Another RFI

This time, it’s for a cordless screwdriver, of this ilk:

Confession:  for most of my life I’ve used a variable-speed electric drill to drive screws home, because my experiences with the battery-type were universally bad.  But my Bosch drills are too cumbersome, too powerful and too heavy for furniture assembly — they’re fine for construction, less so for cabinetmaking — and as I’m about to assemble some Ikea bookcases in the near future*, I need a decent cordless screwdriver.  As always, I want to buy quality — not professional, but close to it — because if the damn thing breaks in mid-task, I will not be responsible for the rage which ensues.  Ditto if the damn battery only works for ten minutes before expiring.

All recommendations will be gratefully received.

*Don’t chide me, I have very specific dimension needs, and the Swedish joint is the only place which has suitable bookcases — believe me, I’ve looked.


  1. Couple of things to keep in mind. The Ryobi, Milwaukie, and Ridgid line are are made by the same company.
    I’ve owned and used the 18v DeWalt first, then 18v Ryobi, and now the 18vRidgid – as well as Bosch and Makita way back. What’s nice about the Ryobi is that when they updated their battery packs they kept the same exterior design so that you can use the new lith-batteries with the older Ni-cad tools.
    OTOH I now use the Ridgid as they have a lifetime replacement for their battery packs and the tool itself has a very high torque for the small size. And the Ridgid line is often on sale at HD. Last one I bought I got an extra battery and their circular saw with the drill pack for ~$150.00 IIRC. I would class the Ryobi line as a consumer line and the Ridgid as bridging the gap between the consumer tool and the commercial tools – such as the Hilti line.

  2. the M12 line from Milwuakee. It has served well and is lighter than all the real heavy lines for construction.

  3. My ten-plus year old 18V Dewalt is still choochin’ along just fine. My only criticism is that it’s a tad heavy for repetitive light assembly work, such as the type you’ve described. But honestly it just won’t die. Unless it’s your wont to abuse equipment without mercy then pretty well any mid-priced drill will work well for you. If you’re a tradesman that’s a different story, but for homeowner duty, find the one that fits your hand comfortably and is over 12V, and screw away.

    Battery longevity is directly related to how you treat the battery packs. Especially Ni-Cd packs. I make a point of draining them right down, administering a full charge and then taking them off the charger. They’ll give you far longer operating times that way.

  4. I have a DeWalt that works great. Comes with two batteries for double the work time if need be, and unless you’re going apeshit with drilling the first will be charged enough to use before the second is dead.

  5. The current crop of cordless widgets are dramatically better than anything available 10 years ago. I have used several brands recently and was pleased. I’d suggest getting one of the starter kits from any major brand. 18V is plenty of power for what you suggest…heck, 12V is probably capable of trashing Ikea joints if you’re not careful. Definitely lithium batteries as they have more power per pound and are less prone to charge memory. I didn’t know about Ridgid’s battery replacement until reading 0007’s post…that might tip things in their favor for me.

  6. I’ve still got a 20 year old Makita that is working fine so can’t comment on the new crop of tools except to say that if assembling your bookcases (Billy?) is the primary purpose I wouldn’t overbuy.

    On the subject of Ikea I know it’s derided by many but I grew up in Sweden and love Scandinavian design. When I converted our smallest bedroom into a library I put up 12 Billys with glass doors, the extra top units and a cabinet light (Ikea Urshult LED Cabinet Light Nickel Plated 602.604.05) over each one. Fabulous system and easy as pie to assembly by myself. If you’re doing a solid wall of them (3 in my case) dont forget to run extensions from your wall plugs to the edges of the bookcases and if needed cut out a strategic hole in the backing board and place an extension plug in a handy spot for any needed appliance (like a small music device). Good luck, enjoy your books.

  7. For lightweight tasking like furniture assembly, I have a 12v Hitachi set from several years ago that was so impressive I bought my father a set when he needed one. The drill/driver is ideal for that task and the impact driver that was bundled with it punches way WAY above it’s weight. Dad is a former plumber, carpenter and mechanic, by the way, and he considers it to be the handiest drill/driver and impact driver he’s ever owned, so there’s that.

    You might also consider buying a Black & Decker 20v drill/driver and turning the torque down. The new batteries are very lightweight and long lasting. Plus there’s a whole lot of tools in the lineup. I particularly like the Alligator Loppers to keep brush trimmed down.

