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). !

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
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.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions