In a hurry? While I recommend reading the whole article to find the tool that best suits your needs, if you are in a hurry and just want a quick recommendation, then you should take a look at the Schroeder 1/4-inch hand drill. With its egg-beater style and solid construction, it’s a nice addition to any handyman’s toolbox.
Even though electric power drills have become very affordable, there are jobs where they offer too much power. In such cases, you will want to turn your attention to manual hand drills – drills that you might think are obsolete but that still actually have their place in almost every handyman’s toolbox.
In this article, I will take you through what I think are the five best such tools, as well as through the process of choosing the right one for you. I will also answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the tool including why you should use a hand drill and how to use it.
Before jumping into the individual reviews and the article, below are my top two picks:
Top Pick: Schroeder Hand Drill 1/4-Inch Capacity
The Schroeder 1/4-inch hand drill offers superior control while drilling, and is recommended for both beginners and seasoned craftsmen. It’s a lot safer than a power drill for a younger craftsman. The drill has a quality 3-jaw chuck, smooth gear, and a comfortable wood handle.
Things I Like About This Product: This drill is manufactured in Germany, and the finish and quality are as expected. The handle is solid wood, with a metal gear plate running along the metal gear-edged housing for the drill bit. The traditional design has a long wooden handle that extends off the end of the metal unit rather than the new style of turning downward. I like that the gear ratio gives three rotations of the bit for every single rotation of the crank wheel.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: Unlike the Fiskars hand drill which has an enclosed gears design, the Schroeder has an open-geared system so you need to be a bit careful when using it. The gears are made from aluminum, not steel, which makes them less strong and durable than steel gears.
Runner-Up: Fiskars 85167097J Manual Rotary Craft Hand Drill
The Fiskars Craft Hand Drill is a great option for easily drilling holes in a variety of materials including wood, plastic, paper, sheet metal, acrylic, mixed media and more for craft projects.
The enclosed gears and easy to turn crank provide smooth, consistent operation while being safer for younger crafters. The drill has a comfortable grip and includes four standard drill bits, in 1/8, 3/16, 5/32 and 3/32 inch sizes.
Things I Like About This Product: The enclosed gears are safer than some other open geared designs, and the drill is lightweight, easy to use and gets into small or enclosed places. It is good for casual crafters and hobbyists.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: This is a good drill for balsa or plastic, but you will need a separate pouch or container to keep the bits in when not using them. It would be great if one had been provided with the drill.
Budget Option: Werkzeug Pin Vise Hand Drill
This manual vise drill is uniquely shaped and suitable for plastic, walnut, amber, beads, beeswax, olive nut, small model kits, etc. made from aluminum alloy, this pin vise can also function as a clamp for twisting a steel cable. The vise drill has a 3 jaw chuck design and is highly portable. It is ideal for working on small, fragile or other projects requiring careful drilling.
The 20 drill bits in the set include the following 12 sizes: 0.6mm x 2, 0.7mm x 2, 0.8mm x 2, 1.0mm x 2, 1.2mm x 2, 1.5mm x 2, 1.8mm x 2, 2.0mm x 2, 2.2mm x 1, 2.5mm x 1, 2.8mm x 1, 3.0mm x 1.
Things I Like About This Product: The kit has a good range of bit sizes, so drilling holes of the right size will not be a problem, and they’re made from stainless HSS, so durability should not be an issue. In addition, the vice drill is portable and will work fine for softer materials such as wood or plastic.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The twist drill bits can’t be applied to drill in material as hard as steel, iron and stone, nor is this meant for such heavy-duty drilling.
Best Egg-Beater Drill: WEICHUAN 3/8-inch Hand Drill
The WEICHUAN hand drill has steel cast construction, so it’s built to last. It’s a multipurpose hand drill that provides both precision and power for drilling through softwood, bamboo, tin, copper, aluminum, plastic, PVC and even fiberglass. The 3-jaw chuck grips 3/8 inch bits ranging in length from 0.6 mm to 6 mm securely, and offers versatility for all kinds of crafting projects.
Things I Like About This Product: The egg-beater design is fairly easy to use even for first-timers, and it gives around 4 bit revolutions for every full turn of the handle. The drill has a hollow handle which is convenient for storing bits and is easy to assemble.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: Unfortunately, the drill doesn’t come with assembly instructions, but you can figure out assembly by studying the photos on the Amazon page.
Best Brace and Bit: Stanley 5044
With a simple, yet effective design, the Stanley 5044 bit brace is basically a crank handle with a bit chuck on one end. The 12 point 3-way ratchet is suitable for use in confined spaces. The head is mounted on ball bearings for smooth operation and has chromium plating for corrosion resistance.
Things I Like About This Product: I like that the chuck can be set to turn in either direction or only one or the other direction which can help in certain jobs. It doesn’t need special bits, and the chuck can accommodate up to ⅝ inch shanks. It is both durable and versatile, so perfect for daily use by professionals.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Buying This Product: The ratchet on this tool is very basic, you have to flip each lock independently of each other to switch the ratchet direction.
The Methodology: What I Considered When Picking the Manual Hand Drills Featured Above
There are not as many manual hand drills on the market as there are different models of drills and impact drivers. However, there are still enough to cause confusion when trying to pick one.
To choose the products to feature above, I used, among others, the following criteria. You can also use them to pick your preferred product in case you didn’t find one you like in the list.
Price: While manual hand drills are affordable tools in general, and you will rarely find one that exceeds 50 dollars, I still considered price as one of the criteria to choose the models I featured in the list. However, the only category where this criterion had any tangible effect was in the budget-friendly option in which the Werkzeug Pin Vise Drill was the winner.
Quality: Even though these are fairly simple tools, you should still consider the overall quality of the product when choosing the one you buy. Considering that most of the manual hand drills – other than the Schroeder and Stanley ones – are made by obscure brands, you can best do so by reading through the products’ Amazon reviews. Don’t forget to always go through a number of not only positive but also negative and neutral ones to learn about each of the drills’ drawbacks.
Size & Drilling Capacity: Unlike power drills most of which can handle all regular sizes of drill bits and drill through a wide variety of materials, manual hand drills are a bit more varied. While you will find ones like the Schroeder or the Stanley 5044 bit brace that are meant for regular woodworking and can accept standard-sized bits, you will also find ones like the Werkzeug Pin Vise Drill which is much smaller and meant for precision work.
Drill Style: There are a number of different styles of manual hand drills available. One of the two major types is egg-beater like the Schroeder which has a handle that you turn and that motion is then transferred through gears into torque that turns the chuck. The other type is brace and bit in which it is the turning of the handle that directly makes the chuck with the bit rotate.
The FAQs: Things You Need to Know About Manual Hand Drills
If you are unsure whether a manual hand drill is actually something you need – or if you have any questions about the tool – chances are you will find your answer below.
What is a manual hand drill?
Just as its name suggests, a manual hand drill is a tool that is used to make holes using manual power, i.e. by using your hands. While nowadays, we take power drills for granted and manual hand drills have become niche tools that very few people use, in the past, they were the only option.
Depending on the type, manual hand drills either transfer the motion of your hand into torque that spins the bit directly or through gears.
Why use a manual hand drill instead of a power drill?
Manual hand drills have gone almost obsolete. However, they still have their place in certain applications. That is also the reason why you still find one or two models in hardware stores among the dozen or more different power drills.
Below are five such reasons or use cases:
- Budget: While electric drills have become cheaper than ever, the cheapest manual drills still tend to be priced even lower. As such, if you only need to do some very lightweight drilling – a hole in a soft piece of material every now and then – then getting a manual hand drill might be an option worth considering.
- Access to electricity: Whether you use a cordless or corded electric drill, you will need access to a power outlet at one point or another. While that is not a problem if your job needs to be done near your house, it might be an issue if you only have a corded drill and you need to drill a small hole deep in your yard.
- Safety: Around the world, there are many people that have never used power tools and that are scared of using them. If you – or your friend – is one of them, then starting with a manual drill is a good introduction to woodworking. Similarly, if you have a small child that you would like to get a taste of creating something out of wood, letting him or her use a small manual drill to get started with is probably a better idea than diving straight into using electric drills.
- Control: Finally, if you need to drill small and very precise holes into wood, drywall, or other soft materials than manual hand drills are a great option. They let you control speed as well as power overall much more accurately than most electric drills do.
Which type of manual hand drill to choose?
As mentioned earlier, there are two main types of manual hand drills: egg-beater style drills and brace-and-bit style drills. While they can both get the job done, I personally recommend egg-beater style drills as they offer greater control and precision.
How to use a manual hand drill?
Using manual hand drills is very simple, but it still takes some practice to get a nice clean and straight hole. Below is the step-by-step process:
- Choose the right drill bit – both in terms of size and usage – and place it into the drill’s chuck.
- If necessary, mark the depth up to which you want to drill on the drill bit using tape.
- Mark the place on your workpiece where you want to drill the hole.
- Place the drill bit tip on the mark and straighten the drill so that it is perfectly perpendicular to the workpiece surface (unless you want to drill at an angle for one reason or another).
- Start placing downward pressure on the manual hand drill while turning the brace or the egg-beater style drill’s crank.
- Continue doing so until you reach your depth mark or drill through the material – whichever option you are going for.
- Take the drill bit out of the material – this might require turning the drill in the other direction.
- Clean the hole you just drilled of any wood chips – the simplest way to do so is to simply blow some air at the hole or wipe it down with a rag.
If you are looking to drill a lot of holes into wood or metal, then you should definitely be getting a power drill.
However, if you only need to drill one or two holes into softwood every now and then, need to drill small and precise holes, or if you want to teach your children some handyman skills, then getting a manual hand drill is a great option.
In most cases, I would recommend you get an egg-beater style one as it will offer more control and precision than the more traditional brace-and-bit style drill.
Namely, I would recommend you to either get the Schroeder 1/4-inch drill or the Fiskars. If you are on a budget or need to drill only very small holes, you might also want to consider the Werkzeug Pin Vise Drill.