  8. I have several. The old ones I never use, because they weigh too much. I purchased one set quite cheaply, because I couldn’t find my regular one (more of age related CRS). Now it has become the one I always pick up first, figuring it would break soon. No luck yet…still going strong. In some ways it’s like computers, the improvements come so fast, you can’t keep up so buy cheap, and watch for what the pros are using.

  9. Having purchased and used basically every cordless power tool line since the Makita 7.2v dreck of the 90s– DeWalt 20v Max is the hot setup. Exceptional build quality, they take an amazing beating, the packs don’t develop a memory and charge fast, and the bulk charger / spare battery combos are quite affordable compared to other brands.

    I have dozens and dozens of dead tools and dead packs in the box of shame, but I’ve never killed a DeWalt anything. More expensive for the initial investment, but they pay for themselves pretty quick. Buy once, cry once.

    Protip: If you’re buying a lot of tools, get the bare tools sans battery on Amazon, and a few combo battery/charger packs. The end result is more batteries for significantly less money, and a spare charger.

  10. Unless you’ve got a houseful of furniture to assemble 18v or 20v is massive overkill. It will be a much heavier tool than necessary. Two recommendations. For heavier jobs, every datacenter tech and electrician I know of has a DeWalt DW920K-2 ($80 and worth it). You might be able to kill a 920K, but I suspect doing so would involve a quest, at least one magic sword, and a crotchety mage. For tight spaces and light torque loads, I use a Skil 2354-07 ($30 on Amazon). Mine has lasted for ten years. Use the Dewalt for the heavy stuff, and toss it on the charger while you grab the Skil for the fiddly bits.

  11. Consider this another vote for Rigid, specifically this set:

    The 12 volt set is tiny (compared to the 18 volt tools) and plenty powerful. Just make sure you bookmark the page so you can go back and register for the lifetime warranty. I’ve had my 18 volt set long enough that I’m on my third set of batteries, and I have NO complaints.

  12. I’ve only ever had Ryobis, but I’m very happy with them. There’s a decent selection of tools to choose from, and their fans are standard equipment for people who do dog sports (four of my five dogs can usually be found in a crate at a horse arena or the like on any particular weekend).

    The batteries are a bit pricey but the newer ones last a lot longer than they used to – both in terms of single charge and lifetime. And you can usually find good deals on starter sets that include a couple of tools, a couple of batteries, and a charger.

  13. I have both DeWalt and Makita. the Makita I got at HD as a set. On impact and one drill. I use the impact for most furniture assembly and with the lithium ion battery I am rarely out of battery before the job is done. and I can leave it set for months and grab it and use it. Not long but those kinds of jobs do not need much time. If longer then charge a battery.

    The DeWalt is a bigger driver more suited for decks and such type of construction.

    I would get a Makita 10 and you should we well served for as long as you can use them.


  14. I have a Ryobi 18v which has been excellent. FWIW, they have a wider range of add on tools.
    I’m planning on adding a impact driver, so thinking about changing to AEG brushless tools. Slightly more expensive, but better quality.

    The AEG drill I’m stalking also has a hammer feature which should cut it for the occasional hole I need to drill in bricks or concrete.

    If it was quality regardless of price, you can’t go past Makita, that’s what all the tradies swear by, but for my occasional use, can’t justify the premium.

  15. Sheesh, guys… as always, my Readers have given me more than enough to chew on. And tomorrow, it’s off to Home Depot or Lowes… I’ll keep you posted as to my final decision.

  16. For assembly projects, I love my Bosch PS20. It’s 12V, so it’s light and compact, and it has a clutch which makes putting screws into engineered (cough particle board cough) materials and sheet metal a snap. It’s pretty good for actual wood, too. You start with a low setting, bump it up until your fasteners go in just right, and then when you reach that point on subsequent fasteners it spins freely and doesn’t overtighten them.

    If its holes you want, you’re limited to using 1/4″ hex drive drills, (unless you use a hex drive chuck) and it’s not an impact driver but for small jobs around the house, the PS20 is my go to tool.

    The current model seems to be PS21. They also make 12V adjustable angle driver. Get thee behind me, Bosch.

