So, you’ve just acquired a brand-new power drill for the holiday season. Maybe it’s your very first cordless drill, or perhaps it’s a high-quality upgrade from your dad’s ancient Black & Decker drill that has served faithfully for three decades. As you carefully unpack your new tool and make a solemn promise to take good care of it, you start to discover its impressive capabilities. Many modern drills come with multiple speed settings that are easy to understand. However, there’s also that perplexing collar with 20 or more settings for you to adjust. These are your drill clutch settings. Let’s delve into what this feature is all about and learn how to make the most of it.
How to Use Your Drill’s Clutch Settings: Understanding the Basics
Most of us are familiar with how clutches work in cars. They engage or disengage the drivetrain. Similarly, your drill’s clutch settings work in a similar fashion. When you pull the trigger, the drill applies its full torque (drive force) to the screw. However, the clutch allows you to determine how much torque is applied before the motor disengages.
Feeling a little puzzled by the term “torque”? It’s important to understand that there are two primary factors to consider when evaluating a power drill’s capabilities: speed and torque. Speed refers to the rate at which the drill spins, while torque indicates the amount of power it can exert at that speed. While a drive screw requires speed, torque is what enables it to overcome the braking force caused by friction and continue driving.
Why Do You Need a Drill Clutch?
By utilizing your drill’s clutch setting, you gain precise control over the depth of the fastener you’re driving. This is especially useful for indoor projects. When driving screws into drywall, for instance, you’ll want to use a lower clutch setting to prevent them from going all the way through. It’s also advantageous for installing delicate or decorative hardware, as you can ensure they are not damaged by excessive force.
Woodworkers who frequently work with small screws also find clutch settings incredibly helpful, provided they’re not using hand-tightened screws. For example, when I helped install a deck, I utilized a medium-high clutch setting. This allowed me to sink the screws slightly below the surface of the wood. Once I found the ideal clutch setting to achieve the desired results, it became effortless to consistently drive the screws to the correct depth.
Clutches serve a different purpose when it comes to driving screws into hard materials like pressure-treated lumber and hardwood. In these scenarios, the clutch helps prevent damage to the screw heads, a phenomenon known as “camout.” Camout occurs when the drill rotates on the head, causing it to round and making it challenging to either drive the screw further or remove it.
Now, you might be wondering if you can simply leave the clutch on one fixed setting. Well, most people who aren’t familiar with or don’t require the functionality of a drill clutch tend to keep it on the highest torque setting. If you’re not concerned about potential damage to the material or fastener, go ahead and do just that. However, if you value clean and precise results, you’ll find the drill clutch setting to be an indispensable tool in your arsenal.
On the flip side, some individuals might not realize that their clutch isn’t fully engaged and mistakenly assume that their drill lacks power or is broken when they hear the disengagement click. It’s crucial to note that drill clutch settings are not standardized, meaning that setting 6 on one model might not be equivalent to setting 6 on another. Therefore, you’ll need to readjust the clutch not only when working with different materials and screws but also when swapping out drill bits.
How to Adjust the Clutch for Driving Fasteners
Adjusting the clutch itself is a breeze. Simply twist the collar towards a lower number to reduce torque or higher numbers for increased torque. If you’re unfamiliar with the materials you’re working with, it’s best to start with a lower setting and gradually work your way up.
For instance, when dealing with drywall and small-diameter screws, begin with the lowest clutch setting. As for drilling holes in wood using larger diameter or longer screws, start with a middle setting. If you’re driving lag bolts, you’ll likely want to begin with the higher end of the clutch range. It may be necessary to make one-setting adjustments until you find the sweet spot.
Ultimately, it’s crucial to ask yourself, “Will I damage the material or hardware if I drive too far?” If the answer is yes, start with a lower clutch setting than you think you’ll need and gradually increase it until you achieve the desired result. It may require re-driving a few screws to get it just right, but this approach will save you frustration, and the final outcome will be well worth it.
Photos: Rig Clutch Settings in Action
To give you a visual understanding of how clutch settings impact screw depth, here are some sample images:
With the clutch set to 1, the 2-1/2″ #8 screw barely makes an impression on pressure-treated wood.
At a setting of 6, the screw becomes slightly embedded.
By using a clutch setting of 13, I was able to drive the screw flush.
For maximum torque, a setting of 14 allowed me to sink the screw deep into the wood. If your aim is to consistently drive screws flush, setting the clutch at 13 should do the trick.
We hope these examples help clarify how to use drill clutch settings for optimal results. For the latest news, reviews, and previews, be sure to follow Pro Tool Reviews on Twitter and Instagram!