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Cordless Impact Drivers, Corded, and Battery-Powered Drills

The Tool Industry Continues to Offer Lighter, Stronger, More Efficient Gear

© 2011 by all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

A DeWalt Screwgun; photo courtesy Luigizanasi

A DeWalt Screwgun; photo courtesy Luigizanasi

This article was updated on 07/24/20.

Screws. They are seemingly simple things, but their function and utility is nothing less than amazing. From the drywall screws that make rapid wall construction possible to Tapcon masonry screws and coated deck screws, screws are ubiquitous.

But the challenge that’s always been with us is how to apply them quickly without stripping them out. Whether it is a Philips head or slotted, the malleability of the screw may not be up to the denseness of the material it is being applied to. Here are two woodworking tips.

  1. Pre-drill the screw hole. Select a drill bit that is the same size as the screw shaft but not the threads.
  2. Especially with wood, rub the threads across a bar of bath soap prior to insertion. Lube the tube, so to speak.

Installing Screws the Old-Fashioned Way

Carpenters back in the day had limited options; first, employ a standard screwdriver, usually after pre-drilling a hole in the wood, or secondly, using a Stanley Yankee. Yankees are only found in antique shops now, but during their heyday they were quite the innovation. I even had one when I was an apprentice carpenter. Electrical power wasn't always available and cordless had yet to make its debut.

The issue using either of these methods is that they’re slow. Not much of an issue for us DIY types on a honey-do list, but for the paid tradesmen, it’s too slow and that costs money. Power tool manufacturers were paying attention.

Stepping up to Hand-Held Drills with Screw Bits

Soon carpenters figured out that they could stick a screw bit into their corded drills and speed up both production and efficiency. A great solution other than the fact that screw heads tended to strip out without proper finger control and it stinks dragging a cord around.

The next generation of tools consisted of the cordless drill and screw gun as the most popular items. First the screw gun with a cord was introduced for hanging drywall, mostly for metal studs in the commercial construction. Milwaukee was long considered the best but then Makita introduced its model which was cheaper, much lighter, and just as powerful.

The next generation of development was the cordless drill. A great idea but the initial challenge was battery capacity. This was solved by the development of the lithium-ion battery. Not only did battery life between charges, but the memory problem was virtually eliminated.

The memory issue simply means that each time a battery is charged up, it doesn’t quite reach the capacity of the previous charge.

Next Comes the Cordless Impact Drivers

Although cordless drills have been around for quite awhile now, they are heavy and often strip out the screw heads while working on challenging materials like concrete, oak trim, and stainless steel. The new generation of cordless impact drivers and drills make strides in addressing both of these issues.

The new tools are smaller, which allows us to work effectively to closer quarters like when using a Kreg K4 pocket hole jig. The “impact” aspect minimizes stripping and the battery quality is very good.

As an example, Makita’s 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Cordless 3-Speed Brushless Motor Impact Driver offers three separate impact options. The brushless motor offers an estimated 20% longer battery life on each charge. This is quite an advantage for tough jobs and all-day operation.

Popular Tool Brands

Just like the great Chevrolet/Ford pick up truck debate, craftsmen (and craftswomen to be fair and inclusive) are brand-loyal. The important thing is sticking with one brand so you only need one charger.

  • Ryobi; this is my favorite. I have the drill, circular saw, trim nailer, router, sawzall, belt sander, and 40-Volt brushless mower.
  • Milwaukee.
  • Makita.
  • Porter-Cable.
  • DeWalt.
There are more but these are the ones I recommend. They have a reputation for quality in the world of cordless impact drivers, corded, and battery-powered drills. Parts and batteries are easy to find.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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© 2011 all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission.