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Howe To buying guides

Drill Buying Guide


Drills: The 30-Second Buying Guide

Our most popular drills:

Things to consider when buying a drill:

  • Power Source – cordless (for manoeuvrability), 110v (for work sites) or 240v (for home use).
  • Chuck Size – the bigger the chuck size, the bigger the drill bit it can take, and the more heavy duty work it can handle
  • Speed – multiple speeds give more control for intricate work
  • Brushless – drills with brushless motor are typically more powerful and durable
  • Voltage, Wattage and Torque – the higher they are, the greater the drilling power
  • Material – the table below shows what material each drill category is designed to tackle

Drill use by type:

Drill category Cordless options available? Used for drilling into wood, metal and plastic? Used for drilling into masonry? Has a hammer function? Can be used for screwdriving? Can be used with a holesaw?
Drill Drivers      ✔  ✔
Rotary Drills        ✔  ✔
Combi Drills  ✔  ✔
Percussion Drills    ✔  ✔
Angle Drills      ✔  
Diamond Core Drills     Used with a Diamond Core
Watch: GSR/GSB 18V-60 C Professional cordless drill driver


Drills: The Full Drilldown

Types of drills
  • Drill Drivers are a basic cordless drill, that can be used for both drilling and screwdriving. They take Li-ion batteries that range from 3.6v up to 18v. Lower voltage drills drivers are ideal for basic DIY tasks, where as higher voltage models are more frequently used by professionals. Some drill drivers come with a variable torque setting, which help to prevent screws from being over tightened. These drills are suitable for drilling holes in wood, metal and plastics. Drill Drivers do not include a hammer action, and hence are not designed for drilling into masonry.

    Our most popular Drill Driver: MAKITA DF001DW (£54)

  • Rotary Drills: these drills are also known as Pistol Drills. Rotary drills are similar to Drill Drivers in functionality but with one key difference, instead of being cordless they run using mains power. This means rotary drills always have a constant power source, which can be beneficial in situations where a lot of drilling work is required. Manoeuvrability, however, will be sightly more restricted with a rotary drill than a drill driver, due to the cord used to power the machine.

    Our most popular Rotary Drill: MAKITA 6413 (£54)

  • Combi Drills (Combination Drills): are similar to Drill Drivers but with an added hammer function. This feature enables drilling into harder materials such as concrete, brick and masonry (when coupled with the appropriate drill bit). Combination Drills are powered by batteries ranging from 10.8v up to 36v. As well as having a hammer function, Combination Drills often have variable speed settings. The higher speed setting(s) are designed for drilling (similar to a Rotary Drill) and the lower speed setting provides a lower turning speed and higher torque to help the insertion and removal of screws.

    Our most popular Combi Drill: MAKITA DHP481Z (£152)

  • Percussion Drills: are also sometimes known as Impact Drills. These drills are the mains-powered version of the cordless Combi Drill. Percussion Drills can drill into wood, plastic, metal and using a hammer-action, can also drill brick, masonry, and concrete.

    Our most popular Percussion Drill: DEWALT DWD024K (£79)

  • Angle Drills: are designed to help with drilling in confined spaces that cannot be accessed using a standard Drill Driver. Generally, this type of drill will feature a fixed 90-degree angled head. However, some variable head position angle drills are available for added flexibility. One of the key uses for this type of drills is in the installation of electrical wires in buildings. Occasionally, because of this, these drills are sometimes called Joist Drills. Typically angle drills are used to drill into wood, metal and plastic.

    Our most popular Angle Drill: DEWALT DCD740N (£113)

  • Diamond Core Drills: are heavy-duty specialist drills, used for drilling into brickwork and concrete. Diamond Core Drills are typically found in the tool arsenal of heating engineers and plumbers, since they are useful for drilling the holes needed to fit pipework. Some Diamond Core Drills are water cooled to help prevent the machine from overheating when used on very hard materials. Diamond Core Drills are available with either a standard chuck, a 1/2" British Standard Pipe (BSP) male thread chuck, or a 1 1/4" female chuck.

    Our most popular Diamond Core Drill: MAKITA 8406 (£233)

Key Considerations When Buying A Drill

Bosch percussion drill

Power source: Drills are available in both cordless and corded models. Cordless drills are becoming more and more popular, with improvements in the power and usage of Li-ion batteries.

Corded drills are still used by many as an alternative to cordless drills. They are beneficial as they provide a constant supply of power, and may offer more power than their cordless equivalents. Corded drills are available in 110v models, which are designed for use on work sites, and 240v models, which are mains powered machines.

On the other hand, cordless tools offer much better manoeuvrability, because you are not restricted by the length of the cable as you are with corded drills. This means that cordless drills can be moved between multiple drilling locations with ease, whether being used at a work site or at home.

Chuck size: Drill chucks are typically available in 10mm or 13mm. 10mm chucks are standard on most light to medium duty drills, where as 13mm chucks are found on more heavy duty drills. Drill chucks can be made from either metal or plastic. Metal chucks on drills are generally more suitable for heavy duty work, as they will be more robust.

Many new drills have keyless chucks, which enable drills bits to be changed very quickly by hand through twisting the chuck. Keyed-chucked drill systems, which are becoming less common, require a special key to change drill bits in the machine. Diamond Core Drills may come with a unique chuck type; the British Standard Pipe (BSP) male thread system.

