I’m very excited to announce a new monthly column: DIY 101! Sometimes it feels like DIY projects should be redefined as FIOY– “figure it out yourself”– projects. I know from experience that the gap between looking at an object and thinking “well I can make that” and enjoying a successfully completed project can be a large one. I’m excited to create a collection of tutorials and reference guides that will make the process of tackling projects much easier. My hope is that in the process of “figuring out” your creative DIY endeavors, you can always turn to our DIY 101 archives to find answers.
I want to start off the new series with some information on how to build up a complete DIY toolbox. The well-rounded DIYer will have everything from a needle and thread to a jigsaw stashed away, for the very reason that you never know what kind of solution you’ll need to come up with. For the next few months I am going to suggest some incredibly useful tools to have on hand.
Today we start with the cornerstone of handiness and DIY versatility: the cordless drill.
CLICK HERE to find out more about cordless drills and how to choose one after the jump!
1. Anatomy of a drill:
2. Choosing a drill:
Cordless drills are available in various sizes and battery powers, which are measured in volts. Look for drills with lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. These batteries are more expensive, but they last longer, weigh less, and have a shorter charging time than their alternative, the nickel cadmium battery. In my opinion, they are worth the investment.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing your drill:
- Weight/Grip – I highly recommend testing out the drill in person. Hold the drill as if you were going to be drilling something into the wall at shoulder height. You don’t want your hand to be shaking and your wrist to be aching after only a few seconds– the drill should feel relatively light and you should have a good grip around the handle and be able to press the trigger easily.
- Torque (power) – The voltage on cordless drills ranges from 6V to 18V and will determine how much torque (spinning power) you can get from the drill. 18V cordless drills are the most powerful, but can also be rather heavy compared to lower voltage drills. If you simply need to hang pictures and do a few light wood projects, you can definitely get by with a 7V or 9V drill. If you want to do larger wood or furniture projects, or drill through varied materials like metal, plastic, or tile, go with a drill between 12V and 18V–you’ll need the extra power.
- Speed – The speed is measured in RPMs. Faster speeds are for drilling holes and lower speeds are for driving in screws. Some drills will come with variable speed options, while the more inexpensive drills might have only one speed. I highly recommend you purchase a multiple speed drill. The ability to drill at a slow speed allows more control and helps prevent slipping and stripped screws.
I have to say that am quite happy with my Makita 18V cordless model. It’s compact and lightweight– perfect for my small hands. It has enough power for all of my DIY experiments and has a nifty feature that I love: an LED bulb turns on when you push the trigger, conveniently illuminating those hard to see drilling spots.
Now that you have picked out a drill, here are some recommended bits to get you started on multiple kinds of projects. Most bits are interchangeable among drills; you don’t need to purchase bits in the same brand as your drill, but you should ask the salesperson or bring your drill along to ensure the bits is compatible.
3. Types of Bits:
- Standard Bit Holder + Bits: This is a bit holder with removable bits. You can purchase a collection of flat and Phillips head bits in various sizes at the hardware store. The black rubber surrounds a sliding sheath, which will slide up over the crew head and bit. This allows you to drill without holding the screw in place.
Use for: Drilling in screws of various materials and sizes into wood, metal, and plastics.
- Boring/Spade/Paddle bit: This bit has many names, but only one job– making cylindrical cuts into wood. These bits can cause the surface of the wood to splinter and chip, which is called “tear out”. If you want to drill a hole straight through a piece of wood, I recommend having a scrap piece underneath when drilling. Press down on the two pieces of wood as your drilling to minimize tear out. It’s also a good idea to wear safety goggles and a dust mask when using these bits (and anytime you drill) because many little shavings will go flying as you drill.
Use for: making clean holes with ¼” diameter or higher, creating cylindrical depressions in wood for dowels, jars, etc.
- Countersink bit: This bit is used when you want screws to sit flush with the surface of the wood. The countersink bit has a tiny chuck on it that allows you to switch out the drill bit inside.
Use for: pre-drilling holes for screws or nails that you want to sit flush with the surface of material. Use a bit with a slightly smaller diameter than your screw or nail to ensure a secure fit.
- Masonry Bit: The bit has a carbide tip which provides extra cutting power and should not be used on wood, plastics, or metal. Drilling through ceramic usually produces lots of heat, so proceed slowly and have a small glass of water close by to apply to the hole occasionally.
Use for: drilling into plates, tiles, terracotta pots, and bricks.
- Twist Bit: These bits are meant for wood and soft plastics, and are the most common bits to use for simple wood projects. They come in a range of sizes and are usually made of low carbon steel. High carbon steel bits are also available. These are more expensive, but allow you to drill through metal and will stand up to hardwoods better than the soft carbon.
Use for: wood projects, wood furniture, dowels, tin cans or any metal or plastic projects.
4. Helpful Tips on Drilling:
- ALWAYS use eye protection. Drills create flying shards and splinters, and your face is usually close to the action. You may also want to use gloves and ear buds if working on heavier duty projects. Be safe!
- If you’re handling anything heavy or precarious, have a buddy around to help hold the item as your drilling or screwing. I’ve been the dummy who tries to hang a shelf by myself. It’s not a good idea.
- Purchase a few c-clamps to secure smaller projects down when drilling. This helps keep your hands away from the action and allows for more precise, even drilling.
- Masonry materials (terracotta, porcelain, ceramics, etc) can overheat from the friction of drilling. It’s good to work at a slow speed and have a glass of water handy when you are drilling so you can stop periodically add a few drops to the point of contact to cool it down.
Next month I’ll discuss more essential elements for building your DIY toolbox. In the meantime, here are some of my favorite DIY projects that you can create to show off your new drill!