Weight, Size and Handling

Weight, Size, Handling and Ergonomics of a Drill

Just like with many things in life, we are attracted to the beauty we see in power tools sitting on the shelf in the home improvement store, hanging from the rafters in our workshops, waiting patiently on the workbench in the garage to be needed. Sometimes we can get lost in the beauty of their sleek lines, the thunder of their roaring motors, the scent of fresh sawdust we know will soon be piled up on the floor underneath. We’ve all been taken in at one time or another simply by the way a tool looks, spurring our imagination into dreaming of what we could do with it if we could just get it home. We’ve laid down our credit cards and packed the box into the car, got it home and called everyone we could think of to let them know of the new addition to the family.

Then it was time to open the box and expose the newcomer to the light of day on the first day of its new life in its new home where it would serve us well with its power and its might, and we couldn’t wait to get it into our greedy little hands. The box is opened, the User’s Manual tossed to the side (we’ll get to it later), and the new beauty lifted out. But… wow. It seems a little heavier than it did in the store. Ah, no matter, it’s just new. We’ll get used to it. And then we tried it on a project. Or two. After a while, it was moved to a different corner of the shop or garage to make room for another new family member. And there it sits, collecting dust.

But why? Why would this happen? Why would we let our beloved be turned into a footstool the dog sniffs at every once in a while before whining and taking off back into the house? That is indeed the question: why? The answer: because before bringing that roaring powerhouse of a new tool home, we didn’t stop to actually consider its physical attributes and whether we would enjoy or even be able to use the darn thing. It’s not always easy to remember to look before you leap, but when it comes to the money we (ok, I) spend on our tools, whether they are for work or for play, there are things that need to be considered so we don’t end up with a garage full of giant paperweights. Let’s discuss a few of them.

Size Really Does Matter

Size matters

The size and weight of your drill/driver can make a big difference

I know we all get caught up in the moment and sometimes buy things we don’t really need, but when it comes to tools, even if we don’t need it right now, we’ll find a use for it. Unless it ends up being too big, too heavy, or too bulky to handle comfortably.

When you buy something from a brick and mortar store you do have the chance to hold the tool. You can feel just how heavy it is, figure out where your hands go in order to hold it correctly, see if it is comfortable in your grip and if you could actually use it for its intended purpose. Buying online doesn’t give you that option, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to a tool’s physical attributes. My suggestion is that if the size and weight of a tool are not specified, don’t buy it because you have no idea what is going to end up your doorstep.

Let’s take power drills as an example. You could buy one that weighs less than 3 pounds, one that weighs in around 6 pounds, or anywhere in between. You might say to yourself that 6 pounds isn’t really that much, but if you’re working with it hour after hour, maybe even over your head, those extra pounds make a difference. What about a hammer drill? You can find one that weighs about 8 pounds, or 14 pounds. And if you’re not careful, you could order a full size tool when what you really want is a compact one and end up with something much larger than you had anticipated.

Handling and Ergonomics

Another thing you want to look at is how well the tool handles and if it is ergonomically designed. In regards to the handling, pay attention to the size of the trigger – is it only big enough for one finger, or can you grip it with your entire hand? There have been complaints about some tools which have different controls in awkward places where they can be bumped accidentally or take both hands to hold the tool and find the adjustment button or switch with the other. That can certainly be a major irritation, depending on what you’re doing. Does the tool vibrate unmercifully? Will it make your hand or arm go numb if you use it for a prolonged period of time? That could be not only irritating, but dangerous.

Many manufacturers are paying closer attention to incorporating ergonomic design into their tools, which is a great thing. Ergonomically designed grips have been proven to cause less physical stress on the hands and arms, they reduce user fatigue, and they even reduce the chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome or other disorders caused by repetitious motion which are very common among people who use tools on a regular basis, as well as others.

Love Yourself as Much as Your Tools

So the next time you’re lured by an incredible looking power tool, whether it’s in a store or online, remember that you are going to actually want to use it, not leave it on a shelf getting dusty. Close your eyes, take a calming breath, and repeat to yourself, “I love myself as much as my tools.” You can do that as many times as needed to get yourself thinking rationally, or until store security taps you on the shoulder, whichever comes first. When you are again of a rational mind, really look into the physical aspects of the tool to make sure it is something you will be able to use as often as you want, as much as you want, or until your family or neighbors pull the plug, metaphorically speaking. The point is, do some digging and make sure you’ll be able to handle it for the jobs you need it for.

The Major Brands

The Major Brands in Cordless Power Tools

Although choosing a cordless drill/driver solely based on its brand name is something I would advise against, some manufacturers do have better reputations than others. With just a little research, or even just shopping around, you could see there are a bunch of cordless drill brands. More experienced users pretty much know which brands to stick with, but for those who are new to this, I have compiled a short guide to present you with some of the major players on the market.

DEWALT

De Walt LogoWhen it comes to any type of power tool, you can rest assured that DEWALT make some of the best out there. Their consistency is amazing, and their cordless drills are just one example. You’re very likely to find a DEWALT cordless drill in the toolboxes of a high percentage of professionals, which speaks volumes about their quality. They are extremely well-made, robust, tough, and designed to withstand the abuse of any type of project. If you are in need of a cordless drill/driver that can stand up to really heavy usage, DEWALT cordless drills are simply superb.They are, however, pretty pricey, so if you are not a professional contractor or if you are not looking for a cordless drill you will use intensively every day, you really don’t need a DEWALT.

