Cordless drills are the heart of any handyman’s arsenal of power tools. Drills are the perfect tool for boring holes in all sorts of materials, and in a pinch, they can also be useful in driving long screws through wood and plastic. If you plan on taking up any construction project shortly, you’re going to want one of these wire-free bad boys hanging on your work belt.
But from the seemingly infinite number of cordless drills currently available, how can you tell which of them is suited for certain jobs? Well, that’s why we’re here. In this guide, we’ll offer our knowledge on how you can find the right cordless drill for the right job. But first things first…
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There are several benefits that a cordless drill has over its corded counterparts.
The first advantage of cordless drills is maneuverability. There aren’t any power cords to tie the tool down to an outlet since they take their source of power with them (rechargeable battery packs). Working in remote areas, construction sites, wet places (bathroom), and the woodshop become much more convenient with cordless tools.
Speaking of the battery, they’re rechargeable and can pack quite a bit of power. Long are the days of limited 20-minute runtime per charge. With modern models, you can get up to 40 minutes of continuous power. Of course, the runtime depends on the size of the battery and what material you’re drilling.
Furthermore, cordless tools make construction and renovation jobs generally safer. You don’t have to fumble around with long power cords and/or extension cords. This makes working in high places and overhead easier and, therefore, safer.
Cordless drills for different jobs
From the title of this article, you can correctly assume that we’re going to talk about several types of cordless drills suited for different jobs. The thing to understand about cordless drills is that they are not just divided by whether they’re cordless or not, but can also fall into different categories based on how powerful they are and what materials their bits can drill through.
In the following sections, we’re going to talk about what makes a cordless drill ideal for woodworking, concrete and masonry, and metalworking.
Best Cordless Drill for Woodworking
Of the three types of materials we’re discussing today – wood, metal, and concrete – wood is the softest and thus does not need a tremendously large or powerful drill to bore holes through. The following guide will describe the various specs and features that are commonly found in cordless drills used for woodworking jobs.
Cordless drills use battery packs of various voltages. In general, woodworking cordless drills come with 12V batteries which are the smallest battery that comes with cordless drills. However, you shouldn’t equate small with weak since they are still able to power the drill to bore holes in thick wooden boards and drive hundreds of screws in a single charge.
General-purpose and woodworking power drills typically feature 3/8-inch chucks. These aren’t the smallest chucks available, but they’re far from being the largest. Generally speaking, many woodworking projects won’t require heavy-duty ½- or 1-inch chucks to remove the material or fasten wooden boards. If you want something more versatile with more capable of driving larger screws deeper, a ½-inch chuck is a great alternative.
Not all cordless drill models come with interchangeable chucks, but those that do deserve some attention. Cordless drills with swappable chucks can come with a drill chuck and a driver chuck. These are known as drill/driver combo tools which are much handier at both removing material and driving screws.
Another thing you should know about interchangeable chucks is that some of them also come with chucks that help with drilling and driving at awkward angles or in tight spaces. These are a definite life- and time-saver when doing cabinetry work or when working in cramped areas where your arm and tool don’t have a wide range of movement.
Proper illumination is the key to producing high-quality wood-based art. If most of your work is done in a bright woodshop or garage, then LEDs may be overkill, but when it comes time to hang cabinets or shelves in closets, the LED lights on your cordless drill will render external sources (torches work lights) completely redundant. Most modern cordless power drills come with built-in LED lights.
Even though cordless drills are naturally lightweight – at least compared to many corded and older cordless drills – it’s still a good idea to take a close look at the tool’s weight. Most cordless tools, without their battery, weigh between 2 and 8 pounds, but light-duty, woodworking models tend to weigh a maximum of 4 pounds. In our opinion, lighter is better since the added weight usually means a beefier motor which may not be necessary for your next woodworking endeavor.
Best Cordless Drill for Concrete
Compared to woodworking cordless drills, there is a lot more flexibility in terms of what specs and features make a good concrete/masonry cordless drill. However, there are certain factors that you should be aware of. In this section, we’ll discuss combination cordless drills (combi drill for short) and how they are best suited for concrete work.
What is a Combi Drill?
A combi drill is a 3-in-1 cordless drill that excels at boring holes in all sorts of materials. Apart from concrete work, they can also be used for woodworking and drilling through metal.
However, the reason why we’re discussing combi drills in this section and not in woodworking or metalwork is that they’re considered a specialty type of drill. The average DIY-er may not find the need to spend more on an all-in-one cordless drill when they work exclusively with wood.
The following is a quick guide on what you need to be on the lookout for when shopping for a combi drill.
The thing that sets combi drills apart from standard power drills is the forward hammer-like blows that send the drill bit deeper in your work. Without the hammering action, there would be no way for the drill to pierce hard concrete and masonry adequately.
The forward hammering is measured in blows per minute (BPM) which indicates how many times a nonexistent hammer forces the drill’s bit father into your material. Many of the best combi drills have a variable speed feature, but if you plan on using your combi drill exclusively for concrete, then a good BPM count would be around 20,000.
Even though a hammer drill would do just about the same job as a combi drill, we prefer combi drills because their hammer action can be turned on or off with the flick of a switch or by changing chucks.
Apart from how many times the combi drill hammers into your material per minute, you should also consider its torque rating. Torque is the rotational force that helps the bit remove more material more efficiently. A higher torque rating is ideal, but many models come with twisting chucks that let you adjust how much torque to deliver based on the task at hand (once again, combi drills can be used on anything). For drilling through concrete, the tool should deliver at least 400 inch-pounds of torque.
The size of the combi drill’s chuck determines the largest bit it can mount. Good combi drills should start at ½-inch chucks but can also be as large as 1 inch. In our opinion, a larger is better, especially if you need a combi drill to pierce through hard concrete and masonry.
Length and Weight
Since combi drills are used for all materials, they don’t possess the elegance and thinness of general-purpose cordless drills. This isn’t a problem since cutting through concrete and masonry isn’t exactly an elegant job. Therefore, the weight and length of the tool don’t matter.
Since combi drills produce hammer-like blows to cut through rock and concrete effectively, you’ll need all the help you can get in keeping the unit stable. This is why combi drills, like hammer drills, come with side handles that let you use both hands to grip and control the unit while it creates tiny tremors when activated.
Best Cordless Drill for Metal
The final type of cordless drill we’d like to talk about is used for drilling through metal. Note that for drilling through thick conduits, pipes, or beams, a drill press or a magnetic drill press would be ideal. However, if you just need to make holes in thin sheets, then a handheld, compact cordless drill would be the more cost-effective alternative.
At least an 18V Battery
For drilling through metal, your cordless drill needs a larger battery. Even though a huge battery doesn’t necessarily mean improved drilling power, it does mean a longer battery life which is necessary since drilling through metal can be time- and energy-consuming. A cordless drill for metalwork should have at least an 18V battery, though bigger is better. You may even want to consider a 24V battery for extended runtime.
Unlike wood, metal requires a more delicate drilling speed to bore holes without too much burr. The best thing would be to get a variable speed cordless drill that cuts through metal on its first gear and plastic/wood on its higher gear(s). A drill speed of around 300 RPM is ideal for metal.
The debate of whether to get brushed or brushless motors on your cordless drill is one that has existed for many years. In general, brushed motors are more cost-effective if you don’t use the tool regularly. However, when drilling through metal, which is a tougher material than wood, brushless motors are actually ideal. They have a higher purchase price but will not fail due to overheating as quickly. Furthermore, they’re much more efficient than their brushed counterparts so you can cut considerably more holes through metal per battery charge.
The clutch positions on a power drill indicate how much torque the tool delivers when the trigger is activated. The higher the clutch position, the more torque is delivered. Many models come with more than 20 clutch positions which are ideal for working on several types of materials, from drywall to metal.
The size of the chuck is the dealer’s choice. The right and wrong chuck size are relative to the thickness of the metal piece you’re drilling. For thicker pieces like conduits or pipes, we recommend a larger chuck – between ½ and 1 inch. If you’re working with thin aluminum sheets, then even a ¼-inch bit would be fine. Of course, you’re able any sized bit on large chucks, so the versatile alternative would be to get a 1-inch chuck.
Power drills are the heart and soul of any handyman’s collection of power tools. Their main job is to remove material from your workpiece before driving a fastener into the hole with an impact driver. However, modern drill models produce enough torque to drive screws of almost any size, practically eliminating the need for an impact driver for woodworking projects.
But drills aren’t just used for woodworking, are theyPower drills, even cordless models, are powerful enough to drill through metal, metal, and concrete.
If you’re on the hunt for the right cordless drill, the main question you should ask yourself is what materials you plan on working withWood, metal, and concrete have different densities, and thus the drill needs to have the right junk in the trunk for different jobs.
Woodworking cordless drills don’t need to be particularly powerful since wood is one of the softest building materials around. That being said, almost any cordless drill would be able to suit woodworking projects. When drilling through concrete, the drill needs that extra push to pierce the material and remove material from your work.
Combi drills with a hammering feature/chuck are ideal for digging deeper into concrete or masonry blocks. As for metal, the cordless tool doesn’t require a high-speed chuck or maximum torque delivery, but the tool will require a pretty beefy battery to supply the brushless motor (ideal but not an absolute must) drive the bit through metal while simultaneously deburring the hole.
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