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Until 2002, almost nobody in North America knew what an impact driver was. Now most pros use them all the time, and a growing number of homesteaders and DIYers do, too. The first I heard of impact drivers was 11 years ago, from an obscure story in a little magazine that was reporting on popular power tools in Japan. Apparently, so the story went, carpenters in that country didn’t drive screws with cordless drills any more, they always used impact drivers instead. Speed is one reason why, but there’s a more enticing incentive, too. The only company at the time that offered impact drivers in North America was DEWALT, so that’s the kind I tried first.
Fast-forward a decade, and impact drivers are now the only way most serious professional builders drive screws. And while you might not be a professional yourself, there’s lots you can learn from pros in your quest for serious self reliance capabilities. Impact drivers are the ultimate woodscrew driving tool. They sink screws faster than a cordless drill of the same size, and this matters because screws are a growing part of how things are built these days. But speed and power isn’t even the best thing about impact drivers. More importantly, these tools also keep the tip of screw driving bits much more firmly engaged with deck screw heads, virtually eliminating the slippage and frustration that’s so common when driving screws with ordinary cordless drills. I’ve never seen anyone go back to using a drill for driving screws after they’ve tried an impact driver. Lithium-ion batteries and more efficient, brushless motors are the two most important innovations that are boosting the performance of impact drivers right now. That’s because the smaller and more powerful an impact driver is, the handier it is to use.
If you’ve never used one before, it might be easier than you think to give one a try. Visit stevemaxwellhowto.com/contest-page for a chance to win one of three professional-grade DEWALT impact driver kits including the tool itself, a charger and two 4.0 amp-hour batteries. Contest ends December 15th, with prizes delivered just in time for Christmas.