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17 Different Types of Drills & Their Uses

There are lots of reasons why you might want to drill a hole in something. Holes are great for running electric cables. They also allow you to connect two objects with a nut-and-bolt set. Or, if you’re into gardening, you might want to create holes for drainage.

Drills exist to help you create those holes. But because the materials you might need to drill through vary, there are a lot of different drills on the market. How you drill through certain materials will heavily depend on the bits you attach, but those bits will have specific needs in terms of drill power. Knowing what various drills offer is critical when it comes to investing money.

Basic Home Drills

It’s not as common to own a drill as it is to own, say, a hammer, or a few screwdrivers. But a basic drill is a handy tool. Who knows? You might even already own a tool that can drill holes—you just need to know how to prepare it and have the right parts.

1. ‘Eggbeater’ hand drill

Up until the advent of cheap power tools, this was the hand drill of choice in most homes. It’s a simple design that can punch a hole in wood pretty quickly, but it’s really limited when it comes to harder materials. This works best with basic bits.

Eggbeater hand drill

2. Push drill

The action on this hand tool is pretty simple: attach a bit, push it against the spot where you want a hole, and let it do its thing. Don’t use it on anything thick or hard to drill through though, because it’s not all that powerful. If you need to poke holes in paneling or drywall, this is a good choice.

Push drill

3. Cordless drill

If you happen to have a cordless screwdriver, odds are that it’s also a basic cordless drill. All you’ll need are some basic drill bits. As long as you’ve got a good charge on the battery, it can drill most of the holes you’ll need.

Cordless drill

Powered Hand Drills

Drill work naturally lends itself to powered hand tools. In fact, you can do most drilling with a basic cordless combination screwdriver/drill, which we’ve already looked at. If you’ve got work that requires something a little different, however, you have a range of options to choose from.

4. Corded power drill

The biggest advantage that a corded power drill has over a cordless one is consistent power. As long as you’ve got enough cord, you can drill. If you’re using a cordless drill, you’ll need to keep an eye on the battery’s charge.

Corded power drill

5. Reversible drill

A reversible drill allows you to reverse the action of its chuck from clockwise to counter-clockwise. This isn’t much of an advantage when it comes to drilling holes, but if you’re using the drill’s added power to push in difficult screws, it is.

Reversible drill

6. Impact drill

Impact drills are great for heavy-duty work. They exert extra force onto the bit as it rotates, giving a bit more cutting ability to the curling drill blade. If you’re trying to drill a hole through particularly hard or knotted wood, this could be just the tool that gets the job done.

Impact drill

7. Hammer drill

The big difference between an impact drill and a hammer drill is that hammer drills apply extra force from the back, rather than along the side, of the blade. It’s like hitting the back of the blade with a hammer while it drills. This tool is great for getting a bit through things like masonry.

Hammer drill

8. D-handle drill

Traditional hammer drills have a pistol trigger grip. Placing a D-handle on the back, rather than having it jut out below the casing, gives the user more control. That makes the D-handle drill probably the most heavy-duty of the hand drills.

D-handle drill

Manual drills

Manual drills are considered a bit obsolete, but they still have their specialty uses. They’re especially useful when you need to make a measured hole. While we’ve taken a look at two of the most popular styles of hand drills already, there are a couple more worth profiling.

9. Breast drill

Traditional manual drills rely purely on the strength of the user’s hands and wrists. A breast drill adds a brace to the back of the tool so the person using it can add their whole body’s strength when drilling.

Breast drill

10. Brace drill

Designed primarily for woodworking, the brace drill has a handle on the back with a U-shaped grip that produces power by rotating it. This creates more power than a traditional eggbeater-style hand drill used for denser wood.

Brace drill

Pneumatic Drills

Tools that operate via compressed air are usually the most powerful tools in their class. That’s the case with drills, too. If you have to drill deep holes in dense materials, you’ll want to look at one of these. However, it’ll also require that you need to invest in an air compressor.

11. Straight air drill

Designed for operating in confined spaces, the straight air drill is a small, handheld tool that is essentially just a compressed air hose connected to the guts to make the drill go around. You can get these drills at a pretty good price.

Straight air drill

12. Gun handle pneumatic drill

These air-powered tools might be a bit more powerful than what you need for most wood projects, but if you need to punch holes through soft metal or thick, dense wood they are a good choice. They also have space so that you can put your hand on the back and offer just a hair more power.

Gun handle pneumatic drill

Heavy-Duty Drills

Drill presses are more powerful than any handheld tool. These tools are best for punching holes in things like metals.

13. Portable drill press

These drill presses are light enough that you can move them to where you need to work; they also often have ways that you can temporarily anchor the base. They’re still intended for heavy-duty drilling, though.

Portable drill press

14. Drill press

If you have the need for a heavy-duty drill in your workshop, a drill press is invaluable. If you’re considering one of these, make sure you start by looking at how you’re going to anchor it into the ground. Also, give yourself some space on either side for your workpieces.

Drill press

Specialty Drills

There are times when you might need to apply a unique drilling motion, or perhaps you’ll need to drill special kinds of holes. In these instances, you’ll either need a specialized drill, or you’ll need to know how to repurpose a drill to suit your needs.

15. Dentist’s drill

Armed with tungsten-carbide blades, these drills are intended to create holes for removing material. Though they are air operated, they aren’t necessarily well suited to an air compressor. But if you really need this kind of hole, this is an option to consider.

Dentist’s drill

16. Cranial drill

Cranial drills are designed to cut holes in incredibly dense bone. Very few people outside the medical professions have reason to own one of these, but if you do super-specialized work that requires putting holes through very dense materials it might be an attractive option.

Cranial drill

17. Gimlet

Gimlets are specialty drills for woodworking. They’re used to put very small holes in wood without risking splitting. If you’re working with very soft wood that might split if you use a power tool, this small hand tool that relies on wrist strength might be a good option.


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