How to Use a Drill and Impact Driver Combo
In this edition of Training the Apprentice, the PTR Pro team teaches new tool users how to use a drill and impact driver combo properly. As one of the most popular cordless combo kits out there, it’s more than just putting two (relatively) inexpensive power tools together. It’s about putting two cordless tools together that often work in tandem. We’ll take a brief look at both tools, then show you how they can work together to save you time.
Quick Article Summary
- Use the drill for better control in fine woodworking applications
- Drill with the drill and drive screws/fasteners with the impact driver
- If you only have an impact driver, use slower speeds/modes for finer work
- Using two tools in tandem saves time
Drills are ideal for, well, drilling. They’re often called drill drivers in manufacturing circles because they can also drive fasteners. Because the torque they produce is steady, they’re capable of very smooth operation. That’s important when you need clean results, especially in fine woodworking. But it’s also the go-to method for making clean holes in metal – along with using quality cobalt or titanium bits.
Fastening, or screw driving, is simple enough. Clamp a bit down in the chuck and drive to your heart’s content. You can control the depth of drive with the clutch, just be sure to put the drill in fastening mode and not drilling mode.
Drills are capable of doing the drilling and fastening job on their own. But this article deals with how to use a drill and impact driver combo. If you have both, let the drill handle the drilling, and let the impact driver do your fastening. It’s likely you’ll be doing both at nearly the same time.
Making an Impact
Impact drivers use a hammer and anvil mechanism to deliver much more torque than you find in a drill. Even so, this type of tool also all but eliminates the torque to your wrist. Each time the hammer strikes the anvil, it turns the chuck without twisting the tool (and your hand) in the opposite direction. Most impact drivers have two anvils, but we see an impressive performance boost from Hitachi’s Triple Hammer model that introduces a third. The speed of rotation and impact rate make driving screws much faster with an impact driver than a drill.
Impact drivers see a tradeoff in the form of accuracy, however. You lose the control a clutch provides and have to rely on one to three gear settings. If, however, you happen to have a smart tool like the Milwaukee One-Key impact driver, then you can dial in the speed and torque however you want. Makita also has an A-Mode and T-Mode to help with control in metal and wood applications on some of their impact drivers. Because most impact drivers lack precision due to the anvil mechanism, fine woodworkers and carpenters tend to stick to a drill for consistent results. If you must use an impact driver for finer work, use a slow mode to stop the screw when it’s flush.
How to Use a Drill and Impact Driver Combo
So here’s the deal – when you use a drill for both drilling and driving, you have to stop and switch bits. Plus driving with the drill is slower. To use a drill and impact driver combo, simply set the drill bit you’ll use in the drill and the correct driver bit for your screws in your impact driver. Rather than changing bits, you just set one tool down and grab the other.
Pro Tip: If you work above ground at all, be sure to install the belt clips. When you’re at height, you’ll simply clip one tool to your belt while using the other. You’ll get used to which side you like each tool on and be able to reach for the correct one without looking quickly.
You don’t always need to drill a pilot hole before driving a bit. You typically only do that when the wood is in danger of splitting. In many cases, you can just use your impact driver to set your screw. But with lag screws in wood and nearly always in masonry and metal (unless you can use a self-tapping screw), you’ll need both tools to get the job done as efficiently as possible. Not having to swap out bits in a single drill can save you lots of time.
Have any tips of your own to teach an apprentice how to use a drill and impact driver combo that goes beyond the basics? Share them in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!