Drills are one of the most commonly used tools in almost every practice that uses tools. From power drills to dental drills, knowing which one to use for the job at hand is important with such a wide variety available.
This post will focus mostly on power drills used in construction and woodworking. That said, it will also take you through a few manual hand drills as well. Finally, you’ll find out which ones are types are best used in different situations and what the pros and cons of each of these drills are.
12 Types of Power Drills
Let’s start with the most widespread category, power drills.
Probably the most common type of drill, the drill/driver uses a chuck that sits around a drill bit and opens and closes around it. It comes in all different types of power settings but essentially just spins counterclockwise or clockwise. A few drill/drivers also use a clutch that allows you to mechanically set the power it uses which is especially helpful when driving screws or drilling into fragile materials.
You will find a drill/driver useful for simple hole drilling into materials like wood, plastic, and even metal. The hole’s size that you are drilling will determine how powerful your drill/driver needs to be. Typically, the owner’s manual will tell you how big of a hole you can drill with your drill/driver into what type of material.
Drill/drivers are also best used for drilling fasteners into wood, plastic, concrete, metal, and all kinds of other materials. However, you may sometimes need to drill a pilot hole to get the best results.
#2: Core Drill
This kind of drill is one of the most powerful drills you will see. It is essentially a huge motor that is sometimes attached to a frame so it remains steady during the drilling process. Core drills twist a cylinder-shaped bit that makes a core instead of grinding through the hole.
There is no hammering, driving, or chipping involved and all it has to do is spinning the bit. For the most part, these drills are only used for drilling downward but there are some that can be held by hand to drill horizontally as well.
Core drills are usually used to drill big holes in tough materials like concrete. You won’t see these kinds of drills in DIY shops and they’re most often used on places like construction sites.
#3: Impact Driver
An impact driver is a bit different from a typical drill in that it does not use a mechanism for forward chipping. Instead, it uses an anvil and hammer rotating mechanism inside. When it twists, the hammer hits the anvil, which gives it much larger torque than a standard drill.
These days, most drill bits are able to be used with an impact driver, which was not always the case for these specialized tools. These won’t drill quite as cleanly as the drill driver, but it will do just fine nonetheless.
For the most part, impact drivers are almost always used for driving screws and drilling into wood in construction. They drive in screws quicker than the drill/driver and save a lot of time for jobs that are on tight deadlines.
You can check my recommendations here.
#4: Rotary Hammer
Also known as a combination hammer, it is a lot like a hammer drill but it is considerably larger than its counterpart. Rotary hammers also use a stronger chipping and hammering mechanism which allows them to be much more powerful than the hammer drill.
Usually, they will come with two different modes: hammering and chipping with rotation. Others might allow the rotation only option but it is seldom used unless you are using it to drill through metal or wood. The chipping with rotation function is used when you need it to operate it in a jackhammer-like fashion for demolition. The hammering with rotation function is used to drill holes in hard materials like brick, asphalt, concrete, or stone.
#5: D-Handle Drill
The D-handle drill is named after its handle shape and is used for a wide variety of projects where you need high torque. It is less often used to drill holes into materials and more so useful for mixing thick liquids. These drills come in a few different shapes and sizes but are differentiated by their D-shaped handle and handle protruding out of the side that you hold onto for extra control of the drill.
D-handle drills are most useful for mud or paint mixing where you need a more secure grip to control the drill effectively.
#6: Right-Angle Drill
A right-angle drill is a bit like the D-handle drill in design but its head is at a right angle to its grip. The back part of its head also does not rise above its grip line, unlike most common power drills you will see around. This compact design allows you to drill in smaller spaces and is a perfect choice for small workshops that many DIYers start out with.
Unlike with other drills which typically come in electrical form, right-angle drills are also fairly widely available as air-powered tools.
For recommendations, check my article about the best right-angle drills.
#7: Ground Auger
Also known as an earth auger, this drill is a powerful tool that makes use of air or gas to power its motor. Ground augers use a very wide drill bit that rips through the ground and goes through dirt much quicker than using a shovel.
These drills are perfect for making large holes in the ground or even in ice. They save a ton of effort and make for pretty clean holes as well. Construction workers use them to set signposts like stop signs and you can even use them to dig holes in thick ice for ice fishing.
#8: Hammer Drill
The hammer drill has a similar design to the standard drill/driver but adds a hammering mechanism as well. This mechanism can push the drill bit out and in so you can chip away concrete while simultaneously spinning the drill bit. More times than not, your hammer drill will allow you to choose between hammer drilling, driving, or just regular drilling using its clutch.
It is a very versatile tool and is among the most common types of drills you will see. It is most useful for driving in and drilling plastic, metal, wood, and concrete. Be wary that you have to have the right drill bit for the job though. These tools are versatile, but they can easily break if they’re used for the wrong jobs.
#9: Drill Press
A drill press is a type of drill that has its head fixed on a vertical stand that it can move along. It is typically mounted on a workbench but it comes in a bulkier floor version as well. Its drive is placed vertically over a platform that you can adjust depending on what the project calls for.
It has the capability to change out its drill bit for a hole saw and plenty of other kinds of attachments. Not only can they drill holes themselves, but they can also enlarge previously made holes as well. Drill presses are typically very powerful and are best used in the hands of professionals.
If you are looking to buy one, check my recommendations.
