Cordless drills make woodworking easier, faster, more enjoyable, and in many ways, safer. You don’t have to worry about the power cord constantly getting in your way – neither do you scratch your head trying to find an outlet. How great is that, right?
Today’s cordless drills are more powerful, can hold a charge for much longer, and take less time to charge. They can comfortably handle most drilling and driving jobs around the home and in the woodworker’s workshop.
Even if you are not a professional woodworker or keen DIYer, a cordless drill is an essential tool to have in your toolbox. If it’s not to assemble a knock-down piece of furniture, hang a door or replace a lock, you could use it for any number of everyday home repair and maintenance tasks.
In the article below we have prepared a very detailed guide on how to buy a perfect cordless drill for woodworking. Also, we will review the TOP 5 best cordless drills for woodworking.
Best Cordless Drill for Woodworking: Buying Guide
Maybe you’re a weekend woodworker who spends his/her time in the garage turning discarded pieces of barn wood into chic farmhouse benches? Or a handyman willing to tackle any home improvement project with enough zeal to embarrass Bob Villa?
Whichever category you fall into, you already know that any woodworking project is possible without a high-quality cordless drill.
So, follow our buying guide to find your perfect drill!
Why can’t I use the power drill I already own?
A cordless drill and a power drill have slight but importantly different qualities.
Driving screws in wood in particular isn’t the best use of a power/impact drill. Unless you are a highly experienced power drill user, you will likely end up with a small heap of stripped screws. A power drill simply has too much power for some wood boring and screw driving tasks.
For some delicate woodworking tasks, unlike a power drill that can be heavy and too powerful, thus, hard to maneuver for some users, a cordless drill is compact, lightweight, with just the right amount of power to produce more precise work and a professional-looking end product.
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for a power drill in a woodworker’s toolbox. There is but for more demanding and repetitive wood-boring tasks. So a fervent DIYer or pro woodworker will have both tools in their toolbox.
What should I look for in a cordless drill for woodworking?
An ideal cordless drill for woodworking will be one that you can easily maneuver, will not run out of battery after drilling a few holes, and delivers just the right amount of power for your needs.
The best cordless tools for woodworking – cordless drills in particular – now use lithium-ion batteries. The tools run a lot longer on a single charge while delivering more power than ever before. And because of the excellent range available across different price points and power ratings, there is a cordless drill for every need, including basic woodworking.
Cordless drills on the market today are incredibly versatile tools, too. You can use them for drilling holes and driving screws. With the right attachment the more powerful cordless drills can also handle far more demanding tasks, like:
- Mixing motor
- Buffing and sanding
- Drilling holes in concrete
Maneuverability of Cordless Drills
Cordless drills are typically used for tasks that require a one-handed operation to achieve precision. Of course, because of the improvement in motor technology and the development of superior lithium-ion batteries the traditional divide between cordless and impact power drills is now blurred.
Maneuverability itself is a function of drill size and weight. A heavier, larger drill is challenging to use, especially in tight spaces and where your other hand has to be holding your project down. Design too plays a part.
Endurance of Cordless Drills
Motor capacity determines what kinds of tasks your cordless drill can handle. You don’t want to get a woodworking drill that will blow a motor after a few days of work because the is too small.
To gauge a cordless drill’s capacity to endure different tasks, consider its rated torque. Torque is the drill’s rotating force. Also important is the drill’s speed, measured in ‘revolutions per minute (rpm).
With cordless drills, torque drops with speed, so a drill with a low-speed rating isn’t as bad as you may assume. It, in fact, endures harder tasks better, especially when using larger drilling bits. Remember too that speed decreases with load, which is why a drill’s torque ratings at low speed are so important.
Battery power of Cordless Drills
Cordless drill power is a derivative of battery power and is measured in volts. The battery standard for cordless drills these days is lithium-ion. Thanks to their denser energy capacity, lithium-ion batteries have longer lives, recharge much faster, and come in lighter sizes. All that has an effect on both drill power, size, and weight.
A drill with a high torque rating will need a larger battery capacity, but it is not as simple as that.
Battery recharge time is especially important here. For many hobbyist woodworkers, you don’t always have the luxury of time. Often you only have the weekend to finish a project, which you don’t want to waste waiting for your battery to charge. Some Li-ion batteries recharge in as little as 30 minutes. So you don’t have to wait too long for a fresh battery pack.
A modern cordless drill worth discussion will have a variable speed that you can control with a selector switch. For heavier tasks, like drilling large holes in hardwood or masonry, you would want to use the drill at low speed to drive the most torque.
For the best results, use the drill at low speed when driving screws and performing tasks that require high spinning force (torque). Tasks that require high speed include buffing and drum-sanding.
What is a good size power drill for woodworking?
For basic woodworking, aim for a cordless drill in the 12V-18V ballpark. The common assumption is that all a drill needs is power. On the contrary, drill power must be guided by your needs.
For general household tasks, like assembling furniture and general repair and maintenance jobs, an 8V or even 6V drill might suffice. Drills in this class are essentially powered drivers that can’t do much more than driving screws and drilling pilot screw holes in softwood.
Be careful to not end up with more drills than you need. If you prefer a powerful cordless drill, your choices stretch as far as 20V. But remember that the drill will also be heavier and that the excess power will make it harder to control.
How to Use Cordless Drills Properly?
Around the home, and in a woodworker’s workshop especially, a cordless drill can make a lot of tasks easier, faster, and safer. But only if you use it the way it is meant to be used.
The first thing to do is to fit the drill bit, screwdriver, or attachment, depending on the task at hand. You will fit it between the three jaws and screw it down to ensure it has a tight fit. Use both hands if you have to.
If the battery has enough power, squeezing the trigger spins the chuck and, with it, the drill bit or driver. Modern models have a speed selector switch that adjusts the drill’s speed from low to high.
For driving screws, most cordless drills have an adjustable clutch that prevents the tool’s torque from driving the tool too deeply. The clutch can be adjusted to increase or decrease the torque. It will stop spinning when the screw is fully inserted. A cordless drill with 10 clutch settings will guarantee optimal resistance for screw driving tasks.
Safety Tips for Cordless Drill
Ironically, the advent of cordless drills themselves was a milestone in power tool safety. Those drills no longer needed to plug into a power outlet removed trip risks and made the workshop a safer place. Batteries also reduced the risk and incidence of electrocutions from people mishandling power adapters and the use of worn and damaged cables.
But make no mistake about it: the risk of injury is still high if you mishandle cordless wood boring drills. The spinning bit needs to be tightly secured to remove the risk of puncture wounds and other injuries to you and those around you. If you leave your hair hang onto your project as you work the drill, you also risk entanglement and injury. There are also eye injuries.
Immediately after unboxing your drill, the first thing is to study the accompanying manual. The manual will have all the information on how to use the tool safely.
Many injuries are caused by poor tool assembly. For example, a loosely fastened drill bit is a serious safety hazard, as we have already discussed. For your safety, take note of the following precautions:
- Avoid clutter around your workspace;
- Make sure the drill bit is securely fastened;
- Always wear safety goggles to protect your eyes;
- Tie back long hair, take off all jewelry, and tuck in any loose clothing;
- Clampdown on a secure worktable all small projects to stop them from moving while you work;
- Keep your finger off the trigger switch when carrying it;
- Don’t use too much force when using the drill;
- Replace all worn drill bits and screwdriver attachments;
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for battery recharging and replacement;
For more hand and power tools safety information, refer to OSHA’s standards guide here.
5 Best Cordless Drills for Woodworking: Review
With cordless drills, you can be sure of one thing: you’ve more than enough options. With the dizzying selection of options, including names you will have never heard of, it is easy to overspend on features you might not even need.
Below we review the 5 best cordless drills for woodworking. We considered each brand’s reputation for making durable tools as well as the specific tool’s own features. We are confident these tools will improve your productivity!
The Bosch PS31-2A 12-volt is our pick for the best cordless drill when working in tight spaces. It is your drill/driver if a full-sized 20V cordless driver is too much for your needs. Its short length and height, coupled with one of the lightest weights in this class reduces user fatigue and allows you to reach areas other drills wouldn’t.
This cordless wood boring drill is especially adept at overhead drilling and driving where a tool’s weight and size can be a hindrance and, being an unnatural working position, the body turns to tire easily. An example is when repairing the ceiling. The compact size is also perfect for electricians, handymen, and all contractors who often work in tight spaces.
Delivering 12V of power at a weight of just over 2 pounds, the Bosch PS31-2A 12-volt boasts a premium performance to size ratio. The lithium-ion battery delivers excellent runtime for basic woodworking and DIY tasks while the integrated LED lights ensure sufficient visibility when working in poorly lit environments.
|Torque||265 inch pounds|
For a versatile, truly compact cordless drill that will exceed expectations, you will not find one much better than the Festool 564514. At under two pounds, this miniature powerhouse is compact and perfect for all-day use. The 10.8V power is just about sufficient for most driving and wood drilling work.
We found this cordless drill to be the most versatile in this voltage class. The versatility is down to the Fast-fix clutch system that allows you to use a keyless chuck, the Centrotec chuck, and if working space is extremely tight spaces, an optional right-angle chuck attachment.
A built-in ‘fuel gauge’ allows you to check the battery level so the battery never drains out while you work. The bright LED light illuminates your work area, which improves safety when working in poor light conditions.
Another feature we like on the Festool 564514 Cordless Drill TXS 2,6-Set is its independent drive and drill mode through which you can switch between drilling and driving without adjusting the torque settings. A simple slip of a lever switch will do the trick. The 12-position chuck ensures precision driving.
|Drilling depth||Wood - 15/32” Steel - 5/16”|
|Torque||Metal - 141.6 in-lb Steel - 141.6 in-lb Wood - 88.5 in-lb|
The Makita brand’s proud, 100-year reputation for making durable and reliable power tools is matched only by the loyalty of its users. At 3.8 lbs, this drill straddles the divide between what is truly portable for repetitive, all-day use and a heavy-duty drill/driver for tasks that call for considerable torque and speed.
