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As with all power tools, the right cordless drill for you is the right one for the tasks you need it to perform - what a professional carpenter needs from a drill won't be the same as someone who just wants to put a few pictures up every now and then.

First off the bat, choose a drill that is comfortable for you to use. While the bigger drills generally have more power, if you are only ever going to be using it for light tasks, the extra power of a big drill is going to be outweighed over time by the inconvenience of wielding the sheer size and bulk of the thing. Think carefully about what you are going to be doing with your tool and choose a model that suits your needs - if in doubt, though, it's still better to go for a drill that's slightly more powerful than you need, as if you come across a job that smaller models can't handle, you'll just have to fork out extra money for a new machine that's up to the task.

The power that a cordless drill can deliver is down to its voltage, with models ranging from 6V (pretty much useless for all but the simplest of tasks that you could probably do with hand tools) to as high as 36V. Lower-voltage drills, say around 12V, are ideal for lighter tasks like putting new handles on cabinets or drilling holes in plasterboard, while more powerful drills can be used for drilling into concrete or metal. 18V is about perfect for most household chores, but remember that the more powerful a drill is, the heavier will be as well.

Another differentiation between drills is the speed at which they can operate, which is measured in rotations per minute (rpm). Drills that let you to switch back and forth between low speed (around 300-400 rpm) and high speed (1,200-1,500 rpm) will let you take on a wider range of tasks. Basically, lower speeds are best for driving screws, while higher speeds are best for drilling holes, particularly in denser materials. Drills with multiple clutch settings allow you to drive screws into the same depth every time to avoid ruining the thread on the screws. The chuck size determines how large a drill bit it can hold. The standard chuck size of 3/8 of an inch is fine for most tasks around the home, while the ½-inch size is best for heavy-duty applications.

Batteries are integral to cordless drills - if a battery dies in the middle of a job, you'll have to wait till it's recharged before you can get back to work. Different-priced drills have different batteries, chargers and other features, so determine what your needs are before you purchase. If possible, find a model that comes with a spare battery, so you've always got a charged one at hand. Some cordless drills come with battery chargers that take several hours to fully recharge a battery, while others have so-called 'smart' chargers that work much faster, and reduce the charge voltage as the battery becomes full, eliminating the possibility of overcharging and extending the life of the battery. The better models now feature high-capacity lithium-ion batteries, which give twice the performance and hold their charge four times longer than regular batteries.

Other features that will come in handy include keyless chucks that allow you to change drill bits without having to use a separate tool, an electronic brake that stops the drill the second your release the trigger, an extra side (or rotating handle) for tight spaces, variable drill speeds, a clutch adjustment ring that allows you to adjust the amount of power delivered to the bit, and a reverse setting, which makes removing screws or stuck drill bits a breeze.

Many manufacturers now offer kits that contain the drill, two batteries, charger, drill bits, instructions, carrying case and loads of other goodies. These may seem good value for money, but be warned! - if a manufacturer you've never heard of is offering a complete package for less than the price of a similar drill alone from a well-respected name, then the quality of all the components isn't likely to be the best.



Author R. Germain
date added Mon 10 08 2009

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