Introduction: Make a Cordless Drill

This Instructable will show you how I made and you too can make a cordless hand crank drill.

Q: "Why do I need a hand crank drill?"

A: I'm impatient. I often times find I need to drill only one or two holes. At those same times, I find that my cordless drill batteries are in need of a charge (they're old and don't hold a charge very well, I need to try Tim Anderson's zap trick). A hand crank drill is perfect! I don't need to wait on a battery to charge and I don't have to find my corded drill and an extension cord. I expect this drill to also be very durable. Water and dirt won't affect it much and I could probably drop it off of my house's roof without causing any damage (to the drill - INCOMING!). It is also lightweight. I could take it on a backpacking trip if I had a reason to do so.

Step 1: Go Shopping!

You will need to acquire some materials to make this hand crank cordless drill. You may as well go shopping now. If you waited until later, you wouldn't really get much accomplished between now and then. If you are like me, you'll end up going shopping again later for something you forgot.

Keyless drill chuck - I scrounged one from dead cordless drill - a keyed one would work - one can buy replacement chucks if one so desires
3/8 inch OD steel rod - I purchased 4 feet of this
3/8-24 UNF (that's Fine thread) nut - I had one of these
3/8 inch ID Stop Collar - I purchased 2 of these
3/8 inch ID X 1-1/8 inch OD ball bearings - I purchased 2 of these
3/4 inch ID copper pipe X ~5 inches - I had this
1 inch X 3/4 inch copper pipe reducer - I purchased 2 of these

All in all, I probably spent about $20.00 US on supplies. I went shopping at my neighborhood ACE hardware store. They're great. Family owned since 1908, currently the 5th generation (2 currently work there). They treat me right. If I go in unsure of what I want or need, "shopping for ideas", they'll help me out. They seem to sell a lot more "ideas" than the "big box" boys. You can probably find the supplies at various other stores, but I'd recommend an actual hardware store over one of the "big box" home improvement warehouses. They're more likely to carry the bearings, stop collars and fine thread nut. But enough about that...

Metal File
Bench Grinder
3/8-24 UNF thread cutting die
Die Stock (the handle used to hold and turn the die)
Cutting Oil (Is this a tool or a material?)
Propane Plumber's Torch
Plumbing Solder and Flux (Is this a tool or a material?)
Whacking Tool (hammer)
1/4 inch Hex Key (allen wrench)
1/8 inch Hex Key (to tighten the stop collar lock screws)
Flat Blade Screwdriver
Bench Vise

I think that's it. It is probably possible to make this without some or most of those tools, but that's what I used. I already had everything but the 3/8-24 UNF threading die. Luckily I was able to borrow one of those from my employer. With permission! I returned it of course - I want to keep my job!

The picture shows some of the supplies - some of it already assembled . We'll get to that assembly in a few minutes.

Step 2: Scrounge Up a Chuck

I found an old cordless drill in a cabinet at work. Just the drill, no batteries and no charger. The Boss (that's my boss' boss - the higher up they are, the more capital letters they get - the CEO would be THE BOSS) said I could have it. Just what I need, a keyless chuck from a drill. I now have to remove said keyless chuck from said drill. After a bit of research I found out how. Here's how you can find out how to too:
1) Look in your drill's instruction manual.
2) Look up the chuck manufacturer's instructions on the internet - this is what I did.
3) Fiddle around with it and see if you can figure out how to remove it - I did a bit of this first.

My chuck was held onto the drill in 2 ways. Deep down inside the chuck was a machine screw. I couldn't get it to budge. After doing my internet search, I found out it is a left-hand threaded machine screw. I figure there are a few possible reasons for this:
1) The guy who made it made it wrong.
2) The guy who made it is left-handed.
3) The guy who made it is either from or made it in an alternate reality where everything is backwards. Up is down, down is up, cats are dogs, dogs are cats...
4) To keep the drill from falling apart. The back of the chuck is threaded with right-hand (normal) threads. When using the drill in the forward direction, the chuck would tend to be tightened onto the drill shaft when counter-rotational resistance is placed on the chuck. When the drill is used in the reverse direction (such as when un-screwing a screw) the chuck would be loosened from the drill shaft. It would be bad if your drill chuck fell off when attempting to un-screw stuff (corded drills often don't have this as they aren't meant to be used to drive and un-drive screws). So, they put a left-hand threaded screw in there to hold it on. A left-hand thread would tend to be tightened as counter-rotational resistance is placed on the chuck when spinning in reverse. Now that I've got that unnecessary lesson in physics out of the way...

