How to Use a Power Drill

Please Note: Do not use this procedure if you are not certain that you can complete it safely, or if it does not seem accurate. Skippity Whistles provides this information as advice, and cannot accept any liability from your usage of it.

Your dad probably has one of these, and you see them advertised all the time. Soooooo, how do you use it?

Power drills are the best thing to come along since they invented toasters for sliced bread. They take the labor out of the laborious chore of driving screws, and are killer at drilling holes. 

This one’s a cordless drill. You can also find them with a thick electrical cord. The corded ones are cheaper, but the cordless is so much easier to use because you can take them just about anywhere.

Here are the parts:

These are the important features of a battery-powered drill.

Here are the parts of the power drill:

  1. Chuck. This is where you put the drill or screwdriver bit.
  2. Collet. This is how you open and close the chuck.
  3. Torque ring. Use this if you know exactly how tight you need the screw. Other, just set it to the highest number.
  4. Trigger. Squeeze this to turn the drill on, and let go to stop it.
  5. Gear Selector. Push it forward to drill, pull it backward to drive screws.
  6. Directional Button. Push it to the left to go forward. Push it right to go backward.
  7. Battery. If the drill has a power cord, it will be here instead of the battery.
Select a drill bit a little bit smaller in diameter than the screw you plan to use.

The best way to learn to use a power drill is to just use it. In our exercise, we’ll use it to drill a hole, and then use it to drive a screw into the hole. This is the screw’s head (1), and this part’s the shaft (3). Select a drill bit (3) that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the shaft.

Here's how to put a bit into the drill.

Turn the collet (1) until the chuck jaws (2) are just a little bit wider than the bit (3). Put the bit, smooth-end first, into the chuck (2), and then tighten the collet (1). 

Push the directional button (4) to the left, so that the arrow points towards the front of the drill. With the drill in your dominant hand, use the other hand to hold onto the collet.

Now, gently – I said gently – squeeze the trigger. This turns the collet clockwise until the chuck jaws firmly around the bit. Now we’re good to go.

Before we get moving, put on eye protection. If you wear prescription glasses, you’re okay. If your eyes are exposed, safety goggles will protect you from any flying objects.

Use a ballpoint pen – not a pencil, not a felt-tip –  where you want to drill the hold. Push down hard, so that you make a dimple. 

Now, with a nice, slowish speed, put the tip of the bit into the dimple. 

The bit pulls itself down into the wood. Don’t push the drill, just let it’s weight do the work. You’ll feel the bit sink into the wood. When you reach the collet, pull the drill straight up, so that the bit comes out of the hole.

Another way to back the drill is out is to push the direction button. This reverses the drill and backs it out, resulting in a very clean hole. 

As long we’ve got the drill in reverse, hold onto the collet with your free hand and gently squeeze the trigger. The chuck jaws open and the bit falls out. Careful – depending on how many holes you drilled, that bit can get super hot. 

New we’re going to drive this screw into the hole. As you can see, we have a bit that looks like a screwdriver, with this hexagonal base. Keep opening the jaws until the hexagon fits in there.

Like before, switch the direction to forward, hold onto the collet, and gently squeeze the trigger. Now the bit is tight. 

Although this bit is magnetic – look, the screw sticks right to it – the best way to do this is to start the screw by hand into the wood.  Doing it that way reduces the number of moving parts and gives you much more control over the operation.

With the screw in place, insert the tip of the bit into the head. Gently squeeze the trigger, and in she goes. Keep going until the head is flush with the surface of the wood. If the surface isn’t wood, but wallboard, you can actually drive the screw right through it. 

Once the screw has hit bottom, if you keep going, you’ll strip it out  – that sounds like this. It doesn’t take a lot of this to damage a screw so badly that you’ll never get it out, so go slow. 

You may have seen contractors do this: zip the screw in super fast. You can do that, too, but only. after you’ve gotten a feel for how fast the driver goes, and how far in you can get the screw. 

To unscrew a screw, push the direction button so that the arrow points to the back, and fit the bit into the screw. Make sure you can feel the bit fit into the head – you will. 

Squeeze the trigger slowly, and screw comes out. If the bit doesn’t fit into the head, or if you go too fast, you’ll hear this, which means you’re ruining the screw. Take your time – it will come.

Some caveats: 

If the screw is not firmly attached to the wood, it can become a projectile under the torque of the driver. 

While this driver has a clutch that stops it when you let go of the trigger, this one doesn’t, so it takes a second or so to wind down. Don’t do anything but hold onto it until it stops.

Although an easy and efficient tool, these are very powerful, and can cause you great harm. When you drill through something like this thin board, make sure your hand isn’t in harm’s way on the other side. 

Don’t let the drill hang on a drill bit – you can break the bit, or, worse, bend it. 

A bent drill bit is a very dangerous tool, and needs to be thrown away. Where a good drill bit describes a simple hole in the wood, a damaged bit describes an arc, and will most likely snap off where it’s bent. The broken part becomes a bullet.

Never, ever run the drill with a loose bit. It may seem tight, but centrifugal force can pry loose jaws open, and the bit will come out at speed. Always use the collet to tighten the jaws, and always wear eye protection.

It’s an electrical device, so don’t use it on or near wet stuff unless you like curly hair and the smell of barbecue. 

Finally, it’s an electrical device. Before you use it, examine the power cord, if it has one. Make sure the plug is firmly attached, and that the cable is undamaged. 

That’s it. Now you are the drill master!

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