What to look for in a cordless screwdriver?

I know there have been a few threads on this topic over the last year or so - based on recommendation requests.
Rather than ask for recommendations per se, I would just like to know what you folks think is important for a cordless screwdriver (_ drill if possible) to meet my needs.
These needs are quite modest. I have a small B&D unit that is OK for small jobs - but it is low in torque and today wasn't up to putting 30mm screws into the barge boards for my new guttering. I don't usually ever put in more that 20-30 screws in a session or drill more that a few 6mm holes in brick. i.e. modest DIY activities - shelves, guttering, IKEA furniture, etc.
So don't want to spend a fortune but need some advice what to go for, so..
What voltage should I look out for and is more always better ? What's a minimum torque you would choose? Would you suggest variable torque settings ? What's an acceptable charge time? Are there difference in battery type/performance? Over what weight would you say it becomes tiresome? Would you go for a drill/driver combo? Anything else to look out for?
Thanks for any pointers
-- JohnB
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I like em. Low torque settings are particularly useful for rattling free rusty old fasteners that would otherwise get rounded off as you struggle with them.

I'd have a cheapy cordless drill / screwdriver and a big hammer drill or hilti for proper work.
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JohnB wrote:

Not always, I have a 9:6v Bosch that punches well over its weight.

It's rarely shown in the spec on low end tools.

Almost all have this feature.

Depends on your useage. I would want 1 hour or less. 5 hours might be perfectly acceptable to you. Do make sure the charger is automatic e.g. it switches off when the battery is charged.

Yes!
For what? I have a 14:4 v Wickes which is a heavy powerful bugger, great for inserting decking screws, but I use the little Bosch 9:6v for putting up curtain track & flat pack.

Yes.
Two speed via a gearbox is useful. Lower speed = equals higher torque, higher speed is better for drilling.
--
Dave
The Medway Handyman
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Despite what you've said its hard to know what you want, a drill or screwdriver. If you've got neither, I'd go for a drill first, which will also work as a screwdriver. A cheap 9 or 12v tool will do all you want and quite a bit more, so not much point spending any more really. You can get those for around a tenner.
A cordless screwdriver is a smaller lighter lower torque lower speed thing, the only advantage of which is very light weight. Its not needed, but if you do a lot of screwing it can make working easier.
What charge time is acceptable? Surely thats your decision, no-one elses!
The prime drawback to cheap codless tools is that the batteries discharge themselves over a month or so, so if you dont use it much you'd need to recharge before use. There are other differences of course, but for what you're doing cheap tools are more than enough.
NT
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If your needs are not well defined, but you want a good combination of quality/value - go to a builders merchants and ask about any current offers they have on reasonable quality stuff (BM's tend to really know the kit they sell and be fairly honest about it).
Avoid the utter tripe, the batteries won't last, unless you're a person that looses/damages stuff and low cost is best. But other than that, simply pick a good deal rather than shop for features (battery quality, number and recharge time is what really sets different cordless drills apart).
One of my best cheapo buys was 10 quid for a new Skil from a car boot sale. 1 battery, at least an hour to recharge, no features at all - but hey - for a tenner - I was pleased. Used it until I went fulltime, and needed 2 batteries/fast recharge/single sleeve chuck etc.
Like an earlier poster, I use a reasonably light cordless drill driver for timber only and a mains sds drill for the heavy stuff.
The only downside to that combination is that the mains sds drill is too long for access everywhere - but a compact cordless sds is still tres expensive.
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I'll go with what Dave the Handyman has to say - the wee Bosch is a great tool; maybe only 9.6V but for a pretty active DIY amateur it's a great tool.
If you are doing a lot of work, then 2 batteries and a fast charger are essential. Yes higher voltage will give you more power but at cost and weight - the wee Bosch weighs 1.5kg and has two speeds (great for careful drilling).
Avoid cheapo drills - their batteries are as, said above, very poor (been there, done it!), and don't last.
It does depend on what type of work you do - most house hold work is drilling/screwing small/medium size screws into softwood and I would go again for a good quality smaller machine because it is light, with 2 batteries, a rapid charger (don't they all have that now), 2 speeds. NiCd batteries require to be fully discharged before recharging (usually no difficulty doing this); NiMh - don't know advantages apart from being able to recharge at any time; Li-ion (if it is available) has higher capacity and is much lighter, but that might reduce the balance of the tool when using it.
Rob
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They most certainly don't and will likely be damaged by this. Simply re-charge when the performance dictates this.
The memory thing is an urban myth. Spread by makers to blame the consumer for early battery failure.
--
*Shin: a device for finding furniture in the dark *

Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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Rubbish - I've had this drill with Ni-Cd batteries for probably as much as 6 years now using it regularly on DIY. When the performance starts to run down I make sure that the capacity is effectively at zero by running the motor off load to the point when the motor speed is dropping off noticeably, and then put the battery on charge. Both batteries are still holding an excellent charge and show no signs of wearing out.
I agree that there is a certain myth about the 'memory' effect that was related more to over-charging than to anything else but unlike Ni- Mh batteries which tolerate a top-up charge at any time, Ni-Cds are better suited to a full discharge cycle. 'Discharge' in this context being the point at which they will deliver no more power - certainly there is a point of no return if they are flattened completely and that is not what I meant and I trust most users would understand that.
Rob
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I'm curious as to why you've edited my post but left the sig in?