I removed the left-hand threaded machine screw with a flat bladed screwdriver (use a phillips or hex key or whatever is used on your drill - if it is even there). The chuck is still amazingly tightly threaded onto the drill shaft. A lot of use in the forward direction (especially driving screws) will do that. To break it loose, tighten a 1/4 inch or larger (or smaller, but bigger is better) hex wrench (allen wrench) into the chuck. I only had one of the folding knife type sets available. That's what I used. A single piece one would work just as well if not better. If you don't have a hex key, something else L shaped and strong which can be tightened into the chuck would work.

Now place the drill body flat on a hard, well reinforced surface, with the business end (chuck) facing you and the handle of the hex wrench to your left. The chuck and hex wrench should be hanging off the edge. Using a whacking tool (hammer), strike the hex key sharply out near the end of it with a downward motion. The chuck should rotate on the drill shaft. If not, reset and whack again. Once it is loose, remove the hex key and un-thread the chuck the rest of the way.

You'll notice in the pictures for this step that contrary to what I said earlier, the drill has a battery. There's a good reason for this. It is because that is a different drill! The drill pictured is the one that always needs its batteries charged. The actual drill was already disassembled. Of course I saved the left hand machine screw - you never know when you'll need one of those! I also saved the rest of the drill - you never know when you'll need a cordless drill that doesn't have batteries, a charger or a chuck!

Good Job! Onward to the next step!

Step 3: Go Shopping Again!

I got ahead of myself with that first shopping trip. Hopefully you read the whole Instructable before heading to the store! My chuck, as you may have guessed, was threaded 3/8-24 UNF on the back side. Yours may not be. I don't know if there is any kind of standard. I took mine to work (actually, it was still at work as I removed it at work) and found the thread size using thread gages. If you don't have access to thread gages, take the chuck to the hardware store and try different bolts in the hole until you find one that fits.

The thread size determines what size nut, steel rod and thread cutting die you will need. It also determines the size of the bearings and stop collars because they need to fit the steel rod. In turn, it determines the size of the pipe pieces needed to make the handle since the handle needs to fit the bearings which need to fit the rod which needs to fit the chuck. It's kind of like that story about the size of the space shuttle's booster rockets being determined by the size of a horse's butt. If yours is 3/8-24 UNF, buy a 3/8-24 UNF nut, die, 3/8 inch steel rod... If yours is 1/2-20 UNF, buy a 1/2-20 UNF nut, die, 1/2 inch steel rod....

Step 4: Bend the Rod

Ok, back from shopping. Where were we? Oh yeah, time to bend the rod to shape. You want it to be crank shaped like in the picture. The offset of my crank ended up being about 3 inches. I don't think I planned that, it is just what looked good. Boat builders have a term they use for this. It is called "fairing". Basically, you tweak it until it looks "fair" which to us non boat builders means it looks good. Shorter crank arms would allow you to spin the drill faster, longer crank arms would allow you to generate more torque; it's a trade-off.

I heated the areas where I wanted to bend the rod using my propane torch.

Please wear gloves and safety glasses. You should have been wearing safety glasses during step number two as well. In fact, you should just wear safety glasses all the time. You'll look like a dork until other people start doing likewise, but then you'll be able to say "I was one of the first, I'm a trendsetter!" Seriously, wear safety glasses! You only have two eyes. Sure, that kinda sounds like one might be disposable, but you really need two to have good peripheral vision and good depth perception. Good peripheral vision and depth perception are good for keeping you from getting killed. I'm also serious about wearing them all the time. Right now, your keyboard could self destruct and fling the keys at your face at high velocity! I was once innocently driving along with my car window open. As I passed a guy running a string trimmer, he hit the ground with the string. A 1/4 inch diameter rock was propelled at a very high rate of speed through my open window and struck my sunglasses right in front of my eye. Had the day been cloudy...

OK, heat the area where you want to make a bend. I didn't quite get mine glowing, but definitely hot enough to burn you (speaking from experience - forgot my gloves!). I heated it so that it would bend easier and have a sharper bend radius. If you don't have a torch, try a campfire or charcoal grill. You can probably bend it cold but you'll risk cracking the steel and your bends won't be quite as sharp.

Try to bend it so it is "fair". You do remember what "fair" means don't you? I bent a little, then sighted down it to see if it was straight and then bent a little more, lather, rinse, repeat. This is where my vise came in handy. I clamped part of it in the vise and used my hands to bend the other part. You'll notice that the bends aren't quite 90 degrees. That's OK. In fact, it's probably better than OK, because if you tried for exactly 90 degrees you'd drive yourself nuts trying to get the offsets of the crank the same length. Less than 90 degrees also gives your cranking arm a bit more clearance when you are using the drill.

When you are finally satisfied with its shape, on to the next step!

Step 5: Thread the Rod

Now that we have the general shape of the drill, we need a way to attach the chuck. That's where the thread cutting die comes in. Clamp the crank in your vise such that the chuck end is up and protruding a few inches. Now take it back out of the vise because the end of the rod is smooshed up from where they sheared it at the mill. Use your hacksaw to trim off the smooshed bit. Use your bench grinder to clean up the hacksaw cut and slightly taper the end of the rod. Do this by lightly holding the rod end to the wheel at an angle and spinning the rod. Try to make it even all around. If you can't make it even all around, you're probably better off not tapering it.

Now put the rod back in the vise as you did at the beginning of this step. Gloop on some cutting oil.

Cutting oil contains a lot of sulfur. It aids in drilling and cutting steel. It helps to dissipate heat and lubricates without being too slippery. If it is too slippery the tool won't cut. Get some. I think I paid around $5 for a quart of it several years ago. I have used it quite a bit and still have about 7/8 of a quart remaining. If you don't want to do that, I've heard bacon grease works well. Regular motor oil and "penetrating oil" are too slippery for drilling. You can also do this dry, but you'll get nicer threads if you use cutting oil. Back to work...

After glooping on some cutting oil, try to start your thread cutting die. It will most likely be marked "start this side first" or some such. Do as the thread cutting die commands (unless it is urging you to go on a killing spree - in that case ignore it, it's just a stupid cutting die). Try to start it as straight as you possibly can. Really, really work at getting it straight. You'll be glad you did later. Now cut the threads. Turn the die a turn or so clockwise then a quarter turn or so counter-clockwise. This back and forth clears the chips and you get nicer threads. You may need to add more oil occasionally as it runs down the rod. Thread about an inch to an inch and a half of the rod. This should be enough to thread on your nut and your chuck. Remove the die and wipe up all the oil.

In the photo, I have just the die on the rod. Usually you would turn the die with a die stock. You could also turn the die with a wrench or socket, but that makes it harder to keep the threads straight.

We're almost done, on to the next step!

Step 6: Make the Handle

The handle is made from the copper pipe and pipe reducers.

Q: "Why did you use reducers and a smaller pipe?"
A: I already had some 3/4 inch pipe and didn't see the need to buy 1 inch pipe just for this project - I'm using up scraps.

Q: "Why didn't you just use all 3/4 inch pipe parts?"
A: The bearings need to fit into the pipe. My bearings fit ever so nicely inside the female 1 inch pipe socket of the reducers. 1 inch is the inside diameter (ID) of the pipe. It has 1/16 inch thick walls which means the female portion needs to be 1-1/8 inch ID to fit over it. You'll recall the outside diameter (OD) of my bearings from step 2 is 1-1/8 inch. The 'step' also allows me to put more pressure on the drill as it helps to keep my top hand from sliding on the handle.

I cut the pipe so it was about as long as my hand is wide plus a little - about 5 inches, I have big hands. I then sweated (when you join copper pipe by soldering, you are "sweating" the pipe - why it is called this, I don't know) the two reducers on to the section of pipe using my propane torch, flux and solder. Oh, and wear your gloves (hot!) and continue wearing your hip, stylish safety glasses.

If you don't know how to sweat copper pipe, maybe there's an Instructable around here somewhere. It's a bit of an art form and takes some practice to get a nice joint - especially if you're doing it upside down in an attic or crawl space and want a water tight joint. I'm not very good at it.

The handle is done! Next...

Step 7: Assemble the Parts!

