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What is a Breast Drill?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen

A breast drill is a tool used to create holes of various sizes in wood and other materials. These drills are generally powered by hand cranks, and they have a breastplate which allows the operator to lean over the drill and bear down with his weight. This ability to force weight down into the drilling process makes the breast drill more capable of performing heavy jobs than most other hand drills. It also means that the operator doesn’t have to use as much energy while using the drill. Essentially, the drill is allowing the worker to capture the energy of gravity, which is constantly pulling his weight towards the earth, and use it to make his work easier.

Often used for a wide variety of basic woodworking tasks, breast drills have been employed in place of hand drills in many situations where additional force is needed. For example, a breast drill may be used if the piece of wood being drilled is particularly dense and tough or if the hole needs to be especially wide in terms of diameter. As a general rule, the breast drill is larger than other kinds of hand drills, and it was generally made for more intensive kinds of work. This heavy-duty construction generally goes hand-in-hand with the drill's basic design of using gravity to increase drilling power.


Breast drills can have most of the same bells and whistles as other hand drills. For example, companies make breast drills with multiple gear settings, allowing the carpenter to choose between finer control and a faster drilling speed. They can also be fitted with various different kinds of drill bits, and they generally have simple mechanisms for quickly removing and adding new drill bits. Many people collect antique drills, including breast drills, along with other antique hand tools. For this reason, they can sometimes be worth a significant amount of money.

For the most part, the breast drill and other hand drills have been replaced by power drills. Some carpenters still keep hand drills for certain kinds of jobs. For example, there are situations where the depth of a drill hole can be a very delicate thing, and sometimes power drills can be very difficult to control. In those situations, a hand drill will give the woodworker more precise control. There are also people who like to use old-fashioned woodworking tools as a way to pay tribute to the past, along with craftsmen who do handmade furniture in the old-fashioned way for profit.

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