Black & Decker

Black & Decker LogoOne of the most popular brands on the market is Black & Decker. This particular brand is the one most people are familiar with, as they have been around for quite a long time. They have models for nearly all types of projects, but it is safe to say their best drills are aimed at DIY enthusiasts. One of their major advantages is their well-balanced price. You get a decent amount of features and power for the money you pay for a Black & Decker drill. If you are come across one of their drills, you should stop and take a closer look.

Bosch

Bosch LogoBosch is a brand which needs little introduction, as some of their tools have become synonymous with quality and reliability. Bosch has a loyal following and many contractors, once they buy a Bosch drill, tend to stick with the brand. For the most part, their cordless drills are aimed at professional contractors, but they have something for just about anyone. All things considered, Bosch is one of the top brands when it comes to cordless drills.

Makita

Makita LogoMakita is another brand which produces high-quality cordless drills, and I would place it right up there with DEWALT, or pretty close to it. They offer several different models aimed at professionals and contractors. Everything I’ve said about DEWALT and Bosch goes for Makita, as well. They are winning more followers every day, thanks to their quality and power.

Milwaukee

Milwaukee-LogoMilwaukee has been in the power tool business for over 85 years. They are a solid choice, and their cordless drills are a favorite among professional contractors and DIY enthusiasts. They do not skimp when it comes to power and reliability. Milwaukee is a brand you should definitely check out.

Hitachi

Hitachi LogoHitachi has been making some huge strides lately in their cordless drills. They have produced some drills which have been huge hits, and for good reasons. One of their biggest advantages is their competitive prices. Also, they pack their tools with plenty of useful features. They are not on the same level as DEWALT and Makita, but if you are not a professional contractor, a Hitachi cordless drill could be a great choice for you.

The Summary

Perhaps the biggest conclusion you can draw from this is to never buy something you don’t need. Yes, you need a power drill, but why spend a ton of money on a top of the line model you never use it to its fullest potential? It’s waste of money. Choose a drill according to your needs and you will soon see that it was the best choice for you, regardless of the brand.

Power Tool Durability

Determining the Durability of Your Next Power Drill

Have you ever bought the greatest power drill in the world, or what you thought was the greatest power drill in the world, used it a few times with great success, and then had it crap out on you with no warning? Or have you dropped or knocked a drill off the workbench only to have either the outer casing crack or the insides broken just by being shaken up a bit? If you have ever been in any of these situations, you’re not alone.

Time after time, many of us have been drawn in by a drill’s sturdy appearance or its great features, or even a great recommendation, and been highly disappointed when the newest member of our power tool kingdom is thwarted by the most evil of villains – inner workings that are more fragile than you ever dreamed imaginable. When you fork out your hard earned money for a new tool, you expect it to not only look decent, but to work the way it should and to last long enough to get your money’s worth out of it.

Unfortunately, the world doesn’t always work like that and in order to be pretty darn sure that new drill is going to work its way into a solid position in your personal power tool realm, you’ll want to do some investigation before you decide to bring it home. Here are some things you should be checking out.

Home is Where the Housing Is

The housing is, basically, the outer and internal casing which protects the internal parts of the drill, and their function is to absorb the impact from falls and make sure everything stays where it’s supposed to be. I guess you could think of it kind of like being the drill’s jock strap. It would be weird, but you could think of it that way.

Anyway, housings are typically made of a combination of plastic and metal with the gears, bearings and shafts usually housed within metal, while the hand grip, trigger, switches and motor are surrounded by plastic. If the plastic is too brittle, it can easily break when the tool is dropped. To combat this, manufacturers can blend the plastic with fiberglass to make it more flexible while retaining its strength.

Plastic parts usually have “PA” ratings and “GF” percentages molded onto them, and these are the things you want to look for to ensure the plastic parts are quality. Look for tools that have a PA-6 or higher rating along with a minumum 30% GF.

Get Your Motor Running

The motor, of course, is what drives the rotation of the drill bit. Without a running motor, your beautiful drill becomes a beautiful paperweight. The motor has a few enemies, the most vile of them being heat. Good airflow helps keep a drill’s internal parts, including the motor, cool, as long as the air is relatively clean. That might not seem possible on a jobsite, but if fresh air is drawn in from the backside of the drill, it will be as clean as the surrounding atmosphere will allow.

Heat damage can also come from overuse or pushing a drill past its capabilities. Many manufacturers now include built-in safeguards which will turn the motor off before damage occurs, just in case you have a tendency to get crazy with yourself and don’t know when to give yourself or your drill a break.

Another thing to look at is the type of motor the drill has. There are motors with carbon brushes and motors which are brushless. Brushless motors are more efficient and reliable, make less noise, and last longer than motors with brushes.

That’s not to say motors with brushes are bad, by any means. But if you do go with a drill that has a motor with brushes, you want to make sure the brushes are replaceable. You can easily find “how-to” videos online that show how to change them, so if you go this route you should be covered in the event they need to be replaced at some point in time.

