How To Use A Screw Gun (Drill Driver)
Drill & Driver Guide
Cordless drill/drivers pack a punch in both power and features. The best part is that prices are lower than ever for great-quality models.
Understanding Your Drill Controls
A variable-speed trigger switch makes drilling easy. Above is a forward/reverse switch that you can easily reach with your thumb.
Most drills include two choices—one for drilling and one for driving screws. Believe it or not, this makes a big difference.
Curb the amount of power you unleash on a screw—to prevent stripping or driving screws too far into the project wood.
Why use a Cordless Drill?
It’s funny that most of what I do with a drill has nothing to do with drilling. More often I’m driving screws, not making holes.
Hopefully these controls will make some sense as your read further.
A Note About Drill Safety
When I talk about the dangers of using tools, it’s hard to put the cordless drill in the same category as a power saw.
However, that doesn’t mean a cordless drill is harmless.
An 18v motor has enough muscle to twist your elbow out of joint if you’re not careful.
The most likely time for this to happen is when the bit breaks through the backside of a board – which can cause the bit to bind up in the wood.
There’s not much you can do to prevent this. Just be prepared with some extra gripping power as your bit breaks through to the other side of the board.
Top 3 Mistakes People Make Using a Screw Gun (Drill)
Use low-speed (1) for driving screws and bolts. This offers more control and more torque for driving stubborn wood screws.
Use high speed (2) for drilling holes. This helps clear out sticky wood debris from the pilot hole while you drill.
Overworking The Drill Driver
Cordless drills work fine for driving screws in bookcases and tables. However, be careful with larger projects.
For example, building a deck or shed can quickly overheat smaller cordless drills and shorten the life of the battery and the tool.
For the big jobs, consider using a special impact driver to fasten hardware like lag screws and carriage bolts.
Using Dull Bits
We’re all guilty—using the same bit over and over until we’re doing nothing but stirring up a lot of heat.
Dull bits not only waste time—they wear out the motor. When buying cheap bits, accept the fact that these will be “disposable” bits.
Keep a set of cheap twist bits for down-and-dirty jobs, and a nicer set of pilot-point bits for wood projects.
What You CAN Do with a Cordless Drill...
Drill Pilot Holes
This is an easy task for cordless drills. Variable speed is probably the most important feature here, but there are some other adjustments to consider, too.
Note: Set Speed to High for drilling holes. Drill bits can clog up fast with wood. So the faster the speed, the quicker your drill can remove all that sticky wood from the hole.
Note: Set Speed to Low for driving screws and fasteners. The slower speed allows more control and more torque for twisting stubborn wood screws into place.
Cut Small Holes
Using a hole-cutting bit, the cordless drill is the perfect tool for making small holes in wood. Look for hole-cutting accessories at your local home center.
Don’t overwork your drill by trying to cut holes more than a couple inches deep or a couple inches in diameter. These jobs are better suited for a jigsaw or drill press.
...What You CAN’T do with a drill
The Bigger Jobs
Everything has its limit. Jobs like cutting large circles, tightening carriage bolts, and boring deep holes might be better suited for a heavy-duty driver, or a ½" chuck drill with a cord.
Torque Adjustment Ring
The most misunderstood feature in a cordless drill is the torque adjustment ring.
The best way to understand what this control does is to think of how you use hand-held screwdrivers.
You let the feel of the screwdriver tell you how much (or how little) force to put on the screw, without stripping the head or driving it too deep into the wood.
When an18-volt motor is controlling things instead, you can easily strip the head of a wood screw in a matter of seconds, or drive a wood screw so far into a board that comes out the other side (yikes).
Enter the adjustable torque clutch! This is a great feature that lets you control just how much power you’ll unleash on a wood screw.
Look for an adjustable ring located behind the chuck that starts at 0 and goes up to something like 20 or 25. Zero is the softest setting…and 25 totally unleashed.
Start out at zero and slowly move up in numbers until you have just right amount of torque to drive the screw just below the surface of the board—but no further.
Twist Bits, Drill Bits, Wood Bits etc...
However, for most small projects, the choices can be narrowed down to just a few bits that will cover just about every job you’ll face in the shop.
Why So Many Colors?
The color of a bit indicates the type of coating—which mostly serves to reduce heat and increase the hardness of the steel. This is an important feature for drilling holes in steel, but not so much for wood.
The Only Drill Bits You Really Need In Your Tool Box...
Combination Drill Bit
This bit features a tapered shaft and countersink head, designed to better accommodate the shape of a typical wood screw.
Self-Centering Drill Bits
A must-have item for installing hinges. The clever tool keeps your pilot hole perfectly centered in each hole of the hinge.
What To Look For In Driver Bits...
I’m always a bit overwhelmed with all the drill bits and drill bit attachments I see at places like Home Depot.
Deciding what to buy can be a challenge. The good news is that for most small projects, one set of bits and a couple accessories will do the job.
The Only Driver Bits You'll Really Need In Your Tool Box...
Since a Phillips wood screw is the most common screw around, you’ll need a Phillips driver—and plenty of them (they get lost easily).
I like to keep several different sizes in the shop, including the long-style for getting into narrow spaces.
That’s enough reason to keep at least a couple square head drivers ready to go in the shop.
Most pocket hole joinery kits include a square head driver bit in the package.
Nut Driver Bit
Of course you can always use a socket wrench to drive the screws manually, but a nut driver attached to your cordless drill makes the job quick and easy.
Buying Driver Sets
Most tool manufacturers sell complete driver kits that include a variety of Phillips, square, and nut driver heads. Most kits include more drivers than you’ll use in an entire lifetime, so be careful you’re not paying for tools you don’t really need.