|Review by Rich99||posted 04-10-2010 10:04 PM||1916 views||0 times favorited||8 comments|
I have a 14.4V and 18.0V Ryobi drill, both with NiCad batteries. They’re heavy. I use them more for driving screws than anything else, so I decided I wanted a lighter battery powered driver of some sort. Looking in the big box stores, I saw units that were in the $200 plus range, some more than double the price of either of my Ryobis (and the 18 volt came with a circular saw!).
Then I spotted this little Black and Decker PD400LG Power Driver. It weighs nothing. Okay,maybe a half-pound, if that. It comes with a wall wart charger labeled as 4.2 volts and 100 mA, and one hex-shank Phillips head bit. All this for $19.99. How could I say no?
Got it home and had to charge it for 17 hours, so no instant gratification. When I started to actually use it, I found a trigger and a three way switch. In the switch’s middle position, the trigger is locked, but the ‘surround’ light comes on (looks like two LEDs; lights up the immediate area in front of the bit—it’s no flashlight). Then, the upper switch position drives clockwise and the lower position counter-clockwise. That’s all there is. Really simple.
The driver has a black rubber ‘snout’ that you would automatically think is the clutch, but you’d be wrong. It has no clutch. I learned to feel the torque it produces to know when to let off the trigger. It’s also not variable speed. Same speed driving and removing screws.
I drove about a dozen 1 5/8” sheet rock screws through pine shelving and into 2 x’s for a project I was in the middle of. The PD400LG wouldn’t sink screws into the pine. It wouldn’t even bring the head flush with the surface of the wood. With no clutch, the driver just peters out to a stop when it can’t go any further. But for what I was doing, it was good enough.
Next, I drove small, 3/4” wood screws into sanded 3/4” plywood, trying to attach a swivel plate. (It didn’t work out—didn’t have the ‘work-hole’ aligned.) I drilled 1/16” pilot holes for this, and the driver did what it had to and sunk the screws all the way, but without the clutch, it overtightened some of them and stripped the hole of threads. That’s when I learned to feel the torque and let off the trigger when the driver gave my hand a little twist.
Oh, did I mention that there’s a button on either side of the handle that allows you to straighten the handle and nose of the unit to be a straight-line tool, just like the B&D battery powered screwdrivers of 25 years ago. Pretty cool, huh?
Now, I’ve only driven about 40 screws with this new tool. In poplar, i could only get about a half inch into the wood with a sheet rock screw and no pilot hole. I did 6 screws like that. I don’t think this unit is going to putting any screws into oak or maple, even with a pilot hole. Out on my deck, it drove 1 5/8” screws into pressure treated (the old pressure treated) southern pine, and got the taper of the head of the screw to just touch the wood’s surface. It was really straining most of the way. 2” screws went through cedar decking like butter, and got the screw head just barely under the surface… I thought I was dimpling sheet rock.
I see few things in my future when using this tool. First, I’ll carry a non-powered screwdriver in my back pocket, to finish off the last turn or two when trying to get screws flush with the surface. I almost always carry one of those 6-in-1 screwdrivers anyway. Second, I’ll have to start drilling pilot holes… I know, I should do that most of the time, but… And thirdly, to accomplish #2, I’ll be getting a small set of hex-shank drill bits. I’ve never had any, so why not catch up with state-of-the-art drill bits?
I had visions of marching into Home Depot and returning the PD400LG, claiming that it was a toy, and they should advertise it as such. (I’ve gotten very good about returning things when I’m not satisfied with them. Must be coz I’m 62 now.) But I think I’ll keep it. Heck, for 20 bucks, why not? I’ll write it off as an experiment in buying the cheapest tool in the category of drivers and see what happens. Of course if it really dies and won’t take a charge within thirty days, I will go marching into that store. I’ll let you know.
-- Far-North Wood-Works (a fantasy company)