Great Gearboxes To Go

The gearbox isn’t something that’s always mentioned in a tool’s description, but it is something you want to consider, especially in the case of a tool that involves heavy vibrations like an impact drill or hammer drill. Excessive vibration will certainly affect the durability of these tools, so it can be a really good idea to check into the composition of the gears and gearbox before you buy. It goes without saying that an all-metal gearbox will be more durable than the alternative, but also bear in mind that spiral cut gears perform better than straight cut gears, even if they do cost more.

Check the Chuck

One of the last things we’re going to look at here may also be one of the most obvious. Then again, because it is so obvious, many people overlook it so I want to point it out to keep you from being one of the “many”. The first thing you need to know about the chuck is that there are two different kinds – keyed and keyless. Almost all consumer grade drills are now made with keyless chucks, so unless you’re looking at true heavy-duty professional grade tools, this is what you are most likely to be getting and, because they are simpler to use, it really is what you want.

Now, the thing we really want to look at is what the chuck is made of, and this is a pretty simple thing but it can be really important when it comes to lasting durability. The chuck can be made of plastic and metal, or it can be all metal. An all-metal chuck will, of course, be more durable in the long run but they also tend to be more expensive. If you are going to use the drill for light duty projects only, you probably don’t have to spring for a drill with an all-metal chuck but if you work your tools pretty hard, it’s definitely worth considering.

What’s In A Warranty?

A warranty is, quite literally, the last word a manufacturer has to say about its product, and that word will tell you a lot about the tool you’re about to buy. You see, manufacturers that really believe in the products they make will stand firmly behind them. All tools will come with some kind of warranty, but you should be aware of exactly what that warranty covers and for how long. A good rule of thumb I like to use is, “The better the warranty, the better the tool.” Just keep that in mind.

A Lifetime of Togetherness?

Unfortunately, no matter how careful you are or how diligent you are in ensuring your new drill absolutely defines durability, it won’t last you a lifetime. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make every effort to make sure it will last as long as possible. I know the majority of us don’t have the kind of funds that would allow us to always get the best tools the market has to offer, but by investigating a few key points, we can be sure to get the best ones available in our price range, whatever that may be.

The Right Angle Drill

When and How to Use a Right Angle Drill

A right angle drill isn’t a tool that’s found in all tool collections, but there are a whole lot of people who could use one. It did cross my mind to wonder why these marvels aren’t in use more often, but then I realized that I didn’t even know there was such a thing until recently, and I couldn’t be the only one.

A right angle drill is, to my mind, an absolute wonder. I mean, how many times have you found yourself trying to drive a screw into a small area and had to look around for one of those really short screwdrivers so you could do it by hand because the electric screwdriver or drill/driver was just too big? I know it’s happened to me a million times. Ok, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, I have about half a dozen of those short screwdrivers in both standard and philips head because I seem to need one on a pretty regular basis just for things around the house. So, in case you are like I was a short while ago and you aren’t sure what a right angle drill actually is, let me introduce you to one of the world’s modern marvels.

What the Heck is That?

Bosch Right Angle DrillA right angle drill is really quite self explanatory, but please bear with me. A right angle drill does the same thing a regular drill/driver does, but instead of having a relatively short handle and a long head, it has a rather long handle and the head is very short and set at a 90 degree angle to the handle so it can drill or insert screws in tight areas. Some of them can be rather amusing looking to look at, as they really don’t look like any other tool I’ve personally come across. But I don’t really care what a tool looks like as long as it does the job I need it to do.

Who Would Use One of Those?

Now, I’ve seen it said that these tools are used mostly by professionals in construction related trades because they are the ones who most often get into these kinds of situations. They were actually designed for these folks to help them in their jobs. During construction of commercial buildings and homes, hundreds if not thousands of holes have to be drilled through flooring, floor joists, wall studs, and sometimes even roofing material in order for electricians and plumbers to run wire and pipes. Sometimes these holes have to be drilled in the tight spaces behind existing joists or beams where a regular drill would never fit.

While they were originally designed for the construction industry, they are making their way into less specialized tool collections. Cabinet builders and installers, carpenters, wood workers, hobbyists, and even mechanics have found uses for a right angle drill and added one to their toolbags or workshops. Any kind of drill accessory that can be used on a conventional drill can also be used with a right angle drill and the great thing is, this is a tool I think just about anyone could find a use for.

We’ve Gotta Hand It to Them

One thing which is really nice about these drills is the grip. It can be quite a challenge to get a drill into small spaces and maintain the control you really need, the handles are designed to be used with both hands so presure can be distributed evenly, and some even have a grip and trigger which twists, making it easier to maintain control in various situations.

Versatile

There are a couple of options that can make right angle drills really versatile for all sorts of uses. For starters, you can get drill bit extensions which open up a whole new world of opportunities. Yes, you can get drill bit extensions for conventional drills as well, but if you put a 30 inch extension on a right angle drill, you can get into just about any space you can think of.

Here’s my favorite option and not all of them do this, but some right angle drills offer the ability to remove the drive head and use the chuck as a conventional drill. It will cost a few more dollars, but if you can get one of these that can be used as a right angle or conventional drill, you’ve got two drills in one. Could it get any cooler? I don’t think it can.

Is a Right Angle Drill Right For You?

As I said earlier, I think just about anyone could come up with uses for one of these tools. But if you’re thinking about getting one, I highly suggest going to your local home improvement center and try a few out before making a purchase. If you want it for around the house or hobby use, getting one made for professionals might be more than you need, so do some comparison shopping and find the one that fits you and your needs the best.

