Angled Drills - How to use an Angled Drill to Drill Holes and Screw in Screws in Tight Areas With Limited Space

Summary: In this project we take a look at the angled drill and find out how it can be used to screw in screws and drill holes in awkward areas and tight spaces with limited access. Also learn about all the different features that an angled drill has and how they are designed to be easily used in places where a traditional drill would be useless

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An angled drill is one of those tools, that in most cases, is rarely used or needed, but when it is, it's a real life saver.

In most cases, the angled drill (or right angled drill as it is also known) is mainly reserved for those in the trades as they are the ones that find most use for them, but in reality they are a worthy addition to any tool collection.

With the above in mind, you might be thinking; why should I spend upwards of £100 on a tool I might use once in a blue moon? This would certainly be a valid question and one that we hope will be answered by the end of this project.

What is an Angled Drill or Driver?

When it comes to identifying one of these tools, the clue is really in the name.

To look at, they are really like a traditional drill/driver in reverse. As opposed to having a shortish handle and a long driving section, the angled driver has a short driving section with a long handle, with the driving section, or chuck at 90° to the handle.

If you are currently looking at purchasing one of these handy tools then there are a few features that you should look for to ensure that you get the right one for you:

An angled drill with the essential parts indicated

An angled drill showing all the different parts of the drill

Torque

Essentially, this is the power that the drill exerts on to the item you are working on. You need to make sure that it outputs enough power to cope with the jobs you will be throwing at it e.g. drilling holes and screwing in to large timbers and you also need to make sure that you can control that power.

As you will know if you have a drill/driver combi-drill, most feature an adjustable torque setting and/or a speed adjustment for the motor.

This allows you to use higher speeds when drilling and then turn it down to a lower speed for screwing. Trying to screw a large screw into a thick timber at high speed will in almost all cases end up in you rounding the head of the screw off, so the ability to adjust speeds is essential, maybe even more so with this tool as working in a confined space will usually require more accuracy.

Another benefit of speed control is the load that is put on the motor over time. Being able to use the drill at lower speeds will also make it last longer and not burn it out due to over-heavy use.

Angled drill variable speed trigger

2 speed variable speed trigger for an angled drill

Adjustable Drive Head and Chuck

Some angled drills allow you to adjust the position of the chuck so that you can use it at 90°, 45° or as a conventional drill.

This makes an already useful tool into an even more versatile item as, with adjustment to the chuck position, there shouldn't be any place you can't get to now.

Adjustable drive head on  an angled drill

Adjustable drive head on a Bosch angled drill

Comfortable Handle

This may sound unnecessary but when working in confined and difficult to reach spaces, this is hard enough.

If you then have to bend and contort your hand and wrist to get a decent grip on the handle and even reach the power switch this can be a nightmare and get very tiring very quickly.

This is even more important if you are a tradesman and will be using your angled drill quite a bit. Some manufacturers also offer an adjustable power switch so that you can move this also for even more ease of use.

Angled drill with comfortable handle

Comfortable and shaped handle on a Hitachi angled drill

Batteries

We have already touched on this subject above, but it's also worth mentioning again.

With the technological advances in Lithium-ion batteries, these have now pretty much replaced the older NiCad (Nickel Cadmium) batteries as, primarily, they tend to be a lot lighter than their Nickel counter-parts which, as we have established above, is very important.

Li-Ion batteries also require a lot less maintenance and do not suffer from the “memory effect” issues associated with NiCad batteries.

Milwaukee 18V battery

18V Li-Ion battery for a Milwaukee angled drill - Image courtesy of milwaukeetool.com

If you are looking ar purchasing an angled drill you should also look for one that comes with at least two batteries and a charger. There's nothing worse than having to stop working due to a flat battery and with 2, you can use one while the other is charging.

In terms of power supply, they are generally available in two options - corded and cordless.

The corded variety, in much the same way as traditional corded drills are around 240V, with 110V options also available for site use.

When it comes to the cordless versions, again, there are a few different options. Most aimed towards the DIY, casual use market will tend to be around 10.8V which, with todays technological advances in battery technology (the Li-Ion batteries mostly) provide more than enough power for pretty much any situation.

If you are looking to use this tool more often then, especially if you are a tradesman specializing in roofs, lofts, plumbing or electrics etc.... then something with a little more oomph is needed is needed such as the 18V version.

When Should an Angled Drill be Used?

The main reason for using an angled drill is to screw in a screw or drill a hole in areas with limited space or access, where getting a traditional power drill or cordless drill/driver to do the job just isn't an option due to the fact that you simply cannot drill or screw in a straight line.

Okay, in certain situations, screwing in a screw at an angle is acceptable. For example, if you are fixing two pieces of timber together in an area where it won't be seen, as long as the screw is inserted fully and the timber is firmly fixed, the fact that the screw is at an angle doesn't really matter too much.

As we have established, the angled drill is not common in most tool boxes, but if you have a fairly decent set of screwdrivers then the chances are you should have a stubby screw driver.

