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Woodworker's Gazette
Gazette Archive 7/31/99

The Sioux Angle Drill - A Tool Review: by Jim Mattson

  What type of drill to buy for particular applications has, and always will be, fodder for debate. Pistol-grip or T-handle, which one is best? Most of the reviews I've read have been divisive, often reflecting the author's bias towards one type or the other. This review will not be any different...:)

My first two drills were T-handle, big, nasty 3/8" chuck models from Sears. I used them for everything and they helped me learn the great, new timesaver of that day - electric drills are great for driving screws! You have to remember, this was back when most of the screws sold in hardware stores were slotted. Hardened Phillips-head drywall screws were just emerging onto the retail market and were totally unknown to novices like myself.

One day I had a revelation when sitting around a jobsite waiting for my turn at the loading dock. I was watching a couple guys hanging 4x12 sheets of drywall and boy, were they speedy! While one guy cut the sheets, the other was zipping in screw after screw with a pistol-grip screwgun. So natural was his movement, the way he held the drill behind the motor, the tool extended like an appendage from his hand. Zip!...Zip!

The cabinets I was delivering must have had a couple hundred screws in them and I thought about that screwgun... thought about my Sears drill... then I realized I could have taken half a day off my job with a tool like that. Zip!

Drills have changed a lot in the past 25 years; designed lighter, more powerful and cordless. Of the dozen or so drills I've bought in that time, somehow I'm almost always left wanting. I wish my 1/2" drill was a T-handle for better leverage; I wish the reversing switch on my 3/8" Black and Decker didn't jam up so often; I wish the chuck would stay tight on my DeWalt hammer drill and I wish my old Sears drills would up and die. That isn't likely to happen since there are seven others in my shop I'd rather use. Correction - now there are eight.

An Old Newcomer
Unknown to many woodworkers is a third option for holding a drill - provided by the Sioux Angle Drill, model 8000. At first glance, one might think it's a drill only needed for tight spaces. Not so. The 8000 is a sweet little corded model which has been around years and years, and is poised at any moment to capture the hole-making market - well...maybe.

I first used one of these drills for driving hinge screws in a friend's shop. He had a clone, the Milwaukee Close-Quarter Drill, and I tried it for getting hardware mounted to some very small spaces. Oddly, I found myself using it for wide-open spaces too and before long, this weird-looking little penguin had bored a hole in my heart.

That was many years ago and ever since, when my arm aches from nose-heavy pistol-grips or my wrist hurts from T-handle racking or I forget to charge my spare battery and wonder why my cordless is making such a funny smell, I remember back to that time, wistfully knowing there is an alternative. A few months ago I couldn't resist any longer and bought one...:-)

Like a pistol-grip drill, you can exert force axially by positioning your hand behind the domed transverse gear casing. With your hand in this position, screws drive faster with less cam-out and getting perpendicular holes is a snap...well, better than usual.

Unlike pistol-grips, there is virtually no nose-heaviness to deal with, no tired arms from weighty drill bits or sore fingers from awkward grip positions. Most of the weight - the motor - is located below your grip, cantilevering nearly anything you'd want to chuck in this baby. Very T-handleish. Very nice.

Like a T-handled drill, it sorta nestles into the webbing between thumb and forefinger, hanging effortlessly from your hand. It's also easy to grab it backwards and use your thumb to activate the lever switch. No matter where you grab it, the switch seems completely controllable and capable of sublime sensitivity.

Unlike a T-Handle, there is virtually no tendency to rack your wrist backward the harder you push. Instead of using your free hand to steady the drill, you can be reaching for that next screw while driving the first. And since most T-handles are cordless, there isn't a weighty battery pack to lug around. You get the T-handle's ease of holding without the battery. The result is smooth, predictable power. Very, very nice!

Not all is Rosy
The Angle Drill I bought didn't have any bells and whistles, no clutch or keyless chuck, though they're available. I bought the basic machine 'cause this puppy ain't cheap.

Another thing I would change is the position of the Forward/Reverse switch. At the base of the motor, it's out of reach of your trigger hand. You can push it into forward with your nose (really!), but pulling it into reverse requires you to use your other hand. I've sorta gotten used to it but it wasn't easy.

A better position would be to extend the domed gear housing rearward a bit and put the directional switch in there, transforming this little penguin into a pterodactyl. Anywhere else would be better than where it is.

Still, this is easily my favorite drill and BTW, it's marvelous for getting into tight spaces!

Jim Mattson

In response to this article, Lee Grindinger wrote:

I have used one of those cute little drills too, I thought all the
wonderful thoughts you outline in your review, it's a terrific little drill
with the one exception I didn't care for. That gosh dern lever got squeezed
everytime I picked it up! Some kind of trigger instead of the lever would
have made that driil safer. Nonetheless, I agree with you, it's a great
little drill. Nice review!


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