Checked and updated on March 5, 2021 by Aaron Barnett
The best manual hand drill has a solid build quality and a well-geared hand crank. There are a few different design types, but your best to go with the traditional feel for kids and woodworking or a Fiskars hand drill for light craft and jewelry work.
There is something cool about using a manual hand drill. Hand drills have their place for hobby-based woodworking, a job-site-prank, and craft, and jewelry-making jobs.
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Manual hand drills are tools that take imperial and metric drill bits that can drill into wood, light metals, and other materials. They can also be used to drill holes into plastic, fiberglass, resin, and polymer materials.
They work by converting and amplifying the motion of the crank, which is turned by hand, which causes the drill chuck to rotate and cut into the material.
Manual hand drills are simple but very effective tools used for DIY craft, woodworking, and jewelry-making jobs.
Although many professionals opt to use power drills for heavy-duty jobs, the humble hand drill remains a useful tool for crafting applications, that is also safe for young kids to operate for their projects.
They can even cut through a wide variety of material, even hardwoods and concrete with the right tipped drill bit. With a good hand-powered drill, you can even make holes into metal if you are patient.
One of the advantages of manual hand drills is that they allow you to drill holes with a great deal of precision and control. Power drills can be very effective for most drilling tasks, but they are often too powerful for cutting into soft and delicate material that can break or chip easily.
Many DIYers and even pros use hand drills for drilling small holes when they don’t want to risk damage to the workpiece. Again manual hand drills are especially favored by woodworkers, jewelry makers, and arts and crafts workers.
The earliest forerunner of the modern manual hand drill was the awl, which was simply a sharp stone fixed to the end of a stick.
The hard point of the tool was pressed against the workpiece and rotated by hand, which was a long and difficult task. Strap drills and bow drills were later innovations that made drilling considerably easier.
These tools used leather straps to rotate the stone bits, which was a more efficient system than the awl.
Even so, drilling was still grueling work, and it wasn’t until the early version of the modern manual hand drill was invented in the 19th century that people had a more efficient tool for drilling holes.
Features to look at first
Before you buy a manual hand drill…
Think about durability.
Manual hand drills aren’t subject to as much vibration as power drills. Even so, they have to be durable enough to withstand the stresses of drilling through hard materials.
They should feel solid and reliable and be durable enough to allow you to drill clean and consistent holes into a wide variety of materials.
Stick with a long-lasting brand.
Interestingly, the best manual hand drills are made by smaller companies rather than large manufacturers known for producing high-quality power tools.
Some of the most reliable manual hand drills you can buy are made by companies such as Schroeder, CML Supply, and Fiskars.
Drills from these manufacturers provide excellent performance, durability, and reliability.
Pay the right price.
Manual hand drills don’t cost that much, but that doesn’t mean that you should choose the cheapest model you can find.
Spending more on a quality tool will guarantee durability and reliability, as well as consistently high-quality results.
You also won’t have to keep spending on a replacement drill in a few months.
When to use a cordless drill instead?
Manual hand drills and cordless power drills perform at different speeds obviously, depending on your biceps. Manual drills are generally smaller, slimmer, and more portable than power drills. Even heavy-duty models rarely measure more than a foot in length, so you can easily stash them into a small tool bag.
The small size also makes manual hand drills easier to carry around. Many power drills are fairly lightweight, but every little bit of weight you can shave off your toolkit counts when doing detailed jobs.
You need to have a power drill for heavy-duty and standard jobs, but a good mini drill might be the more convenient option for soft detailed work.
Of course, manual drills don’t require an electric power source, so you won’t have to worry about looking for a power outlet or running out of batteries.
They also don’t make any noise, so you can use them even in places where a power tool would be out of the question, like drilling underwater, or an off-grid bush cabin, with no power source.
Manual hand drills are great choices for working with crafts and jewelry, providing you with a convenient way to make precise and accurate holes without damaging the material.
Arts, and crafts, and jewelry-making often involve the use of small and delicate materials, so you won’t need the power and strength of a typical power drill.
A good hand drill press allows you to drill tiny holes without chipping or cracking the material.
Experienced jewelry makers also prefer the better control and precision provided by a good manual hand drill.
Many power drills are just too powerful for delicate tasks and are pretty much overkill for arts and crafts and jewelry-making tasks.
Manual hand drills are especially useful for working with resin and polymer clay, which can be damaged pretty easily by a powerful cordless drill.
You could also look into a pin vise type of drill, which is useful for drilling holes that measure less than 1 mm. in diameter.
Otherwise for serious drilling jobs opt for a Makita or Dewalt 18 volt drill.
When to use a manual hand drill; For woodworking
Manual hand drills are also useful for woodworking, whether you are a pro or a hobbyist.
Drilling into hard materials such as concrete or steel will require a power drill, but woodworking doesn’t typically require working with materials that are anywhere near as hard.
You can even drill into hardwoods with a good manual hand drill, and get pretty good results, with a more timeless traditional woodworking method.
You also get more control over the holes, which is important for precision jobs.
