Tried and Tested: Taming the screw

Uncertain which way to turn in a DIY crisis? Our panel measures the mettle of cordless screwdrivers

SO YOU GAVE up woodwork when you were 12 and sworn never to engage in DIY again? No matter: in this age of flat-pack furniture and self-assembly toys, there are few of us who don't covet an electric screwdriver occasionally.

THE PANEL

Professional carpenter Ed Sullivan, life-long DIY enthusiasts Harry and Steve Jones, and novice tool-users Graham Sampson and Emma Bartlett tried out the screwdrivers in the comfort of their own homes. And despite the differences in their levels of experience, their conclusions were largely unanimous.

THE TEST

Like most power tools, cordless screwdrivers work on rechargeable batter- ies and are therefore only as good or as powerful as their power-pack. Their other main attributes are the accessories - the number and quality of bits supplied - and torque control. Sometimes referred to as the "clutch", this feature allows you to control the power with which you drive a screw, so safeguarding more delicate woods. We looked for all-round efficiency and power, while keeping an eye on the price.

**HILKA CORDLESS CONVERTIBLE SCREWDRIVER

pounds 9.99

The Hilka looks like a great bargain on paper. Its standard plastic carrying case contains six screwdriver bits plus one double-ended bit (that is, cross-cut at one end and straight at other), a 2.4V battery charger and bit holder. Impressively, the body of the screwdriver has a 120-degree joint: "So you can get it into tight spaces, like a kitchen drawer," said Steve Jones. "Pretty neat." It has a reverse facility (for removing screws), but there is no torque control. "You really need to know when to stop," Ed Sullivan pointed out, "or you'll split thin wood, or drive the screw in too hard and you'll ruin the hole." Indeed, Graham Sampson found this screwdriver "hard to control" and said that the bit adaptor fell out too easily on the job. But the panel's main complaint was that the Hilka simply isn't very powerful. "It achieves a certain tightness, then it dies on you. And you can't lock the head, so there's no way of using it manually as a last resort," complained Steve Jones. Ed Sullivan thought it may do for someone who wants to assemble one wardrobe and then leave the screwdriver in the garage, but Emma Bartlett disagreed: "It simply didn't do the job, so really it's a waste of money." Note that while the recharge time for this screwdriver is five to seven hours, on the first occasion, like most batteries, it needs to be conditioned by charging it for much longer.

***BLACK & DECKER POWERDRIVER CORDLESS SCREWDRIVER

pounds 15.50

Most of the panellists were well inclined towards the Black & Decker label, but at the same time wondered how the different models could vary so widely in price (see B & D's Super Powerdriver below). This basic screwdriver has a regular 2.4V battery, but can be charged continuously for immediate use. "It's perfect for people like us who would never remember to charge it the night before a job," Graham Sampson admitted. Emma Bartlett was disappointed that it came with only one bit (double-ended) and no carrying case, but admitted that "it did the screws that the Hilka couldn't cope with immediately. It was also very good for getting screws out when realise you've made a mistake." The seasoned DIY-ers approved of the auto-spindle lock, which allows you to drive the tool manually, and Ed Sullivan thought "it felt nice in the hand". It carries a two-year guar- antee, but as Harry Jones remarked: "Rechargeable screwdrivers only last a couple of years anyway, because by then the battery will probably have died and they usually can't be replaced." This model has no torque control, so you have to be extremely careful not to chew the thread up with over- enthusiastic use.

***BOSCH CORDLESS SCREWDRIVER

pounds 15.70

A great deal was expected of Bosch, a company known for its professional tool range, yet even the best manufacturers get it wrong. Our first sample of this model didn't charge at all and had to be returned. This drew attention to the fact that a charging light indicator (as featured on some of the cheaper makes) is a good idea. Still, as Emma Bartlett said: "The box and printed instructions are neat and clear, and the tool is smaller than most of them, so it's easier to hold and get into corners." The recharge time is six hours and it has a spindle lock for manual use, but you only get two (double-ended) bits. Steve Jones pointed out the usefulness of the bits being magnetised: "If you drop a screw you can easily pick it up, even if it falls somewhere awkward." The Bosch was also praised by Harry Jones, who called it "nice and light", and by Graham Sampson as being "strong and easy to use", but testers complained about the sliding mechanism needed to lock the screwdriver for manual use. One said he practically wore a hole in his thumb trying to release it: "As the work went on, it became more of an irritation than a help."

***POWER DEVIL CORDLESS SCREWDRIVER KIT

pounds 14.75

With a 3.6V battery, this distinctive red screwdriver promises a great deal more power than the Hilka - but it doesn't deliver. "There isn't much go in it,which is really surprising," said Ed Sullivan, "but at least you get all these bits and pieces with it." True, the Power Devil comes with a 23-piece accessory set of 13 screwdriver bits and eight sockets on a neat belt-clip which, Emma Bartlett said, "makes you feel like a proper workman". Harry Jones noted that "most of the sockets are too small to use on a car but are handy for, say, a bicycle or lawnmower". It has six torque control settings which Steve Jones called "not bad for a basic mod- el", but you can't use the screwdriver manually - it has no grip. This was a fault common to all but the Black & Decker samples; most handymen tighten the last turn of a screw by hand. The recharge time is five to seven hours.

*****RICHMOND CONVERTIBLE CORDLESS SCREWDRIVER KIT

pounds 19.99

The winner of our survey sits in the middle price range of the products we tested, proving that careful selection can yield excellent value. With a 120- degree joint in the tool (like the Hilka) for comfort and ease of access, a 3.6V battery which takes only four hours to recharge, adjustable torque control and 11 screwdriver bits, the Richmond manages to be almost all things to all users. Best of all, it has a removable battery - the only tool with this feature - which allows you to replace it (for pounds 11.99) instead of buying a new screwdriver when the battery wears out. Among the accessories is a 10mm chuck (for a drill bit) and a countersink, which means that you can have your screwheads flush with the surface. "For a DIY tool, this one is very powerful and has a good range of adjustment," said Ed Sullivan. The Joneses admired its high-quality accessories and Emma Bartlett liked the "great design". The only thing that let it down is the feel of the plastic moulding on the torque control; it's slightly sharp and hurts your fingers as you turn the ring. "This is definitely the best purchase for an occasional user," Graham Sampson summarised.

****BLACK & DECKER SUPER POWERDRIVER CORDLESS SCREWDRIVER KIT

pounds 34

The most expensive tool in our survey was the one our keen DIY-ers said they would buy, and indeed had done in the past. This plush Black & Decker model "has a nice weight, a good clutch mechanism and it's fairly short, so it's handy for difficult corners," said Steve Jones, adding "and you get loads of stuff with it." The Super Powerdriver has a 3.6V battery which you can charge continuously for immediate use, 23 torque settings, an automatic spindle lock for manual and automatic driving, nine insert bits, three reversible bits, a magnetic bit holder and a carrying case. What more could you want? "It's the nicest to use," said Graham Sampson, "and it does everything properly. Plus it only needs charging for a couple of hours - time for lunch, then back on the job." But neither he nor Emma Bartlett felt they would pay an extra pounds 15 for something that they'd use only once in a while. "It's for people who do DIY regularly and it would please a handyman," acknowledged Ed Sullivan.

STOCKISTS

All products available from stores nationwide and from the Argos catalogue (customer services, 0870 600 3030). !

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect