How To Use A Drill

Simple tips and instruction for using an electric or cordless drill.

An electric or portable (battery powered) drill can be a scary thing. But they aren't hard to use. The most common drills come in a pistol shape, making them easy to hold and use. The drill has a trigger you squeeze in order to make the drill bit rotate. Sometimes there is also a safety button located on the pistol handle that has to be pressed at the same time you squeeze the trigger in order to make the drill bit rotate.

Before all of this you have plugged the cord into an electrical outlet. Or if it is battery powered you have inserted the battery pack. The battery pack is usually inserted into a docking station on the bottom of the pistol handle. Between uses the battery pack is charged in another docking station which is connected to an electrical outlet.

A drill without a drill bit is useless. A drill bit is the piece at the end of the drill that does the actual drilling. Drill bits come in a wide variety of sizes (diameter) and length. We'll say more about bit sizes later. First you have to insert the bit into the drill.

The end of the drill's barrel has an opening. Insert the dull end of the drill bit into this hole. Now you have to tighten the drill bit into this hole so the bit is secure and does not come free. This is accomplished in one of two ways. The most traditional way is to use a chuck key. The chuck key is a small piece of petal shaped in a right angle. One piece of the key fits into the tightening collar around the bit. There is a hole there for that purpose. Then you simply turn the key clockwise tightening the collar over the bit. Turn it clockwise to tighten. Turn it counterclockwise to loosen the collar and free the bit. When you do this make certain the drill is unplugged from its power source. This is a safety precaution.

The second way does not include a chuck key. Instead there are usually two tightening collars. One next to the other at the end of the drills barrel. The bit is inserted in the outermost collar. Then you grasp this collar with one hand holding it immobile. With a small bit of power provided by squeezing the trigger the loose collar spins freely and tightens the bit into the collar. If you want to tighten the bit the collar must spin clockwise. If you want to loosen the bit the collar must turn counterclockwise. The direction of the collar's spin is determined by moving a switch on the drill usually located near the trigger.

Now your drill is ready to go. Drills are used for making holes into which a fastener (screw, bolt) is inserted to hold one piece of material to another. You should make certain the diameter of your drill bit is appropriate for the size of your fastener. A hole too small makes it very difficult if not impossible to insert your fastener. A hole too big means the fastener will be loose and not act as a secure fastener. The diameter of a bit is measured either in inches or centimeters. If you lose track of the bit's original packaging that notes the bit's size, size templates are available at hardware stores to determine the bit's size.



You now have the correct bit size and it is securely settled into the drill. You are ready to drill. First make certain the bit is the appropriate material for the material you are drilling. Select a bit designed for metal if you are drilling through metal and select a bit designed for wood when drilling through wood. Using the incorrect bit will damage the bit and perhaps not accomplish the task. Using a wood bit on metal often does not penetrate the metal.

When you have marked on the material to be drilled where you want the hole mark it with a pencil or marker with a dot or "˜x'. Place the drill bit exactly on the mark, squeeze the drill trigger and give just the slightest push to the drill. Let the drill do the work. Be patient and don't force the drill bit through the hole. Try to keep the drill as perpendicular to the material as possible.

There will be occasions when you have to drill a hole at an angle. In these cases drill carefully. You can draw a pencil line on the material noting the angle and then try to follow that pencil guide as you drill. There are also angle guides you can use. Place these over the spot you want drilled with the guide calibrated at the correct angle. Insert the drill bit into the guide and drill away.

If you are drilling completely through the material when the drill bit begins to exit out the other side of the material be careful; especially with wood. The drill bit exiting the wood can splinter the wood around the exit point. If this part will be hidden, who cares? If it will show, you might want to sand it smooth. Better yet prevent the splintering by covering the exit point with masking or duct tape. The tape will decrease if not prevent the splintering.

Not all holes need to go all the way through the material. Some holes need only be a certain depth in the wood. The easiest way to make certain you drill the correct depth is to measure the needed hole depth on your drill bit. Then mark that point on the bit with a marker or wrap some tape around the bit at the measured spot. Then when you drill only insert the drill bit to the mark or tape. You can also purchase bit collars that slide over the bit and are secured at the appropriate depth. The collars usually attach with a small hex wrench or screwdriver.

The drilling is done and you have to get the bit out. Give the drill a little power to spin the bit and slowly pull it out of the hole. Don't be too quick or pull it out without spinning the bit. Either of these may cause the bit to bind in the hole.

The hole is complete and now you need to attach the fastener. Bits can be inserted into the drill turning the drill into a screwdriver or wrench. If you are attaching screws determine the size of the screw head and select a matching screwdriver bit. Connect the screwdriver bit to the drill in the same way you would other bits. Put the bit head in the screw head and squeeze the trigger. Be careful not to provide so much power that you go all the way through the material (if that's not called for) or force the screw head too far down into the material. It's easy to get carried away with the power of the drill. If you are attaching a bolt fastener you can also purchase bolt sockets that can be attached to the drill. Match the bit size with the bolt, attach the bit to the drill, and screw in the bolt.

© High Speed Ventures 2011