Without question, the electric drill is the most popular power tool. It is not difficult to explain why. In a world where tools are designed for specialized tasks, the drill stands out as a true jack of all trades. One will not only use it to bore holes in materials ranging from wood to metal and concrete, but one will drive screws and nuts, wire-brush away rust, or paint, drum sand contoured edges, stir paint and, with a small earth auger, even help out in spring bulb-planting chores. Power drill capacity is designated by the maximum-size shank that the chuck can accommodate.
The three most common sizes are 1/4, 3/8 and 1/2 inch. Although chuck capacity does provide some indication as to what the tool can handle, drill bits are available with step-down shanks to increase the capacity of the smaller tools. The most popular class of portable power drills is the 3/8 inch variable-speed, reversible design. For most situations, it represents an ideal compromise in terms of power, weight and ease of handling. Variable speed provides full speed control-via finger pressure on the trigger. This permits slow-turning, low-rpm starts that prevent the bit from skipping and wandering. It also makes driving screws and nuts easy. Reverse-rotation capability is invaluable for backing out jammed bits and removing screws. Manufacturers usually offer this tool in two versions that differ primarily in their top speeds. Higher-speed tools are better at handling relatively small holes in wood.
Lower-speed models are designed to handle large-diameter holes and metal drilling. In addition to chuck size, most manufacturers specify maximum capacities in wood and metal. For the most part, these figures are useful only in comparing two drills of the same make-where a consistent standard is used for each tool. One will find that many of the tools can be pushed beyond their limits. Makers also specify amperage ratings for their drills that indicate maximum electrical current usage. While these figures correspond to actual power output, one may find that a tool of lower amperage outperforms a slightly higher-rated tool.
Although many models of drills feature ball bearings and needle or roller bearings, some may still exhibit side-to-side looseness, or radial play, at the chuck. Given the work that these tools are designed to handle, this may not be much of a problem. However, it is reasonable to wonder if a sloppy bearing is not the result of designing a tool via an accountant’s balance sheet rather than at the drawing board. Several manufacturers offer drills that come with an auxiliary handle-an indispensable accessory for heavy-duty hole boring.
Some types come with a clip for holding the tool on a belt. Another handy feature to watch for is a speed dial that permits the trigger to be locked at any point in the speed range. By eliminating the need for finger pressure on the trigger entirely, this feature is especially helpful when sanding or polishing. Many manufacturers now offer models with electronic circuits that maintain the selected speed while the tool is under load.
Are you a home handyman and searching for better tools for your trade or profession?