As professionals, we don't have many people in our office asking, "What is a drill?" But if you're new to the world of power tools or just a hobbyist, the history of power drills can be fascinating. Regardless of why you're here, who better to explain it than the guys and girls who use them every day? We promise to focus on the key points rather than write a long paper.
What is a drill? textbook definition
Merriam-Webster defines drills differently. We're not talking about military exercises or the act of maneuvering, we're talking about tools. They define it as:
"A tool with an edge or point, used to make holes in hard substances by rotation or continuous blows."
Fundamentally, this is dead. Drills have points or edges (bits) that turn. In most cases, it chipped away material to create a hole, but it could also cut through or use a combination of both.
This is also a very broad definition. Drill bits can be small enough to drill near-tiny holes, or large enough to tunnel under the English Channel.
Want to know the real history of power drills? So are we. Of course, it all depends on which historical period you're looking at. Historians estimate that humans figured out thousands of years ago how to spin a pointed stone onto another object to make a hole.
Over 200 years ago, we saw the first pictures of hand drills. You have the drill bit and stand (still used today) and a blender style hand drill. The exact date of invention of these tools is still up for debate.
In terms of increasing electricity, Arthur James Arnot and William Blanch Brain of Australia are credited with inventing the first electric drilling machine in 1889. Check out the patent application which shows how they created a shield to protect the user from the motor room.
However, the first portable hand-held electric drill was the brainchild of Wilhelm and Carl Fein in Stuttgart, Germany in 1895. Yep, it's these two Feins' companies that dominate the market for the best oscillating multitools available today.
In 1917, Black & Decker (now Stanley Black & Decker) patented a pistol grip and trigger for what we call the "Modern Drill." They're actually based on the Colt Peacemaker sitting on a nearby table. Talk about an epiphany! This changed the history of power drills forever.
The first cordless drill was introduced in 1961. Black & Decker uses NiCad batteries to power it.
A few years later, in 1978, Makita released the 6010D, a cordless drill powered by a removable 7.2V NiCd battery pack, the first tool with a removable battery.
modern cordless drill
When most people think of a power drill, they think of the pistol grip style invented by Black & Decker, which runs on corded or battery power. This tradition paved the way for the modern drill bit, which today uses the same basic design. Power has been shifted to battery power, and motors have shrunk in size while increasing efficiency.
In either case, an electric motor turns a chuck that holds a drill or screwdriver. Rotation allows the drill to cut away material or drive the drill to install/remove fasteners. In case it came up in Final Jeopardy, most of the "drills" we use today are actually drill drivers, as they can both drill holes and drive fasteners.
Check out our article on brushed vs. brushless motors for more information.
Where the History of Power Drills Leads Us
While the most popular drill bits are our handhelds for general drilling and fastening, many other types exist. No matter where you need to drill a hole, there is likely to be a suitable one. Here's a good list:
- drill press
- Core drill
- hammer drill
- hammer drill
- Magnetic drill
- Earth drill
Does this give you the information you need? Have any feedback or information we've missed? If so, please leave it in the comments below.