Battery Types

The Different Battery Types for Cordless Drills

Finding a cordless drill which will fit your needs best can be complicated. There are a large number of different features and specs to consider, not the least of which is the type of battery used. There are three different types of batteries which can be used by cordless drills, or any other kind of cordless tool: nickel-cadmium (NiCd), nickel-metal hydride (NiMH), and lithium-ion (Li-ion). Let’s take a good look at each of them.

Nickel-Cadmium Batteries

NiCD batteries are the oldest of the three types and they are still widely used because they are irreplaceable when it comes to performing in tough conditions. In addition, they are inexpensive and their cycle life is quite impressive. Overall, Li-Ion and NiMH are better, but if you come across a cordless tool that uses NiCd batteries, don’t be too quick to dismiss it.

One of the reasons NiCd batteries haven’t been retired yet is their general toughness and resistance to impact, as well as both high and low temperatures. Also, their cycle life measures at around 1,000 charges, which is really impressive. In addition to that, they deliver a better flow of electric current. Although keeping the battery in a state of deep discharge is far from recommended, if you do so with NiCd batteries, they will not damage as easily as their Li-Ion or NiMH cousins. If you look at the whole thing from an economic standpoint, NiCd batteries are also significantly less expensive than the other options.

Seeing as NiCd are the oldest type of batteries, some of their characteristics are a bit dated. For example, they weigh more than other options, and their capacity is lower. One thing you need to be careful of if you use NiCd batteries is to not let their charge drop below 70% between charges. To do so diminishes their lifespan. However, you should perform a deep discharge once every month or so, or NiCd batteries will suffer from memory effect. Another thing to keep in mind is that NiCd batteries need to cool down before being recharged. And there’s one more thing: if you care about the environment, you may be disappointed to find out that cadmium can damage the environment when not stored properly.

NiCd batteries in a nutshell

  • About 1,000 charge cycles, meaning long cycle life
  • Acceptable 15%-20% discharge
  • Low capapcity of 1.2Ah – 2.2Ah
  • Fast charge times
  • They require proper maintenance, such as a deep discharge every month
  • High memory effect impact without regular maintenance
  • Extremely durable and tough

Nickel-Metal Hydride Batteries

NiMH batteries are more expesive than NiCd batteries, but they also feature some improvements over their NiCd counterparts. One of the biggest improvements is that NiMH damages the environment far less. Their biggest advantage is their capacity, which is sometimes 2 or even 3 times greater than that of NiCd batteries, thanks to better energy density. Like NiCd batteries, though, NiMH batteries are sensitive to improper storage and charging conditions. They weigh less than NiCd batteries, and they are less expensive than Li-Ion batteries.

However, NiMH batteries are very sensitive to storing and charging conditions and they need to be stored and maintained properly to extend their cycle life. Unlike NiCd batteries, NiMH batteries are more sensitive to both high and low temperatures. A good rule of thumb is to store and use them between 33°F and 103°F. When left unused or in a state of deep discharge, NiMH will experience far more damage than NiCd batteries. Their lifespan and storage capacity will shorten. Just like NiCd batteries, they should also be charged at 70% capacity, but with one deep discharge performed every three months to circumvent memory effect.

NiMH batteries in a nutshell

  • Cycle life depends on storage and maintenance, but can reach that of NiCd batteries
  • Fast self-discharge of 20%-30%
  • 2.2Ah to 3.0Ah capacity
  • Fast charge times
  • Moderate maintenance which typically includes a deep discharge once every 3 months
  • Less memory effect than that of NiCd batteries when properly maintained
  • Very sensitive to heat

Lithium-Ion Batteries

Being the newest of the three types of cordless tool batteries, Li-Ion batteries are also your best option, when all aspects are taken into account. Of course, they are not without their drawbacks. For instance, they are more expensive than both NiCd and NiMH batteries. Their biggest enemy is heat, which deteriorates their internal components and changes the electro-chemical processes going on inside. Age and continuous use also play a big role in the shortening of their life span.

Although it may seem they are not the best option due to their short life cycle, they have higher capacity and they are able to charge quickly. The technology of Li-Ion batteries is still being improved, so it will be interesting to see what happens with them in the future. One of the things that doesn’t need improvement is their weight, because they are the lightest of the three types of batteries. Also, I mentioned earlier that NiMH have high energy density, which is also the case with Li-Ion batteries, but Li-Ion batteries are less sensitive to variations in temperature than their NiMH cousins. While other types of batteries require regular maintenance because they are susceptible to memory effect, Li-Ion batteries do not suffer from such ailments.

While the other two types of batteries have to stick to a specific shape, so tools kind of have to be designed around them, the construction of Li-Ion batteries allows them to take on any form, so they can be physically designed to provide a tool with better balance and/or performance. And when it comes to storage and recharging, as long as you don’t store them in an environment which is too hot, you can pretty much use them any way you like because they don’t suffer from self-discharge or memory effect. Their charge/recharge cycle is also superior to the cycles of the other types of batteries. Best of all, unlike NiCd batteries, Li-Ion batteries do not damage the environment.

