Among all the portable power tools that exist, the cordless drill is probably the most versatile tool, which makes it very popular among its users. It offers several features and is highly portable, which makes it a great tool to have around your shop or home.
Cordless drills are tools that have a cutting or a driving tool attachment, a drill or a drive bit and are usually used to drive screws, fasten different materials together or bore holes into various types of materials and surfaces.
The attachment is usually held by a chuck at the end of the drill, which rotates when it is pressed to the work material. The tip of the cutting tool or the edges cut into the material. You can use a power drill for other jobs too such as removing thin shavings, grinding small particles, removing portions of the work surface, counterboring, countersinking, etc.
Cordless drills use batteries to work and this is probably the biggest advantage of using the tool. Since it does not need a power connection, a cordless drill offers the convenience of using it both, indoors as well as outdoors, without being worried about where to find a power outlet or being hampered by cables.
Cordless drills are quite lightweight and compact, which helps to reduce hand fatigue when you’re using it for a very long time and the compact size also makes it very easy to store. Cordless drills find their application in DIY projects, metalworking, woodworking, construction and several other industries.
History Of Cordless Drills
The use of rotary tools by humans can be traced way back to 35,000 B.C., where the tool essentially comprised a rock with a sharp pointed tip, spun between the hands to bore holes through any surface or material. This led to the development of the hand drill, which was basically a smooth stick with a flint point tip and was used by rubbing between the palms.
Next came the bow drill or strap drill, around 10,000 years ago, which was the first machine drill that produced a rotary motion. A cord was tied around a stick and the ends of the string was attached to a bow and this was used to create fires, for stonework, woodwork, dentistry, etc.
The core drill came into existence around 3,000 B.C. in ancient Egypt and in the Roman era, the pump drill was invented. The bow drill and pump drill were used to bore small holes in the Western civilization and between the Roman Era and Medieval Ages, the auger was used to drill bigger holes.
The brace and bit came into existence around the 15th century, where the brace is held by the user and the lower portion consists of the interchangeable bit. Next came the gimlet, a smaller version of the auger.
In 221 B.C., churn drills were used in the East during the Qin Dynasty of China and could make holes reaching up to 1500 meters and could even bore through solid rock. The churn drill made its appearance in Europe in the 12th century and the first steam-powered churn drill was invented by Isaac Singer in 1835.
The invention of the electric motor led to the creation of the electric drill in 1889 by William Brain and Arthur Arnot in Australia. In 1895, Carl and Wilhelm Fein of Germany invented the first handheld drill. The first pistol-grip, trigger-switch operated portable electric drill was created by Black and Decker in 1917 and this was the beginning of the era of modern drills.
The evolution of the electric drill saw many changes in design of the drill and the attachments; that’s when the uses for the electric drill went much beyond just drilling holes and it saw its uses as a power saw, orbital sander, etc. It went from just being used by carpenters to being used by electricians, plumbers and other professionals.
In 1961, Black and Decker developed the cordless drill mostly for commercial and industrial use and in 1978, Makita made the cordless power drill available for public use. The advances in battery technology further advanced the use of the cordless power drill.
In the last century, the electric drill technology has advanced tremendously. It has undergone several changes and has been created in different sizes and types for varied applications and uses.
Impact Driver Vs Cordless Drill
Cordless drills are extremely popular in terms of their applications. However, the relatively new power tool on the horizon, the impact driver, has made the popularity of the cordless drill wane a bit. So, what is really the difference between a cordless drill and an impact driver?
Just like the power drill, the impact driver also makes use of the same rotational motion but the primary difference between the two is that, while driving the screw, the impact driver also makes use of the downwards and sideways hammering action.
This makes driving screws into tough materials and surfaces considerably easier. The motion also stops the drive bit from slipping from the head of the screw, whereas in the case of the power drill, you need to apply lots of pressure to keep the bit from slipping off.
Impact drivers are also very useful when you want to remove stubborn bolts and screws. The impact driver’s hammering action makes it easier to remove the fasteners that are over-torqued or corroded.
While impact drives have several advantages, there are a few drawbacks too. Impact drives are not very suitable for precision drilling, which is done better using a power drill, as you don’t really need the hammering action while drilling.
Power drills are equipped with a chuck at one end of the tool that allows you to change the drill bits and it can use various sizes of drill bits. On the other hand, impact drivers feature a quick-change sleeve and it works with ¼-inch hex shanks.
Power drills have 2 gears – the first is slower offering greater torque and is beneficial for driving screws, while the 2nd gear is faster and useful for drilling holes. On the other hand, impact drivers have only a single gear and you need to be more precise when using the variable speed trigger.
