Clueless about tools, want a power drill and screwdriver
March 20, 2017 11:10 AM   Subscribe

I would like a good drill that can also be used as a power screwdriver. Does this exist? What's a good one? How much should I spend?

Please hold my hand and walk me through this, I'm clueless about tools.

I recently borrowed a friend's drill and wondered if it could be used as a screwdriver as well, but friend said no. Does there exist a combo tool that can do both? I'll use it for drilling holes in wood and screwing things together, e.g., to make garden boxes.
posted by medusa to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yes. My DeWalt cordless drill has screwdriver attachments. I love my drill.
posted by TORunner at 11:15 AM on March 20, 2017

Sure, I have a drill that came with flat and Philips screw bits and I use it for screwing things together. I think this one is mine (note it does not come with drill bits so you will need to buy a separate kit of those for drilling holes):
posted by joan_holloway at 11:15 AM on March 20, 2017

Best answer: Oh most definitely. On most, there will be a speed selector (drilling is much faster and lower torque). There will also be an adjustable clutch-- all the way up for drilling, lowest for soft wood/danger of stripping, medium for less danger of stripping. I like mine.
posted by supercres at 11:17 AM on March 20, 2017

Best answer: I would recommend you read the sweethome article on the subject; recommendations, key features, different price points, etc.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:22 AM on March 20, 2017 [8 favorites]

Any basic hand drill can be used as a power screwdriver - that's one of their main uses in my opinion. You just need screwdriver drill bits (and to learn how to change the bit, which will depend on your specific drill).
posted by brainmouse at 11:29 AM on March 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I should note that you can use a drill for screwdriving and from a budget perspective this is a great way to go.

That being said I highly recommend getting a drill and separate driver (for screws).

First impact or power drivers tend to to do the screwing job better than drills. Second if you're working with wood it often is required/easier to pre-drill before screwing. Having two tools so you don't have to swap out bits is a total lifesaver.
posted by bitdamaged at 11:29 AM on March 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Your friend, respectfully, kinda doesn't know anything about their tools.

You want a cordless drill, first off. Don't even bother looking at corded ones. I have both. Drills with cords are a pain in the ass.

Which brings us to batteries. Some cordless drills are sold without the battery. Some are sold without the charger. I'd suggest buying one that comes with both. You should also price out battery replacements if the one you buy has a removable battery. You'll need one at some point, and with some brands the replacement is as expensive as the drill.

The battery can also add a significant amount of weight. Add to this: Do you have small hands (like I do)? Consider overall weight and size of the drill. Using one that's too big or too heavy for you for too long will lead to fatigue (and sloppy work). Heft a few in a hardware store and decide what feels comfortable.

Some drills have lights that shine on the area you're drilling. That's a really cool feature, but probably not necessary for a general user like you.

Get one good set of multi-purpose bits and one good set of magnetic drivers (i.e., screwdriver bits) to start off with. Magnetic bits hold the screw to the bit and reduce the number of times you'll drop that screw (because you will drop that screw). If you find you need bits for metal, ceramics, glass, etc., by a specialized bit when you need it.

A 3/8" drill will give you the most flexibility. I have this 3/8" Black and Decker. It's lightweight, small enough to get into tight spaces, and holds a charge well. Bonus, for me, is that the charger plugs directly into the drill. It doesn't require the purchase of a separate charger.

I've never had a problem with it and would recommend it as a starter. If you figure out you need something bigger, you can upgrade later.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:31 AM on March 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I just last month bought the one that sweethome recommends, and it has been great for both drilling and screw driving. It doesn't come with any drill bits or screwdriver bits, but you can find a starter kit of those when you get the tool. (The $10 Bosch kit that amazon recommends isn't so great, though.)
posted by moonmilk at 11:32 AM on March 20, 2017

Like @moonmilk, I recently bought the drill that sweethome recommends, and agree that it is great. It both drills and screws well.
posted by OrangeDisk at 11:37 AM on March 20, 2017

Best answer: As others have said, you can use (almost) any drill as a screwdriver, so long as it will turn slow enough, but anything that calls itself a screwdriver or a driver/drill will come with a clutch, that will keep you from overdriving your screws or (in extreme cases) having the drill fly out of your hands. Probably your friend's tool didn't have that feature.

I just looked at that sweethome link mentioned above, and it looks like good advice. When buying a battery-operated tool, there is generally a trade-off between power and weight, so a lightweight tool that has good power & good battery life is a good tool to buy.
posted by mr vino at 11:41 AM on March 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've got an older version of the Milwaukee sweethome recommends; if you go with that one pick up one of the 4 amp hour batteries that fit it if you anticipate any drilling as it'll drive a lot harder and faster than the nominal 2x capacity would indicate. And ya, I drive screws with it, both wood screws into wood and anchors and machine screws into electrical equipment all the time. It's variable speed so while it does have a clutch I pretty well use it on the no clutch setting all the time. Just takes a bit (ok, maybe a lot) of practice to not strip screws when driving them. However it probably helps that I'm in Canada so most screws are camout resistant Robertsons not Phillips.

Finally even if you buy online I'd recommend buying something that is supported locally (which Bosch isn't here much). And many local tool places can match online pricing.

Initially I wouldn't buy a large expensive set of bits. Buy some cheap 30/50/100 piece bit set and then replace the ones you break with quality individual bits. That way you have a large variety of weird bits on hand for not much money and you have good quality (expensive) bits for the ones you actually use a lot.