Li-Ion batteries in a nutshell

  • Shorter life cycle: only 300-500 charges, or 2-3 years
  • The most expensive of the three types of batteries
  • Almost no self-discharge
  • Very high capacity: 3.0Ah and up
  • Require little to no maintenance
  • No memory effect

The Summary

As you can see, Li-Ion is definitely the way to go, but their prices are significantly higher than those for NiCd and NiMH batteries. Even so, NiCd and NiMH batteries are still better in some aspects than Li-Ion batteries, and depending on the kind of work you do, they might just be a better choice. I hope this little guide will help you decide which battery standard you should choose.

Cordless Drill Buying Guide

Buying Guide To The Best Power Drills On The Market

When I started looking for a new power drill I really didn’t think it was going to be any big deal. I mean, it’s just a power drill. There are tons of them, so just pick one, right? That’s what I thought, but it didn’t turn out to be quite that simple. There are so many similarities and differences between models and manufacturers that sorting through all the information I found became quite a project – a project I decided to share with all of you.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a cordless drill, so I wrote a bunch of articles to help me figure it all out and then put them all together in one place so you can figure it all out without going through everything I had to. Each section below will guide you to the information you’re looking for so you can figure out what you really need in a drill, what you really want in a drill, and how to find the one that’s perfect for you.

Finding The Tool That Actually Fits Your Needs

The first step in the process of finding the right cordless drill is determining if a drill is actually what you need. The standard drill/driver you’re thinking of is only one member of an entire family of power tools that ranges from screwdrivers to impact drivers. There are hammerdrills as well, but if you need one of those, you probably already know that, so let’s just stick to the basics. This post (When To Use Which Tool) explains the different uses of power screwdrivers, drill/drivers, and impact drivers so you can determine which one you actually need. Once you have that information, you can move onto additional posts that will help you find just the right tool.

The Perception And Reality of Power

Once you’ve figured out which tool you need, the next step is to determine how much power that tool needs to have. I know what you’re thinking – you’re thinking you want all the power you can get! We all get a little crazy and power hungry when it comes to tools – I mean, it’s just human nature – but when you think about it logically, more power isn’t always the most practical. I know, I know, who needs logic? Right? Well, when it comes to power tools, logic really does come in handy, so check out this article (How Much Power and Torque Do I Need) for information that will help you figure out how much power you actually need.

Can You Handle The Truth?

After you’ve determined what kind of tool you need and how much power you need it to have, it’s time to start narrowing down the choices. But where do you start? You start right here (Weight-Size-Handling-Ergonomics). This article discusses the differences in physical attributes you will want to consider when choosing your new power tool. We’re talking about how big you want it to be, how heavy or lightweight, how well it handles, and whether or not it’s going to make your hand cramp up or your arm twitch uncontrollably before you get your projects completed. Check it out and see what gems of wisdom you can uncover.

A Lasting Impression

I know you don’t want to put all this time and effort into finding the perfect tool, spending more than a few of your hard earned bucks to get it into your hot little hands, and then have it laugh at you, sputter, and die before you get your money’s worth of work out of it. You could turn it into a rather stunning paperweight for your workbench, but what is more likely to happen is that you’ll want to throw it against the wall or run it over with your car, and then you’ll probably blow a tire and have to spend more money to replace that, and it will just be a big mess. So before you run the risk of having to deal with all that, check out this article (Durability) and find out what you need to consider to determine how durable your new tool will be before you buy it.

Fabulous Features And Those That Fizzle

After you’ve figured out everything your new power tool needs, it’s time to get to the fun stuff – the special features and accessories that make a good tool a great tool. I’ve checked out some of the most common “extras” you’ll find included by manufacturers to entice you into buying their products. They all sound completely awesome, and some of them are, but some of them are more of an awesome waste of time, space and energy. Find out which ones I’ve determined are the good, the bad, and the useless right here (Drill Features).

Just For Fun

To give you something a little bit off the beaten path to check out before you go, I’ve thrown in some information on a really cool tool that you might have always wished you had but didn’t know even existed! Did you know there’s a “Right Angle Drill” that has a chuck situation at a 90 degree angle to the drill head for getting into those tight spots you could never reach? I didn’t, but now I do and you do too! Check out this article (When and How to Use a Right Angle Drill) to find all about them.

Right Angle Drill Reviews

Right angle drills aren’t found in every tool collection, but a lot of those without one wish they did. These peculiar looking tools do something other drills simply can’t – they get into tight spaces. They can be used for a lot of different things like drilling between beams or behind joists, it could be working on cabinets or shelving units, drilling through studs to run wiring or plumbing, or a ton of other applications. Even the most compact cordless drill/drivers can’t fit into some places and that’s where the right angle drill comes in to save the day. If you aren’t sure whether or not you need one of these beauties, or if you know you positively do need one, take a look at the ones I’ve listed and see if your dream tool is here.

Craftsman Nextec Right Angle Impact Driver

One thing I have discovered is that the best tool isn’t always the biggest or most powerful one. Sometimes a mid-range tool is the absolute best thing you can have because it isn’t underpowered, which will frustrate the heck out of you, or overpowered, which will drive you crazy trying to get it to back off and not be so brutal to whatever it is you’re working on. Today I’m taking a look at the Craftsman Nextec right angle impact driver, which I consider the mid-range tool I was talking about.

