How to Use a Drill 101

The things no one teaches you at school...well at least not if you've never had a shop class.

Emy and I were lounging around her apartment on Columbus Day trying to decide how to fill the time. Well Emy decides that we should consider hanging a shelf above her bed. We spend about 15 minutes deciding if it should be hung and where it should go in proximity to the two candelabra things hanging on the wall. We decide to just go for it, ignoring the advice of her roommate. We spend another 15 minutes trying to measure distances between candelabra, shelf width, ceiling to shelf, distance between nail slots on the back of the shelf, etc. Basically, we treat it as though we we're about to undertake a process more complicated than a root canal or open heart surgery. We figure out all these measurements and draw some dots and prepare for the "procedure." So I begin trying to decide which nail has a large enough head to fit into the slot on the back of the shelf and discover that none will work. "No problem," Emy assures me, "the shelf came with screws and anchors."

"No problem" those words will come to haunt us later. So we've got two anchors and two screws in our hands. "Hmmm...guess we need a drill," we decide. So Emy comes back with her roommate's drill and bits. We just kind of look at it not sure what to do next. There are gold ones and silver ones, Phillips heads and flats, swirly ones...basically it looks nothing like a girl's arts and crafts basket, so we're lost. Well, I have a little (we're talking microscopic) idea about what to do.

"Ok, lets find the drill bit that looks close in size to this anchor, but isn't larger. We'll drill a hole in the wall and then hammer the anchor in." We decide that it sounds like a legitimate plan (we have no idea what you're supposed to do with anchors). Now we've got the drill and a bit and realize we don't know how to put the two together. We try turning the head in different directions because I've seen Andrew do that before to load it. Nothing. So we decide to call Andrew, who is working on a take-home exam due in a few hours, to help us out. Obviously, this is more important. If you've read his blog comments, you know that most things I do make him nervous. This project was no exception. He explains how to turn the tip of the drill, load the drill bit, and lock it in. We succeed. Now we have the task of trying to figure out if in our massive button-pushing game with the drill we've changed it from drill mode to reverse mode. We manage to spin the drill slow enough to confirm it is going clockwise and should work as is expected.

Next, make a hole in the wall. This is where it all got interesting. It's Emy's wall, so she's putting the hole in it. She drills and then can't drill any further. Great. We're not sure how hard to push the drill in and we think we've hit a stud. We call Andrew to confirm. We check for "saw dust," which is apparently different then "ash" as I described it. Affirmative. We've hit a stud. We get off the phone without learning what this means.

What do we do now? Emy and I, knowing nothing about drilling decide that hitting a stud is the worst news in the world. People have stud finders just so they can avoid hitting studs (we're not the most handy if you haven't figured that out yet). We call Andrew again and he informs us that studs are good things and you can drill into them. So we do. Then we try to hammer the anchor into the stud and realize it won't go. We call him again (his take-home is going great I'm sure) and he informs us that you don't use both together. You have anchors for when you don't have studs. Hmmmm....something that could have been brought to our attention yesterday. So now we've got an anchor lodged in dry wall and a stud, but it's not in far enough to be usable. Emy starts to panic; I think it's kinda of humorous.

Ok, well, we'll just start over, but now we've got a hole the size of a dime in her dark gray wall exposing the white drywall. It's not exactly what you'd call discrete and it's not really useful for the screw. So we check for caulking. Sure enough we've got not one, but two options. We've got bath and kitchen caulking or window and door caulking. I say go for one of those and paint over it. We call handyman Andrew, Handy Andy, if you will, and he strongly urges against either option. We decide to just shift everything on the wall over about an inch and a half and just cover the hole with the shelf and deal with it when Emy moves out. Based on our previous hour of work and experience with the drill Emy decides to manually screw the two inch nails into the wall with a screwdriver, using no stud and no anchors. Patience wore thin. And that's where the story ends. The screws worked out. The shelf is up. Basically, we're just hoping for the best. No falling shelf. No tumbling picture frames. No broken noses.


  1. Thank the Lord no one poked their eye out. That was quite an adventure even over the phone.

    Emy is that shelf still up by any chance?

  2. That about sums it up.

    Yes, the shelf is still on the wall. No concussions yet.

  3. For the record, 'ash' is actually different than 'saw dust'.