Whether you build model trains or real houses, you need the right tools for the job. Everyone has a cordless drill these days, and while they are great tools, there are some situations where they are too bulky and heavy. Fine work assembling toys, models, or other repair jobs cab be very difficult with even a small cordless drill, and if you have ever tried installing an under sink appliance or had to work in tiny roof cavity you will appreciate the same.
A cordless screwdriver can be a great alternative to a cordless drill. Basically these tools consist of a rechargeable battery, a motor, small reduction gearbox, and a variable speed throttle. Many do not actually have a chuck like a power drill (that’s the adjustable clamp at the front that takes different sized drill bits) but rather have a standard hex-socket with a magnetic clip that accepts standard ¼ inch hex shafts. This means very fast bit changes, as you can simply stick your Phillips, slotted, hex, torx and other drive bits straight in.
Many people ask how powerful cordless screwdrivers are. These tools are not as strong as large cordless drills, but they do pack enough power for driving 2” self tapping screws into soft wood with ease, and 1” screws into hardwood. They are not suitable for driving self tapping screws into metal though, this still requires a drill – unless you pre drill holes, in which case they will manage. The best way to think of a cordless screwdriver is as a normal old fashioned handheld screwdriver – the amount of torque you can expect is about the same as you can generate with your wrist. If you need to hold the tool in both hands, then you are expecting it to work too hard.
What about drilling holes? Although they are not designed for this, you can quite easily buy an adaptor that slots into the hex socket on the cordless screwdriver, and has a small adjustable chuck. This allows you to use small drills to bore holes as with a drill. There is no problem with this as long as you don’t try drilling metals or use big bore drills into wood – paddle drills are a definite no-no…remember you are dealing with a fairly small gearbox. Alternatively, you can buy drill bits set directly into quick-fit hex attachments. This is a more expensive way to drill, but is perfect if you need a really compact solution or if you drill a lot of the same size holes. A good example is assembling PCBs (printed circuit boards) for electronic devices, where many small holes need to be exactly positioned on copper tracks for capacitors, resistors, and other components. A cordless screwdriver is a perfect tool for anyone who does fine engineering work like this.
It comes as no surprise that the best cordless screwdrivers come from reputable brands like Makita, Bosch, and Ryobi. As with anything else, you get what you pay for. $40 will buy a good entry level too suitable for DIY and light trade work, while serious trade workers might look at spending up to $100 on a top quality Makita or Dewalt driver. This sounds like a lot of money but these tools can live for many years, tougher than they look.