A Comprehensive Guide On How To Use A Drill

Looking to understand how to use a drill like a pro? Power drills are a staple tool in every DIYer and woodworker’s toolkit. We’ll cover all you need to know to use a drill correctly and accurately helping you achieve beautiful results.

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Drills are standard in any DIY toolkit, but mastering their use elevates your craftsmanship to a professional level. Whether you’re a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a beginner looking to enhance your skills, understanding how to use a drill like a pro is a fundamental step. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive into the intricacies of drill usage, covering everything from choosing the right drill and how to use it, to advanced techniques and maintenance.

Parts Of A Drill

First, let’s go over the parts of a drill as every drill has the same basic components. 

  • Drill Bit – This is the removable piece that can come in varying sizes and styles and is inserted into the drill’s chuck. Common examples are a pointed twist bit to drill holes or a screwdriver bit to drive screws in.
  • Chuck – This is the adjustable part that holds a drill bit in the drill. It’s typically twisted by hand to open and swap out bits, although some drills have special keys to change the drill bits.
  • Trigger – This is the piece you squeeze to operate the drill. The drill will run when the trigger is squeezed and stop rotating when the trigger is released.
  • Forward/Reverse Switch – This is a switch or button that changes the rotation of the drill bit. If pointed forward, the drill bit will drive in a screw or drill a hole. If in reverse, the drill will remove a screw or extract the drill bit from the hole drilled. Many drill switches have arrows on them to indicate the direction of the rotation. Many of these switches also have a middle position that locks the drill trigger so it doesn’t start spinning when in a bag.
  • Clutch/Torque Selector – This part of the drill is used to increase or decrease the drill’s speed and how much torque (driving force) the drill applies. Adjusting the clutch typically requires simply twisting the collar around the numbers until you reach the desired one. Typically, higher speeds are used for drilling soft materials like wood, and lower speeds are used to drive screws drill into harder materials like metal, or use certain types of drill bits.
  • Power Supply – This is either a battery pack or a cord to plug in to give your drill power. If it’s battery-powered, you’ll also have a battery charger to plug your battery into.

How To Use A Drill – 6 Easy Steps

Next, we are going to go over the basic steps of how to use a drill. Then we are going to dive into understanding drills, settings, techniques, and more.

Step 1: Select a Drill Bit

Before you can start drilling, you need to select the appropriate drill bit. If you’re driving a screw, then simply select the screwdriver bit that matches the screw configuration (star, philips, slotted, etc.). We love having a magnetic bit holder for our drill as it makes it easy to swap screwdriver bits out.

If you’re drilling a hole, then it’s important to determine the size and depth of the hole you need. Select a twist drill bit that’s the correct size needed for the job. When creating a pilot hole for a construction screw, you’ll typically use a ⅛” drill bit as it’s slightly smaller than the width of a standard screw. This allows the screw’s threads to grip the material without splitting it. Finer screws will require smaller pilot holes, while lag screws need larger pilot holes. A good rule of thumb is to hold your bit up in front of your screw. You want to still see the threads, but not the shaft of the screw.

Step 2: Install the Chosen Bit Into the Drill

Next, you need to install the bit into the drill. This simply means opening the chuck enough by twisting it (counterclockwise) to insert the smooth part of the drill bit (the shank) into the drill’s chuck. You will see the jaws of the chuck open and close as you spin the collar. Once the jaws are open enough, insert the bit between them. Lastly, tighten the chuck down around the drill bit to ensure it’s snug and secure by turning it the other way. Some drills will click when tightened properly, others simply get snug.

The same method is used to change or remove a screwdriver bit. To make changing between screwdriver bits and drill bits faster, you can hold the chuck and pull the trigger on your dill to quickly open and close the chuck. Just make sure to tighten down the last turn by hand so that you don’t put too much strain on the mechanism.

Also, be careful if your chuck is too open. When you insert your drill bit, there is the possibility that it gets pinched between two jaws instead of centered between all three. This would hold your drill bit off center and is almost guaranteed to snap smaller bits.

Tip –  Make sure the chuck doesn’t overlap the flutes on a drill bit as that can increase the risk of the bit breaking.

Step 3: Check Other Settings

Before you start drilling, make sure to check all your other settings. Make sure you have the forward/reverse switch set to the correct setting. Again, a lot of drills will have arrows indicating which direction the rotation is. You’ll need to use forward to drive a screw or drill a hole, and reverse to unscrew or back a drill bit out of a hole.

Make sure your speed setting is correct if your drill has one. Use the faster speed for drilling into soft materials like wood. Use the slower setting when driving screws, drilling into harder materials like metal, or using larger drill bit types.

Finally, adjust the torque on the clutch to the needed task. If you are drilling small holes, use the highest torque setting. If you are drilling large holes, use a lower torque setting so your drill doesn’t whip out of your hand if it catches in the material. When you are driving screws, start on the lowest torque settings and increment up until you find a setting that sets your screw to the desired depth. If you have this too high, you may end up burying your screws in the material. The torque setting numbers can behave differently between the different speed settings. So experiment with your particular drill and figure out what works best for you.

And don’t forget to install a charged battery or plug in the drill’s cord!

Step 4: Mark Your Hole & Set Up Your Material

With the drill ready to go, next make sure the piece is safely secured to a workbench surface using clamps or a vice, or is sufficiently large and heavy enough that it won’t move if something catches. Set it up to ensure you won’t accidentally drill into the work surface, clamps, or vice. Putting a scrap wood piece underneath the material can help prevent this and also helps leave a cleaner edge where the drill exits the material.

If you have trouble with your drill “walking” (aka moving off mark as you start drilling), then try using a center punch or the tip of a screw to put a small indent on the precise location of the mark. This gives the drill a divet to start in and it’s less likely to move.

RelatedHubby How To: DIY Flipping Workbench

Step 5: Drill the Hole or Drive the Screw

To use the drill, align the tip of the drill bit with the location marked on the material or with the screw head. Make sure you are holding the drill perpendicular prior to squeezing the trigger. Then slightly push the trigger to start drilling slowly followed by speeding up and applying constant pressure. 

Once through the material or to the desired depth, continue to hold the trigger and pull the drill bit out. Repeat this process as needed until done.

Tip – If you are planning to drill a large hole with a twist drill bit, start with a smaller drill bit and incrementally widen the hole in stages. Starting with a large bit can make the bit walk more easily, create a messy hole, and wear out the bit faster. 

Step 6: Check the Hole & Clean Up

The last thing to do is check that the hole is good and perpendicular or that the screw is holding tight. If everything is good to go, then clean up any mess or sawdust left from drilling. Make sure to put the drill bit back in its storage case or a safe location to keep it from being damaged!

Tip –  We love using a Drill Block when drilling pilot holes to ensure our hole is straight and not angled. For larger holes, we utilize our Portable Drill Press.

Choosing the Right Drill

Now that you know the parts of a drill and the basics of how to use it, it’s time to dive into more about drills, settings, and techniques. 

A DIY project starts with selecting the right tool for the job. A drill is one of the most essential tools and is used almost every time to help assemble the project. With a myriad of options available, understanding the nuances of different drills is crucial.

Understanding Different Types of Drills

While many of us probably picture a cordless, battery-powered drill when we think of a power drill, there are actually a few different drill types.

Corded vs. cordless drills

Firstly, drills come either cordless (aka battery-powered) or corded. Cordless drills are lightweight, convenient, and portable. However, cordless drills do have a limited run time, so you have to remember to charge them. A corded drill can reach higher speeds and have larger chucks, which leads to more power and can be necessary when drilling into masonry or metal. However, a cord can get cumbersome and inconvenient depending on the project and location, and corded drills tend to be heavier than cordless ones. 

Impact driver vs. traditional drills

If you’re looking for more power out of a cordless option, then you might consider an impact diver over a traditional power drill. Power deliverance is the biggest difference between the two tools. A traditional drill operates with rotational force, while an impact driver combines rotational force with impact leading to more power overall. 

Impact drivers are more geared toward driving fasteners that require more power to install versus a traditional drill used for drilling holes or driving smaller screws. They are also great for removing stuck bolts or screws. In fact, given that they apply their force with a rotational impact, they are more likely to get out a stuck screw without stripping the head since they can re-seat themselves between strikes. We have both an impact driver and a traditional cordless drill to use depending on the project’s needs.

Note –  Don’t confuse an impact driver with a hammer drill. A hammer drill hammers a drill bit into the piece while drilling and is only used when drilling into masonry. Some drills have a hammer drill mode built in, but they are typically a separate tool.

Factors To Consider When Selecting A Drill

Selecting the right drill is necessary for the success of any project. With an array of options available in the market, understanding specific factors is essential to ensure that the chosen drill meets the requirements of the task at hand. Let’s delve into three critical factors when choosing a drill: power requirements, chuck size and type, and speed settings.

Power requirements

The power of a drill determines its ability to penetrate different materials effectively. For light to moderate tasks around the house, a 12v cordless drill will suffice, offering portability and convenience. For most workshops or serious DIYers, a 20v cordless drill is the optimum balance between power and portability.

On the other hand, heavy-duty projects, such as drilling through masonry or thick metal, demand the robust power of a corded drill. Assessing the power requirements of your projects is crucial to avoid frustration and ensure that the drill’s capabilities align with the demands of the task.

Chuck size and type

The chuck is the part of the drill that holds the bit securely in place. When it comes to chuck size, bigger isn’t always better. Smaller chucks are suitable for lighter tasks, while larger chucks accommodate more substantial bits required for heavy-duty applications. 

Additionally, the type of chuck matters. Keyless chucks offer convenience and speed in bit changes and these are most common with your typical battery-powered drills. Keyed chucks provide a tighter grip and are ideal for tasks requiring precision and stability. Choosing the right chuck size and type ensures compatibility with the bits you’ll be using and contributes to the overall efficiency of the drilling process.

Speed settings

Drill speed is a crucial factor that influences the efficiency and quality of your work. Different materials require different speeds for optimal results. Higher speeds are suitable for softer materials like wood, while slower speeds are necessary for tougher materials such as metal or masonry. Opting for a drill with variable speed settings grants you the flexibility to adjust the speed according to the specific requirements of each task. This not only enhances precision but also prevents unnecessary damage to both the drill and the material being worked on. A versatile drill that allows you to control the speed ensures adaptability across a variety of projects, making it a valuable asset in your toolkit.

Whether you’re a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a novice looking to tackle household tasks, a well-informed decision in drill selection is an important step toward successful and efficient project completion.

Understanding Different Drill Bits

Understanding drill bits and knowing the right bit for the job is vital. Let’s go over the different types of drill bits. There is a diverse array of drill bits with each type designed for specific applications. Among the most common are twist bits and screwdriver bits, but there are also other specialty bits. 

  • Twist bits – recognizable by their helical or fluted shape. Your DIY toolkit should have a good twist drill bit set with a range of sizes. They are versatile and suitable for a range of materials and likely the most common bit type you’ll use. There are different tip types though. For example, a brad point drill bit has two points at the edges of the tip and a center point that allow it to prevent wandering and cut a cleaner hole than traditional twist drill bits.
  • Screwdriver bits – these are the bits that drive a screw into place. They are the other most commonly used bit type and are also called a driver bits as they drive a screw in instead of “drilling” a hole.
  • Specialty bits
    • Forstner bits are circular bits with pointed ends for clean flat-bottom holes. They uniquely allow for the ability to drill overlapping holes and create notches.
    • Spade bits have a flat, paddle-like design that excel at drilling larger diameter holes. They’re used often in cutting holes in framing for electrical/plumbing where cut quality isn’t a concern. They are often cheaper than other larger hole bits.
    • Countersink bits are for adding a depression to allow the screw head to sit flush with a surface. They also have adjustable depth countersink bit that combines a countersink bit with a twist bit, saving time.
    • Hole Saws are for cutting large-diameter holes and similar to Forstner bits, but typically can create even larger holes. They only cut along the perimeter of the circle though so make sure that your hole saw is at least as deep as the material you are cutting.

