Kitty Cormerford, a left-handed builder with building firm Links; and amateur DIY enthusiasts Mike Baker, Neil Kaufman and Stephen Ward.
The panel gave the drills marks for how easy they were to use, their efficiency at drilling wood and masonry, and their value for money.
****BLACK & DECKER COMPACT CORDLESS DRILL KC8402, 8.4V BATTERY WITH CHARGER
This was the only cordless drill in our selection and it won hands-down, especially for ease of use. "It was my first experience of a cordless drill," said Mike Baker, "and it was great not having to locate sockets and have great lengths of cabling getting in the way. Nice touches were the chuck key located on top (they always get lost), and the screwdriver bit. Definitely my favourite drill." Kitty Cormerford liked it: "Lightweight and balances well; a good drill considering the price." Neil Kaufman praised the instructions for their "clear pictures and clever symbols". One drawback, though, was that the KC8402 could not tackle heavy masonry or concrete well, having no hammer action. Other minus points Kitty Cormerford noticed were that it did not have speed control or reverse action, or an indicator light on the battery.
***BLACK & DECKER CORDED HAMMER DRILL KD795CRE, 705W
A top-of-the-range drill for the DIY market, at a top-of-the-range price. There was little to choose between the drills in terms of how well they drilled wood. For drilling masonry, though, this powerful tool stood out as the best. One disadvantage was its weight. "Too heavy and powerful to use comfortably on walls, or when up a ladder, but it drilled into concrete floor when others wouldn't," was Stephen Ward's view. He admired its "twistlok" mechanism, which precludes the need for a chuck key and irritating searches for lost keys. "Too big and complicated," said Mike Baker. "I couldn't manoeuvre it into position to drill the hole because of its size, and had to revert to one of the smaller ones. Plenty of speed settings, but these are wasted when simply drilling holes - two speeds are quite sufficient. Heavy for overhead work." Nonetheless, our professional builder, Kitty Cormerford, would be happy to wield this one. "Well-balanced design and excellent speed control," she said. "The position of the lock makes it friendly to left-handers." A bonus with this drill, like the other Black & Decker, is its two-year guarantee - longer than from other manufacturers.
**ATLAS AC101 SINGLE-SPEED HAMMER DRILL, 550W
A very basic drill from B&Q, this one performed very well considering the price. "Seemed a bit tacky," said Mike Baker, "and had a noticeable lack of refinements compared to the others. But it did the basic job it was designed to do admirably. I would be apprehensive, though, about its robustness and ability to take knocks." Kitty Cormerford found it top- heavy, noisy, and unsuitable for left-handers because of the position of the lock. "Clever rubber piece on the handle for holding the chuck key," said Stephen Ward. "This drill felt cheap, but it worked perfectly OK."
***BOSCH HAMMER DRILL CSB 550-2, 550W
This performed as well as the Black & Decker on wood, and also drilled masonry effectively. Some testers found it heavy - though not Kitty Cormerford, who thought it excellent value for money as a DIY drill, despite not having reverse action. "Another creditable drill," commented Mike Baker, "and one which performed well. But the motor produced a strong draught which made my hands cold." Neil Kaufman pointed out that the locking button was a bit too low to feel comfortable. "The storage space for drill bits in the auxiliary handle is not really necessary," he added. "Most people keep their drill bits in a rack or box, and would keep one or two in their pocket if they went up a ladder." He pointed out that it should have had a 3-amp rather than a 13-amp fuse.
*STANLEY 103 HAND DRILL
This drill, which relies on muscle power rather than wattage, got lower rankings than the others. It wasn't as easy to use and could not drill masonry effectively - but a hand drill has its strengths, too, as Neil Kaufman explained: "It can be used for a delicate job, or when an electric socket is not accessible. Sometimes, it is quicker to use a hand drill." Mike Baker said: "It's sad to say that time has overtaken this drill for average DIY work. It's excellent if you need fine control, but you would need a second, electric, drill for masonry. Another drawback is that you need two hands to operate it - difficult if you also have to hold the object you are drilling." Stephen Ward said: "This would last for ever, but it's expensive for a hand drill."
STOCKISTS: Black & Decker 01753 511234; Atlas drill available from B&Q stores; Bosch 01895 838412; Stanley 01709 532465.
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