More than once I’ve found myself in a situation where I needed to drill a hole or insert a screw in a hard-to-reach location but lacked the technology to easily accomplish the task in a satisfactory manner. Typically, these are situations where there is insufficient room to position the drill directly over the hole so I usually resort to drilling at an angle. Sometimes this works out OK, sometimes not so much. Recently, I was installing seat slats on an outdoor bench which involved drilling a pilot hole and inserting weatherproof screws. All went well until I got to the ends of the slats and I realized my drill was too large to fit underneath the bench arms. And an angled hole was not a viable option because I was planning on plugging the holes. At this point, I drove to the local Home Depot to find some technology to solve this little dilemma. What I came back with was an angled drill attachment. Well, actually two of them: The Milwaukee Off-Set Adapter and the Ryobi Flexible Shaft Bit Extension.
These type of gadgets are generally marketed as offset or right angle drill adapters/attachments and there’s at least half a dozen of them out there. Regardless of the name, they are all designed to simplify the task of drilling in tight places by allowing one to position the drill at an approximate right angle to the drill surface so the body of the drill is not in the way. Most of the designs feature a rigid housing with gears inside to transfer the rotation direction 90 degrees. The Milwaukee adapter is one such design. The Ryobi product is a different beast – it consists of a flexible drive shaft mounted inside a flexible housing. I figured that between these two designs, I should be able to satisfy most of my offset drilling needs for the foreseeable future.
The Milwaukee offset adapter is fairly compact and requires only a few inches of clearance. It allows you to position your hand right over the bit so you can exert plenty of downward pressure while drilling. It includes an adjustable thumb flange that I suppose is designed to provide better control but I found it to be somewhat awkward. Maybe over time I’ll become more comfortable using it. We shall see…
The Ryobi flexible shaft doesn’t allow as tight a right angle turn as the Milwaukee adapter so if you were working in a really tight space with only a couple inches of clearance, it would not be the preferred accessory. However, if the situation doesn’t require tight 90 degree access, it works just fine as demonstrated below. In this case, I was able to position the drill at a 45 degree angle about 10 inches away, leaving plenty of work space to hold the drill bit in place.
Both of these products worked well although I found myself favoring the Ryobi flexible shaft, somewhat to my surprise. It seemed that I was able to provide slightly better control with it. But clearly the compact Milwaukee adapter is the better option for tight 90 degree spaces so I expect I’ll be using both products in the future. In terms of cost, both are quite affordable: the Ryobi cost $12 and the Milwaukee $20.
Note that these adapters have magnetic hex drives that accept 1/4″ hex drill or screw bits. Conventional drill bits without a hex shank will not work.