Tool Library tool of the week: Hammer Drill

By Patrick Dunn

Some folks have a downright fear of drilling through masonry, even if it’s just to hang a picture. Though largely irrational, it’s still understandable. After all, masonry can eat drill bits, especially if you use the wrong kind. And the actual drilling often takes forever, especially if you use the wrong drill. That’s why it’s almost a heavenly experience when a person finally picks up a hammer drill and a masonry bit and realizes that the job is actually a heck of a lot easier than they’re making it.

A hammer drill works a lot like a regular power drill with one extremely important feature. Instead of just spinning a drill bit, a hammer drill also creates a percussion effect that rapidly hammers a bit into the material at a rate of thousands of blows per minute. The spinning action can then draw the waste material out of the hole. While it’s a simple little feature, that percussion is what allows a user to easily drill hole after hole into common masonry, rock, and concrete. As an added bonus, you can also simply turn off the percussion and use a hammer drill on wood, drywall, and other, less dense materials just as you would use a normal power drill.

With all this effectiveness and versatility, it’s no wonder that a hammer drill is often a prized tool among contractors and DIYers alike. The only real trick is figuring out which type of hammer drill meets your needs: the percussion hammer drill or its brute cousin, the rotary hammer. Both drills can perform largely the same task, but rotary hammers do it with a strength that puts the standard percussion drill to shame.

The cause of the added power is the rotary hammer’s piston mechanism, which delivers a much stronger blow than the percussion drill’s specialized chuck. By using a piston rather than the chuck to generate the percussion, a rotary hammer can actually deliver its blows without spinning the bit, which effectively can turn it into a little manageable jackhammer with the flick of a switch.

That power and function comes at a price, though, which often makes rotary hammers the domain of professional contractors rather than homeowners or DIYers. But if all you need to do is drill a few holes in your foundation, the percussion drill will do just fine.

Luckily, a percussion hammer drill is one of over 1,000 tools available now at the West Seattle Tool Library, which is free to use and run primarily on user donations. If you or someone you know you would like to be involved in The Tool Library, feel free to drop in on our Ask an Expert event this Saturday from 10am-Noon to explore the Library, meet our community of DIYers, and maybe sign up for a membership. In any case, we look forward to seeing you there!

The Tool Library is located in the LHO Complex off the North Entrance to South Seattle Community College, 6000 16th Ave SW.

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