Actually, this IS a drill

I think it’s fair to say that power tools and I don’t have the best of working relationships. I don’t like the noise they make, the dust they create or the speed at which they compel me to do things. And my wife isn’t a massive fan of the damage that they cause me to leave in my wake. But of all the power tools, my absolute nemesis has to be the hammer-action drill. Thankfully, I have recently found a way to tame this particular beast. A bit, anyway.

My hate-hate relationship with the hammer-action drill started the moment I ‘welcomed’ one into my life. It was supposed to make my DIY activities easier and less destructive, coming as it did hot on the heels of the ‘curtain rail’ incident. But the reality has been somewhat different.

To summarise the ‘curtain rail’ incident, my attempts to fit a curtain rail over the front door of our rented flat (on the inside, I should probably add, as a kind of draught excluder) using just my trusty hand drill and a little brute force resulted in a substantial part of the plaster on the wall coming away from, well, the wall and taking up residence on the floor. As well as the hand drill ending up in several pieces.

I was able to ‘fix’ the gaping crevasse that had opened up in the plaster with careful application – over a period of several days – of a number of tubs of polyfilla. But there was little that could be done for the hand drill. And so my wife suggested that a proper electric hammer-action drill might be a better way forward. With the benefit of hindsight, this was perhaps not her most astute observation of all time.

Nevertheless, I soon became the reluctant owner of a big green hammer-action drill and a big pack of drill bits. It came with a rugged case and several attachments, including one that is supposed to hoover up the dust as I drill but mostly just squirts it onto my face. And a second handle that makes it look (slightly) like an AK-47.

The snag, though, is that the drill makes a colossal amount of noise and vibrates (as one would probably expect) like a warthog on a very fast pogo stick. Which means that, because I like neither of these things, my instinctive reaction when using it is to scrunch my eyes up tight and hope for the best. This, my wife informs me, is not what one would call best practice in the use of potentially-lethal power tools.

The result is that I’m quite good at drilling holes, but less good at drilling holes of the right size or in the right place. My most recent attempt to put up a curtain rail (in a house that we now actually own, which makes the whole affair a little more serious) looked like someone had sprayed the wall with the aforementioned AK-47. Thankfully, several of the holes were in roughly the right place. As for the rest, it was polyfilla to the rescue once again.

It has, however, recently been brought to my attention that there may be a solution to my rather, shall we say, inconsistent approach to hammer-action drilling. And, indeed, to all kinds of drilling, because my attempts at drilling into wood and metal aren’t much more successful. The answer, it appears, is to begin cautiously, rather than to leap in all guns blazing. The answer is to start small. The answer is to drill what I understand is referred to as a ‘pilot hole’.

This may not come as news to anyone but me. But to me it’s an absolute revelation. And this technique is apparently not limited to drilling, either. One can use it when hammering in a nail or screwing in a screw, too. Why am I only now learning about this? Why is it not in the national curriculum? (In fairness, it may actually be in the national curriculum. But the national curriculum didn’t exist, as far as I can recall, when I was at school. Nor, it’s entirely possible, did hammer-action drills.)

I tried this ‘pilot hole’ technique when I needed to screw a reinforcing bar to the doorframe of the back door. Normally, I’d have just used brute force to screw in the screws, which would have resulted in several broken screws, a couple of broken screwdrivers and quite possibly a trip to B&Q to buy the materials for a new door frame. This time, however, all it took was four quick pilot holes and the screws went in a dream. Level and everything.

The big test, though, was this morning, when I wanted to fix something to the masonry wall in my office. Using my traditional approach, I would probably have ended up drilling through the wall and tumbling into the neighbours’ half of our lovely semi-detached house. But with the application of four tiny pilot holes, followed up with a slightly larger drill bit, and finished off with the 10mm bit to get the holes I needed, it was all done and dusted in less than ten minutes.

I’m not saying that I’ll ever be truly comfortable with power tools. I’m still much more of a manual craftsmanship type of person. But when it comes to hammer-action drilling – and, indeed, drilling of all types – I do now feel slightly more confident that I might be able to create holes of roughly the right size, in roughly the right place, pointing in roughly the right direction. I suspect that both my wife and the neighbours will be relieved.

2 thoughts on “Actually, this IS a drill

  1. Fixing things like curtain rails over doors or windows often involves drilling into concrete lintels. Hammer action drills are not able to do this very well; what you need is an SDS drill.
    (Don’t force it, get a bigger hammer!)

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    • There’s a BIGGER drill? Oh, no. Part of me wants to get one right this second, while another part of me cautions that it’s this tendency to rush into things that causes most of the problems in the first place. (Rather than stopping to consider whether I should really be drilling into solid concrete in the first place.) But thank you for the tip. When my current drill inevitably rattles itself into oblivion, I know what I’ll be replacing it with!

      Like

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