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Buy a Good Drill, Then Learn How to Use It


When you buy an electric drill, buy the best, most powerful household model that you can afford. And make sure it fits comfortably in your hand.

A good basic electric drill has a three-eighth-inch chuck and a variable-speed reversing (VSR) capability. Such a drill accepts bits with shanks up to three-eighths of an inch in diameter and lets you control how fast you drill.

Cordless drills are convenient, but they are usually slower and less powerful than plug-in models. They also require recharging, from 15 minutes to several hours. As a result, consider using a plug-in drill and a cordless one as a team. The plug-in one can serve as a backup when the cordless needs recharging or can't supply enough power.

Here are some drilling tips:

Straight Holes

--A bent drill is likely to break and damage your work. Because bits bend easily--especially thin ones--test each one for straightness before use. Roll the bit slowly on a flat surface. If it wobbles, it's bent.

--To drill straight and avoid breaking a bit, hold the drill so that the force you exert helps push the drill straight into the material. Place the palm of your hand in line with the chuck, extending your index finger along the drill body. Pull the trigger with your middle finger.

--Newer drills often have one or two built-in levels to help you drill straight holes. To upgrade an older drill, cut the hooks off a mason's line level and attach it to the top of the drill with duct tape.

Special Bits, Tips

--For drilling tile, concrete or masonry, use a masonry bit with a carbide tip. When drilling into concrete, make a small hole first and then enlarge it with larger bits. If you have to drill many holes into concrete, rent or buy a hammer drill and drill bits especially designed for it. (Don't use an ordinary carbide-tip masonry bit; it may snap.) By actually pounding the spinning bit into the surface, a hammer drill makes your work much easier.

Pre-Drill Tips

--To keep a bit from skating around when you start a hole in wood, draw cross marks where you want to drill. Then use a center punch to dimple the cross marks. Use a star drill to make a starting dimple in masonry. For ceramic tile, scratch an X with a carbide masonry bit.

--If you let a bit go completely through a piece of wood, it leaves a rough, splintery edge on the back side of the wood when it exits. To make a clean hole, look--don't feel--for the point of the bit as it pierces the back side of the work. Pull out the bit, and using the little hole as a centering guide, drill in and finish the hole from the back.

Avoiding a Mess

--Drilling into a plaster wall can damage the wall surface and leave a mess on the floor. To avoid that, tape an open paper bag under the spot you intend to drill into, covering the spot itself with tape. After drilling, peel off the tape and discard the bag.

--When drilling into a ceiling, first drill through the center of a plastic coffee can lid. Then leave the lid on the bit as you drill the hole to keep the dust from falling all over the floor or into your eyes. As a safety measure, always wear goggles when drilling into a surface at eye level or above.

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