Almost done. All that is left is to assemble all the parts.

On the threaded end, install the nut, then the chuck. Use a wrench to tighten the nut and chuck together. I put the metal portion of my chuck in my vise while I did this - don't tighten the vise too much or you might damage the chuck. This will lock the chuck in place and keep it from un-threading. Hopefully that is. It probably isn't as secure as it was on the cordless drill, but should be pretty good.

Press your bearings into either end of your handle (wait for it to cool!). On the handle end of the crank, slide on one of the stop collars, slide on the handle/bearing assembly, slide on the other stop collar. Figure out how long the rod needs to be, remove the handle parts and cut off the excess. Use your file or bench grinder to de-burr the end. Slide it all back on. Tighten the last stop collar so it is flush with the end (it has a little socket set screw in one side). Push the handle against that tight stop collar and then push the other stop collar against the bearing and tighten.

Viola, you're done. Chuck up a drill bit and get to drilling!

Possible improvements:
I don't know why I made mine so long. Overall length is probably 20 inches. I could shorten it up on the chuck side quite a bit.

I have thought about making a wood knob to cover the end of the handle. It would allow me to put greater pressure on the end of the drill. Too much pressure would probably cause the crank to bend though. Maybe this can be another Instructable?

Step 8: Improved!

I went through with the 'possible improvements' from the last step.

I cut the chuck end shorter so there is maybe 2" between the bend and the end of the rod. This of course required me to re-thread the end of the rod. I don't think I got the threads quite as straight as before so I'm going to need to do a little tweaking to get the bit lined up with the handle again.

I made a knob for the handle end out of a chunk of cedar 2X4 that I had lying around. I made a separate instructable for it. Here's the link.


shakeq79 made it!(author)2013-11-26

You may also splice wall cords to the batteries with resistors in series that will bring the voltage down to what the batteries can take, while the second part of the splice can feed directly to the motor.

Danish+M1Garand made it!(author)2009-09-11

I love hand tools. We use these to drill holes in Phone Poles to hang hardware to hang cable on. My Boss proved that he could climb a pole drill a hole and hang the hardware before you could with a gas powered drill. Brace and Bit. Climb Pole, belt in, drill hole and hang hard ware. Gas Drill. Climb pole, belt in, pull gas drill up to you on a hand line, start gas drill, FUTZ with the choke to get it to run, drill hole, hang hardware. GREAT POST!

pfred2 made it!(author)2011-02-25

Yeah but how fast was your boss after drilling 10 holes? The answer to that question would depend on the driver of the ambulance that took him away of course! I've had bosses like that too. Come in, knock out one thing fast, then say why can't you do that all day long?

ve2vfd made it!(author)2009-08-19

If you put a 3/8 or 1/2 square socket bit in the chuck, you can also use this as a fast driver for your socket set.

pfred2 made it!(author)2011-02-25

Those are called speed wrenches. I've one. My pneumatic tools are speedier though.

Computothought made it!(author)2010-05-20

It is ironic that most hardware stores have every kind of hand tool except the old fashion hand drill. That tool alone would save America a boatload of energy.

pfred2 made it!(author)2011-02-25

They're called braces and go for about $5 or less at flea markets. I've two. They're absolutely horrible to use! I much prefer to expend my energy controlling a job as opposed to propelling it. They sure make me appreciate my 18V cordless hammerdrill a lot more. Another fun old timer is called a breast drill for if you really like to lean into your work.

If you could travel back in time with a load of modern power tools the craftsmen of days gone by would cast their rough implements down in disgust and worship you as if you were a God!

I've heard tale told of one that had a belt sander which was called a power planer back then and cost about a year's wages. He'd take his home from work every day and keep it under his bed he slept in. If that gives you an inkling of the respect power tools garner from those who can look at it from the other side.

Computothought made it!(author)2010-06-13

Your drill is still the best, but I finally made and instructable of mine.

sharlston made it!(author)2009-10-01

the steel rod could be replaced with a handle bar from a bmx bike they look exactly the same

Scott_Tx made it!(author)2009-08-20

Nice, I've wanted one of these but never thought of making my own.

rimar2000 made it!(author)2009-08-19

Good work. When I did military service (1967), I volunteered to build a number of hand drills like these to use in the bush. They left acceptable.