Basic Drilling Techniques

With that knowledge, next are some of the basic drilling techniques. Mastering the basics sets the foundation for more intricate drilling tasks from proper positioning to the importance of pilot holes.

Starting a hole correctly

Before diving into a full-fledged hole, create a starting point by using a center punch or by gently tapping the drill bit into the desired starting point. This acts as a guide, preventing the drill bit from wandering and ensuring that the hole is precisely where you intend it to be.

Skidding can mar the surface you’re working on and compromise the precision of your project. To avoid skidding, start with a small pilot hole or use a center punch to mark the drilling point. This initial indentation provides a secure starting point for the drill bit, minimizing the chances of skidding and ensuring a clean entry into the material.

Initiating a hole correctly sets the tone for the entire drilling process. Begin with a slow and controlled drill speed to prevent skidding or wandering. Apply gentle pressure, allowing the drill bit to engage with the material gradually. Starting at a lower speed also reduces the risk of splintering or chipping, especially when working with wood. As you drill deeper, you can increase the speed.

Achieving the right depth

Controlling the depth of your drill is a basic technique for achieving the desired results. Many drill presses come equipped with depth adjustment features that allow you to set the drilling depth, but those don’t exist on hand drills. Instead, you can use tape or stop collars on the drill bit to indicate the desired depth. Before starting your drill, measure and mark the desired depth on the bit using colored tape or a stop. This guide ensures that you drill to the exact depth required, whether you’re assembling furniture or creating holes for shelving. Consistently achieving the right depth enhances the overall aesthetics and functionality of your project.

Creating pilot holes

The importance of pilot holes cannot be overstated, especially when working with dense materials or near the edges of your material. A pilot hole serves as a preliminary guide for larger drill bits or screws, reducing the resistance and potential for splintering. This technique is particularly crucial when drilling into hardwoods or delicate materials to achieve clean and precise results.

Pilot holes minimize the risk of wood splitting, ensure accurate placement of screws, and reduce the strain on your drill and bits. While it may seem like an extra step, creating pilot holes ultimately saves time and frustration, especially in intricate woodworking or delicate applications.

Advanced Drilling Techniques

Beyond the basics of creating holes, mastering advanced techniques like countersinking, using hole saws, and drilling angled holes opens up a realm of possibilities.

Countersinking and counterboring

Counterboring and countersinking are techniques that add a touch of professionalism to your projects. Countersinking involves creating a conical hole on the surface to accommodate a screw head, allowing it to sit flush with the material. Counterboring, on the other hand, creates a cylindrical recess to house the entire screw, concealing it beneath the surface. These techniques not only enhance the aesthetic finish of your work but also prevent protruding screw heads that can snag or catch.

Achieving accurate countersinking requires attention to detail and precision. Start by selecting the appropriate countersink bit for the screw size you’re using. Adjust the depth to match the screw head’s length, ensuring the countersink is deep enough to house the screw head. If needed, practice on scrap material to fine-tune your technique before applying it to your actual project. Maintaining a steady hand and controlling the drill speed are key factors in achieving clean and uniform countersinks.

Tip –  We have an amazing Adjustable Depth Countersink that allows you to set a consistent counter sink depth and drill a pilot hole all in a single step. We highly recommend it!

Hole saws 

Hole saws are versatile tools with a circular saw-like design and are commonly used to create openings for pipes, wires, or recessed lighting. However, it’s essential to be aware of their limitations. Hole saws may struggle with dense materials like metal or ceramics, and their effectiveness can be impacted by the material’s thickness. Using a pilot hole before employing a hole saw enhances precision and reduces the risk of walking.