But that's not what you said - it's what *I* said in the bit you snipped.
********

********
You said fully discharged - that would mean leaving the frill running until it stopped and then some. Which will knacker the batteries. Just recharge when it's obvious they need it.

Battery life is given in cycles - not years. And the quality of the original cells and charger effects this.

Unfortunately not. Tell someone with no knowledge it is vital to 'fully discharge' them and that's what they'll do. And in the process do far more harm than recharging one which is only partially exhausted.
--
*What do little birdies see when they get knocked unconscious? *

Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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JohnB wrote

More is better, but also heavier. 12v or 14.4v is a good compromise for a drill-driver.

Don't go berserk on this one. A drill/driver with Low/Medium/High is perfectly adequate. Mine has 20-odd settings which I don't use. <g>

I would *always* go for a charge of 1 hour or less. Having a 5-hour recharge time simply means that you cannot use the tool for the rest of that day.
Yes, having multiple batteries goes some way to mitigate against that problem, but that costs money and, anyway, will you remember to charge the spare?

Yes, because it's always handy to be able to drill a pilot hole and then drive in a screw without schlepping all the way downstairs and back out to the garage to get the drill that you didn't remember to bring upstairs when you started the job. <g>

Make sure that when you release the trigger, it stops dead. An early Bosch driver that I bought gets it's torque from gearing down the motor. When I release the trigger, the gears take about another 1/8 of a turn to come to a halt. Very, very annoying.
--
-blj-

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JohnB wrote:

Some of these are answered in:
http://www.diyfaq.org.uk/powertools/cordless.htm
There is also a guide to performance of the various voltage options here:
http://www.diyfaq.org.uk/powertools/drill.htm
Note that is not a "absolute" answer - but only a guide - you will find tools that can punch well above or below that weight.

I would guess from your description, going for a decent lower voltage tool (say 9.6V or 12V) will give you best compromise on performance, price, and shelf life.

Anything that can do 25Nm or better ought to be adequate.

Yes, absolutely.

Anything up to an hour. You need a minimum of two batteries even for occasional use.

Yes, *vast* - this is one of the most important factors with cordless tool performance (the quality of the charger being almost as important).

Hard to answer, depends much on what you are doing, how you are working, and how strong your wrists are!

As opposed to a dedicated screw driver, or a drill/driver combi hammer drill? Yes.
When you need hammer action, you would be better of with a cheap mains hammer drill in addition to the cordless for those occasions (e.g. shelves).

Gearbox - metal teeth are better than plastic, and having a third gear can get power out of the smaller voltage tools in more usable ways. A 13mm chuck is far more versatile than a 10mm one.
--
Cheers,

John.

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Just out of interest, mainly because I've never had a hammer drill and went straight to SDS - what is the point of the hammer drill when cheap SDS ones now exist? I bought a 25 one from Aldis a couple of years ago and not only does it drill holes in concrete,etc. as if going through butter, but it continues to do so. Wonderful tool and wonderful value.
Rob
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mused:

I have several 230, 110 and various battery SDS drills but I still use the good old gentle 14.4V combi drill for drilling into soft materials as the SDS is sometimes a bit overkill for a couple of 5.5mm holes in soft cinderblock when you've just cut a box in and the surrounding block is 'fragile'.
--
Regards,
Stuart.
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robgraham wrote:

In the context of the above discussion, the OP could equally well go for a SDS in place of a hammer drill. However I did not get the feeling from his post that much drilling of hard materials was required and this is where the SDS really comes into its own.

You may find it a bit brutal for use on some softer masonry materials. Also many of the budget SDS machines are great hulking brutes that weigh a ton, and lack the finesse of a decent speed control.
--
Cheers,

John.

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On Tue, 10 Apr 2007 22:40:38 +0100, JohnB wrote:

Isn't there a FAQ for this by John Rumm?
Absolute.
1) Two batteries. 2) Torque limiter. 3) Reverse 4) Hi low gear range. 5) Quality keyless chuck. 6) variable speed. 7) Instant stop.
Nice 1) Indestructible = expensive but cheap in long run. 2) Light and balanced.
Fantasy: Hides itself when about to be stolen.
Note that my second hand seriously abused and worn out makita is somehow more useable than my £100 used new Dewalt. (The £250 Dewalt is probably really nice though).
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Ed Sirett - Property maintainer and registered gas fitter.
The FAQ for uk.diy is at http://www.diyfaq.org.uk
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