DEWALT DCD740C1 Right Angle Drill/Driver

Spending a Saturday afternoon visiting the power tool section of your local home improvement store is great for a little rest and relaxation. I was indulging in exactly that kind of afternoon and I wasn’t finding much that I hadn’t seen before, but then I looked up and saw, a few shelves away, a most interestingly shaped yellow/black tool. Everyone knows DEWALT, and their tools are always worth checking out no matter what kind of tool you’re looking for.

Cordless Drill Options & Features

Drill Features – Do the Extras Really Add Functionality?

I love getting more bang for my buck, especially when it comes to tools. Actually, I think just about everyone can say they appreciate getting more for less, whether they’re tool lovers adding to their collections or anyone else getting anything. It’s just one of the very basics of commerce and money management which is drilled into all of us from day one. Manufacturers know this and they know that offering more to their customers can build brand loyalty and increase their customer base, so they have research and development departments that come up with all sorts of “extras” they can build into their products.

Manufacturers of just about everything do this, but I’ve noticed that the makers of power tools can really take this to the extreme, adding some things you’ve never even thought of and which sound like million dollar ideas. But then you get them home and try to use them and you find out they aren’t even worth the ink used to print the feature on the box the tool came in. But you don’t know that until you try it, so sometimes you even pay more for these kinds of features and they end up being pretty worthless, which just really ticks me off.

I’m pretty sure most people have the same reaction, but when it happens, it’s too late to do anything about it except stomp around the workshop, grumble about it, and maybe spout off a few choice words into the empty room. So I’m hoping to save you some of that aggravation by discussing both common features and extras, some of which you really don’t want to do without, and others that the R&D guys should be slapped for, for trying to pawn off on you. So let’s get started!

Light Up Your Life

worklight shadows

Worklight casts shadows

An LED work light is standard equipment on most drills, and it’s a feature you definitely want to have. All work lights are not created equal though. A great majority of work lights consist of one light located above or under the chuck, and those are better than nothing, but a lot of times they’ll cast shadows which still make it difficult to see what you’re doing.

What’s better is to have three lights surrounding the chuck, and there are several drills that have this configuration. Because the multiple lights surround the chuck, they clearly light up the work area without any shadows so you have a nice bright area to work in.

To Key Or Not To Key? That Is The Question

Speaking of chucks, there is the question of which is better – a keyed chuck or a keyless chuck? This is a pretty easy one to answer. Keyless chucks are much more common today than they used to be and they are much easier to use, especially seeing as how you don’t have to worry about possibly losing the key, so this one is kind of a given for most people. As long as the drill has a good quality keyless chuck, it will hold bits just as tightly as a keyed chuck will, and just about anyone you ask will say they prefer a keyless chuck due to the ease of use.

Variable Speed Transmission

gear selector

Keyless chuck with gear selector on top

Unless you’re going to be doing only the most basic of home repairs or do it yourself projects, you really will want a drill to have a multiple speed (or “dual gear”) transmission. The different speeds, or gears, are usually labeled “High” and “Low”, but some are numbers as “1” and “2”. It doesn’t matter how they’re labeled, just as long as they exist.

The high gear is good for most drilling jobs, but the lower gear will decrease the speed of the drill without decreasing the power or the torque, which allows for more controlled drilling or driving into denser materials such as hardwoods. This helps to keep the wood, or whatever dense material you’re working on, from splitting or cracking. It also gives you more control for driving screws into more delicate materials, which helps you to work more efficiently and make you a happier person than one who is damaging materials or screws. And we all want to be happier, right?

Does Chuck Size Matter?

Back to the subject of chucks, what about size? Does chuck size matter? Well, that depends on what you’re using your drill for. For most people, a 3/8 inch chuck will do the job just fine. A 3/8 inch chuck can actually take up to a 3/4 inch drill bit as long as it has a 3/8 inch shank. Larger bits do create higher levels of torque which can cause a 3/8 inch shank to snap, but if you are using it on softer woods and materials it should not be an issue.

If you are a construction professional and your drills are subject to heavy duty use on a regular basis, you’ll probably want a 1/2 inch chuck because it will stand up to the heavier workload. If you’re doing a large project like building a deck, a 1/2 inch chuck can also come in handy. Just remember that drills with larger chucks will be more heavy duty and heavier in terms of weight, so unless you really need a larger chuck, a 3/8 inch good quality chuck should suit your needs.

The Perfect Amount Of Power

Cordless drills can start with as few as 6 volts and go as high as 36 volts, and if you’re buying your first drill you may not be sure how much power you need, so let’s take a quick look. First of all, unless you’re a professional contractor, we can safely assume you aren’t going to need anything really high powered and if you are, you already have a good idea of what you need. So for the average Joe or Jill, we can go ahead and cross the expensive (and heavy) 36 volt drills off the list. So let’s start at the low end of the power scale instead.

A 6 volt drill will handle the very lightest of jobs like hanging pictures on sheetrocked walls, replacing cabinet or drawer pulls/handles or door hinges, or doing woodworking projects involving rather thin pieces of softer woods. They’re very basic and won’t do a whole lot, but they do have their uses. Most do it yourselfers, home repair enthusiasts, hobbyists and woodworkers will want to go with a moderately powered drill of 12 volts to 18 volts which should handle just about anything an average user can throw at it. Basically, more volts means more power.

Being cordless, these all work on batteries, so we’ll take a look at those next.

