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Like politics, football and cars, tools are a common interest among fathers and sons. After pitting my dad’s disco-era drill against some of today’s snazzier twisters, I’m beginning to understand why he gets so upset whenever I steal--I mean--“borrow” it.

Last month, I conducted a very unscientific test of four drills in my basement. I bored through scraps of lumber, wallboard and sheet metal while my wife, Jenie, timed me with a stopwatch. What we discovered is that today’s drills are far more convenient and comfortable but not as fast as Old Faithful, which Dad thinks he bought sometime during the Carter Administration to install a deadbolt on our back door. Here's how it rated:

Ergonomics: Lose the Abba records. Dad’s old Black and Decker sings off-key, and it has an awkward shape that makes it hard to handle. I’ve found that it works the best upside-down, with your pinky finger on the trigger. Today’s drills also are easier on the eyes. The color of Dad’s drill is somewhere between 12 cans of Natural Light and six shots of Jägermeister. And it constantly smells of greasy socks.

Power: It's a wash. As I mentioned in my recent DeWalt review, my only complaint is that some cordless tools don't tell you when they are about to run out of gas. It just stops dead cold, and you are left thinking you broke the thing. The corded one only stops working if the microwave, hair dryer and air conditioner trip the circuit breaker.

Speed: They don't make 'em like they used to. Though today's cordless drills are increasingly more productive, they carry a tradeoff between comfort and speed. For example, DeWalt’s new 18V, lithium-ion compact impact driver, equipped with a 1-1/8-in. metal hole saw, was pleasing to hold and required little effort. But it popped out slugs in an average 6.9 seconds. DeWalt's 18V compact drill-driver, slightly heavier and bulkier, tore through the material a second faster. My current house drill, a 12V, nickel-cadmium Ridgid hammerdrill bought at Home Depot (the lifetime battery warranty sold me), clocked in at 5.5 seconds. Dad’s drill was just over 3 seconds.

Verdict: Dad's drill is like comfort food: a treat now and then, but I wouldn't grab for it all the time. In terms of sheer drilling speed, it has a lot going for it. But it leaves much to be desired in the comfort department. Dad's drill is bulky, heavy and spins at a constant speed, while the others are more maneuverable, portable and do a better job of matching power to the job. I know I’m comparing apples and oranges. Like I said, it wasn’t scientific. Just a fun test. And Dad, I promise, I’ll get Old Faithful back to you one of these days…

Blogger's Note: I neither get paid to promote any product, nor do I own stock in any of the companies. DeWalt sent ENR a combo-kit (a $249 value) at no charge. We have donated it to Dawson Technical Institute, a vocational school in Chicago.

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