Drill recommendations requested
October 5, 2009 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Please recommend a cheap, variable-torque, corded drill that will not destroy everything it touches.

My previous experiences with [my grandfather's] corded drills has led me to believe that they all have so much power that screws must always pull halfway through 2x4s with only a quick pulse of the trigger. Cordless drills have had the option of squeezing the trigger gently to turn the bit more slowly, but battery life was always an issue. They never seemed to survive an entire job.

When I borrow cordless drills these days, I am *so impressed* by the amount of power, the fineness of speed control, and the battery life. I would buy a fancy cordless drill if I found an inexpensive one, but I believe that corded drills are cheaper and less likely to die when I need them most.

My two main concerns in drill selection are:
price, and
torque/speed variability.

The most intuitive style to me is where a harder squeeze of the trigger results in less action. The other [less desirable, but still acceptable] style is the torque-limiting chucks. You know the kind? Where you spin a ring on the chuck to select a number and once there is enough resistance the drill just makes a clicking sound without turning the bit? That kind. Maybe there are other ways, too, and I won't avoid them if they actually work.

I do not need an impact driver, but I do work on everything from very soft woods to medium-gauge metal. I generally don't use power tools for many months and then am involved in a random project like framing/drywalling/bulk ikea assembly/making shelves/building decks/whatever.

My limit is around $100 for the moment. If I didn't have a pool of people who didn't mind lending me their tools, I'd have a bigger budget.

Bonus points if you tell me about a cordless drill that fits in that budget that has sufficient power/battery life.

Also noteworthy is that I am in Alberta, and shipping things from the US is always more expensive than I expect.
posted by Acari to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have had a Makita corded drill for 24 years now. Of course, Makita doesn't sell it anymore, but I saw this model (6402) which appears to have the feature set of my drill. I can't say if it's the same quality as mine, but as I said, it appears to be.

What makes my drill work for me is that I can finely control the speed of the motor by how far I pull the trigger AND there is a set screw that limits how far the trigger goes. For this particular drill, I prefer the keyed chuck. I've used it to drill materials including balsa wood, plexi, and concrete. I have also used it to mix paint, mortar and grout.
posted by plinth at 11:12 AM on October 5, 2009

Chicago Electric Power Tools from Harbor Freight @ $20. I've owned this drill for ~8 years & it's still running strong.
posted by torquemaniac at 11:52 AM on October 5, 2009

The problem is that corded drills tend to be designed for drilling, not for screwing. That means they are geared for higher speeds and tend to not have adjustable clutches. That's why your grandfather's model was so bad at screwing things in. The cordless models usually are more designed as a blend: they aren't as good for drilling (due to lower gearing) but are a lot better for screwing. My advice: if you are primarily interested in screwing, and only drill infrequently, then just get a cordless screwdriver; don't try to use a corded drill for screwing. If you do buy a corded drill make sure it has adjustable gearing (not just variable speed! that's a big difference) and obviously an adjustable clutch, but I wouldn't be surprised if most of the cheap corded models lack those features.

I'm not sure what your complaint about "not having it when you need it" is about -- all the cordless tools I've seen have chargers that will completely charge a battery pack from deal to full in about 45 minutes (sometimes less.)
posted by Rhomboid at 8:04 PM on October 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks!

Especially for the tip about adjustable gearing. I never know the proper terminology until some kind soul tells me.
That $20 drill super cheap, and I wouldn't have guessed that it would last for 8 years. Crazy.

Now to actually go out and purchase something from somewhere.

[and the 'not having it when I need it' is about a battery lasting X time units and a job lasting X+1 time units. So frustrating to wait for a charge to drill 2 more holes!]
posted by Acari at 8:24 AM on October 6, 2009

What Rhomboid said, but don't go just for cheap if you chose a cordless screwdriver.
posted by Neiltupper at 2:53 PM on October 6, 2009

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