Paddle Bits

Paddle bits, recognizable by their flat, paddle-shaped blades, are ideal for creating holes in wood and other soft materials. To ensure a cleaner hole, start with a pilot hole to guide the paddle bit. Maintain a steady speed and avoid applying excessive pressure, allowing the bit’s cutting edges to work smoothly through the material. Clear away debris periodically to prevent the bit from overheating and ensure optimal performance. Paddle bits are excellent for tasks like creating holes for wiring or plumbing, providing a quick and effective solution.

Drilling angled holes

Whether you’re creating joints, doing pocket holes, attaching hardware, or adding decorative elements, the ability to drill angled holes opens up a new dimension in woodworking and furniture making. Creating dowel joints, assembling frames, or adding decorative elements often involves drilling at specific angles.

Angled drilling requires precision and control. Begin by marking the desired position on the material. Use a drill press or a handheld drill with an angled attachment for stability. Alternatively, create a jig to guide the drill at the desired angle. Practice on scrap material to refine your technique before committing to your actual project. It often helps to start your drill bit perpendicular to the piece to prevent it from walking, and then lay it down into your angle before continuing.

Maintaining and Sharpening Drill Bits

Drill bits are the workhorses of any toolkit, tirelessly boring through materials to bring your projects to life. However, to ensure they remain at peak performance, regular maintenance and sharpening are critical. Let’s dive into the essential practices of maintaining and sharpening drill bits, exploring techniques to extend their lifespan and keep your DIY projects on track.

Regular Cleaning & Sharpening

A fundamental aspect of drill bit maintenance is regular cleaning and sharpening. After each use, take a moment to remove any debris or residue accumulated on the drill bit. Cleaning ensures that the cutting edges remain unobstructed, optimizing their efficiency during subsequent use.

Sharpening is another critical element in the maintenance routine. You can sharpen a drill bit by hand using a bench grinder or belt sander or using a drill bit sharpener (basically like a pencil sharpener). Sharpening your bits when they’ve started to dull will increase cutting performance and save you money by reducing the need to buy more bits. Regular cleaning and sharpening create a foundation for effective maintenance, ensuring your drill bits are ready for the next task.

We created a little DIY storage for our most used drill bits (wood block with holes) and use the storage containers the drill bits came with for others.

Other Techniques for Extending the Lifespan of Your Bits

  • Proper Storage: Store your drill bits in a dedicated case or organizer to prevent damage and ensure they remain organized. This also minimizes the risk of bits knocking against each other, which can lead to chipping or dulling.
  • Rotation of Bits: Distribute the workload among your drill bits to ensure even wear. If possible, regularly rotate the bits you use to avoid overusing a single one, particularly when working on demanding materials.
  • Coolant and Lubrication: When working with hard materials like metal or masonry, use a coolant or lubricant to reduce heat and friction. This not only enhances cutting performance but also prevents overheating, which can significantly impact the longevity of your drill bits.
  • Consider Speed and Pressure: Adjust the speed and pressure based on the material you’re drilling. Excessive speed or pressure can lead to overheating and premature wear. Match the drill settings to the hardness of the material for optimal results.
  • Avoid Excessive Force: Let the drill bit do the work. Excessive force can lead to unnecessary strain on the bit, causing it to wear out faster. Allow the bit to cut at its own pace, applying consistent, moderate pressure.
  • Regular Inspection: Periodically inspect your drill bits for signs of wear, such as dullness or chipping. Identifying and addressing issues early can prevent further damage and extend the overall lifespan of the bit.
  • Use the Right Bit for the Job: Selecting the right drill bit for the material at hand is crucial. Using the wrong type of bit not only compromises performance but can also lead to faster wear and tear. Match the bit to the material to ensure longevity.

DIY Projects You Need To Try

Mastering using a drill like a pro involves a combination of knowledge and practice. By understanding the nuances of different drills, adopting proper techniques, and exploring advanced applications, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle a wide range of projects. Check out some of our DIY projects articles for inspiration!

Hope this guide helps you understand how to use a drill! Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below!

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.

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