How to Use a Drill

This instructable will cover the necessary steps, from beginning to end, for using a cordless hand drill. Hand drills are one of the most commonly used tools in a workshop, so knowing how to safely operate one is necessary when it comes to prototyping and working on projects.

Step 1: Select a Drill Bit

Prior to selecting a drill bit, it is very important to determine the size and depth of the hole you are drilling. When doing work with screws, pilot holes are very important to prevent the wood from splitting. The diameter of the drill bit for the pilot hole should be the same as the diameter of your screw without the threads.

If you plan on tapping the hole that you are drilling, that is, threading it so that you can screw a bolt in, look up the proper pilot hole sizes for the bolt you plan on threading. If you know the size of the bolt, you can use this chart.

Screwdriver bits (farthest right) are useful when using a hand drill to drive screws; they do not drill holes of any kind.

Twist drill bits (second from the right) are the most frequently used and are generally used for cutting smaller, more standard holes into the material, including wood and metal. When you are planning on drilling a large hole with a twist drill bit, make sure to start with a smaller drill bit and widen the hole in stages; starting with a large bit can create a sloppy hole, make the bit more easily walk, and it might take very long to get through the material. This is important to consider once you start using drill bits greater than or equal to a quarter inch.

Forstner bits (middle) are capable of drilling large holes in wood and can go either partially or completely through the material. Forstner bits can also be used to drill angled holes into the material.

Spade bits (second from left) can more easily bore large holes into wood than a twist drill bit, and the holes can either go through the material partially or completely.

Hole saw bits (farthest left) are capable of drilling larger holes than spade bits, but cannot make partial cuts. Depending on what kind of saw the bit is made of, hole saw bits can be used on wood or metal.

Step 2: Put the Chosen Bit Into the Drill

Loosen the chuck (the black circular section on the front of the drill) by twisting it counterclockwise to widen the diameter of the jaws that clamp onto the drill bit.

Insert the shank (smooth part) of the drill bit into the jaws, and re-tighten the chuck until the drill bit is secured. Make sure the bit is centered and that the jaws clamp onto the flat sides of the shank. Also, make sure that you don't secure the jaws around the flutes of the bit; that will increase the risk of breaking the bit you are using, especially for smaller bits.

To tighten the drill chuck more quickly and securely, you can carefully grab the chuck, being cautious to avoid holding the drill bit itself, and slowly run the drill in a clockwise direction. Similarly, grabbing the chuck and running the drill counterclockwise will loosen the chuck.

Step 3: Check All Other Settings

Make sure the drill has a charged battery in it. Using a battery that isn't charged enough can lead to slower, ineffective drilling.

Check the speed settings on the drill -- the big switch on the top. Setting 1 is low speed and high torque, which is ideal for uses such as driving screws into the material. Setting 2 is high speed and low torque, which is good for drilling holes. You will likely be using the faster setting for most tasks, and the slower setting if you are drilling large/deep holes in wood with a twist bit.

Make sure you're drilling in the right direction. If the drill bit is facing away from you, clockwise is for cutting/ screwing into material, and counterclockwise is for removing the bit/ unscrewing. If this is hard to visualize, run the drill slowly and pay attention to the direction the flutes of the bit are moving in, and what direction they need to be moving in to cut material. The reverse direction should only be used for unscrewing fasteners/screws. Change direction using the buttons on either side of the handle, just above the trigger.

Also pay attention to the dial around the chuck of the drill; the numbers indicate torque settings, and are useful when driving screws. If the number is set too low, the drill will stop spinning and make a clicking noise under a lower amount of pressure. If the torque setting is too high, the screw bit might slip against the top of the screw and you risk rounding off the screw head. When drilling, make sure the dial is always turned to the drill bit symbol (or the highest number, if there is no symbol).

Step 4: Set Up Your Material

Make sure the material you are drilling into is secured to a sturdy surface, either with clamps or a vice. Usually, clamping a scrap piece of wood under the material is a good idea because it allows for a cleaner edge where the drill exits.

Make sure you have enough clearance to avoid drilling into a table or a vice.

Step 5: Drill the Hole

Make sure the tip of the drill bit is touching the material before you start drilling, and that the drill bit is held at a reasonable angle. In most cases, when going straight through the material, this means that the drill bit will be perpendicular to the material.

Pull the trigger and start drilling slowly. Once the bit cuts slightly into the material, you can speed up and apply constant pressure until you have cut all the way into the material.

Once you are through, make sure the drill is spinning in the same direction and pull the bit out. This helps clean the hole that you just drilled.

Step 6: Examine the Hole

If the hole you have drilled was for a fastener, make sure that fastener fits in the hole relatively easily (bolts, screws, rivets). If it doesn't, either go through the hole again with a slightly larger drill bit, or use the same drill bit and ream out the edges by twisting the drill slightly in a circular direction while drilling.

Step 7: Clean Up

When all of your holes are drilled, make sure to remove the drill bit and put it back in its appropriate place. Put the drill away and the battery in a charging dock, and then vacuum any chips or dust on your work surface or the ground.