Though heavier and larger than our previous two picks, the Makita XFD061 18V LXT is a workhorse that will breeze through all basic wood drilling and fastening tasks. The clutch is smooth and precise, with a lock mechanism that makes it easy to tighten your bits.
For the power it delivers, this cordless drill is remarkably lightweight and, thanks to by the ergonomic design, feels very comfortable in the hand. Brushless and built like a tank, with a 3aH 18V Lithium-ion battery, this tool will serve you reliably for years to come. Other noteworthy features of this cordless drill include a well-positioned, bright LED light and a locking feature that holds the battery in place.
All that power and torque for an 18V drill that costs less than the 10.8V Festool drill we reviewed earlier? You would want to know what you are giving up. We noticed a plastic chuck, a lower-rated motor, an older model design, fewer bells and whistles than other drills in this class, and a carry bag instead of a case. But because Makita makes all its components in-house, they can more closely control quality, meaning this is still a high-quality tool that will not fail you.
|Battery Type||LXT® Lithium-ion|
|Capacity||Wood - 1-1/2" Steel - 1/2"|
Usually, people rely on well-known brands. In this regard, a DEWALT cordless drill is a secure bet. This DEWALT 20V Max is a beast in terms of power. And depending on where you are buying, it can be had at barely believable prices.
The challenge with cordless drills in the 20V class is designing a drill that converts that amount of power into speed and torque without the drawback of extra weight. At the end of the day, this is still a cordless drill that needs to be comfortably light for all-day woodworking. DEWALT appears to have won that battle with this drill that weighs a light 2.8lbs.
The 300 watts of power this DEWALT drill delivers matches it with a wide range of applications, from standard woodworker’s bench tasks to tough home remodeling and repair work. The high-speed transmission and ½ inch ratcheting chuck that provides tight gripping strength make it the ideal tool for buffing, abrading, heavy-duty drilling, mixing mortar, and other strenuous tasks.
Reading through reviews on Amazon, we got concerned that several customers complained that the second battery appeared dead on receipt and couldn’t take a charge. We hoped those were just isolated cases. Then other users did say you need to make sure the charger snaps into place for the battery to charge.
|Dimensions||13.88 x 9.88 x 4.25 in|
|Battery Type||LXT® Lithium-ion|
|Torque||530 in. lbs.|
This Porter-Cable 20V Max rounds off our picks for the best cordless drill for woodworking. It compares well with the DEWALT 20V Max, matching the chuck size and a few other features. The brushless motor delivers long-running time without the risk of the drill heating up. The lithium-ion battery will give you 27-watt hours.
It is on the clutch settings where the Porter-Cable 20V rises head and shoulders above the DEWALT. At 23 clutch settings, this drill promises a level of precision drilling and driving no drill on the list can match.
For a less known brand targeting the semi-professional market, this cordless has some seriously tough competition. If you are a woodworker or DIYer, though, it is more than sufficient for your needs. It is a capable cordless driver that will perform under the toughest conditions.
|Dimensions||7.75 in. (length)|
|Torque||1400 in. lbs.|
Check Out More Of Our Cordless Drills Reviews
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Corded Drill vs. Cordless Electric Drill: What Are the Pros and Cons?
Compare & Contrast: DeWalt vs. Makita vs. Milwaukee — Best Cordless Drills
Cabinet making is basically drilling and driving screws in pre-made boards, so you don’t need too much power in your drill. The 12V, Bosch PS31-2A will be adequate. Its 20+1 clutch settings will ensure your screw driving is precise and neat.
Corded drills have more power, but with the improvement in motor technology and the development of lithium-ion batteries that have greater power density, cordless drills have gotten a lot more powerful.
Opt for high-speed steel drill bits. If you are building an outdoor structure, choose titanium-coated bits that have better corrosion resistance and excellent heat tolerance.
Judging from standard warranties for lithium-ion batteries by cordless drill manufacturers, your battery should last at least three years. That said, it depends on how frequently you use your drill. Again, most cordless drills now come with two batteries, so they should last a bit longer.
To keep your drill in the best working condition, remove the battery when the drill is not in use. If you don’t have a specially made cabinet for your tools, keep the drill in its case. Also, clean the drill regularly with a wipe cloth. To remove dirt stuck in the vent, use a blower and not a brush.
The best cordless drill for woodworking ultimately is one that meets your needs. As your needs determine your drill speed and torque needs, that drill can be a 12V, 18V, or even 20V.
We have reviewed our picks across these classes, with slight variations in price and features between them. If you need a drill for basic cabinet making and other light woodworking tasks, the Bosch PS31-2A is our pick. If you drill into dense hardwoods and need more torque, our recommendation is DEWALT 20V Max.