The stubby is small driver with a very short shaft that allows you to access and work in a confined space. This is fine for screwing a 1 inch screw into a piece of softwood, but imagine trying to screw a 4 inch screw into a piece of 6 by 3 inch timber. It would be virtually impossible!

Stanley stubby philips screwdriver

Stanley tools stubby screwdriver

So, in essence, the need to use an angled drill is usually because of limited access.

One very important point to note is, as you will most probably be working in a confined space, the use of protective gear is a must! Working so close to flying debris is dangerous so protective goggles and gloves should be worn at all times.

Different Types of Angled Drill

As we have established above, angled drills come in mains and battery powered form, the latter giving you more scope for accessing more limited work areas.

In terms of some of the other core features that may differ between makes, models and manufacturer is the way that the chuck locks on to the drill or driver bit you may be using.

There are two options for this:

Key locking chuck

A special chuck key (this looks like a cog on the end of a handle) kits in to normally one of three holes at the end of the chuck and is used to turn a gear, also at the end of the chuck, that in turn closes the jaws of the chuck and clamps down on the item inserted in to it.

This is fine and works well when the drill is new, but over time these do wear, requiring much more force and effort to tighten the jaws.

Additionally, this can only be done with a ket and when you're working away, if you don't keep close tabs on where the key is, it can easily be lost resulting in wasted time looking for it

Chuck with key

Chuck with key

Keyless chuck

The second option is the keyless chuck. Instead of having a key to tighten the jaws, you use your hand to turn the exterior of the chuck that in turn tightens or loosens the jaws.

This has several advantages in that you don't have a key to worry about, most models of drill allow you to get enough pressure by hand to hold any size drill or screwdriver bit and when working in a confined space, this is much easier than trying to tighten and untighten with a key

Keyless chuck for a DeWalt drill

Keyless chuck for a DeWalt drill

We should also mention as, essentially it is an angled drill, that you can in fact get angled attachments that can be fitted to a conventional drill.

These are also very handy items, giving you most of the benefits of an angled drill at a fraction of the price or a full blown angled drill (only if you already have a power drill of some description).

The angled drill attachment looks like a traditional angled drill with the actual body of the drill chopped off, leaving just the chuck.

Protruding from the end of the chuck is a hexagonal shaft that simply slots into the chuck and jaws of a standard drill, which is then tightened to hold it in place. The drive from the drill is transferred through the shaft into the attachment and through a series of gears, turned 90° to the chuck of the attachment where a drill bit or screw bit is attached.

You may be thinking - brilliant, this sounds like I can get one of these and not have to worry about getting an actual angled drill!

This is not always the case though, the real bonus of having one of these tools is that it is small, compact and designed specifically for operation in tight spaces.

With the attachment, you still have a full drill at the other end, plus the additional length of the attachment so in reality you only have the ability to drill or screw at 90° which may be fine for your needs, but not necessarily suitable for confined spaces.

Angled drill attachment with keyed chuck

Angled drill attachment with keyed chuck

How to use an Angled Drill to Drill Holes in Awkward Places

Using the angled drill is very much like using a standard drill. The only difference is that you hold it slightly differently.

With a traditional drill, one hand holds the grip with the trigger switch and the other supports the underside of the drill, ensuring that it's in the right position.

With the angled drill, most are designed so that you use both hands on the handle, one to operate the on/off trigger and the other positioned beneath to help hold it steady and in position.

There are a few manufacturers that have produced models with detachable side handles and these can either be fixed on the left or the right depending on your preference. These can be quite good and useful in the right situation, but aren't a common feature.

Firstly, measure and mark the exact position of your hole or screwing point and mark it with a pencil or pen.

Drill hole marked on timber

Drill hole marked on piece of timber - Image courtesy of diynetwork.com

Select a suitable size drill bit or screwdriver bit and insert it in to the chuck. Remember, if you are drilling a large hole, always start off with a small drill bit first and then work your way up in size.

Trying to drill a large hole in one go will put a lot of strain on the drills motor causing it to wear quicker than it might do under normal use.

Before you start drilling, get your self in a comfortable position. Trying to hold the drill steady whilst balancing on your knee on a ceiling joist will get very uncomfortable very quickly and this is when mistakes and accidents can happen.

Position the drill bit or screw on your mark and start drilling or screwing. Make sure that you have set the correct torque setting or you are operating the drill at the right speed and off you go.

Drill bit positioned ready for drilling

Drill bit next to mark on timber ready for drilling

Most drills of this type have a speed control built in to the on off switch and with this setup, the tighter you squeeze the trigger, the faster the drill will run.

Take your time when drilling or screwing and don't be tempted to rush. Once you are done, move the drill out of the way and inspect your work to make sure all is as it should be.

One point to note is that when drilling through timber with larger wood bits the drill will sometimes jump or catch when starting, this is where a variable speed control trigger comes in to its own as just starting and stopping in limited spaces can be awkward and dangerous.

When using a Angled Drill (as with any power tool) always make sure you are using new or drill bits of good quality. This makes the work load on your Angled Drill much less and stops you trying to push the power tool which also cuts out possible accidents and wear on the motor of your drill.

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