Pros: Powerful, well designed and well made.
Cons: Expensive! For specialised use only. Keep away from the kids!
My mid-teen son and I are renovating our basement, and learning as we go. Weve figured out the framing, and now were starting into the electrical wiring, which needs lots of holes through the studs and joists. The gap between most of our framing timbers is about 370 mm (14.5 inches) or less, and our standard drill and bit is about 410 mm (16 inches) long, so I made a trip to House of Tools to find a tight-access drill.
The store had several such drills, ranging from a $50 lightweight to the $650 Milwaukee Hawg (a scary beast indeed). I chose the middle-of-the-pack Makita drill based upon positive experience with their other tools. This is a construction amateurs review of the Makita DA3010F 90-degree drill.
My first impression was that it was expensive for such a modest-sized drill, especially since it was packed in a small cardboard box rather than a fancy plastic one. CDN$ 309 (US $250)! After the first week, our cost per hole is still about $20, but by the time we have finished, our unit cost should be down to about $2 per hole.
You can find the detailed specifications at the Makita website: (http://www.makita.ca/index.cfm?event=tool&id=188), but the key specifications are as follows:
Weight: 1.4 kg (3.1 pounds)
Motor: 4 amps
Capacity: 25 mm (1 inch) diameter bit in wood
Width: 190 mm (7.5 inch) including a 150 mm (6 inch) spade bit
Chuck size: 10 mm (3/8 inch), manual key chuck
LOOK AND FEEL
This is a typical Makita product in their trademark blue-green tough plastic body. The business end has a manual steel chuck housed within an aluminum cover. A screw-in lateral handle can be inserted into either side of the drill for left-or-right handed operation, or to allow access to a particularly difficult spot. The tool is light enough to hold easily, and it fits the hand well. My overall impression is that this is a solid, tough, professional tool.
This is a simple tool to operate. I inserted one of my Bosch spade bits into the chuck, manually tightened the chuck with the key that resides in a plastic holder attached to the power cable, picked up the drill, plugged in the power cord, held the drill and side handle firmly, and squeezed the trigger bar. The drill has plenty of power, and the spade bit chewed through 35-year old spruce beams with ease. I discovered that the trigger bar is not merely ON/OFF, but controls variable speed, and contains a small finger dial that can be pre-set.
The trigger bar takes some getting used to. It is a 130 mm (5 inch) long bar that extends half the length of the body, and has to be operated by a spare finger of the hand that is gripping the body of the tool.
This drill is powerful for its size, so it is essential to hold on firmly. I found that at full-speed, the center part of the spade bit grabs and digs itself into the wood aggressively, so that in a disconcertingly short instant, the bit is through the timber and trying to snag anything else within reach on the far side. I was so startled the first time that I nearly let go of the tool. However it does not have the same power as the 7-amp Hawgs, and will easily jam in the hole by merely aligning the drill slightly off-centre.
The specifications rate this tool for 25 mm (1 inch) diameter holes in timber. My set of Bosch spade bits extends up to 38 mm (1.5 inch) diameter, so I tried out the biggest bit. No problem drilling through 3 inches of spruce lumber. However the larger diameter bits must be carefully aligned to prevent jamming. Spruce is a soft wood; Id be wary of using the larger bits in European oak.
The drill has a little LED located in front and just below the chuck, that provides useful illumination when youre working in dark little places. Good thinking by Makita.
This unusual tool needs special attention to safety.
If you dont hold it firmly with two hands, the drill can get away from you with enough energy and torque to do serious harm. For example, if the bit becomes misaligned (or hits a hidden nail), the drill will try to tear itself out of your hands. It should be operated by reasonably strong people, with confidence. It is not a tool for the tentative.
Pull out the power plug before changing bits! It seems such an obvious precaution, yet I forgot it within an hour of bringing the drill home, and nearly came to grief. The problem is that while changing bits, the entire length of the trigger bar faces the operator, and it is easy to inadvertently lean on it. The surprise susurrus of a self-boring spade bit within 200 mm (8 inch) of my face was a wake-up call that I hope will remain clear in my memory.
The chuck key and the way that it is mounted are safety concerns. What a chintzy little key this one is! Just a lightweight straight bar attached to a cog. No loop to allow attachment. And worst of all, the key snaps in and out of a little plastic holder attached to the power cord just after it leaves the drill. When focusing upon the key and chuck, it is easy to forget that the power is still active. It is also easy to overlook returning the key to its holder. I was soon cursing while searching high and low for the key, which had scuttled under some other tools while my back was turned.
Good close-fitting safety glasses are essential for using power tools, but especially for this one, because it will spray a veritable fountain of chips, splinters and shavings.