Do I really need an impact driver?
I’ve been hearing a lot about impact drivers lately, and have considered purchasing one. I’m a homeowner, not a tradesman, but I’ve done a lot of remodeling over the years. I’ve always used corded or cordless drills for driving screws. My two cordless drills are a 9.6v DeWalt and a 14.4v Bosch. Each drill is over ten years old, but I recently had the batteries rebuilt and they perform like new. I’ve considered buying just the impact driver to work with the batteries I have, but haven’t had much luck finding one. Most of the screws that I use would be for door hinges, occasional cabinet or furniture work, and other projects of this scale. I have a Milwaukee right angle drill that I’ve used for larger stuff, like lag bolts. My question is; Is it worth buying a whole new cordless tool, batteries, and charger just to drive screws? Is an impact driver really that different than using a regular cordless drill? If so, what is the minimum voltage size I should look for?
An impact driver is a waaaaay different tool than an ordinary driver/drill, IMHO. In many cases, it can eliminate the need to drill a pilot hole (though if wood splitting is a hazard, that still needs to be done). It drives screw very quickly and cleanly, leaving the head in good shape.
Another benefit is how much easier it makes it to dismantle something -- a structure that's been exposed to moisture, screws might have rust, impossible to get apart with a regular driver, zips apart quickly with an impact driver. You may find you like it better for the lag bolts, too. I've not gone there yet, so no opinion.
We have an 18-volt Makita with Litium Ion batteries, but a 14-volt Litium would probably do you fine. You may well find that it's more economical to buy a set than to buy the individual tool. The Li+ batteries make the tool small and light.
In addition to what Jamie said, the screws and the wood just know that you're serious when the impact mechanism emits that machine-gun like sound. ;-)
Impact drivers are invaluable to me. Easier and less tiring than a normal drill. The makita 18V is great and what I have but makita also makes a smaller volt combo kit which seems great for furnature making.
I wouldn't hesitate to spend the money for one.
I can see using one in a production setup but for occasionally in a small shop for a few screws it is faster to just grab a screw driver and you always have the feel of what is happening. unless one doesn't have the strength or grasp to hang on to a screwdriver any more
From the use you describe, I wouldn't use an impact driver. If you drive a lot of heavier, construction screws, they can be a help, compared to ordinary battery drills. Even better with Torx, Star, hex or square drive screws. I use an impact for installing garage doors, subflooring, decks and railings. Too much danger of stripping, galling, breaking small cabinet screws. Pre-drilling the correct size hole and countersink is the way to go for the work you describe.
I acquired a small (12V) Makita impact driver as part of a kit also containing a drill/driver and a great collection of hex bits & drills. As FG mentions, the impact driver is very kind to screw heads whilst being adamant that they must go in or come out.
I used the impact driver to put in (and take out / put in again) a significant number of solid slot-headed brass screws into 4 adirondack chairs and a slatted bench, all made of evil hardwoods (teak, iroko and some very dense English oak). Not one screw was snapped and there were no chewed slots.
This is an incredible result over some hundreds of brass screw ins & outs, using various screw sizes between 4mm X 38mm to 10mm X 75mm.
I did predrill for most of these screws and also used wax as a lubricant. The pair of drill/driver + impact driver is very useful for this regime. But I know from experience that such a set of screwing tasks using a drill/driver alone would have resulted (despite pre-drilling and waxing) in a significant number of snapped screws and many, many with high degree of chewed head or slot.
In short, I recommend that 12V Makita or similar for such screw-heavy furniture styles. The impact + drill pair are effective, efficient and lightweight to use.
I would recommend electric - not cordless.
An impact driver is great for lag bolts into wood without the need to pre-drill. It is also a safe tool - the tool won't let you get your hand twisted like a strong drill could if the bit was in too tight -
also can be used for the lug nuts on a car rim. I've done that with mine.
Now THAT is a good testimony, Lataxe!
EDIT: It's odd how I only think to use my impact driver to drive the big screws with Philips, Roberson, or other less-delicate head. I would have never dared to use an impact on a brass slot-head.
Great post, Lataxe!! It adds another dimension to the whole "impact driver" concept. I used mine last week to drive some slot-head screw, because I simply didn't have any phillips-head that were the right length. It's the first time in years I have driven a slot-head and not cursed!
If you are installing hinges then the last thing you want is an impact driver. Now if you are installing cabinets, as we say in Alabama, you would slap yo moma before you would give it up. They are ideal for driving a 3” screw thru the back of a cabinet into a stud wall without pre-drilling. If you are going to get one, get an 18 volt, because you will be using it for heavy-duty work. There is a learning curve with one. On the one I have, if you keep holding the trigger it will either break the screw or take it completely thru the back of the cabinet. I have had several people who after working with me for a day would go buy one. They work exceptionally well with star or square drives. They tend to strip out Philips head screws if you aren’t careful.
Hope this helps,
I ended up with the 18v Makita set with the impact driver and also the drill with 1/2" keyless chuck, two batteries and a charger. I didn't realize how much I needed these tools until after I started using them. If you don't understand the necessity of an impact driver just use one for 10 minutes, you'll get it. I love these tools. You can't use mine, go get your own. Oh, fifteen minute recharge, honest!
AS Lataxe.. I have the smaller palm impact 12 V with a drill driver that came in the kit. It has proved absolutely in-dispensable. I don't generally use a screw in a piece to furniture but when I do the palm impact driver gets into tight spots with ease.
I also use it often and almost daily around the shop on something. If I did a lot of decks.. etc. I would opt for the larger 18 V or a 1/2". BTW... the Makita is everything people say about it with the Lithium batteries.