Made similar to regular milling machines, the mill/drill is a lighter alternative and combines a drill press driven by a belt with the horizontal and vertical functionality of the work table under a drill press. Its locking collet is used to help prevent its cutting tool from falling off its spindle when it comes into contact with a lateral force.
Usually, milling machines are restricted only to be used industrially but the mill/drill’s smaller models can be good for home and workshop use just as much as industrial and commercial. These drills will remove material from the hole it is drilling into rather than just making a hole by cutting into the material.
You will mostly see them used in a variety of construction jobs but they can also be found in some dedicated home workshops.
#11: Radial Arm Drill
Similar to the drill press mentioned above, the radial arm drill has a head that can be moved along its arm to drill at different positions. You can use this to drill many holes in a horizontal line without having to move the drill or the workpiece around. The “arm” is placed at the top of the drill and is essentially just a slider that allows the drill bit to move in a straight line along the arm.
Radial arm drills are widely used in woodworking and metal shops are even capable of boring through iron with a powerful enough model.
#12: Two-Headed Drill
This type of drill is a relatively newer drill that combines an impact driver with a cordless drill. Its “two heads” are found on its rotating chuck that keeps the head that isn’t in use away while the other is in use. These drills of course benefit from being able to act as an impact driver with the benefits of a cordless drill as well. It is a 2-in-1 tool that is becoming popular amongst those trying to save space by getting just one drill that can take on more types of jobs.
This tool is best known as a Switchdriver after its original model and is a great tool that is replacing a lot of regular impact drivers on tool shelves today.
3 Types of Manual Hand Drills
For those looking for a more old-school drill, the drills mentioned are all operated through hand power. There are all kinds of variations of manual hand drills that have been used for hundreds of years but we’ll stick to the 3 most common ones around today.
#1: Egg Beater
This drill gets its name from the common kitchen tool. It has a crank in the middle that is used to turn the drill on the end, with a handle on the other end where you hold it steady as you twist the gears with your other hand. Needless to say, hand drills are not very powerful and take a bit more effort to use as well. However, dedicated craftsmen stand by their ability to make precise holes and add a much more delicate touch to woodworking and things of the like.
There are some more powerful versions of this drill that can cut into some soft metals as well but, of course, this will require even more effort than using it for the usual woodworks.
#2: Brace Drill
Another type of manual handheld drill, the brace drill is still somewhat used today for smaller jobs that require precisely drilled holes. It is shaped like a “U” with a grip in the middle that is spun around to set the drill in motion.
A small knob sits on the other end of the drill where your hand can press down on the drill to dig deeper into the material.
#3: Beam Drill
The beam drill is named less for how it looks but for the material it is used to make holes in. It is almost always used to drill holes in large wooden beams. The drill is vertically aligned with the base resting directly on the wood beam itself. There is a spot in its center that is made for viewing your cutting area.
Once its drill bit is aligned and lowered, the beam should be straddled between your legs and then you use two hand cranks on the sides to screw the drill bit into the beam.
Manual vs. Electric vs. Air Drill: Which One to Choose?
Manual drills are a bit archaic but they are certainly still used today for more old-style projects. If you need to make smaller and more precise holes, you can use a manual drill to get that feeling of working in an old 50s workshop as well.
An air drill is usually more compact than an electrical drill, which means you can put in extra power on a smaller sized hole. Plus, you don’t need to worry about running out of batteries or suffering from a power outage when using an air drill.
Finally, electric drills are the most common ones and the ones recommended for most users. They can be very powerful, come in corded and cordless versions, and there is the largest variety of them. They are either equipped with a brushed or brushless motor. Unless you have a specific reason you need either a manual or an air-powered drill for, you should default to getting an electric one.
Corded vs. Cordless Drills: Which One to Choose?
Corded and cordless drills are essentially the same tools but, of course, the big difference is in the cord itself.
With corded drills, you do not have to worry about running out of battery but they’re limited in how much space they can cover and are best used in smaller shops. Cordless drills are much better in terms of portability being that you do not have to carry around a long extension cord with you in order to use it. However, they will be more expensive and, if you use them a lot, you will need to replace or charge the battery fairly frequently.
For a more detailed comparison of the two, read this article.
What Is the Best Type of Drill?
Of course, there is no do-it-all drill that is perfect for every task but a few stand out as mainstays in almost every workshop.
The drill/driver is seen just about everywhere and is what most people think of when talking about power drills. While it has limited capabilities, it does exactly what you need it to do and is typically the drill beginners will start out with for most projects. Another very popular drill is the hammer drill, which can take on more powerful materials and makes use of the hammer mechanism well to manage jobs that the standard drill/driver would have no chance of tackling.
Really, if you are looking for the best type of drill, you must first think about your project at hand. Whatever the best drill for that task is, that is the best type of drill for you. It could even be a hand-cranked drill!
Drills will forever be a tool that is used by every craftsman and construction worker to get their job done. They are one of the earliest tools made by mankind and have grown into an enormous variety of different kinds to build the many things we see today.
Hopefully, you now have a better grasp on the number of drills that are out there and can find the best one or ones for the jobs you want to get done.
Whether they are electric drills, air drills, or manual drills, all drills do essentially the same thing but to different materials on entirely different scales. So whether you are a beginning DIYer or a veteran construction worker, you will almost certainly come across one of the drills on this list.