Interesting Facts About the Modern Milwaukee Drill: Building on 100 Years of Power Tool Excellence

At a time when almost any type of home repair know-how or DIY (do it yourself) instruction is never more than a mouse-click away, it’s no surprise that today’s homeowners and apartment dwellers are pretty much guaranteed to own a small selection of basic power tools.

Regardless of whether they’re electric or cordless, power tools such as saws, wrenches, drivers, grinders, and sanders are fundamental “must-haves” for households as well as jobsites. There is one power tool, however, that holds sway with homeowners and professionals alike when it comes to versatility, portability, and just plain power and it happens to be a proud by-product of purely Australian necessity, as well. The drill.

Drilling into history

milwaukee drill

Filed in 1889 and credited to Australian inventors Arthur Arnot and William Brian, the patent for what’s evolved into today’s humble power drill began its existence in the less-than-humble origins of the nation’s coal mining industry.

A heavy, spark-hurling, and even by Victorian era mining standards, brutish machine, Arnot’s and Brian’s drill didn’t lend itself to aesthetics or niceties … and it was anything but portable. In an environment that was already fraught with danger, the beast had no shortage of its own technical hurdles to overcome; but it ground its way through rock and coal with a tenacity that would reshape both the mining industry and the future of electric power tools.

It wouldn’t be until 1918 that the concept behind the two Aussie’s steel-cased behemoth would, at the request of an ambitious young business owner name Henry Ford, finally take the form of the first truly successful modern, handheld drill: Milwaukee Tool’s ¼ inch drive Hole-Shooter.

Weighing in at only 5 pounds, an incomprehensibly light weight for any power tool at the time, the Hole-Shooter became the first electric drill compact enough to be operated with only one hand, but still powerful enough to take on the heaviest jobs.

These are traits barely worth mentioning today, but they were received by the manufacturing industry with euphoria a century ago. The Hole-Shooter issued in a new era of power tool development, and instantly positioned the Milwaukee drill as the benchmark for powered drills, worldwide.

The modern Milwaukee drill

milwaukee drill

From the workbenches of hobbyists and craftsmen, to assembly lines and demolition sites, these drills can be found everywhere today doing the same thing they’ve been doing for decades, drilling holes in wood and metal, but they’re by no means restricted just to that.

Modern Milwaukee drills aren’t just more ergonomic than their predecessors, though: they’re designed to be more versatile than ever. Stepping up from the Hole-Shooter’s original ¼ inch drive to ⅜ and ½ sizes, they’re also available in both classic keyed and innovative keyless chucked versions to accept a wider range of bits.

As such, these drills are now capable of performing some of the same jobs that other more specialised power tools would have been called on to do in the past. With the correct attachments, the average homeowner can use this latest generation of these versatile tools for jobs as precise as driving in screws, buffing stone countertops, or stripping and stirring paint.

And for craftsmen who buy Milwaukee drills to perform exclusively at the heavy-duty end of the spectrum, built-in hammer and impact modes make drilling into concrete or other types of masonry almost effortless with the proper drill bit.

Going corded or cordless

milwaukee drill

Battery powered, cordless drills continue to grow in popularity because of their versatility. Equipped with virtually all the same features as their high-voltage siblings but with unlimited portability, modern cordless drills are limited only by the ability to keep their batteries recharged. In 2005, Milwaukee Tool became thefirst to introduce Lithium-ion batteries as the standard power source for their cordless tools, and with their patented fuel line of cordless technologies, they continue to push the boundaries of battery life and increased power outputs.

  • Cordless drills

The corded Milwaukee drill has been the mainstay of the power tool industry since its beginning. Bringing big, continuous power to the table for as long as they’re plugged in, electric drills have been called upon to perform every task ever demanded of a drill, and they’re likely to continue doing so for a long time. That they have to stay connected to a power source is proving to be their only weakness as more cordless variations with continuously improving battery performance are introduced.

  • Corded (electric) drills

More often than not, the type of job to be done determines the best drill to use. But sometimes, it comes down to a matter of just plain-old personal preference. Unlike some power tools, however, drills keep the choices pretty simple with only two real variations:

Drill motors

milwaukee drill

At the heart of every power tool, whether it’s the 100 year old Hole-Shooter or one of Milwaukee’s latest mini-compacts, there’s one common feature that qualifies them all to be called power tools: a motor.

And whenever the topic of motors arises, it’s not uncommon to hear mention of whether a motor is brushed or brushless, or the merits of one over the other. It’s a topic that’s as old, well… the motor itself. You can rest assured, though, that beyond entering into a highly detailed discussion on motor theory, brushes aren’t some kind of bristly, potentially combustible feature built into your drill.

  • Brushed motors

Brushed motors contain carbon or graphite contacts that are held (… brush) against the rotor inside the motor’s housing to complete the electric circuit that ultimately produces mechanical rotation. These are the earliest designs of electric motors and have been the basis for motors used in everything from handy power tools like the Milwaukee drill to locomotives. Their trademark “big power” comes at a price, however, as they’re also known for generating large amounts of heat, sparks, vibration and wear due to friction.

  • Brushless motors

Brushless motors do away with the carbon contacts, relying instead on an electronic controller to spin the motor’s rotor. Favoured for electronic devices such as computer fans and electric cars because they’re not hampered by the friction of traditional brushed motors, they’re not known for delivering the bone-rattling power of their brushed counterparts, but their design and compact size allows them to run cooler, quieter and for far longer periods of time. 

The ultimate measure of a power tool is its durability, though; and over the lifetime of a power tool, brushless motors will frequently go twice as long between service intervals as their brushed counterparts, making them an innovation that’s only getting better. Still, for many craftsmen the familiar whirr, warmth and simplicity of a brushed motor is irreplaceable, and that’s fine too. 

Fortunately, Milwaukee Tool produces brushed and brushless drills, ensuring that whatever the users’ preference is, that the proper tool’s available for the job.

The final word

milwaukee drill

The DIY revolution has indeed breathed new life into the functionality of the venerable drill; but as is the case with any power tool, always remember that personal safety comes first. Accidents involving power tools continues to be among the highest rate of DIY injuries monitored nationwide; so having adequate hand, eye and ear protection is essential before starting any project. At the end of the day, however, you can rest assured that with every Milwaukee drill you’re benefiting from the same innovative spirit that was embodied in their original Hole-Shooter more than a hundred years ago.

Whether it’s time to get started on that warm-weather renovation project you’ve been contemplating, or acquire that one single power tool to replace the collection of tools you’re routinely dragging between job sites, you don’t need to look any further than the right drill.