The Search for a Drill…

Posted on July 17th, 2008 in Opinion,tools by Julian Edgar

As I write this, I am building a shed.

Well, no, for pedants, not literally as I write this, but on the day of writing this. But even that’s not true – it is taking more than a single day; in fact probably 12 days.

But anyway, I am building a shed.

It’s a big shed; 14 metres by six metres by 3 metres wall height. It is made of Colourbond and Zincalume steel, and Cee sections and Top Hat purlins and Girts. I’ve also come across Knee Braces and Mullions and Cleats.

Which is probably as much Arabic to you as to me: I’ve never built a shed before.

But one thing I figured I really needed was an electric drill. But not any old drill; nope one with a clutch and a bit that could drive the four million Tek screws that hold the shed together. I’d already bought a new electric drill, one that plugged into the wall and could hammer – sufficient you see, for drilling the holes in the concrete for anchoring the Columns to the Slab.

And I’d also used this same drill – a Big Bastard Ryobi – for putting together the steel shed framework. Sure, it was driving Tek screws, but they were so massive that a clutch wasn’t needed. When the screw was fully home, the drill just stopped.

But now I’d got to the wall and roof panels, and it looked like they needed some screwing subtlety. Stuff like a variable speed trigger and clutch. Plus the Big Bastard Ryobi had died – yep, after just two days.

So I went down to the local hardware Mecca. It’s about 30 kilometres away but since in the time  I have been building The Shed, I start at 7 am (sharp), I was there bright and early. 

They’ve got a great display of drills, and I looked them all over.

I started with the (one) drill that was apparently designed for driving Tek screws. It was very expensive and most of the box was covered in writing in languages I don’t know. So I couldn’t figure out the advantage of buying this drill over others.

Except, of course, that it was designed for Tek screws.

I then looked at other drills. The specialised-Tek-screw-drill was mains-powered; most of the others ran off rechargeables. I mulled and pondered, looking at the battery drills and thinking in logical succession of the length of the shed, the number of sheets of Colourbond and Zincalume that would be used, and how many Tek screws each sheet would need.
And then totalling them up.

I got thoroughly confused but came up with the number mentioned earlier: four million Tek screws.

And it just didn’t seem a battery drill would hack it. Like, I could imagine it getting slower and slower when only 3,850,728 screws were torqued home.

Muttering to myself, I wandered from display to display. Picking up an occasional drill, peering at it in complete ignorance of what it would do and how well it would suit my task, putting it back. Occasionally getting excited, and moving more quickly to the next drill, then – no – defeated again.

Then Help arrived.

Perhaps Help had heard my mutterings, because Help came in two forms. One was a timid, mouse-like figure that peered at you beseechingly from behind glasses. He didn’t speak; he pleaded.

The other version of help was macho: he was bluff, he was loud, he was the man to help you when Mouse was dismissed.

Help would do anything you asked. Help would open normally sacrosanct packaging in search of information as to whether a drill used a Nickel Cadmium or Nickel Metal Hydride battery packs; Help would peer at labels, at specs, would listen to rambling monologues on Building the Shed, on Mullions, on Girts, on Columns and Cleats.

Help would do anything I wanted. Except, of course, provide much help.

It didn’t matter if it was a Mouse squeak or a Macho blast; neither was definitive. And, oh boy, I needed definitive and assertive. And, preferably, the advice of someone who had built fuckin’ hundreds of sheds.

Macho looked like he’d have the language, but not the experience. Mouse? Well I doubt Mouse had even used the tools he was trying to sell.

Time passed.

Lots of it. 

Macho had given up on me; Mouse persevered. I think we were opening our fifth brand new carton (I wanted Ni MH, not Ni Cd) before I took pity – or got bored, I dunno – and I picked a drill.

Suitably for my mind-frame, it was a Black and Decker Firestorm.

Roll that name over your lips – FIRESTORM.

No one – but no-one – could suggest that the FIRESTORM wouldn’t be able to build my shed. I’d just have to point it at the Tek screws and those Girts and Columns and Cleats and Mullions would just leap into the required form.

