All About Drills: Hand Drills and Power Drills

Very few woodworking projects don’t call for drilling holes of some description.

Even something as simple as inserting a screw requires drilling…

Hand Drills

hand drill

How To Drill For Fixing Screws

You need to drill a clearance hole in the piece of wood to be fixed. It should match the size of the screw’s shank. Its purpose is to stop the wood from splitting when the screw is tightened. Sometimes you need a countersink or counterbore in order to sink the head of the screw under the surface. A pilot hole is recommended. Make sure it’s the correct diameter for the threaded, tapered end of the screw.

For this type of basic drilling, a regulation hand drill is more than adequate.

Accurate Drilling

For pilot holes, countersinking and working in tight spots, a good hand drill should form part of any woodworker’s tool kit.

Learning how to drill accurately is key. This has been greatly simplified with the advent of powered hand drills and bench-mounted pillar drills.

The skill of hand drilling with a brace, though, still has its place. Whether you are working on site with no power or you just want to grab the hand drill in your workshop to pop out a few quick holes, the hand drill is still very much alive and kicking.



This handy little tool helps you to start a screw hole without worrying that the wood will split when you insert the screw.

You can get these attachments on power drills as well as the manual version pictured.


bradawlThe bradawl looks similar to a gimlet.

This is a sharp and pointed tool that is perfect for piercing or scribing holes in preparation for nails and pins.

Carpenter’s Brace

braceFor any woodworker, a brace is a powerful drilling weapon.

The wide sweep of its handle allows for ample leverage.

When you are buying a brace, look out for a universal jaw. This is a chuck that will readily accept both parallel and tapered drill bits. Also, check that it has a reversible ratchet action for maximum versatility.

Drill Bits

drill bits

As technology advances, the patterns of bits available are always widening.

You can buy a bit, for example, which is perfectly designed for setting dowels. This is a technique often pressed into action if you are working with manufactured boards like ply or chipboard. The holes produced have flat bottoms.

Flat bits are ideal for cutting large holes very swiftly. They work using a scraping action.

If you treat yourself to a twist bit, you can enjoy absolute accuracy. This bit is used for starting screws and making small holes.

For home woodworkers, especially those on limited budgets, an adjustable bit is a great investment. Bear in mind, though, that these can only be used in a hand brace not in any powered tool. Make sure this suits your needs.

When it comes to buying a set of drill bits, steer clear of cheap and questionable products. These are highly likely to be composed of low quality steel and prone to blunting easily. Good drill bits are not expensive. You’ll only cheat yourself if you skimp in this area.

  • Standard Twist Drills: These bits are sometimes called HSS or high-speed steel. As the name suggests, they bore holes into steel with ease. They are also very well suited to woodworking projects. You’ll find standard twist drill bits in a wide range of different sizes in very small increments of 1mm. You should have no problem finding the right tool for the job
  • Spade or Flat Bits: These are the traditional drill bits for woodworkers. They make bigger holes up to 32mm across. Drill vertically, using a brace, for optimum results
  • Center-Point (Brad Point) or Lip and Spur Bits: These bits should only be used when you are working with wood. The point centers the bit precisely which stops any slipping and helps you to make the hole straight while you work. They are made in a smaller range of sizes than standard twist drills but you should find something suitable for your needs without undue problems

Power Drills

power drill

Hand drills certainly have their place but today the power drill reigns supreme.

If you have any repetitive work or you want to remove large amounts of waste in a hurry, a solid power drill is a must. You can find detailed comparison and reviews of hammer drills by clicking the following link.

Best hammer drills reviews and buying guide


There are some drill bits that are specially designed to be used at high speeds. They are no use in a hand drill.

Other times, you want low speed combined with high torque so look out for a properly-rated power drill.

The power source of the drill is critical. Motors will range in capacity from 300 watts (3 amp) for any light duties amd 1000 watts (10 amp) which is perfect for really heavy-duty work. For general woodworking, something of around 600 watts should provide more than sufficient power.

Be caereful not to overload your power drill. They can easily burn out if overburdened.

Cordless Drill

These versatile power drills are the most popular and should be one of the first items on your tool list.

This technology was introduced relatively recently and continues to evolve rapidly.

A great advantage of cordless drill for the woodworker is that most units can also be used as slow speed, powered screwdrivers.

The voltage of the drill determines its power. It’s also responsible for the length of time your drill can be used before recharging. Voltages vary but 12 volts is adequate for general use.


  • Spare battery means uninterrupted use without the need to wait for recharging
  • Carrying case to transport your drill and the rapid charger
  • Keyless chucks allow for quick changing of bits
  • Variable speed for versatility
  • Adjustable torque control prevents breaking screws
  • Reversible action which is crucial for screwdriving
  • Electric brake stops rotation instantly when you release the trigger

Electric Drill

If you use your drill on a regular basis, there’s simply no substitute for a power drill that operates on mains voltage.

You can run this type of drill continuously at much higher speeds without overloading it.

It’s ideal to mount this type of drill in a stand. This will allow for increased accuracy and squareness.

Many power drills now come with a percussion facility. This is used for drilling into stone, brick or masonry. It can be easily switched off for normal use when working with wood.

Look out for a depth gauge which can come in very handy a well as a reversible action.

The side handle offers extra grip and enables you to hold the drill vertical when you are using it freehand.

Some models have a side handle equipped with a mini spirit level. This will enhance your accuracy.

Extra power means that a larger, 13mm chuck can be fitted. This will accommodate even the largest drill bits.

Percussion Drill

A percussion drill or hammer drill is only strictly necessary if you plan to work with masonry. The specially hardened masonry bits are tailor-made for this heavy duty task.

If you plan to install any kind of woodwork that needs fixing to brickwork or plaster, a percussion drill would come in useful.

If you only need to use one occasionally then consider renting one. This is not expensive. Don’t fall into the trap of false economy by overloading your smaller drill rather than getting the right tool for the job.

SDS Drill

slotted drive system (SDS) drill is a powerhouse for heavy duty jobs.

They have 3 basic functions:

  1. Drilling
  2. Hammer Action
  3. Chiseling

They are heavier than other drills so make sure you can deal with the weight. In return, you’ll be rewarded with an outstanding piece of kit.

Specialized Drill Bits

  • Plug cutters are a smart addition to any workshop. If you work in fine detail, plug cutters will help you achieve superb results. Use these in a drill stand as they are not self-centering
  • The countersink means that the head of a screw can be sunk cleanly flush with the wood’s surface
  • Forstner bits are designed to make big, flat-bottomed holes that don’t go right through the wood. Kitchen cabinet hinges, for example, can be easily dealt with using forstner bits. You can also drill deep holes even in the end of the timber with these flexible bits
  • Boring bits are used for making holes for concealed hinges or other fittings of standard size. You can get 25mm or 35mm boring bits. You’ll get shallow, flat-bottomed holes. The center-point delivers an accurate outcome
  • Counterbores or 3-in-1 bits are wonderful for pilot holes, clearance holes and a counterbore. These comes in different sizes and often have a plug cutter of the same gauge thrown in
  • Masonry bits are available in an array of sizes. If you plan to attach fittings for wooden cupboards, shelves or any other furniture to masonry walls, get some decent masonry bits for your power drill
  • Circular hole cutters are used in a fixed stand or in drills with side-mounted handles. Look for a low drill speed and high torque setting
  • Auger bits make deep holes in a hurry. If you plan to use these in a power drill, make certain your model is reversible


If you are looking to carry out any type of woodwork, a decent drill is essential.

Think about the above options at your disposal. Consider carefully how you will use your drill and what you need it for most.

Do plenty of research and focus on user reviews. Generally, someone who has purchased a product will give an honest opinion outlining the pros and cons of various models.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any queries.

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4 thoughts on “All About Drills: Hand Drills and Power Drills

  1. I’m a bit confused… isn’t torque control the same as speed? how do these two things impact the rotation of the drill bit? :/

  2. Thanks so much for your information. I just couldn’t understand what hammer action is and will be more than pleased if you were to explain what that means to me.

    – Jack, a wannabe woodworker


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