Drills: Which Type to Use?

VD September 09 2021

A drill is a useful tool for drilling holes in wood, concrete, stone, metal, or plastic. Equipped with additional devices, some models can also polish, grind, brush, mill, or stir. However, not all versions are equally suitable for all areas of application.

To find the right device for your own needs and requirements, this article will guide you through different types of drills.

What types of drilling machines are there?

The term “drill” includes all devices that drill holes in a material with the help of a power source (e.g. electric motor) and a drill. Depending on the particular application, the structural and functional designs of the individual models can sometimes be very different.

Most of the devices are electric hand drills. But there are also other types of drilling machines such as column and column drills, bench drills, radial drills, row drills, knothole drills, and core drills.

Types of electric drills

The wired hand drill is the classic form of an electric hand drill with a power cord for operation from a socket. According to the type of power supply, electrically powered drills can be divided into models with built-in accumulators (independent of the mains) and models that have to be connected directly to the mains and can therefore only be operated in a mains-dependent manner.

The device is held and guided by hand while drilling. In addition to electric and pneumatic hand drills, there are also hand-operated devices such as the drilling winch. 

To safely guide the machine at high torques, an additional handle can often be attached just before the drill chuck for the other hand. Often a depth stop can also be installed to limit the drilling depth. With the machine shown in the top picture, a switch can be used to switch between two gear gears to drill at low or high speed. 

Many devices also have a stepless electrical power controller (often called a "speed controller") with which the torque and speed can be influenced.

Types of cordless drills

The cordless drill is an electric hand drill with a (mostly lithium-ion) battery as an energy source. The cordless drills are significantly heavier than corded hand drills with the same performance. Cordless hammer drills and cordless rotary hammers are now also available. They are mostly used for light work in wood, plastic, and metal. Most cordless drills do not have a hammer mechanism, so they are not suitable for drilling into hard rock or concrete.

Types of hand drills

Hand-held drills are referred to as hand drills. Depending on the design, they are suitable for drilling in different materials such as metal, plastic, wood, masonry, concrete, or rock.

A common feature of all hand drills is the ability to insert drills and other rotating tools into a drill chuck that is generally attached to the front. The hand drills are differentiated based on several typical features.

The most important differentiating feature for hand drills is the type of energy supply, which can be done manually using muscle power, electrically, hydraulically, or pneumatically. Drilling machines for very high performance are predominantly hydraulically driven; Because of their weight, they cannot be carried by hand and are therefore not explained further in this article.

Manually operated drills are rarely used anymore, because on the one hand it is much more convenient to have an electric or pneumatic drive perform the drilling, and on the other hand it is difficult to guide the drill precisely if you have to crank it at the same time. Even in places where no electricity or compressed air is available, battery-operated devices have now replaced hand-operated ones.

Types of power drills

There are different types of power drill bits depending on the area of application and material. One of the more powerful types is impact drills. More mechanics make them a bit heavier and they have a slightly poorer concentricity. But if you want to be able to drill into walls, then an impact power drill is a must. For DIY enthusiasts, the impact drill is one of the most diverse machines and is so widespread nowadays that it is hardly possible to find drills without an impact function.

Despite having a hammer mechanism, impact drills are optimized for pure rotary drilling. This is not the case with a hammer drill. Rotary hammers are always in demand when it comes to working in concrete. This is hard work with a normal drill, whereas a good hammer drill goes into the hard material almost by itself.

Rotary hammers are available in different weight classes. For DIYer, compact-class power devices are sufficient, ranging in weight from 2 to 4kg, with rotary hammers from 3kg usually offering more impact or additional features such as changeable chucks, chisels, or second gear for fast drilling in metal or wood. 

The main job that the hammer drill is supposed to do is drilling in concrete. If the rotary hammer has a rotation stop, it can also be used for chiseling. However, this function should not be used excessively on smaller machines. So if you are planning a complex wall breakthrough, it is better to use the more suitable, larger chisel hammer in this case. 

If you are considering purchasing a power drill, be aware of the type of work you want to use the device for. If you mainly want to drill simple dowel holes with 6, 8, or 10mm, a small rotary hammer in the 2 kg range without a chisel function is completely sufficient. When buying a power drill, you should consider quality as well.

A distinction is made between stone, metal, or wood power drills. A wide variety of attachments are also available for power drilling machines. For example, you can use the drill to grind, polish, saw holes, stir or remove rust.


How many watts should electric drills have?

The wattage of drilling rigs provides information about the respective performance class. The higher the performance, the better the machine is suitable for demanding work. The majority of the commercially available models have 500 to 2000 watts. Devices with 700 watts are usually sufficient for occasional use.

The nominal power that an electric drill should provide depends primarily on the intended use. If you need an electric hammer drill with a powerful hammer mechanism, you should orientate yourself at the upper end of the scale. We recommend around 700 to 1000 watts for hammer drills. For users who want to process different materials, a machine with a higher wattage is recommended so that they are prepared for all eventualities.