Start Your Toolkit With The Right Drill

By Julie Kerby

A new feature on the trials and tribulations of DIY

What’s on your Honey-Do list? You know the list, the one most homeowners have, wherein they spell out all the nit-picky little projects that need to be done to maintain the family home. That list which is typically the creation of the woman of the house, yet the responsibility of the man to accomplish.

Why is completing the list the man’s job? Women are creative, capable individuals, yet we willingly relinquish the world of tools to men, putting ourselves in the role of nag to get these projects accomplished. If women would let go of their irrational fear of tools and take on these projects, it would free up men to handle other important household jobs like washing dishes, folding socks, cleaning toilets, or clipping the dog’s toenails.

Imagine the satisfaction of saying, “Honey, I finished the Honey Do List: I’ll be on the couch watching HGTV. Let me know when dinner is ready.”

Regardless of who is the Honey Do in your family, there are some basic tools that are likely to come in handy. With the holidays approaching, you may want to ask Santa for some tools. When shopping for tools, there are many things to consider. First, avoid the cheapest tools because you’ll get what you pay for and you’ll end up being disappointed. But you typically don’t need the most expensive either, especially if you are just performing occasional fix-it jobs. And look for tools that fit comfortably in your hand, feel solid, and have enough features to perform a variety of jobs while not being too gimmicky.

The power tool that lands in my hand most often is the cordless drill/driver. A good quality one is indispensible. You can drill holes with it, of course, but more often I use mine to drive in screws or other hardware. Would you rather spend the wee hours of Christmas Eve exhausting your wrist with a screw driver, or quickly zip in the gazillion screws that came with your child’s new play kitchen?

Choose a drill that has a removable lithium ion (Li-ion) battery, preferably with a spare that can be charged while the first is in use. Li-ion batteries typically have a shorter charge time and hold their charge while in storage. I used to have a drill with a NiCad battery that drove me crazy because it would always have a dead battery when I got it out, and would take half a day to charge before I could even begin a project. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to make an appointment to use my power tools. I mean, who’s in charge here?

The voltage of the drill, typically 12, 18 or 20 volts, indicates the power it will deliver. It will also increase the size and weight of the battery and the tool. For most home uses, 12 or 18 volts is plenty. I have a Hitachi 12 volt drill driver set which I adore. The battery is very compact, and I can get my hand around it easily to release the battery. Each tool is a very light 2.2 lbs. The set comes with a regular drill/driver, an impact driver, a flashlight, two batteries, a quick charger and a carrying bag. You can find the drill at the home stores and some independent hardware stores for under a hundred dollars. Lowes currently has the entire package described above on sale $129.

Skip the cheap little drivers like the Skil IXO, whose puny 4 volts of power is barely enough to tighten a screw and can’t really be used as a drill at all. Its battery is built-in, so you cannot switch out the battery while charging a spare. And even at $30 it is overpriced for what you get.

I usually don’t care for tools that try to do too much, but Black and Decker has come out with a new drill driver called the Matrix Quick Connect System which has me intrigued. It is a modular system where the drill head can be removed from the motor/battery/handle assembly. Available separately are heads that convert it to an impact driver, sander, jigsaw, oscillating cutter, trim saw or router, ranging in price from $19–39 each, which is less than buying separate comparable tools. It has a powerful 20 volts, but only comes with one battery, which is absurd for a tool that is trying to serve so many purposes.

However, with a base price of $49 (down from $69) you could consider buying an extra battery, though the battery costs as much as the entire unit. The jury is still out on this, so if Santa leaves one under the tree for you, let me know what you think. To see a video of the Quick Connect system, see

So, let go of your fears, get yourself some appropriate tools and jump on that Honey Do list. You won’t regret it. Just don’t let the sense of accomplishment go to your head. Nobody likes a smug Honey Do-er.