Power drills feature a clutch that lets you drive a screw in without over-tightening it. It has a provision, where you can set the torque level required and when the level is reached, the drill stops driving. Impact drivers are not equipped with a clutch and therefore you have to rely on your own accuracy and strength.
Both, impact drivers and power drills complement one another and it’s the best to have both in your tool arsenal, as impact drivers are ideal for driving, while power drills are best for drilling. So, if you’re working with soft woods, plastics, veneers, brass screws or drywall, it is a good idea to use a power drill as it will not damage the material.
However, if you have to deal with lots of thick and long fasteners, plenty of screws or driving through thick materials, then you can do it much faster and more easily with an impact driver.
Drill Driver Combo
Today, several manufacturers offer drill and impact driver combos, which is a very convenient and value for money option. These handy combo tools offer the best combination of the power of an impact driver and the precise versatility of the power drill.
There are several combos available, and the tools may be available in configurations of 2–7 pieces or more in a single combination. However, the most common combo that is very popular is the driver-drill combo. This essentially comprises an impact driver and a cordless drill, and the combination is ideal to take care of several jobs.
The main reason why the drill-driver combo is popular is that you can get 2 products at a much cheaper price than buying them as standalone products. The other reason why this combination is beneficial is that you can make use of the same battery, which makes it much cheaper rather than buying a battery for each tool separately.
Corded Vs Cordless Drill
You can find both, corded as well as cordless power drills in the toolbox of carpenters, electricians, contractors and handymen. Both these tools essentially carry out the same function; however, both are useful in different situations.
When you speak about the convenience and power offered by the two, they are considerably different. The debate is always on whether to go in for a corded drill or a cordless one. Let us look at the difference between corded and cordless power drills. The main differences between the two are:
The key difference between cordless and corded drills is the power offered by the tool. While a cordless drill may not offer enough power required by the job, since the power output depends on the voltage of the battery, the corded drill does not have these limitations.
All the corded drill needs is a power outlet for electricity. You also get greater consistency of speed or torque when using a corded drill and it is a more reliable tool for drilling.
Convenience And Flexibility
A cordless drill offers greater convenience and flexibility. Cordless drills do not have cables that will hamper your movement. You can take your cordless drill anywhere and even use it in places that don’t have a power outlet. And, if something requires fixing super quick, then the cordless drill is the best option for the job. Also, storing the cordless drill is very convenient.
However, the drawback of the cordless drill is that it is heavier and bulkier than a corded tool because of the battery pack.
On the other hand, with a corded drill, you don’t have to worry about the battery being charged, as long as you have a power supply close by. You also don’t have to worry that you will run out of power while you’re in the middle of any project.
The limitations of a corded drill are that when you’re working outdoors, if there is no electricity, then it is impossible to work. Also, finding power outlets and extension cords can be quite difficult. The corded drill is also quite difficult to store.
In terms of the price, corded drills are less expensive and the only additional expense that you will incur is buying drill bits.
Usually, the cordless drill comes along with a battery. However, you will need to buy a second battery as a backup and this can get quite expensive. And, if you don’t use your cordless drill often, then your batteries will age and you will have to incur more expenditure to replace them.
While cordless drills are very convenient in places where you may not have a power supply and can be very convenient for certain types of jobs, corded drills deliver more power. So, you can buy both the tools to get the best of both worlds.
Types Of Batteries In Cordless Drills
To work efficiently and perform its best, a cordless drill needs a good cordless battery. And, choosing the right type of battery technology is equally important as choosing the tool. The 3 types of batteries used for cordless drills are mainly nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel metal hydride (NiMH) and lithium-ion (Li-Ion).
Nickel Cadmium Batteries (NiCd)
Nickel cadmium batteries are the oldest type of batteries among the three. They were invented in 1899 but started being produced commercially only in 1946.
However, despite the technology being quite old, NiCd batteries are still used today as they are inexpensive, sturdy and they have a long life cycle.
While NiCd batteries are well-suited for many tasks, Li-Ion and NiMH batteries outdo NiCd batteries in terms of the overall performance.
Overview Of NiCd Batteries
Pros Of NiCd Batteries
Cons Of NiCd Batteries
Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries (NiMH)
NiMH batteries are newer in technology and started being mass produced in 1989.
NiMH batteries are an improvement over NiCd batteries and on disposal, they are less toxic to the environment.
NiMH batteries also have a comparatively better capacity, around 2-3 times more than NiCd batteries.
These batteries are quite sensitive to the charging and storage conditions.
Overview Of NiMH Batteries
Pros Of NiMH Batteries
Cons Of NiMH Batteries
Lithium-Ion Batteries (Li-Ion)
This is the latest technology in batteries for cordless power tools. In fact, this is the best option of all the 3 types of batteries and the best choice for a cordless power drill. Li-Ion batteries are superior to the other batteries as they are not affected due to poor charging and they also do not suffer due to the memory effect.
However, Li-Ion batteries wear out in the long run due to use and age.
The main drawback of Li-Ion batteries is their short life cycle and also any exposure of the battery to heat while using it or charging it can cause the Li-Ion batteries to deteriorate.
Despite their shortcomings, Li-Ion batteries are a better choice for power drills as they charge very quickly and their capacity is quite high.
Overview Of Li-Ion Batteries
Pros Of Li-Ion Batteries
Cons Of Li-Ion Batteries
Anatomy Of The Cordless Drill
The parts of a cordless drill are:
The cordless drill is usually powered by a battery that is rechargeable. The battery stores the power and provides the power for the drill to work. Many models have a detachable battery, which means that it can be removed from the tool when it requires to be recharged. Some drill models have non-detachable batteries that are inbuilt and cannot be removed.
Power drills usually make use of either nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel metal hydride (NiMH) or lithium-ion (Li-Ion) batteries.
The motor of the cordless drill runs by the power provided by the rechargeable battery. The motor transforms the electrical energy into mechanical energy and turns the chuck.
The chuck is essentially the part of the cordless drill that holds the accessories such as the drill bit. All the cordless drills have a chuck comprising 3 jaws.
Most of the modern cordless drills have a keyless chuck, where to open the jaws, the chuck is turned to one side and once the bit is placed, twisting the chuck in the opposite direction closes the jaws.
The turning force of the drill is known as torque and cordless drills have torque control which lets you adjust the turning force. The torque required depends on the screw size, the size of hole required and the type of material.
Gear Selector Switch
Some models of cordless drills have many gears and various speeds and so, they can do several tasks. You can alternate between the gears by using the gear selector switch.
The grip is where you hold the cordless drill. Some models have textured rubber grips, while others have a simple plastic grip with contours for holding. A textured rubber grip is more comfortable and offers a better hold, especially in moist conditions. This also makes holding the drill more comfortable when you’re working for prolonged periods of time.
Speed Control Trigger
The speed control trigger is used to operate the cordless drill. When you pull the trigger, the chuck starts turning and the more you pull, the faster the chuck will turn. Releasing the trigger will slow down or stop the chuck completely.
The forward/reverse button lets you set the direction in which the motor rotates. The forward direction is for drilling or driving in screws, while the reverse allows you to remove the old drill bits and screws.
The forward/reverse button is located usually above the trigger so that it can be operated easily using your forefinger or thumb.
Many cordless drills feature an LED work light that helps to illuminate the workspace. The LED light is usually located on top of, under or on the chuck and turns on automatically, when you pull the speed control trigger.
Uses Of Cordless Drills
Cordless drills are mainly used to drill holes in materials. However, the latest models allow you to do several other tasks such as:
Maintenance Of Your Cordless Drill
Your cordless drill is an extremely valuable tool and allows you to complete all your jobs properly and quickly. In order to ensure that your drill works efficiently, proper tool maintenance is of utmost importance. Following a few simple steps can ensure the good upkeep of your cordless drill.
The cordless drill has many metal and moving parts. Keep the metal parts of your cordless drill, especially the chuck well-oiled and lubricated.
With use, the vents of the cordless drill can get clogged with dust and dirt, which can build-up and can cause the motor to get overheated and burnt in the long run. So, clean your tool after every use, to prevent accumulation of dust and grime.
Moisture can cause the motor, chuck and other metal parts to get rusted. So, keep your cordless drill in a dry place at all times.
The drill as well as the battery can be affected by temperature. So, store both at room temperature. Very cold temperatures can cause the gears to get compressed due to which the motor will get iced and eventually it will burn out. If the temperature is too warm, the battery life will get reduced.
Keep your cordless drill off the ground as this can be a safety hazard and water and dirt may get into the machine and damage it.
Make use of sharp bits, as using dull bits will burn the motor out due to excess stress and it also takes a lot of time to drill through the surface. Also, make sure that you are using the correct bits for the job. For instance, don’t use wood bits to drill through concrete.
Today, cordless drill technology has advanced so much that these power tools are available in varied shapes and sizes and come with different features. With so many options available, it can become quite difficult to understand the features required and decide on the most cost-effective option.
So, you must evaluate the kind of jobs you do, the features of the cordless drill required and then finally decide on the best cordless drill for you from the various options available and our buying guide will help you just that!