I strutted to the counter, FIRESTORM in hand.

Mouse wasn’t allowed to use the cash register so it was Macho who took my credit card. I kept on with my rambling monologue, descending by now into Macho-like language – those bloody Tek screws – as Macho studied the intricacies of the credit card machine.

And studied and studied it: especially when a terribly short slip of paper was spat out. 

“Your card has been rejected,” said Macho in an awful voice.

“Ha!” I said with the confidence that hefting a FIRESTORM in my hand was giving me.
“Try again!”

The same short slip of paper appeared.

“Hmmm”, I said. “Must have given the credit card to The Wife,” with the sort of shaking-my-head-grin that I thought Macho would understand.

He did – but I left without a drill.

Now this could be kinda the anti-climax to end all anti-climaxes. Of Blog columns as well as reality. But as I drove home, I had an idea.

None of the drills I’d looked at had hugely impressed: they were too much like the Big Bastard Ryobi. All gloss and polish but not in for the Long Haul.

And with four million Tek screws, I sure as hell needed Long Haul. Macho: he’d have liked that expression. I rolled it around my tongue; said it out loud to the inside of my Insight: Loooooong Hauuuulllll.

But making noises in an empty car didn’t get me my drill, even if it put a smile on my face. So what did I need? A clutch drill, preferably battery operated for safety when there were sharp edges of cut sheet metal everywhere.

But couldn’t I make that myself?

I pondered the dead drills that I’ve plundered from the tip, considered the sealed lead acid batteries that I’ve got from discarded non-interruptible PC power supplies, and thought about the high-current micro-switches I’ve sourced from dead photocopiers.

And 15 minutes later, I had my Tek-screwing drill. It hasn’t missed a beat in putting up over 120 square metres of Colourbond…

Geez, with that saved $200, I reckon I could shout myself some red wine.

How ‘bout tonight?

Glug; just did!

7 Responses to 'The Search for a Drill…'

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  1. Beau said,

    on July 17th, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Julian, were you drunk when you wrote this article?

  2. jake c said,

    on July 17th, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    yes drills like the one you have made and described are very good, long battery life with the hand held portion of the drill being quite light and nimble.
    Good to stay hydrated out in the sun as well…

  3. Darren Roles said,

    on July 17th, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    There sure are a lot of Tek screws installed (per panel) in the photo…I gather that they supplied you a shed and instructions suitable for the wind conditions in your area?

    I think you need to expand a bit more on the DIY power supply – I’m a bit dull. My current cheapy battery drill is starting to expire after doing a sterling job on the house renos etc. It’s lasted a lot longer than I had anticipated, consequently now I’m a bit attached to it.

  4. Nig said,

    on July 17th, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Twelve years ago I was in the same situation and bought what I thought would be the right drill for the Job. At that stage the 12v drills were not cheap and had limited battery life so I opted for a 240v drill.
    The Makita chosen with two speed gearbox and variable speed for $260 is still going strong after literally doing thousands of roofing screws / tek screws etc over it’s lifetime reroofing the house as well as building a large garage.
    I am on my second cordless drill but I mainly use this for smaller jobs. The main disadvantage of the Makita is having to haul an extension lead around the roof or wherever you are working. The only thing I will probably have to do soon is look at the brushes.
    The new cheaper drills will not last because the quality just isn’t there.

  5. Tom said,

    on July 17th, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Julian, I was thoroughly amused by your post. It is the sort of crazed rambling I put into my blog when I was recording my journey through a task that, while completely different to yours, led me to the same levels of insanity.

    I don’t even care what the point of the post was 🙂

  6. Julian Edgar said,

    on July 17th, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    We’ll be covering the design, planning, construction, earthworks, concrete slab, lighting, etc, etc in a major series called Building a Workshop. The series starts in about a month.

  7. Peter said,

    on July 21st, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Julian, nicely said. I’m glad I’m not the only one when it comes to pointless trips to hardware Mecca taking an inordinate amount of time – my wife just can’t understand how it can take so long to spend $200!