Battery Basics

I have another article here on the site about the different types of batteries available and the differences between them, so I’m not going to go into all that again. But I will say that it’s almost always a good idea to make sure you get at least one battery and a charger with your new power drill, and two batteries is even better.

I would say the only exception to that is if you already have tools from the same manufacturer as your new drill which take the same batteries. In that case, you can sometimes get what is called a “bare tool”, which means all you get is the tool – no battery, no charger, no bits, no extra anything, and that can save you a ton of money. But if you aren’t in that situation, the more batteries you can get with a new tool, the better off you’re going to be.

When it comes to batteries being included, you also want to consider the charger that comes along with them. Fast chargers are awesome and, depending on the manufacturer and the battery voltage, they will be able to recharge a battery in usually either 30 or 60 minutes. Some of them even charge batteries of two different voltages and if you can get one of those, you’re really getting a worthwhile bonus. Many manufacturers also now have built-in safety features in their battery chargers which will keep batteries from overcharging. These can be worth their weight in gold, or at least in power, so be on the lookout for tools and chargers that have this type of safety built right in. It can save you a ton of money in replacement batteries in the long run.

One other feature that you will want to have on your new drill (if at all possible ), is a built-in charge indicator or battery gauge. This will tell you how much charge you have left on the battery you are using, which can be a great help for making sure you have a back-up battery already charged and ready to go when the one you’re using dies. Some batteries don’t provide lowered amounts of power when they are getting close to the end of their charge, they just stop, and you don’t want to have your drill simply stop because of a dead battery without having another ready to pop in so you can keep going.
Still, I don’t think this is a must-have because there are workarounds, but it’s a really nice feature to have.

Bits and Baubles

bit sets

There’s no such thing as too many bits

Ok, so you won’t get any baubles, per se, but many times drills will come with some basic drill bit and screwdriver bits to get you started. There are usually a couple different size drill bits and at least one standard and one philips head screwdriver bits included when you find this kind of package. If you are just starting your tool collection, this can be a great way to get started, and if you’re an old hand at collecting tools you know that you can never have too many bits. The more, the merrier.

Bit/Bauble Holders

bitholder

DeWalt’s bit holder

Now this is where baubles can come into play to a certain extent, but let’s first talk about bit holders. Bit holders are typically mounted near the battery or on top of the drill head, and they usually hold two or three extra bits. These are almost always a great extra to have. Most of them work really well, and having extra bits at the ready can save you a lot of digging in your pockets or remembering which pocket even has your extra bits when you are working on a project where you need several different sizes or types of bits.

Along the same vein, there are some drills that come with “in-tool” bit storage, which is a small compartment usually built into the side of the drill, which will store extra bits. It will only hold a few, but just like the top mounted bit holder, it can be extremely convenient and helpful to have.

There are some other drills which come with a metal plate mounted to the front of the drill head which can supposedly hold washers, screws, or other “baubles”. These magnetic holders may hold a washer or two, but I’ve never come across one that has a powerful enough magnet to hold more than that. They won’t hold extra bits and even the lightweight things they can initially handle end up falling off due to the vibration of the tool when it is being used, which can end up turning those lightweight metal items into mini metal missiles which can be really dangerous.

So, to review: Just say “no!” to front mounted magnetic bit/bauble holders, but “yes!” to real honest to goodness bit holders or in-tool bit storage.

Spindle Lock and Electric Brake – For Safety’s Sake

Speaking of mini metal missiles in the last section put me in mind of safety features, which reminded me that I have to mention “Spindle Lock”. For the sake of safety, I personally wouldn’t own a drill without the automatic spindle lock feature. What this feature does is automatically keep the chuck and drill/driver bit from moving when the control trigger (the part you squeeze with your fingers to make the drill work) is released. This ensures the chuck stays put when you are removing and inserting bits into the chuck.

Most drills today also have an automatic brake, even if they don’t have a spindle lock. The automatic brake is what makes the chuck stop when the control trigger is released; the spindle lock makes sure the chuck stays stopped and doesn’t move except for when the trigger is in use. Drills that do not have an automatic brake allow the bit to keep rotating when the trigger is released, and that can be dangerous. There are drills that have a manual spindle lock which you have to engage manually, usually by moving the forward/reverse switch to the center position to lock the chuck into place, but an automatic lock is your best bet when it comes to safety.

Love The Level

level

Built-in level for accurate horizontal drilling

Now here’s a feature you don’t see all that often, but it’s one of my favorites – a built-in level. Levels come in all shapes and sizes, but I’m telling you, whoever thought of building one into a power drill was a genius.

What I’m referring to is a bubble level, or a spirit level as it’s sometimes called, not a laser level. I don’t know that you can get a drill with a built-in laser level, but it would be pretty cool if you could. Anyway, the bubble level is usually built into the top of the drill and with it, you can make sure the hole you are drilling or the screw you are driving is going in straight. We usually just eyeball that kind of thing, but sometimes it is absolutely imperative that you have an exact 90 degree angle, and a built-in level makes sure that you do. It’s awesome, and I highly recommend it.

Clip It or Slip It

Ok, so that may not be the greatest tagline there, but I’m moving on to the ever popular belt clip that you find on so many drills and I couldn’t think of anything else that really rhymed with “Clip”, so we’ll have to live with what we’ve got. But enough about me and my momentary lack of imagination, let’s talk about the belt clip. I would venture to say that almost every drill on the market comes with either a built-in belt clip or one that you can attach to the drill, sometimes on either side of the drill so you can use it whether you are right-handed or a southpaw.

