clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

How to Use a Drill | Tool Lab

Carpenter Nathan Gilbert explains everything you need to know about drill drivers, from their history to their modern features.

Carpenter Nathan Gilbert takes us to the Tool Lab to discuss power drill drivers. Nathan explains that manufacturers have produced drill drivers loaded with batteries and options. There are different types, including light, medium, and heavy-duty. Nathan breaks down drill driver configurations and price ranges. Finally, he shows the other parts on most modern models.

Drill Drivers Aren’t New Technology

The first drill drivers are now over 100 years old. They were heavy, required an extension cord, and had very few safety features. Modern drill drivers have come a long way, with excellent batteries, onboard work lights, safer power, more capability, and more options.

Types of Drill Drivers

When choosing a drill driver, there are three main options: light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty.

  • Light-duty drills are suitable for small projects like assembling small furniture, driving small screws, and drilling holes through light-duty material like drywall.
  • Medium-duty drill drivers are suitable for drilling medium-sized holes, drilling through most wood species, and driving average-sized screws.
  • Heavy-duty drill drivers are built for hard work like driving lag bolts, drilling with hole saws, or drilling through tough materials like masonry.

Drill Drivers Come in a Variety of Configurations

Shoppers have a couple of options when shopping for drill rivers, as manufacturers often sell them in kits or as bare tools. Kits typically come with a battery and charger, where a bare tool comes as just the tool.

The bare tool kits are much more affordable, but you need to be sure that the tool works with your existing cordless batteries. Kits are more expensive, but they have everything necessary to power the drill driver. Between both configurations, prices can range between $50 and $350.

Drill Driver Anatomy Explained

There are many parts to modern drill drivers:

  • Chuck: The part that holds the drill bit or driver bit. These come in ¼, ⅜, and ½-inch sizes.
  • Clutch: The adjustable setting allows the user to preset the torque the drill driver exerts before slipping. This helps avoid splitting wood or stripping screws.
  • Drive type: This allows the user to switch between drilling, driving, or hammer drilling.
  • Speed selector: The switch on top that toggles through speed and torque settings. One is typically the slowest but has the most torque. Two is faster but has less torque.
  • LED work light: Activated by the trigger, it lights the workpiece so the user can drill accurately and safely.
  • Motor: Every drill driver has an electric motor, but shoppers can now choose between brushed or brushless. Brushless motors are more efficient on battery life and are typically more powerful, but drill drivers with brushed motors are more affordable.

Do Your Homework

Before you settle on a cordless drill driver, do some research on the battery. Be sure to purchase a bare tool that works with your existing batteries or a kit that will allow you to use that battery for future tool purchases.


Nathan shows the first DIY drill made by Black and Decker. He uses the DeWalt DCF682N1 8-Volt MAX Cordless 1/4 in. Hex Gyroscopic Screwdriver to illustrate “light duty” drill drivers. Then Nathan switches to “medium-duty” drill drivers, illustrated with the Milwaukee 2407-20 M12 12-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless 3/8 in. Drill/Driver. Then he moves to the Ridgid R86115B 18V Brushless 1/2” Hammer Drill to show “Heavy-duty” capacity.

Other drill drivers shown include: