Posted by: perfectwoodworking | March 15, 2010

What to Look for in a Cordless Drill

          The original cordless drill had neither a motor nor a battery. There was a hand drill in my father’s workshop long before he invested in an electric drill with a cord. The first battery-powered drill was the tool that started off the cordless revolution which eventually caused all sorts of tools to become available in cordless models. Some types of tools are more suitable to cordless use than others. Usually those tools that move around a lot in use and do not require large amounts of electricity are the best candidates for battery power. So, the electric drill, by its very nature, was the first tool to get a battery.



          When you are using a drill at many different locations, it’s a real pain to have to drag a cord around with you. At first, cordless drills weren’t very powerful and the batteries didn’t last that long. For a while, that was an excuse for woodworkers to resist the upgrade to cordless. Today’s cordless drills, especially in the 18 Volt class are both powerful in terms of torque and their lithium ion batteries are long-lasting. The chargers are fast and so, with two batteries to switch off, it’s hard to run out of juice.

           So where do different models of cordless drill stand apart from one another? Actually, in several areas, the most important being tool weight and twisting power or torque. It used to be a rule that if you wanted more power and/or longer battery life, you had to accept heavier tool weight. While this is still true, in a general sense, important inroads are being made by major drill manufacturers to turn this equation around.


          Tool weight is important in a drill or impact driver because these are tools that you hold out at arm’s length all day and while 5 to 10 pounds may not sound like much, each weight increase from drill to drill counts for a lot at the end of a long day on the job even if your name is Hercules.

           Power is important because drills are often used to drive screws even though there is a better tool for that job: the impact driver. Most 18 Volt cordless drills come with half-inch chucks and if you have ever drilled a deep ½” hole in hardwood, you know the need for power. You might even find yourself driving a large Forstner bit which is a lot more than 1/2″. You don’t want to buy a drill that will bog down on the job.

           A drill is the kind of tool that a woodworker uses the most and so it is important to put on your thinking cap to make sure that you are buying the right one for your needs.


           Battery size, expressed in amp hours is another important consideration. All Lithium Ion 18 Volt batteries are not alike in terms of size, weight or how long they will last between charges. That goes for chargers, as well. A half-hour charger, as opposed to an hour charger can make a real difference if you are constantly changing batteries.

           When you comparison shop the brands, you will note that drill power and drill weights are all over the place. So are the prices. You can save by buying factory-reconditioned tools but don’t buy an underpowered drill with a small battery just to save money. Don’t buy an overweight drill just because it has a bit more torque than its lighter competitor. Get the drill you need. You will thank yourself later.

Bob Gillespie

For similar articles and tool reviews see:

©2010 Robert M. Gillespie, Jr.


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