Personally, I don’t like the belt clip and I never use them and most other drill owners I know don’t care for them either. I have, on occasion, used a leather holster attached to my belt that my drill can be slipped into, but I think the belt clips that come with drills are one of the most worthless “extras” that manufacturers have come up with and they insist on including them. I’m sure there are some folks who like them and use them, but I’m not one of them. That is just my opinion and I’m not judging anyone who does like the things, so there’s no reason to get bent out of shape if you do.

Case Closed

The last “extra” I’m going to mention is a storage/carrying case that comes with some drills. There are different types of cases that drills may come with, and I think everyone has their preference as to the type of case they like the best, but the bottom line is I think most people do like having some kind of case included if they can get it. Some drills come with a hard case made of plastic or even aluminum, and some come with sturdy canvas toolbag style cases which can also have several pockets for extra bits and all sorts of other accessories. I know there are some construction professionals for whom tool-specific cases are not of much use, but I think for most do it yourselfers, hobbyists, etc., if we can get a free case, we’ll take it and say “thanks a bunch!”

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

So there you have my rundown on some of the most popular “extras” you can get with a drill, including both features and accessories. Some are probably familiar while others you might not have even thought about. I guess I’d have to say the main thing to remember is that not all extras are going to be of value to you, so when you see them, stop and give them some thought before getting really excited about them or writing them off, and if you can do a little research on features you’ve never heard of, go for it!

Cordless Screwdriver Reviews

I think an electric screwdriver is probably the first power tool most people own. It’s simple, lightweight, and does the jobs it’s designed for really well. The thing people have to remember is that electric screwdrivers are made for basically one thing – inserting and extracting screws. They’re great for hanging pictures, putting together shelves or entertainment units, computer desks, craft projects, small home repairs, and the list goes on. They’re typically small and versatile enough to travel anywhere with you around the house or jobsite, and they aren’t as heavy as drill/drivers so unless you actually need a drill, you can save yourself some user fatigue by sticking with a screwdriver. For a basic power tool that has hundreds of uses, check out the electric screwdrivers here and find your favorite.

Hitachi DB3DL2 Dual Position Cordless Screwdriver

Hitachi is a name that’s known by just about anyone who has bought a few power tools. Their tools are professional grade, but priced pretty comfortably for the everyday Joe Schmo. They make just about every power tool you can think of, and probably a few you may not know even exist. So of course, I had to check out at least one Hitachi product. The Hitachi DB3DL2 Lithium-Ion 3.6 Dual-Position Volt Cordless Screwdriver is one that I took a really good look at.

Black & Decker SmartSelect Screwdriver

What sets Black and Decker apart from most of the other big names is that their main focus is on the homeowner – the do it yourselfer. They actually started the first line of drills for consumers when, in 1946, they introduced the world’s first portable electric drill made specifically for consumers. Not ones to sit on their laurels, the company continued to be at the forefront of advancements in power tool technology, always striving to come up with the next best thing.

Impact Driver Reviews

An impact driver is one of those tools people think they’ll never need, but can’t figure out how they lived without one after taking one home for the first time. The impact driver can be used as a drill to screw/unscrew screws and drill holes, but it has a lot more power so if you’re working with thick hardwoods or very dense materials, it can step up to the plate when your regular drill strikes out. With an impact driver, when the bit meets enough resistance, it doesn’t quit like a simple drill will. Instead, it engages its impact mechanism which acts as though the screw has been grabbed with a wrench which is then pounded (or impacted) with a hammer, to provide the extra power to drive that bad boy home. It’s great for removing old rusted bolts or screws that are stuck and won’t come loose. The additional power an impact driver provides is becoming more popular than ever, so get started by checking out the selection I have provided here.

Milwaukee 2462-20 M12 Impact Driver

Milwaukee Tool has a line called the M12 Cordless System. Basically, they have created an entire line of cordless compact power tools focusing on durability, power, and convenience. There are now more than 60 tools in the M12 line, making it the largest sub-compact cordless system on the market, and it is also the #1 sub-compact system there is.

Today I’m checking out Milwaukee’s 2462-20 M12 Impact Driver. C’mon with me and I’ll let you know what I’ve been able to find out about it.

Bosch PS41-2A Impact Driver Kit

This time I’m taking a look at the Bosch PS41-2A 1/4-inch hex impact driver kit. It’s called a kit because it comes with two batteries, a battery charger, and a case to keep everything in one place. It’s a simple concept, I know, but I did feel the need to let you know all the goodies you get with this little bugger. Bosch has put together quite a nice package here and the driver itself is pretty impressive on its own. So pull a chair up to the workbench with me and let’s take a look, shall we?

Makita XDT08Z 18V Brushless Impact Driver

Makita is to power tools what Chiquita is to bananas. If that doesn’t make sense to you, think of it this way: Makita and Chiquita are both names that indicate high quality in their respective fields. Makita makes power tools, Chiquita is probably the best known name in bananas.

Makita is one of the best known names in power tools and their XDT08Z LXT Impact Driver is one I absolutely had to do some digging into because how complete can a review of great impact drivers be if it doesn’t include one by Makita? So let’s get to it.