An Overview on Powerful Cordless Drills for the Woodworker
Here our quick guide on cordless drills and tools. As there is a wide range of different drills available on the market, I would like to give you an overview on my favorite cordless drills and what you should look for when you compare them. Particularly if you compare cheap low price drills with professional units from DeWalt, Makita, Bosch or other brand names, you will find enormous differences when you do precise reviews. Let’s get into details and see what type of cordless drills a woodworker really should look for and give you a good idea on how to analyze what is the best cordless drill on the market .
If you think of buying a new kind of drills make sure you check some key points:
- Volts (=cordless drills power) Ampere (=Lasting of Battery) Type of Battery (Ni-Cd or Ni-MH)
- 2 – Position Mechanical Gear
- Electronic Brake (= Drill bit stops immediately)
- Variable Speed Switch Torque settings (= not key for woodworking!)
- Keyless Chuck, Fast Charger (15 minutes)
- Backward/Forward Switch (= all normally standard)
- Hammer action
Cordless Drills – Power and Battery
First thing when you look at a good cordless drill will be Volts of the the battery pack. To simplify it – the more Volts your cordless drill has – the faster the motor spins – the more torque you will get. Unfortunately – the more volts your cordless drills have – the heavier they get (if you ever worked with a 18 Volt drill over a longer period of time – you will know what I am talking about).
Similar important as the Volts of your battery are the Ampere. Measured in Ah (Ampere per hour) it gives you an idea of how long a battery will last. You can have a 12 Volts battery with 1.8 Ah and with 2.4 Ah. Obviously both batteries should give you the same power initially, but the 2.4 Ah will last 30% longer. Important if you use cordless drills for heavy duty work.
Looking at Volts and Ampere, you should also understand the basic types of battery packs currently available on the market. The (older) Standard Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) battery packs are cheaper but do not give you much Ah as the newer Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery packs. The Ni-MH packs also give you an additional advantage in recharging, as the do not loose power after being recharged many many times (no-memory effect). Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery packs are usually more expensive, but definitely worth it’s money.
As batteries changed improved over the past years most manufacturers offer a wide range of power packs. Finding the right Dewalt or Makita batteries can therefore sometimes be a bit of a challenge.
Cordless Drills – Mechanical Gear
Make sure your cordless drill got a 2-step mechanical gear. Electronic speed control is fine and nice – but if you can reduce the speed of your cordless drills mechanically beforehand you will not loose power through electronic regulation. Instead you will increase the torque of your unit.
Very, very important and most certainly not found on cheap no name cordless drills is the electronic brake. This means when you lift the switch the drill bit stops immediately . This electronic braking is key for certain woodworking and drywall applications. E.g. Drive a screw just flush into a drywall.
Variable Speed Switch
Nearly all cordless drills nowadays have it. Some with a speed pre selection – but most cordless drills are equipped with a standard variable speed switch. The deeper you press the switch – the faster the unit runs.
In my opinion one a very useless feature for woodworking. Torque control means that you select a certain torque on your drill. When driving a screw into your work piece and it reaches a certain torque the machine stops automatically the bit. Theoretically this feature would allow you to drive screws flush into wood. Well, this is plane theory. Because you are working with wood – and wood is a natural material. So if you drive a screw on one end of the wood into it you will certainly have a different torque needed than on the other end. So most of the time the torque selection does not work properly in wood and leaves your screws too far out or too far in. The torque selection feature is a wonderful feature if you need to tighten screws in metal, but in wood I would not put any importance on it.
Cordless Drills with Keyless Chuck, Fast Charger, Backward/Forward Switch
Most of these features are standard with many cordless drills on the market. If not you can get them as an accessory. As far as a fast charger is referred to, most supplier call a 1 hour charger a “fast charger”. I would call a fast charger any charge which loads your 12 Volts battery in 15 minutes. This way even if you have only one battery pack, you can recharge it – whilst having a coffee break.
Hammer action on cordless drills
I am still not convinced that you need a hammer action with your cordless drill. It might be handy if you have only some holes to drill, but most of the time it will not be used and therefore only increase the weight of your cordless drill. I prefer taking a good lightweight corded pneumatic hammer drill (e.g. Bosch UBH) instead, it might be a little bit of corded hassle, but simply works faster and more powerful.
Summary on Cordless Drills – What you really need for Woodworking
To sum it up, for the professional woodworker I would recommend cordless drills with the following specs:
Dewalt DW987K-2R Heavy-Duty XRP 1/2″ 18V Drill / Driver
14.4 Volts up to 18 Volts- (2.4 to 3.0 Ah) – Nickel Metal Hydride battery packs with 2-step mechanical gear and electronic brake. Keyless chuck, Backward/Forward-Mid-handle Switch and 15 minutes fast charger.
Torque selection and hammer action is not important.
For Semiprofessional Woodworking Your Cordless Drills Should Have At Least:
Makita 6227DWE – 12V 3/8″ Cordless Driver – Drill Kit (2-Speed, Variable Speed, Reversible)
12 Volts (2.0 Ah) – Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) battery packs with 2-step mechanical gear and electronic brake. Keyless chuck, Backward/Forward-Mid-handle Switch and 1 hour standard charger.
Torque selection and hammer action is not important.
Cordless Drills – Accessories – Tip!
Allow one final tip to those of you who will not use their cordless drills that often. If you are using cordless tools only occasionally I would recommend you get a lamp for your battery packs. This way you can use the battery packs more often and recharge them. This way lifetime of your cordless drills will be enlarged, because battery packs should be emptied occasionally and recharged again.