10 Types of Drills and How to Use Them
Drills are for boring holes and driving fasteners, but they can do much more. Here's a rundown of the various types of drills for home improvement.
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Choosing a Drill
A drill has always been an important woodworking and machining tool. Today, an electric drill is indispensable for anyone driving screws for installations, maintenance and repairs around the house.
Of course, there are many types of drills out there, and not all function as screwdrivers. Those that do can be used for multiple other functions. A few drill hacks include mixing paint, snaking drains, sanding furniture and even peeling fruit!
Besides rotating a bit for boring, driving screws or other functions, some drills offer a hammering action to drill through concrete. Some drills make it possible to bore holes and drive screws in places you couldn’t even fit a screwdriver.
Because they don’t need as much power as other tools, electric drills were among the first to go cordless. Today, portability makes cordless drills more popular than corded. But there are still plenty of jobs that need the extra torque that only a corded tool can develop. Within these two categories, you’ll find exactly the right tool for your boring and driving needs.
Common Drill Features
Whether corded or cordless, every power drill has many of the same features.
- Chuck: This holds the drill bit. Older chucks had to be tightened with a key (which was easy to lose), but most of today’s chucks can be hand-tightened. A drill with a slotted-drive-shaft (SDS) chuck holds an SDS-compatible bit without being tightened. Just slip in the bit and start drilling.
- Jaw: The part of the chuck that tightens onto the bit. Drills vary on how reliably the jaws hold the bit.
- Motor: Many of the new cordless drills offer brushless motors, which develop more torque, use less power and allow for more compact design. Corded drills have more powerful motors than cordless. so they can do more difficult jobs.
- Variable speed reversing (VSR): VSR is standard on most drills. The trigger controls the drill rotation speed, with a separate button for reversing rotation. The latter comes in handy for backing out screws and pulling out a bit after it has done its job.
- Auxiliary handle: You’ll find this extending out perpendicularly from the drill body on powerful drills for tough jobs, like drilling concrete.
- LED guide light: Who doesn’t appreciate extra light when they’re working? An LED guide light is an almost standard feature on cordless drills.
Back in the day, carpenters used brace-and-bit drills. For lighter jobs, manufacturers came up with a gear-driven model. More efficient and easier-to-use power drills tackle these jobs now, but people who work with jewelry and circuit boards still need the accuracy and responsiveness of a hand drill.
If you’re a hobbyist or you like to tinker with circuits, this Mudder Hand Drill is highly-rated for precision use. It comes with a wide selection of bits for multiple purposes.
You have to be a Boomer to remember when all electric drills were corded. Today, you only need a corded drill when the going gets tough and you need extra power.
The workhorse DeWalt DWD210G 1/2-inch Electric Drill can satisfy that need. The 10-amp motor develops superior torque for drilling and driving, the 1/2-inch chuck accepts heavy-duty bits, and the removable handle gives you leverage to bear down on dense material and stubborn bolts.
Cordless drills vary from lightweight for around-the-house jobs to workhorses for contractors in heavy construction. The power differences come from the batteries.
Even if you don’t think you need a drill for heavy use, it’s better to have a powerful corded drill than one that will freeze up that one time you need it to free up a stuck screw. The Ryobi 18V 1/2-inch Cordless Drill packs power in a light, easy-to-carry housing. It comes with that all-important LED to guide you while you work.
A hammer drill creates an oscillating hammering action when the bit rotates. There are great for drilling through brick, mortar and concrete blocks. In a pinch it will drill through poured concrete.
The compact DeWalt DCD996B Hammer Drill comes with a brushless motor, and the 20V battery provides the extra punch you need for tough drilling. Like most quality cordless drills, this one also has a light. The 1/2-inch chuck accepts heavy-duty bits and holds them securely.
Rotary Hammer Drill
A rotary hammer drill isn’t the same thing as a hammer drill. It offers the same hammering action, but produced by a piston in the drill shaft. This tool works faster than a hammer drill. It’s the one you need for heavy-duty work like breaking up old concrete, or setting fasteners in concrete for retaining walls and fences.
This Bosch Rotary Hammer Drill features an SDS chuck for quick bit changes.
An impact driver is used exclusively to drive bolts, screws and other fasteners. A spring-loaded clutch mechanism behind the chuck increases the torque of the bit in regular increments. That makes driving long screws and retracting stuck ones a much easier job than if you do it with a regular drill.
The Ryobi One+ model often comes as an add-on when you buy the Ryobi cordless drill, which makes a nice package. It features an 1/4-inch SDS chuck that accepts any type of driver bit.
With the chuck facing perpendicular to the body, this drill gets into tight places.
It’s an invaluable tool for DIY electrical, plumbing and carpentry work with limited clearance. If you have to drill a hole in a cabinet wall for a new dishwasher drain line, or a hole in a stud to install new electrical wires, you’ll be glad you have one of these.
The DeWalt 20V Max features the convenience of a cordless drill with the power of a corded one, so it can tackle tough jobs.
If you work with metal and other materials in the shop, you can’t do everything with a handheld drill. Sometimes you need the precision and stability of a stationary tool.
A drill press allows you to clamp the work in place and lower the drill bit incrementally while controlling rotation speed. This makes for accurate and repeatable drilling operations.
The Wen 1412 Drill Press features a work light, laser alignment system and tilting work table that allows you to bore holes at precise angles. It also has a depth adjustment gauge.
If you need to bore holes in the ground, you need an earth auger. It’s useful for digging post holes for fences and cultivating the soil for planting, among other things.
This is one place in which cordless technology is really helpful, because cords are often impractical outdoors. The Ryobi 40V Cordless Auger features brushless technology and a powerful battery, so it has all the power you’re likely to need.
A screw gun looks like a drill. But like an impact driver, it only drives screws. It’s a more specialized tool than an impact driver because you only use it to drive screws in drywall. It automatically sets them at just the right depth for mudding without breaking the drywall paper.
If you do a fair amount of drywall work, a tool like Makita’s 18V Cordless Screw Gun is a good choice. You can use it anywhere and finish jobs that much faster.