What's the difference between an impact driver, and a hammer drill? Got a hammer drill, a big one, to make holes in concrete. Man, that thing just melts a carbide bit into a cured slab, where a reg'lar drill jes' spins.. Is it using the same action as the drivers y'all are bragging about?
Just curious, I wouldn't try to drive hinge screws with my hammer drill, unless they were on a barnyard gate. ;-)
I believe the difference is the 15# sledge inside the hammer drill, which accounts for only part of the additional weight. The balance of the weight is due to the tiny clone of John Henry, the famous pile drivin' man, inside. ;-)
I have one of those, too, a 1/2" (old) Porter Cable that weighs a ton.
It's like comparing a dump
It's like comparing a dump truck to a Porsche.
The best analogy for a hammer drill and impact driver that I've heard is that a hammer drill is like taking a bit and hammering the end of it. An impact driver's movement is like sticking a pair of Vicegrips on the bit (perpendicular) and striking the Vicegrips.
Thanks Chris, I was wondering if the difference was just size or if the application of the force of impact was different too.
That hammer drill knocks things in as well as twisting then 'round. If you are unsure whether you have a nail or a screw, turn on the hammer and the thang will go in one way or another! Of course, you may demolish the stuff being penetrated.
It is no good when what you are penetrating is demolished. Hence the phrase whispered by all such substrates: "Be gentle with me".
The impact driver screws things around and around with small rotational thrusts. After each thrust the torque in the screw melts away as it turns in the 'ole. By the time the next screw-thrust comes, it is torque-free and so less inclined to snap or thrust the bit from its slot.
It is no good if one's bit is rudely thrust from the slot, as you will know from bitter experience.
I yam surprised that you have got to be so very old and still failed to understand how to screw effectively. Cuh!
Lataxe, who likes to have an impact when he screws.
Well, Lataxe, meduck,
One fellow I knew used to say that those funny shaped slots in screw heads were only for taking them out, after you've driven them with a hammer, as should be done. He learnt his trade covering the walls of house trailers, aka mobile homes.
A furniture builder of the old school, always had in his hand a BIG YANKEE, one that when unfurled, would double its length from 12 to 24" with the snap of a finger. Impressive! Not only that, but an industrious fellow can generally get the job done with a single thrust!! None of this tantric s-s-s-s-screwing ;-)
That Makita 18v set is the "Mack Daddy" for me. I can not get anybody in the shop to use the old 40 ton yellow stuff.
I just used an impact driver for the first time. Man what a difference! three inch drywall screws into 2 by 4 like nothing. Definetly my next tool to buy! It may be a little much for most furniture work but great for hanging cabinets etc.
Morning Ray... I believe Chris got you answered better than I could really. I have never used a hammer drill myself. For that matter I had never used an impact driver or drill driver until August of 2007. I had depended on a 3/8" and 1/2" Hitachi drill in my shop and both are corded. Excellent drills BTW.
But.. when helping Steel City Toolworks assemble 40 or so machines the week before IWF in 07'.. I was handed a palm impact driver. I learned to apprciate no cord and the light.. manuaverable ability it has. Four of us would tackle the assembly of a TS.. jointer.. planer.. etc. single handed-ly. That meant balancing 70-100 pound cast iron extentions on your thighs after wrestling the 400 + pound machine off a pallet and attaching the wings. Those guys were experienced at doing so and this wore the old man out.
But.. I learned much and one of the main things I learned is the difference an impact driver and drill driver in this small.. powerful size can make when you don't have electrical outlets at your disposle. I purchase the Makita 10.2 V kit the week after the show and use the palm impact driver almost daily.
It's extremely handy getting under a carcass to attach top hold downs... etc. I also use it to do rough construction things as the little impact will driver a 2 1/2" deck screw quickly after I drill a pilot hole with the palm drill driver. Pick up the drill loaded with a drill bit.. then the palm impact to drive it home. The impact has got some torque I tell you...
So.. if you find a good buy on a Makita I would highly reccomened picking one up as you may not think you need one but once you have it you will find a zillion things you will use it for as I did. Before that show I had no interest at all as I just didn't see the point. And if you do get one.. go Lithium as you get two batteries and they re-charge in about 15 minutes. I used mine yesterday to throw together a TV strecther ( like a medical strecther) to strap an extremely heavy.. bulky old style large sreen TV to so two of us can get it down 12 steps that are extremely steep. Those old styles have the weight off balance and there is really on place to grab it to carry and especially on steps.
Have a good day Ray...
Back in the day, the thing to have for driving lots of screws was one of those 24" long "Yankee " screwdrivers. Drive a 1 1/4"x #8 FHS wood screw in a single push.
And I had rather use duct tape rather than own a tool with the name Yankee attached to it.. hee....
Well.. until my third marriage to the young Dutch girl from Western Pennsylvania. I'm carrying a lot of Yankee baggage these days in the form or visiting family who like sunshine and driveways without snow and ice. ha.. ha...
I guess in Jawjah, with a Yankee driver in one hand a feller needs to have a Dixie cup in the other to balance things out.
Have a good 'un, Sarge,
An impact driver is a great tool for certain jobs. I would go for an 18V as they can handle about anything without too much more cost than a 14.4V. Here's the top 5 18V impact drivers according to http://www.cordless-drill-reviews.com
1) Makita BTD144 - $329
2) Bosch 25618-01 - $182
3) Metabo SSW18 - $199
4) Bosch 25618-02 - $214
5) Hitachi WH18DL - $296
The Bosch 25618-01 received all A's and B's for power, speed, weight, battery, and impact rate. It seems to be a good value for your money.
This forum post is now archived. Commenting has been disabled