Knowing how to use a drill is like Power Tools 101 – just pull the trigger, right? A lot of people use a drill that way and do just fine, but you can get more out of your drill with a little knowledge.
How to Use a Drill
You can’t drill or drive anything without a bit, so let’s start with the chuck. Prongs inside will compress and come out of the chuck as you tighten it down. Counterclockwise rotation tightens it, clockwise loosens it.
Better drills have a ratcheting chuck that will grab hold of the bit then let you click over a bit more for extra security. Very basic drills may still have a key. Instead of hand tightening the chuck, you’ll secure it using the keyholes in it.
You’ll see a lot of Pros hold the chuck and bit in one hand and pull the trigger to tighten or loosen the chuck. It works great, just be careful that you feather the trigger so you don’t hurt your hand.
Now that you have a bit in the chuck, you’re ready to drill. Nearly every drill will have a variable speed trigger. As you pull the trigger further, you’ll get an increase in speed and power.
By feathering the trigger (just pulling it slightly), you can drive or drill with what’s called a soft start. It just means starting slowly so your hole or screw is starting accurately before ramping up to full speed.
Some drills have two, three, or even four different gears to choose from. The relationship between speed and power is inverse – you have less torque in high speed and more torque in low speed.
For driving smaller screws or making smaller holes, you’re good to go in high speed. As you make larger holes with spade bits, hole saws, or self-feed bits or drive large lags, you’ll need to drop into low speed with larger diameters.
The clutch is probably the most underused feature on a drill. You’ll find the clutch settings on the collar behind the chuck and it’s helpful for driving a lot of the same size screws into the same kind of material.
Essentially, you set the clutch to where your fastener is exactly flush or slightly sunk when the drill stops. You’ll be able to get consistent results without thinking too hard about it as you go. Check out our article for more details.
Twist all the way to the end of the collar and you’ll see a drill icon. This bypasses the chuck and is the mode you want to be in for all drilling applications.
Well, almost. There are a couple of exceptions.
Hammer drills have an additional hammer function you can use that’s usually one click past the drilling mode and has a hammer icon. This adds a forward chipping action to help you drill more quickly in concrete, masonry, or rock. You should never drill in hammer drill mode in metal, wood, and plastics.
Makita’s hybrid impact driver/drill driver doesn’t have clutch settings at all, but it does let you switch between driver, drill, hammer drill, and impact driver modes. The power settings are on the electronic controls below the trigger.
If you’re using a lithium-ion drill, there’s no battery memory to worry about and no excuse not to charge your battery after you use it every time. It’ll keep you from having to delay a project or stop halfway through and wait for the battery to charge.
While it’s still in its early stages, there are even some wireless charging models running around so you don’t even have to take the battery off of your drill.
Enough Theory, Let’s Drill!
You’ve got the basics of how to use a drill and it’s time to make some holes! Here are some Tips from our Pro Team to make it easier:
- Wear safety glasses unless you like wood or metal chips in your eyes.
- Get the right bit for the material you’re drilling into.
- Make a mark with a pencil or pen where you want to drill/drive, don’t guess.
- Make sure you’re angled straight into the fastener. That keeps the bit completely in contact with the screw so you don’t cam out (spin out and damage the head or bit).
- Feather the trigger for an accurate start.
- Putting a second hand behind the drill can help stabilize it and let you put more downforce into it.
- If your drill comes with an auxiliary handle, use it for high torque applications so you don’t wrench your wrist/elbow/shoulder.
- Drill fast in wood and slow in metal.
- Try not to let the chuck hit the material you’re drilling into – it can leave a mark.
Like the drill we used for the photos? It’s Makita’s 12V CXT Brushless Drill/Driver. Check out the review below!