Results from The Great Drill Contest

As promised, we tested some drills. The testing wasn’t exactly scientific, but the results pass the smell test and provide some interesting insights as to the relative value of different drill types.

Spoiler alert, no equipment was visibly damaged in the collection of this data.

Read on for all the gory details.

The Drills

We set out to test a variety of drills, corded and cordless, at a variety of price points. These drills were all things that Ben, Garrick and Kevin had around their houses or the OMG Makerspace, and none were purchased specifically for this test. There’s something of an excess of Ryobi entries, but that’s just what we had.  The idea for this test came about when Ben purchased an ancient Black and Decker heavy-duty drill for $10 at Habitat Restore and said something to the effect of “I bet this drill could out-drill about anything”. We punched a few 1″ holes in a scrap of wood and decided that a more complete test was in order.

The Bits

We originally tried to select a variety of drill bits with different characteristics to test torque, speed, and so on.  I’d had visions of hole saws and forstners and a dozen sizes and pitches of twist drills, and when we saw the heap of stuff on the bench, we settled on the following 5 bits, since we didn’t want to spend all weekend drilling holes.

  • 3/8″ Ryobi Titanium-Nitride-coated twist drill
  • 1″ Harbor Freight Black Oxide twist drill
  • 3/4″ Irwin self-feeding paddle bit
  • 1″ Irwin SpeedBor tri-wing self-feeding bit
  • 7/8″ self-feeding auger

None of these bits were purchased for this test or particularly new; as with the drills we just sort of used what we had.

The Materials

Originally, we were going to conduct all drilling in 2″ hard maple, but ended up testing a few bits that stripped when trying to self-feed, so we ran the Speedbor and auger in a 2×4, drilling the 1-1/2″ way with the Speedbor and the 3-1/2″ way with the auger.  Except for the auger, all tests were conducted with the bit in a vertical orientation.

Testing Protocol

Times are approximate, and were taken with a stopwatch.  Each combination of bit and drill was only tested once (because we’re lazy) so this represents pretty weak science. A hole was considered drilled when the bit broke the lower surface of the lumber, to prevent measuring error where self-feed bits stop feeding once the screw tip breaks through, and where twist-drills sometimes seize if a flute catches wrong.

To account for differences in operators, we tried to use the same person for all tests with the same bit. We tried to regulate drilling pressure based on bogging, optimizing each drill to “max work”.

This chart shows the time spent completing each test. A few of the drills, particularly the elderly blue Ryobi and the 12v Bosch, had a few holes that they were unable to finish or that they couldn’t even attempt. The Bosch has a 3/8″ chuck, and the 1″ twist drill has a 1/2″ shank.

Clearly some drills were MUCH faster than others, with the fastest overall being the corded Milwaukee Hole Shooter, a very typical 850-RPM mid-duty drill. However, the standout performer in most tests was the 20v DeWalt, which came very close to the Milwaukee’s total time and beat it soundly with every bit except the 1″ twist drill. This really came down to gearing, as this drill had a 3-speed gearbox, and was able to spin the larger bits in the middle gear, giving it more RPM than the rest of the field. The rest of the drills with a shiftable gearbox, including the Metabo corded drill, needed the torque of their lower, slower gear for every bit except the 3/8″ twist.

Pay close attention to the Bosch 12v and the Ryobi 18v Brushed – at a glance, their scores look excellent, but neither drill was able to complete every test. The Bosch was only able to run the 3/8″ twist drill effectively; this shouldn’t really be a surprise, as it was designed for much lighter duty than the rest of the field. The Ryobi was able to complete every test except the 1″ twist drill (which really isn’t something you’d often run with a hand drill anyway), but it posted the second-slowest score for each test. Interestingly, while its blue predecessor consistently placed last, it was able to complete a hole with the big twist drill.

There are two other interesting comparisons here – first, we have two brushless drills alongside comparable brushed drills from the same manufacturer. While both brushless drills were able to outperform their brushed cousins (aside from a surprisingly slow time from the brushless Ridgid on the 1″ twist drill), they were nevertheless beaten in every test by the brushed DeWalt. Second, look at how the brushed Ridgid stepped up its game when given more power from a beefy 5 Ah battery pack – Upgrading the basic drill with the big battery was nearly as good as buying a brushless drill.

We struggled to come up with a unified measurement for the value of each drill, and settled on “Average Holes Per Minute, Per Dollar”.  We excluded the 1″ twist drill scores from the test, feeling that was a fairly abusive use of some of the 18v drills and one most owners wouldn’t attempt. We also left the Bosch out as an outlier.

 

To summarize, it’s hard to argue with a good mid-duty corded drill, with both the Milwaukee and Metabo placing very highly and successfully completing every test. This shouldn’t really be a surprise, as both drills are geared for roughly twice the speed of the low gear on most of the cordless drills, and have plenty of power to back that up. The heavy-duty Black and Decker scored poorly, in large part because none of these bits actually stressed it enough to justify the high price tag commanded by such a drill. It only comes into its own when very heavily loaded, as shown by its best-in-field time with the 1″ twist drill. It would be much happier mixing drywall mud or spinning a 6″ hole saw, tasks which would likely have destroyed most of the other drills on test.

The cordless drills show some more interesting variation. Thanks to its low cost, the brushed 18v Ryobi easily tops the chart as an outstanding value, as long as you can accept slower drilling in most situations (and recognize that truly heavy tasks will require a different drill). Beyond that, you basically get what you pay for. More expensive drills drill holes faster. The brushless models may not have blown away the performance of the brushed drills, but their modest price increases reflect this and leave them as a very reasonable option. Meanwhile, adding a large battery pack is a great way to bring new performance to an old drill, but is a terrible value if you’re buying both drill and battery at the same time.

More Data

Here’s the boring numbers we collected.

Description Make Model 3/8″ Twist 1″ Twist 3/4″ Paddle 1″ Triwing 7/8″ Auger Total Seconds Average Seconds Weight in g RPM MSRP (Kit)
Milwaukee Holeshooter Milwaukee 0234-1 2.02 9 5 4.56 6.17 26.75 5.35 2250 850 150
Dewalt 20v Dewalt DCD980M2? 1.24 15.24 3.39 2.94 5.28 28.09 5.618 2800 1350 259
B&D Monster Black & Decker 1321 1.6 7.68 7.25 5.02 9.32 30.87 6.174 4740 450 238
Ridgid 18v Brushed 5Ah Ridgid R86008 2.68 11.69 7.53 6.03 9.47 37.4 7.48 1820 450 159
Ryobi 18v Brushed Ryobi P1811 3.86 DNF 9.93 6.68 10.37 30.84 7.71 1680 440 79
Ryobi 18v Brushless Ryobi P1813 2.54 19.32 6.87 5.9 8.78 43.41 8.682 2170 410 149.99
Ridgid Brushless Ridgid R86116K 1.74 23.48 6.37 5.03 7.63 44.25 8.85 2240 550 159
Ridgid 18v Brushed 2Ah Ridgid R86008 3.12 19.52 8.74 7.22 9.47 48.07 9.614 1820 450 119
Metabo Corded Metabo SBE850 1.75 38.93 4.57 4.56 5.38 55.19 11.038 3050 1000 175
Bosch 12v Bosch PS31 14.88 NC DNF DNF DNF 14.88 14.88 970 350 75
Ryobi 18v Blue Ryobi 5.76 47.95 13.46 8.18 12 87.35 17.47 1840 350
Average 3.74 21.42 7.31 5.61 8.39 40.65 9.35 156.299

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