corded Drills

Corded drills can handle a wide variety of tasks, from driving screws to drilling holes into concrete, to mixing paint. Often more powerful than their cordless counterparts, corded drills can be used anywhere there is access to a power outlet. The power of corded drills is measured in amperage (amp), with larger amp values providing greater power.

Corded drills have a constant supply of electricity which makes them well-suited for jobs that require constant drilling or drilling into tougher materials, such as concrete or stone. Corded drills are available in a variety of models, from heavy-duty pistol grip drills to drywall screwdrivers, to corded hammerdrills.

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Hammerdrills are used for serious drilling applications such as drilling holes into concrete, stone, block and brick. Hammerdrills have a bit spin combined with a chuck vibration that provides short, rapid thrusts that help chip away and pulverize material, similar to a jackhammer. To gauge the amount of hammering action, compare beats-per-minute (BPM) or impact-per-minute (IPM) of the tools you're interested in.

Depending on the model, the hammer action can usually be switched off so the tool can be used as a standard drill. Overall, hammerdrills make driving holes into masonry much easier so consider buying this type of drill if you work with concrete or stone frequently.

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Drill/drivers are designed for both drilling and for driving screws. Drill/drivers feature an adjustable clutch mechanism that allows you to drive screws to consistent depths without overdriving or leaving them short. You can also turn off the clutch completely to allow the tool to function as a standard drill. Even more useful is the drill/driver/hammerdrill, which features the vibrating chuck of a hammerdrill in addition to the drill/driving capabilities.

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Impact Drivers

Impact drivers are designed to drive most types of screws. They produce a fast "tapping" action, which, in combination with the turning of the bit, prevents stripping of the screw head. Impact drivers are best for drilling into concrete, stone, block and brick, and are designed specifically for fastening jobs associated with metal, pressure-treated wood and cabinetry. Impact drivers can also be used for drilling, but are not as ideal as standard drills or hammerdrills.

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Chuck Size and Drill Bits

Chuck size determines how large of a bit a drill can hold. Common chuck sizes are 3/8", which are suitable for everyday tasks, and 1/2" for tougher applications. A drill with a 3/8" chuck will provide tremendous versatility, while a drill with a 1/2" chuck is best used for heavy-duty jobs or drilling larger holes.

Additionally, different jobs call for different drill bits. Using the right bit not only helps ensure the quality of your work, but helps to preserve the life of your drill and drill bits. Adding different bits to your toolbox will make it easy to drill into different types of wood, as well as metal, steel, concrete or cement. In some cases, your drill might be used for buffing or sanding with the right attachment.

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Drill Speed and Torque

Another important factor to consider when buying a drill is rotations per minute (rpm), which measures how fast the drill turns. Drills that allow you to switch between lower speeds (around 300-500 rpm) and higher speeds (1,200-1,500 rpm) will allow you to take on a wider range of drilling tasks. Generally, the harder the material you are drilling, the lower the rpm should be.

Torque, on the other hand, is the force the drill produces to turn an object, rather than how fast an object will turn. Torque is often measured in inch-per-pound (in./lbs.), and refers to the twisting force at the chuck when the drill is being used to make a hole. The greater the torque, the easier it will bore through the material.


Keyless Chuck

The chuck holds the drill bit in place, and keyless chucks allow you to conveniently change bits without having to use a separate tool.

Variable Speed and Reverse

Many drills offer multiple speed settings, which allow you to choose the right one for the job at hand, and have a reverse feature that allows you to remove screws and other fasteners.

Auxiliary Handle

Drills with side handles provide greater control and two-handed operation. They also rotate, enabling you to find the ideal angle and position from which to work.

Multiple Clutch Settings

Cordless drills often feature a clutch adjustment ring, which allows you to adjust the amount of power delivered to the bit. Once you know the depth and torque needed, set the clutch accordingly to ensure consistent results and reduce instances of wrist snap.

Electronic Brake

This feature causes the drill to stop immediately when you stop squeezing the trigger, preventing you from overdriving or stripping screws.