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Some may love their wet saws for cutting tiles, while others couldn’t bear to part with their trim router or thickness planer, but I’m willing to bet there’s at least one power tool that every DIYer worth their salt has within reach and uses at least weekly—the cordless drill and driver. It’s portable, useful for everything from hanging pictures to framing a house, and to those in the know, plenty of other tasks as well. A rotating motor plus adjustable chuck means you can insert all kinds of things to make them spin—this flexibility, it turns out, can be quite useful. Here are ten of my favorite ways to use a cordless drill/driver:
1. Drill little holes. Duh. I know you know. But consider the uses outside of just chucking in a basic twist bit. Drilling pilot holes and countersink holes is essential for a quality finish, so consider a special set of tapered bits just for the task, such as thesewith the countersink built-in. If you’re not getting the kind of quality, tear-free holes you’re seeking, you probably have the wrong bits. Most of the simple twist bits sold at hardware stores are actually designed to drill metal in a low-speed drill press, so consider upgrading to a set of brad-point bits designed for wood.
2. Make big holes. Outside of your standard 1/16″ to 1/2″ drill bit set, there are all sorts of options for creating larger, perfectly round holes. If your recess needs to be round, a specialty bit will always create a higher quality cut than a keyhole saw or jigsaw. Consider using one when creating space for recessed lighting, or when making space for plumbing pipes in your floor joists, cabinets, countertops, or—if you’re feeling ambitious—outdoor shower.
3. Drive everything. Most drills come with the standard flat and Phillips driving bits, which are essential for driving screws and bolts. Also consider picking up a set of hex drivers, which can speed up assembling flat-pack furniture and help take apart household items for maintenance and repair.
4. Mix paint, grount, and concrete. Hardware stores sell speciality mixing bits for mixing multiple cans of paint for consistent color, much like the hand mixer in your kitchen. They also make egg beater-style mixers for concrete, mortar, thinset, and grout.
5. Sand contours and curved surfaces. Flat sandpaper and sanding blocks are great for flat surfaces, but when you need to sand curves and arcs, you need a curved sanding surface. Use your cordless drill and a sanding drum to give a smooth surface to even the most irregular shapes.
6. Grind metal and remove rust. If you don’t own a handheld angle grinder, you can use an attachment that chucks into your cordless drill and allows you to use wheels designed for angle grinders. Alternatively, pick up a “brush bit” to use with your drill to remove rust from iron and steel tools and home items.
7. Twist wires. If you’re looking to run multiple wires along the same length, you can place each of them into your drill chuck and spin it for a neat bundle of safely intertwined wires. This technique also works for twisting steel cable that you might be using to hang items from the ceiling, such as storage or lights in your garage or basement.
8. Straighten curved or bent wires and cables. Similarly, you can use a drill on a slow setting to straighten bent wires and cables. Check out this tip from the 1953 Spanish version of Popular Mechanics:
They say, “After securing the wire in the hole, pull to keep it in tension, and rotate the drill slowly. As soon as you straighten the wire, loosen the chuck, pull the drill and pull the other end of wire screw.”
9. Create strong, hidden joints. Many DIYers are forgoing the biscuit jointer for a pocket-screw jig, which allows you to build furniture, frames, and nearly anything you’d like with hidden, angled joints. My favorite are the Kreg series of jigs, which allow you to use standard screws to safely and securely join wood in minutes, with no visible hardware. Outstanding!
10. Make a turbo-charged pepper mill. Lastly, just for fun, check out this fun trick for boosting your pepper grinder. Cook’s Illustrated has all the details.
For more on tools, consider: