DIY enthusiasts all around the world can thank an Aussie for this indispensable piece of equipment.


The Electric Drill.


It was way back in 1889, that Australian electrical engineer Arthur James Arnot patented the world’s first electric drill. And this happened while he was an employee of the Union Electric Company in Melbourne.

Furthermore. the drill was originally designed to cut through rock and dig for coal. And although it was a long way from the portable hand held drills used throughout the world today. The same underlying technology still remains.

Taken from the Dutch term Drillen, a drill is a tool with a rotating probe called a drill bit. And it can be used for drilling holes in various materials. And an electric drill is a power tool which is driven by an electric motor.

At one end, a specialised clamp or “chuck” of the drill, grips the drill bit. And its user subsequently presses it against the target material as it rotates.


The tip of the drill bit cuts into the target material.


Thin shavings are sliced away In the case of twist drills or auger bits. Whereas grinding off small particles is the objective for oil drilling. Crushing and removing pieces of the material being drilled is how SDS type masonry bits work.

And as a result, today’s drills are commonly used in woodworking, metalworking, construction, and all kinds of DIY projects.




For many thousands of years now. the concept of drilling has been in use. Yet it was only the advent of the electric motor in the 19th century that consequently led to the development of the first electric drill.

The size of the first electric drill was to say the least, massive. Designed by Arthur James Arnot and William Blanch Brain in Melbourne in 1889, it was designed to cut through coal and rock for mining applications.

So, this initial model was far from portable. But the same technology was later refined to create the modern-day hand drill we all know and love.


The earliest ever drills were bow drills, dating back to the ancient Harappans and Egyptians.


As indeed was the drill press. This tool was first developed from the early bow drills too. And is therefore many centuries old now.

Drills have been powered by various power sources over the centuries. Including human effort, water wheels, and windmills. Often with the use of geared leather belts to drive them.

But with the coming of the electric motor in the late nineteenth century, there was a great rush to power up machine tools with such motors. And drills were to be among the first of these new powered tools.


More History…


As previously stated, the invention of the first ever electric drill is credited to Arthur James Arnot and William Blanch Brain. Back in 1889, at Melbourne, Australia.

From thereon, Wilhelm Fein next invented the portable electric drill in 1895. In Stuttgart, Germany. And in 1917, it was Black & Decker that first patented a trigger-like switch. Mounted on a pistol-grip handle.


Believe it or not, the first cordless power drill was also unveiled by Black & Decker back in 1961.


During the late 50’s, ihe Martin Marietta Corporation was contracted alongside Black & Decker to design tools for NASA. Primarily because NASA needed tools to use in space. So the tool company developed a battery powered, zero-impact powered wrench for the Gemini project. It was designed to spin bolts in zero gravity without spinning the astronaut off into the deep unknown.

Which brings us quite nicely to the more modern powered and cordless drills of today.


© Andy Robinson, Localad Services Handyman Assist

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