What Features & Options Can You Expect From a Drill

The drill is an essential part of any DIY kit. Drills are primarily used for drilling holes in various materials including wood, glass and concrete, but some drills can also be used as screwdrivers. Drills have been around for a long time (approximately 10,000 years!) and they have been used for dentistry, medicine, and even space missions. The first electric drill was patented in 1889, and the first portable handheld drill was created in 1895.

What kind of drill should you be looking for? What are the different types of drills? And what does a drill really do anyway? In this article, we will attempt to answer these questions so you will feel much more familiar with drills in general and you’ll be aware of all the features and options that are available.

Some Preliminary Questions

Before you buy a drill it is important to ask yourself some preliminary questions so you have a good idea of what you’re looking for. Some of these questions are:

  • What will you be using the drill for?
  • Is it just for regular household tasks, or for tougher jobs?
  • How many functions do you realistically need?
  • What kind of material do you want to drill into?
  • What size holes do you want to make?
  • What is your budget?
  • How long will you be using the drill for?
  • How strong are you?
  • Do you need a corded or cordless drill?

There are four main types of drill that you are likely to find online. These are:

What Features & Options Can You Expect From a DrillDrill drivers

These are versatile drills which are ideal for small everyday jobs. In addition to drilling holes, drill drivers can also loosen and tighten screws.  These are the regular, everyday drills which you are most likely to need for DIY jobs around the house.

Combi drills

These drills are pretty similar to drill drivers, but they have the capacity to drill holes into various materials including concrete, wood, masonry and metal, they can be used as a screw driver, and they have a hammer function.

SD Drills

These strong drills are a good choice if you need to drill through harder materials such as concrete and masonry. They have a hammer function which makes it easier to tackle these materials, but they are also suitable for lighter materials and they can also be used for chiselling.

Hammer drills

These drills are very powerful and are ideal for drilling through tough materials such as masonry and rock. Hammer drills have a ‘hammer action’ feature which gives them extra force and allows them to break through tougher materials. Hammer drills require specific bits which are made out of masonry as they are likely to break weaker bits.

These drills cannot be used for chiselling, and they tend to be bulkier and heavier than other drills. Hammer drills can be bought in both corded and cordless varieties, and as with regular drills, the corded variety is normally better for heavy duty jobs.

Hammer drills are essential for certain tasks, but unless you think you will be drilling into materials like concrete on a regular basis, you may want to rent a hammer drill rather than buy one.

Corded or Cordless?

DIY drills come in both corded and cordless varieties.

Cordless Drills

Cordless products have a distinct advantage over their corded counterparts because you are able to use them anywhere in the house without worrying about plugs and cables. Cordless drills are better suited for lighter, everyday jobs.

Cordless drills run off battery power. These batteries are normally of the lithium-ion variety, as lithium-ion batteries are generally safe, lightweight and powerful. You are able to charge these batteries whenever you want, and they have no self-discharge capacity.

The battery capacity of your cordless drill will be measured in amp hours, also referred to as AH. The larger the Ah number is, the longer the drill will last for. The drills voltage will tell you how powerful the drill is, and how suitable it is for heavy duty tasks. 18-volts are fine or most household tasks, but more powerful drills which come with over 20-30 volts are also available. These What Features & Options Can You Expect From a Drillpowerful drills are going to be more expensive, but they are better able to deal with a larger variety of jobs.

The downside to cordless drills is that they tend to be heavier than their corded counterparts, and as they run on battery they will run out of charge and need to be recharged at some point. Cordless drills may also not have enough power for tougher jobs.

Keep an eye on the advertised charge time of your chosen drill. Some drills will take 3-5 hours to charge which could be an obvious problem if you’re in the middle of a drilling job. However, some cordless drills will come with two batteries so you can charge one battery and use the other.

Corded Drills

These drills are better suited for jobs that are more heavy duty and time-consuming. The downside to a corded drill is obviously the lack of flexibility as the drill has to be plugged into an electricity source before it can work, but on the plus side once the drill is plugged in, it will continue to work as long as you need it without any fear of it conking out on you in the middle of a job!

Corded drills have their energy measured in watts, and the higher the wattage number the more powerful the drill is. Powerful drills are necessary for drilling tougher materials like masonry, whereas less wattage is fine for lighter materials.

Corded drills on average will be more powerful than cordless drills, so they are a better choice for more intensive jobs. Some people recommend that you buy both a corded and a cordless drill to make sure you are well equipped.

Torque

The word ‘Torque’ refers to the drills twisting force, so it is the amount of force the drill create in order to turn the drill into the material in question. If you’re planning on regularly switching between materials, you will need to be able to adjust the torque setting because it will need to be higher to accurately drill heavier materials, whereas a lower torque setting is often a better choice for lighter materials to avoid damage. Some drills come with adjustable torque settings, but not all drills will have this feature so if it is something you think you’ll need then double check before buying a drill.

Speed

The speed of your drill (also referred to as the no load speed) will tell you how fast the drill rotates. Some drills will have adjustable speed settings, and this is an important feature if you are planning on using your drill for lots of different tasks and you want to drill through different materials. Higher speed is will make it easier to drill through harder materials, whilst a lower speed is better for softer materials.

Trigger

The ‘trigger’ on a drill is quite similar to the trigger on a gun. You press down on the trigger to start the engine and begin drilling. Many drills allow you to adjust your drilling speed via the trigger, so if you put more pressure on the drill it will go faster.

Chuck

The chuck is the area of the drill which you insert the bit into. Nowadays most chucks are keyless and you can tighten and loosen them by hand, but older drills may still have a ‘keyed’ chuck which would require you to use a special key to tighten and loosen the chuck. The keyed process takes a lot longer and can be very annoying if you lose the key.

The chuck on your drill will also have ‘jaws’ which hold the bit in place so it doesn’t move or fall out as you drill. When you tighten a keyless chuck, you will see the jaws squeeze together.

Chucks some in three main sizes. These sizes are ½ inches, 3/8 inches, and ¼ inches and it’s important to think about the size of the chuck because it will determine what size bits you can use. A 3/8 inch chuck is a versatile size which is fine for most household jobs, but it may not be suitable for extra large holes.

Clutch

The clutch is located between the chuck and the main body of the drill. When you look at the clutch you may well see some tension settings which you can adjust to select how much resistance will stop the drill.

Reverse Switch

The majority of drills will come with a forward and reverse switch. This switch will help you change direction, so if your drill bit gets stuck you can reverse it out of whichever material you are drilling into. This setting is also important if you are using your drill as a screwdriver.

LED Light

Some drills will come with a LED light. These lights are normally located around the trigger and you can turn them on when you press the trigger. LED lights are ideal for dimly lit rooms or other situations which don’t have enough natural light.

Bits

A drill ‘bit’ is what you will use to actually drill into your material. The bit is inserted into the chuck and it is what will be used to penetrate the material and create holes. Bits come in many shapes, sizes and materials and different bits are suitable for different jobs. For example, if you are using a hammer drill you will need a masonry bit as bits which are made out of wood or other materials are likely to break when used on concrete.

Bits can be made out of various materials including wood, masonry, metal, glass and even diamond. The size and shape of the bit are also important because it will determine how big your hole is.  Bits which are shaped like a spade or paddle are ideal for larger holes, whilst ‘morse bits’ are the most common variety of bits and are ideal for most types of material.

Handle

As you may be holding your drill for an extended period of time, it is important that you are comfortable whilst you use it. Try and pick a drill with a comfortable, ergonomic handle which fits nicely into the shape of your hand.

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