Speed: Drill Drivers, Rotary Drills, Combi Drills and Percussion Drills mostly have two different speed settings, with some even having three. The higher speeds are for drilling work and the lower speed settings are most frequently designed for screwdriving. As such, purchasing a drill with multiple speed functions is recommended where a combination of drilling and screwdriving is required.

Brushless drills: Drills with brushless motors are becoming more popular and are gradually replacing drills with brushed motors. Brushless motor drills are more durable, as there are less parts of the drill that will be subject to wear and tear, such as carbon brushes. In addition, brushless motors also provide more consistent power to the drill and also result in extended battery life over their brushed equivalents. They will, however, be slightly more expensive to purchase than brushed drills.

Voltage, wattage and torque: The main indicator of power with cordless drills is the battery voltage which can range from 3.6v up to 54v. Lower voltage drills are better for lighter duty tasks. Higher voltage drills are more suited to bigger jobs as they give a lot more power at constant use.

With corded drills, power is defined by the drill's wattage. The higher the wattage of the drill, the more power it will have for heavy-duty work and the less of a chance that the drill overheats with constant use.

Another factor that shows how much power a drill has is it's torque rating. Torque is measured in Nm which shows how much force is given when the drill turns. The higher the torque the more twisting power the drill has.

Material: Basic cordless Drill Drivers and mains powered Rotary Drills are useful tools for drilling into woods, metals and plastics. They do not, however, enable drilling into masonry unlike Combi-Drills (cordless) and Percussion Drills (mains-powered). Diamond Core Drills are also designed to drill into masonry, however, they tend to be used by professionals for performing long periods of heavy-duty drilling.

Drill Safety Tips

Bosch SDS hammer drill

Safety Gear and Clothing: Safety goggles should be worn when operating a drill, as there is a possibility that debris can be thrown up into the face. Gloves are also advised to help protect the hands, but these should fit well as to not encumber using the drill. Care should be taken when using drills to avoid getting clothing, hair or jewellery tangled up in the drill.

Ensure the drilling material is secure – If drilling loose materials then it is important to ensure that the material is adequately secured so that it doesn’t move about when being drilled. Materials that are loose will tend to want to spin around in line with the drill bit’s rotational motion, so it is always important to clamp and secure effectively to avoid damaging yourself or the material.

Drill Pilot Holes or use a Center Punch – When first starting to drill a hole, the drill bit can slip on the surface of the material. To help prevent this it may be sensible to either drill a pilot hole with a small diameter drill bit, which is less likely to slip, or to create an indentation in the material with a centre punch.

Drill to the correct depth – Either use an integrated guide (that is fitted to some drills) or mark the drill bit with electrical tape or chalk to the correct depth that you wish to drill to. When drilling into walls, for example, this can help you avoid hitting electrical cables, dangerous materials or causing unnecessary damage.

Handle with Care – When moving a drill, especially if it is connected to a power source, do not hold the drill by the trigger or by the chuck. Instead, hold the drill by the body of the tool, so as to avoid accidentally engaging it.

Know what you’re drilling into – When drilling into walls there are two things that you typically want to avoid accidentally drilling into that might be hidden from view behind the drilling surface. These are wires and pipes. Exposed pipes and plug sockets will often give an indication of where wires and pipes behind walls might lie. For additional certainty we would recommend purchasing wire detectors and pipe detectors. They will help you identify the location of wires and pipes, and hence help to save you from both injury and an expensive repair bill. You can also purchase stud detectors to help identify wooden beams that will give you something substantial to drill into.

Choosing Drill Bits

In order to drill into a certain material, both the correct type of drill and drill-bit should be used. The main drill bit types are as follows:

Drill Bits for Wood  The Brad Point drill bit is the correct drill bit to use when drilling holes in wood, and some plastics. These drills can be differentiated by their relatively sharp point at the centre of the drill bit and the two points at the edge giving the slight resemblance of a ‘W’ shape. The configuration of this drill-bit means that the hole that is drilled is very smooth. Spade drill bits are also used to cut holes into wood, but the main difference with these drill bits is that they are capable of drilling relatively large holes, with the largest sizes up to around 40mm in diameter.

Drill Bits for Metal  The Twist drill bit is the drill-bit type that should be used with metal. In fact, the Twist drill bit is the most commonly used drill bit in use today, because it can also be used for drilling into wood and plastics. Whilst the Twist drill bit is an all-rounder, you are likely to get a better finish when drilling into wood or plastics with Brad Point or Spade drill bits.

Drill Bits for Masonry  These drill bits are designed to drill into very hard surfaces such as brick, stone and concrete. They can be often be identified by the fact that the tips are often slightly wider than the main shank. Some masonry drill bits, with tungsten-carbide tips, are specifically designed for drills that have a hammer action. These drill bits will be more durable and will help to keep the drill bit sharper for a longer period of time.

Drill Bits for Glass and Tile  Whilst it is possible to use other drill bits to tackle ceramics, it is recommended to use drill bits that have been specifically designed for these tricky materials. Using non-specialised drill bits will increase the risk of chipping, cracking and generally damaging the materials.

View our range of Drills and find the lowest prices online at Howe Tools.