what is an SDS dril

There are many types of drills that you can buy. Not all drills are suitable for every DIY task. For some jobs, a specialist drill may be required. One such specialist drill is the SDS drill. As you will see below, this is a fantastic power tool that serves a specific purpose. But what is an SDS drill? What does SDS stand for, and what can you do with these drills? We provide a comprehensive guide to SDS drills below!

SDS Drills – The Basics

To give you a complete understanding of what is an SDS drill, we have broken it into sections. Firstly, understanding the acronym is important. Next, we look at their usage, the different types of SDS drills, and their components.

What Does SDS Drill Mean?

First, let’s look at the basic definition of “SDS”. Strangely enough, there are several variations on exactly what these initials mean, and there is no definitive answer. The most commonly accepted phrase is “Slotted Drive System”. However, other accepted variations include “Slotted Drive Shaft” and even “Special Direct System”.

Aside from the slotted drive system, SDS drills are also known as hammer drills, chisel drills, and masonry drills. It is because of the hammering action they utilize and the materials they can drill through.

What Are SDS Drills Used For?

Hammer drills have various functions. They are relatively versatile drills that can be used for simple DIY tasks or tougher construction jobs on working sites. A standard hammer drill is primarily used for drilling through tougher materials. These materials include concrete, masonry, brickwork, block, and even steel. The hammer action of the drill effectively breaks the hard surfaces in a way that a standard rotary motion could not.

However, hammer drilling can be broken into two categories.

Firstly, the hammer mechanism alone (without any rotation) is used for breaking materials. For example, you may have an old concrete slab that you want to remove. An SDS drill would be perfect for this task and would effectively break the concrete into chunks.

Secondly, combining the hammering and rotary actions means an SDS drill can drill holes in hard materials. Normal drill bits would not be able to do this effectively with a simple rotary motion. However, the high-impact hammering, combined with a rotary action, will quickly drill large holes in materials like concrete.

Corded vs Cordless

There are also different variations of SDS drills. You can get a cordless SDS drill and cordless SDS drills. Both have their advantages and disadvantages: a cordless drill provides far greater mobility. You do not have to worry about tripping over a power cable. Also, you do not have to work near an electrical outlet. On the downside, these drills have to be charged regularly and are not always as powerful as their corded counterparts.

Corded drills limit your mobility. They are better for stationary work where you do not have to move around in different locations. They also have the benefit of a constant power supply. A corded drill often has a greater voltage and power due to its use of a mains electrical socket.

Components of an SDS Drill

An SDS drill has a common set of components. Firstly, there is the main chassis and body. This typically has two durable handles – generally positioned like a machine gun. The front handle is used for grip and to apply force when drilling. The rear handle contains the trigger and helps keep the drill stable also. These are not drills that can be used one-handed.

The motor is also contained within the chassis and the battery pack if it is a cordless model. At the end of the chassis, you have the chuck into which the drill bits are connected.

SDS Drill Bits

A great aspect of an SDS drill is that it can utilize a wide variety of drill bits. It is essential to understand the different types of drill bits and what they can be used for. The following are some of the common special SDS drill bits:

  • Flat blade chisels
  • Point chisels
  • Channel chisels
  • Mortar rake
  • Hollow gauge
  • Tile chisel

We advise taking time to understand how SDS drills work and which bits are suitable for different materials. If you use the wrong bit, you could damage the bit and even the mechanism of the SDS drill.

For example, some drill bits are specifically created for breaking material and have differently shaped tips. Alternatively, other bits are better suited for drilling as opposed to breaking.

Tips for Using SDS Drills

Now that you understand SDS drills and their purpose, we can look at tips for usage. These are generally simple drills to use. However, compared to other drills, there are different considerations that you must look at. These include maintenance, safety, the drill bits, and the various drill modes.


If you want to keep your hammer drill in excellent working order, you must be willing to perform regular maintenance. Thorough maintenance will help protect the hammer drill components. It will also improve the lifespan of the drill and the drill bits.

Firstly, the manufacturer will most likely provide basic maintenance guidelines. These should be followed as a bare minimum. However, there are also several things you can do.

After each use, you must clean the drill bit and remove any excess debris. Also, wipe the drill chassis and handle. Before use, consider wiping the drill bit before fitting it into the whole chuck. It will ensure a smooth fit with no potential for a jam in the mechanism. Finally, always replace damaged drill bits. Using a damaged bit could potentially damage the SDS drill and the hammer mechanism inside.


When using any type of tool with power components, safety is paramount. Before using any drill, make sure you have read the instruction manual fully. The instructions should show how to change the different modes, release the drill bit, and power the drill.

Next, before each usage, perform a simple visual safety check. It includes ensuring the standard drill bit is secure and that all the components look in working order.

Also, as this is a heavy-duty drill, PPE should be worn. We advise wearing safety gloves (with anti-vibration properties if possible) to protect your hands. Also, you may want to wear safety glasses and ear protection. Most SDS drills are relatively noisy, so ear protection is vital if you intend to use one regularly.

Know Your Drill Bits

When looking at what is an SDS drill, it is essential to understand that standard drill bits cannot be used in an SDS drill directly. If you try to use standard drill bits in an SDS drill, they either won’t fit, or the drill simply won’t work properly. If you try to use a regular bit, it could come loose when using the drill and cause serious injury.

However, you can use a standard drill bit using SDS chuck adaptors. These are special adapters that fit onto the SDS chuck. One end of the adapter fits directly onto the SDS chuck. The other end has a standard chuck that you can then connect any regular drill bit to!

SDS drill bits do not need an adapter and are specifically designed for this type of drill. In the same instance, you cannot use SDS drill bits in a regular drill. They are generally not interchangeable without the use of adapters.

Understand the Different Drill Modes

Lastly, it is vital to understand the different SDS hammer drill modes. An SDS drill generally has three modes – hammer mode, rotary mode, and rotary and hammer mode. Each mode serves a different purpose and is suitable for different materials.

The hammer-only mode is used for breaking into tougher materials. Instead of rotating like a normal drill, the special chuck moves in a back and forth motion simultaneously – like a hammer. This chiselling function is what breaks through hard surfaces like concrete and masonry.

The rotary mode is essentially like the action of standard drills. The chuck rotates at high speeds, and thus the drill bit rotates to create a standard drilling action. The rotary action is best used for soft materials like wood and metals.

Finally, many SDS drills have a rotary and hammer mode that combines the two actions. The hammer action alone is suitable for breaking tough materials, and the combined action is suitable for drilling into tough materials.

Get an SDS Drill

We hope you now have an answer to the question, “what is an SDS drill”. If you want to drill into concrete and masonry, hammer drills are the best option available. The impact energy and the hammering motion are fantastic for driving through hard materials without damaging the SDS drill bit. You can also use the standard rotary action for simple drilling. An SDS drill is a multi-purpose tool that every home DIY expert should own!

What drills do you have at home, and what do you use them for?

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