Chapter 4 of the I Can Do That Manual deals with boring tools: Drills and Awls. As with the chapter on saws, I found I’ve already got what I need to get started, but upgrades/additions to my current toolset wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Ok, basically everyone should already own a drill of some sort. For me, its a corded 1/2” reconditioned Makita with a hammer drill functions. I know, its not the ideal woodworking tool. First, its too big, too heavy, and too overpowered to use comfortably on most fine woodworking jobs. Second, the cord can be an inconvenience. But, it has its benefits, too. I can use it on any job around the house, including boring holes into a concrete slab. Second, because its corded, I never have to worry about a dead battery holding up my work. I also own a 3/8” 12V cordless B&D drill that will very soon end up in the trash. Its a few years old now (6-7 maybe?) and I’ve never really been able to use it. For household jobs that are few and far between, the battery would die while it was sitting in the case. So, unless I wanted to wait a few hours for it to charge, I just reached for the big Makita. Now that I want to use it more frequently, the battery is shot and won’t hold a charge. I can replace the drill for the same cost as a new battery, so that looks like a waste of money in my opinion. (It may also be worth mentioning that mine is a NiCad battery. I’ve heard the newer Lithium batteries are better, but they’re also pretty expensive yet.)
So, I’m not going to rush out and buy a new cordless drill this afternoon, but I am going to keep my eyes open for a decent deal. The ICDT Manual offers a few tips on what I should be looking for.
First, those 18V contractor models are probably a little overkill for woodworking. Like my Makita, they’re too big and heavy for many woodworking tasks. The author recommends a 12V or 9.6V model that will be lighter and easier to control. Also for better control, variable speed and variable torque settings are a must. These are usually found on all but the cheapest tools. Lastly, you want a keyless chuck with tight-closing jaws. This is another area where bigger drills (like mine) may fall short. Because my 1/2” drill is designed for big, rough jobs, the jaws don’t close tightly enough to grip very small bits. This can wreck your day if you need to drill a really small hole.
And the author goes on to recommend one other type of boring tool…the awl. Your basic awl can be pushed into softer woods to start holes for screws and other things. The author also suggests that you may want to buy a second awl, and modify it slightly. By filing down the round point to a four-sided bevel, it allows the awl to be twisted as its pressed into the wood. This lets you start deeper and larger holes than a standard awl. (The author shows a photo of his modified awl, also. The point looks very much like the business end of a 16d nail.)
The awl I bought after reading this article is a basic Stanley model with a rounded handle. Two flat spots on the sides of the handle keep if from rolling off the bench. I think it cost less than $5 at a local home center. Someday I may add a second ‘modified’ awl to my toolbox, but this one will work fine for now.
On a side note, I’ve read a few articles that recommend a brace as an very useful woodworking tool. I can certainly see the benefits (no cords, no batteries, etc.) but I’m not convinced that it would be very useful for driving screws or similar tasks. Might be worth keeping in mind, though, especially for drilling holes.
-- Dylan C ...Seems like all ever I make is sawdust...