PS: I love the heck out of these DeWalt Tough Case storage containers. Small enough that one can divide bits up by task/job/type. Cheap. Tough as implied by the name. I've got them for
  • driver bits
  • concrete bits
  • brad point drill bits
  • steel drill bits
  • taps and matching drill bits
  • jig saw blades
  • a couple different ones for storing assorted screws and stakons

posted by Mitheral at 12:35 PM on March 20, 2017

Best answer: I have a number of battery powered drills.

In the "small and lightweight" category, I have lost and bought replacements for the Milwaukee M12 drill, but when I suggested that last time there was a question someone showed me this review that put that one second to the Bosch 12v drill. Has a clutch so you don't over-drive screws, two speed ranges so that you have control over the speed. Looks perfect.

I'm also a fan of not buying low-end tools, and I had that reinforced this weekend when I was working on a project with someone else's Craftsman drill: The run-out (how much slop there was in the bearings) was pretty amazing. You don't necessarily need to buy Festool (though I do), but don't buy the bottom tier of tools.
posted by straw at 1:17 PM on March 20, 2017

Best answer: If you ever intend on expanding your tool set there's something to be said for picking from a set of tools that share the same battery system. One charger and a few batteries is better than half a dozen tools each with their own special battery/charger combo.
posted by zengargoyle at 1:35 PM on March 20, 2017

Best answer: Nthing to look for "drill/driver."

A drill/drive is exactly the kind of tool that Home Depot or Walmart will demand to sell for the lowest possible price, so the least expensive models you find there may be compromised to get the price point down.

On tools in general: there is a huge range of quality in just about every category. The trick is to pick out the amount of quality that you need for your particular job. Just as an example, I have a circular saw that cost about $50. It is not capable of the precision that you can get from a $250 saw, nor is it anywhere near as durable. OTOH, it has served my purposes, and, in 30 years, I have not cut as many linear feet as a pro might do in an afternoon building a deck.
posted by SemiSalt at 1:56 PM on March 20, 2017

Best answer: Everyone is correct about being able to use pretty much any decent modern drill as a driver. I would just like to add my support to bitdamaged's (heh) advice above. A separate impact driver is a life-changing tool, and worth every penny if you can afford it.

The DeWalt stuff seems really good these days. I have a fairly recent 20v drill + impact driver set that came with a couple of batteries and a soft bag; would probably buy the same thing today.
posted by brennen at 2:09 PM on March 20, 2017

The only thing I'd add is to consider your usage patterns and scenarios. I have a cordless drill/driver that's a few years old and being stuck waiting for the battery to charge has been getting on my nerves lately. I could buy a spare one, but I'd still need to keep them charged and the thought of a corded tool I can use at any spontaneous moment is pretty tempting.
posted by trig at 3:46 PM on March 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I use a 18v DeWalt almost every day at my job to drill holes in the sides of houses, bore pilot holes into masonry then follow with tapcon screws, install and uninstall antenna mounts, use hole saws, and general screw-turning, hole-drilling, etc. With the proper sets of bits and drivers you can acomplish a huge amount of drill-, screw-, hole-, and nut-related tasks.
posted by glonous keming at 3:58 PM on March 20, 2017

Best answer: I'm female, with small hands and not too strong and I recently bought a cordless drill that also takes a screwdriver bit. I'm in the UK and got a Stanley FatMax, but the equivalent specification in the US looks very much like this Black & Decker. Apparently the more numbers around the drill, the higher the torque (whatever the hell that is, but apprently more is better in the world of drills) and it also has a hammer function for drilling into brick.

I spent a lot of time looking at drills in stores, picking them up and weighing up how they felt to hold, and I also asked a couple of people who use power tools for a living what I should be looking for. The drill I got is powerful but lightweight and I feel fully in control of it. There are also a ton of videos on YouTube about what settings to use when drilling different materials, which I've found very helpful.
posted by essexjan at 4:44 PM on March 20, 2017

My husband has the 12V Bosch cordless drill/driver and it has been great for both uses so far. It's lightweight and the battery lasts long enough if you don't need to use the drill every day.
posted by cp311 at 11:57 PM on March 20, 2017

Response by poster: Thank you for the helpful suggestions and careful explanations. I'm ready to go shopping. Sweethome looks like a great resource for this and other things. And because I couldn't resist -

Metafilter: a huge amount of drill-, screw-, hole-, and nut-related tasks.
posted by medusa at 9:59 AM on March 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

The 18v DeWalt is your jam. Make sure you get the charger and battery with it. Also get some kind of bit holder that has a sleeve; jabbing yourself with philips bits isn't particularly fun.

One thing that isn't always intuitive for people: Most modern cordless drills have a hand chuck and variable settings. See that front assembly on the DeWalt, where the bits go? You reverse the drill and hold that area to loosen the chuck; in normal forward operation that's how you tighten it around the bit.

The numbered ring behind that has varying settings that seem like they might be related to speed; they're actually at least partly intended to save you screws. Operating on lower settings will make the drill disengage rather than stripping the screw/driver; operating it in drill mode while driving screws can make you strip bits and snap off heads.

I slightly disagree with mudpuppie about corded drills; there are a ton of situations where it's worth it to have the option of being able to just plug something in instead of waiting for batteries to charge. Doing big drywall jobs I'd much rather have a proper corded driver.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:48 AM on March 22, 2017

Response by poster: In case there are other tool novices thinking of stocking up, the 12V Bosch drill recommended in the sweethome review is currently on sale at amazon in a combo which includes an impact driver for $129.
posted by medusa at 2:41 PM on March 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

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