Traditionally, drilling into wood required the use of a brace and bit. These tools are rarely used nowadays, with most woodworkers opting for a drill driver.
Newer drills operate on the same principle as braces and bits, but they can get the job done quicker and more efficiently.
What manual hand drill to choose?
#1 Woodworking manual hand drill
The Schroeder hand drill is ideally suited for slow-speed drilling, which makes it the perfect choice for delicate jewelry and craftwork.
The single pinion gear design is remarkably efficient, allowing you to cut neat holes into fragile material without risk of splitting, chipping, or cracking.
It also has a handle and side knob that allows for different grips, giving you maximum versatility to work the way you want.
Even at low turning speeds, the Schroeder cuts through plastic, wood, and even metal with very little effort, making it the best drill for jewelry making and even heavy-duty woodworking projects.
#1 Craft manual hand drill
Fiskars 85167097J is a powerhouse of a drill that can handle almost any material you throw at it.
From plastic to paper stock, acrylic to wood, sheet metal, and more, this drill gives you maximum value for money.
The 85167097J has an easy-to-turn hand crank that allows you to drill holes in even tough materials with a minimum of effort. F
our standard drill bits are included in the package, in 1/8”, 3/16”, 5/32”, and 3/32”. Between these bits, you have everything you need to make clean and precise holes into almost any material you want to work with.
#1 Manual pin hand drill
CML Supply’s mini-pin hand drill comes with 30 drill bits, each made of high-quality steel.
It has a swivel-head pin-vise design that lets you cut through a variety of materials efficiently and black-oxide collets that keep your grip secure no matter how tough the job gets.
The pin vise’s swivel top accommodates bit sizes up to .125”, so you could easily handle most of your drilling work with a single tool.
Each drill bit is ground from solid steel, so you are assured of reliable performance for a long time to come.
What can a manual hand drill be used for?
Manual hand drills can be used for pretty much anything that you would use a handheld power drill for. You can use it to drill holes for screws or bolts and to tighten fasteners.
You can even use hand drills with stirring attachments, allowing you to mix paint, adhesives, ceramic glazing, and other liquids including pancake mixture.
These tasks typically involve small pieces or delicate materials that can be damaged easily by power tools.
Using a mini hand drill for these projects lets you perform the same tasks with a lot more precision, and prevent damage to the workpieces.
Tips for using a hand crank drill
Using a marker will help you drill holes more accurately. Start by marking the spot where the hole needs to be drilled. This lets you know where to position the tip of the drill bit.
You can then start drilling into the workpiece, making sure to keep the drill at the proper angle. You could also use a press attachment to guide your drill when making holes at an angle.
If the drill bit you are using is fairly small, keep the pressure light to keep from breaking or bending it.
Go slow and apply gentle but constant pressure, particularly if you are drilling into a hard material. If necessary, have someone hold down the top handle while you rotate the crank handle.
Always drill in a clockwise direction. Going the other way will prevent the bit from feeding material, and you won’t be able to drill your hole as intended.
Recommending eye protection for kids is a good way to start a good DIY habit, regardless of the softness of the material or the simplicity of the job.
Debris can still fly up toward your face, if the drill bit breaks from uncentered pressure, possibly causing injury to eyes. If kids are using a bigger drill bit that is hard to snap it is much safer.
It is also a good idea if you are going nuts on the hand drill to put on a pair of heavy gloves to protect your hands in case the drill bit jams and causes the drill to stop abruptly turning.
Finally, make sure to use the right-sized tool for the job. Using the wrong size drill bit can cause damage to your workpiece by drilling a hole bigger than intended.
History of the manual drill
Drilling was historically a difficult and arduous task, requiring a great deal of time and effort.
Before the invention of the earliest type of drill, people had to make holes with an awl, which was pretty much just a sharp stone fixed to the end of a stick.
Even with the use of sand and other abrasive materials, using an awl was hard work!
The invention of the strap drill and the bow drill made things considerably easier, but drilling was still a difficult job.
It wasn’t until the in the 15th century that people had a way to make holes consistently and easily.
By the 19th century, the first-hand drill was introduced, allowing for faster speeds than any other drill that had come before.
Manual drill comparison
|Schroeder Hand Drill||Fiskars 85167097J||CML Supply Mini Pin Hand Drill|
|Weight:||1.14 lbs||8.6 oz||Light|
The Schroeder hand drill is a great choice for slow drilling into fragile or delicate material, allowing you to drill small holes precisely and accurately.
Although you can use it for jewelry making and arts and crafts, it holds up to a range of woodworking tasks as well. This is a solid all-arounder that can handle even the most sensitive drilling jobs.
CML Supply’s mini-pin hand drill comes with a huge assortment of drill bits, so you are covered for pretty much any manual drilling job. The hardened black-oxide steel collets ensure a secure grip, and the performance is smooth and consistent throughout.
Finally, check out the Fiskars 85167097J, which can make short work out of drilling into almost any material. The easy-to-turn crank is a joy to use, allowing you to make clean and precise holes with the slightest turn.
And of course, if you have serious drilling work to do check out my cordless power drill review by clicking here.
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