History of drills: from bow drills to cordless drills

This blog is about cordless drills and things that are related to them. But I think that the right way to go is to give information about drills in general firstly. So I decided to give you a brief information about drills and history of drills.
Let's party started :)

About drills

A drill is a tool with a rotating drill bit used for drilling holes in various materials. Drills are commonly used in woodworking and metalworking.

The drill bit is gripped by a chuck at one end of the drill, and is pressed against the target material and rotated. The tip of the drill bit does the work of cutting into the target material, slicing off thin shavings (twist drills or auger bits) or grinding off small particles (oil drilling).

Brief history of drills

Drills come to us from date of the ancient Harappans and Egyptians.
The drill is pictured in tombs from the Third to
Twenty-sixth Dynasties. It appears frequently as a hieroglyph for either "craftsman" or "drill". Presumable cutting bits of flint have been found by the
hundreds. There are hollowed vases and blocks of stone from the Thrid Dynasty show appropriate cavities made in the course of dressing to level.
In Egypt, a number of carpentry bow-drills have been found that were used by the ancient Egyptians (Fig. 1, Petrie 1974a).

So the earliest drills was bow drills.
These drills are called "bow drills" thanks to the bow-rope by which drill bits were given in motion.

Fig 1. Ancient Egyptian bow-drill (after Wilkinson 1878).

Fig 2. Representation of the ancient Egyptian coring drill used in the rock cutting experiments of Stocks (1993, 2001)

Next drill type which is come from past to us is a gimlet.
A gimlet is a hand tool for drilling small holes, mainly in wood, without splitting. It was defined in Gwilt's Architecture (1859) as "a piece of steel of a semi-cylindrical form, hollow on one side, having a cross handle at one end and a worm or screw at the other".

A gimlet is always a small tool. A similar tool of larger size is called an auger. The cutting action of the gimlet is slightly different from an auger, however, as the end of the screw, and so the initial hole it makes, is smaller; the cutting edges pare away the wood which is moved out by the spiral sides, falling out through the entry hole. This also pulls the gimlet further into the hole as it is turned; unlike a brad awl, pressure is not required once the tip has been drawn in.

The name "gimlet" comes from the Old French guimbelet, probably a diminutive of the Old English "wimble", and the Scandinavian wammie, to bore or twist; the modern French is gibelet.

Fig 3. Gimlet.

I didn't find more information about drills in The Middle Ages so we
jump to 19 century. (If you have such information please share it with me, thanks :) )

Charles Miner, grandson of Nathan Daboll, has invented a breast-drill and self-centering brace for bits.

The brace patent book shows some eggbeater and breast drill patents among the braces, and the earliest of them is US patent #730, by George Page of Keene, New Hampshire, for a "Geared Drill Stock". This patent is dated May 8, 1838.

The text of the patent seems to indicate that his improvements for this style of tool include the adjustable length crank arm and a friction roller that
runs against the back side of the main gear to keep it running more evenly. It would seem that this type of drill preceded his patent. The patent is actually for
improvements to the style of drill, not the basic type of drill.

Fig 4. Picture from US Patent #730

The invention of the electrical drill is credited to Mr. Arthur James Arnot, in 1889, at Melbourne, Australia.
Wilhelm Fein invented the portable electric drill in 1895, at Stuttgart, Germany.
In 1917, Black & Decker patented a trigger-like switch mounted on a pistol-grip handle.

For now that's all.This post is still draft and I'll post more information about history of drills in future.

Links and References
About Drills
Ancient Egyptian Stoneworking Tools and Methods: Stone vase making
Ancient Egyptian Stoneworking Tools and Methods: Copper coring drills
Gimlet (tool)
The Egyptian Drill and the Origin of the Crank Richard S. Hartenberg, John Schmidt, r. Technology and Culture, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Apr., 1969), pp. 155-165
OldTools Archive
US Patent #730
All-Blogs.net directory



  1. John said,

    Awesome history of drill.


    on February 9, 2011 at 3:24 AM