In many ways, these heavy duty drills are a dual purpose tool. Professionals that use these tools need to get two basic functions out of them, mixing and boring big holes. Accomplishing both of those jobs requires speed, torque, handle versatility and durability. Depending on trade and work needs, your choice may be based on a tool’s ability to handle one task more proficiently than the other. For our purpose we will focus on using these tools for timber framing but the best of this class can manage both with excellence.
Hitachi D13 1/2-Inch 6.2 Amp Drill with Spade Handle
This Hitachi spade falls on the low-end of the spectrum in terms of power. The 6.2-AMP motor generates an industry standard 550 RPM and is considered primarily a “mud mixer.” It features a three-position D-handle, pistol grip trigger switch and an accompanying top-mounted side handle that gives it excellent user control and operability. The automatic stop capability helps increase the lifespan of the tool. The Hitachi weighs a middling 7 pounds and manages to bore holes in softwood but you could run into problems with some hardwoods. This no-frills drill may be best suited for DIYer who will only have a couple of projects but not well suited for the pro. It’s a budget-friendly model for this class of tool.
DEWALT DW130V 9 Amp 1/2-Inch Drill with Spade Handle
DeWalt’s 9-AMP, variable speed drill generates a max 550 RPM and features soft-grip handles for increased control and decreased user fatigue. Although it features the standard D-handle, the design differs from the Hitachi because the side handle is at a 90-degree angle from the trigger switch handle. The 90-degree design falls out of the norm for spade drills. The result puts the tool more out in front when using both handles. As manufacturers go, DeWalt tends to be innovative in this niche tool market.
We give this tool high marks in terms of mixing joint compounds, buckets of concrete and slow-boring wide holes. The trigger and side handle are well positioned for horizontal work. It tends to be a long-lasting tool for pro framer users so you will get your money’s worth. The negative on this drill is being a slow at 550-RPM for some tasks, but spades are what they are. This DeWalt drill is a reliable, go-to workhorse for timber frame professional.
Makita DS4012 Spade Handle Drill, 1/2-Inch
The Makita DS4012 comes in two models — variable and constant speed. The constant-speed option is slightly less expensive but is an acceptable heavy duty drill. The variable speed offers improved performance. Both versions feature a powerful 8.5-AMP motor and the variable-speed ranges from 0-600 RPM, which leans toward the higher speeds of this tool’s class. The trigger and side handles are positioned at 180 degrees, much like the Hitachi D13, and the D-handle enjoys 360-degree rotation with 24 locking positions. The trigger handle has soft-grip rubberization and a conveniently located reversible button which makes it ergonomic.
Considering that this Makita trends toward the top of its class in terms of power and RPM, it’s surprisingly lighter that other models at only 6.2 pounds. Every ounce counts when you’re drilling holes with it all day, in sometimes weird positions. Don’t be fooled that its light-weight design isn’t backed by power. This Makita is a no-brainer when it comes to drilling large holes and it slightly outpaces similar spade handle drills.
We give it high marks for its power. It is also a little quieter and more functional than some others. The negatives are aimed at the one-speed version, that it’s too fast to control. As we already mentioned you may want to stick with the variable speed version. At the end of the day, timber framers who own and operate it will call it an upgrade over others they’ve used.
Bosch GBM9-16 9 Amp 5/8" Mixer with D-Handle, 5" by 8"
This Bosch spade handle is one of the big boys in the class. It sports a 9-AMP, variable speed motor with terrific torque strength that tops out at 700 RPM and fits 5/8-inch bits. With an eye on power, the handles feature a 180-degree design and rugged 5x8-inch, 360-degree swivel D-handle. Fast and strong, the drill incorporates textured-grip materials, a conveniently located reverse switch and an extra-long, 8-foot cord.
We are very happy with the quality, power and durability of this Bosch tool. In many ways, this Bosch put the opposite thinking of the lower-powered Hitachi to work. Bosch built a tremendously powerful boring drill that makes drill holes smooth and effortless.
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