  17. My late uncle was a carpenter and kitchen fitter. Makita every time for a quality job, plus get yourself a spare battery. For Ikea assembly, I’ve only ever used hand tools, but you might find a bog standard cordless screwdriver helpful. If you were in Blighty I’d say take your pick from the useful sets they flog in Aldi – nothing too heavy duty needed for the things like Billy’s anyway. I’ve assembled a ton of those things using only the alun keys they pack and a ‘persuader’ hammer – and I’m a girl!

  18. I’ve had a 12 v. drill/driver and 18 v. circular saw from Craftsman since the time Sears was a viable outlet. Craftsman changed manufacturers/vendors and thus battery styles at some point. The tools are indestructible but the NiCad batteries are the weak link. They are still available online but at a price. Currently also have a 12 v. Bosch drill/driver & impact driver pair with lithium ion batteries. Smaller, lighter, and very handy. The impact driver is strong enough to drive 6 inch screws into landscape timbers. I’ve no complaints about any of the tools, but the batteries a big consideration.

  19. You are on the right track with that picture, but go for the newest lithium ion green RYOBI drill and find the 18 volt package with the battery and charger combined. A set of good driver bits will add another 10 or 15 bucks.

    I have standardized on RYOBI over the past 15 years or so, in terms for performance for the value they can’t be beat. I agree Makita and maybe Rigid are more durable but the cost is astronomical in comparison, so for a weekend putzer and mechanic/home repair guy, the Ryobi is good enough.

    Go to Home Depot and nose around. Their prices are darn near the same as online from the Bezos empire.

    This here is a good deal as any

    1. You probably don’t want a high torque hammer drill to assemble Ikea furniture. To assemble, say, a deck, yes.

  20. I had a long reply explaining my recommendations and I somehow disappeared it…
    Shorter Synopsis:

    I’ve owned/own most tools you have ever seen in the tool store, as a building contractor for 33 years.

    Think like a shooter, it applies very much to this situation.

    You need a (screw) gun that fits your grip, is balanced (so that you naturally push straight through the axis of the driver that is driving the screw), has a responsive trigger, comes in the right caliber (has the torque and speed to do the job, not destroy the job).

    Impact drivers are full of torque and speed, they tend to be wrong for assembling furniture.

    You need a driver/drill that has a low speed setting + a clutch.
    12v v/s 18v gets into torque versus size/weight sorta like .38 v/s 9mm

    There are good versions of both from different manufacturers

    For various reasons I’m am partial to Makita for cordless drills and tools.

  21. I’ve had good luck with Dewalt so far. I do building maintenance for a living and use my Dewalt 20v brushless impact driver daily. Great battery life and plenty of tourqe with three settings. It’s especially useful that the low setting is perfect for most driving where you don’t really need the impact part of the drill.

    And yes, I have used mine to put together Ikea furniture!

    I bought this set from Lowe’s.
    DEWALT DCK283D2 20V MAX XR Compact Cordless Drill/Driver & Impact Driver Combo Kit

  22. I have a full set of DeWalt 18v, and a few Ryobi. Personally, if I was starting over I’d seriously be looking at Harbor Freight, even though I like the current tools well enough.

    1. Get your cheap Harbor Freight tools while the getting is good, because from their ads, it looks as though they’re trying to go upmarket. Or that may just be their marketing ploy after seeing how much Obama and the prospect of Hillary helped gun sales.
      Interesting repercussions, too. HF put out the Apache series of hard cases which are nice, and were a great buy at the intro price. It seems to have been eating Pelican’s lunch, because Pelican just announced a new series of cases to compete with HF.

  23. Papa Gizzip has 3 18V DeWalt drill drivers that work like a champ. (yeah, he does custom cabinets professionally)

  24. Don’t bother with NiCad, too much weight in those batteries, plus larger for an equivalent storage of power.

    I’ve become partial to Milwaukee. Have the older 18v N/C type, and recently bought the smaller 12v drills and drivers. These have enough power/torque I don’t expect to use the big stuff much.

    One of the reasons I bought the 12v tools is they also have a line of vests/hoodies/jackets that have heaters that use the 12v batteries. Bought a hoodie, and the heat system is pretty good.

    Most all of the brands have lots of tools and accessories that use their batteries. Might want to peruse the catalogs to see what is available before making a decision on brand and/or battery voltage.

    I would stay away from Horror Fright tools for battery or corded tools. In my experience they are disposable tools, and not dependable.

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