Cordless, Hammer and Rotary Drills, Whats The Diff ?

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When you first start out in a place you can finally call your own, it won't take long before you start to look around and realise that if you want to put a shelf on that wall, or fit a curtain rail at the window, you can. And nobody can stop you.

You may be loaded and decide to get someone in to do it for you. If so, good for you, but I don't think many people oozing cash will be reading this. Most of the rest of us come to the surprising realisation that we will actually have to purchase some tools. After this revelation, most people will go out and buy a "tool kit". These are almost always cheap and cheerful and not particularly good quality, but after a fashion, they will assist with the basic requirements of the typical hand tools for the average job.

What is a good deal more difficult is the utterly bewildering array of drills available. How can it be possible that there are so many to choose from. Surely, with the exception of the colour and size they are all pretty much the same.

If you allow yourself to believe this for a second, you will soon learn why the range and types are so varied. If you buy one hastily without taking the time to find out the important differences, you will shortly find that you will soon own 2 drills. The first, which is not designed to do the job you wanted it for and the second, which is.

The difference:

Simplifying things a little, we can break down that huge range in the D.I.Y. sheds into 3 main categories as per the title of this guide.


These are often referred to as drills, and, to be fair, used in light-weight materials they can serve a purpose as a drill. In reality, unless you spend a very large amount of money, (getting on for £200+), you will not get a cordless drill which will make much of an impact in a brick wall. You should regard these firstly as really useful screw drivers and secondly as the next important power tool to buy, not the first.


Once upon a time this was the only drill you could get. these came in a huge variety of sizes and makes, but essentially, these were moderately powerful corded drills which you would plug in, fit a range of drill bits into, and, if the bit happened to be a masonary one you would successfully drill holes in brickwork and other medium materials with a bit of effort. If your D.I.Y. aspirations are not great, you can pick up a average priced, named brand, Hitachi, Bosch, Makita, De-Walt or similar for less than £40. A good all rounder, but not great.

Rotary or SDS.

Now you need to be careful. Some so and so's will cheekily describe their hammer drills as Rotary. Well, they go round, don't they?

That is not what makes them rotary drills. The first and acid test is: Do they take SDS type bits? At this stage, you don't really need to know what an SDS bit is, (the end which sits inside the drill is different). If it takes SDS bits, it will be a rotary drill.

Why does this matter? Do you remember me telling you that a hammer drill will more or less put a hole through brickwork. It will, but it will usually take an age. Even worse, If you encounter concrete, (and you will), the poor old hammer drill hasn't a chance. This is where a rotary drill with its SDS bits come in. The rotary has a pneumatic action which has the effect of being incredibly powerful by comparison with hammer drills. It will punch a hole through anything short of thick steel. You would be astonished how often a hammer drill will fail to put the necessary holes in the wall above a window because there is a great concrete lintel or a mild steel one hiding behind the wallpaper and plaster. These will not stop the rotary drill.

Obviously there is a price to pay for this. £40+ is pretty much the starting point, but it is a price worth paying and the drill bits do last for ages. Don't run away with the idea that you need a great big rotary drill either.

Pick up a few and try to imagine holding them against the wall above your head for a couple of minutes while pushing reasonably hard against the wall. If you can't imagine the thought, then that is not the drill for you. As a guide, the average D.I.Yer will be very well served by a rotary weighing no more than 2KG.

You will see great big models, usually badged as a Hoki-Koki 2000 or the like, a brand you have never heard of, for £60 or even less. They will weigh a ton, not be very reliable and be gross overkill for the normal person. Don't do it. Stick to 2kg as a limit.

Drill bits.

Buy a small pack of SDS bits for about £10, Alternatively the most common single size which will do most jobs around the house, is a 6mm x 200mm long. If you want to extend your choice, get a 7mm next then a 5mm. There will be few applications which will not be served by those 3. You will also need the same size wall plugs to pop into the holes prior to driving the screws home.

Whoa, wall plugs! WTF?

When you drill into concrete or brick or any hard material other than wood, the screw you now want to hold the bracket to the wall with needs something to bite into. A screw can't bite into brick -trust me, it can't. It needs something to provide a nice tight fit in the hole, yet which will let the screw force itself into a secure grip.

That something is called a wall-plug, sometimes referred to as a rawlplug. It doesn't matter what it's referred to as, what matters is what it does. It's job is very low-tech. Drill the hole. Pop something semi-hard into the hole. Screw the screw into that something to ensure a very tight fit. Jobs a goodun.!

 Just buy a small stock of the equivelant size plugs, i.e. 6mm, 7mm and 5mm. As a little tip, If you run out of wall plugs, trim a pencil down to the same thickness as the width of the hole, Hammer the pencil in gently and then drive the screw into the end of the pencil. It will work fine every time. You just won't be able to write with that pencil again.!

Low and behold you will now be a fully fledged, licensed to bore people in pubs. It's not nearly as difficult to Do It Yourself as people tell you. Mostly, it's commonsense. The rest is down to careful preperation and planning. If you do come unstuck email me on petertgolden at I'll do my best to help asap.

Good luck.


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