By: Jennifer Mueller
You might not realize it, but having the right drill to operate your tenon cutters is equally, if not more important than choosing the right cutter itself. 90% of the time, issues that people experience with the tenon cutter are due to not having the correct specifications on the drill. Think of the drill as the brain of the operations, and the tenon cutter as the hands. If the brain doesn't function correctly, the hands won't work; even if there isn't anything wrong with the hands themselves.
Below are some of the major specs you need to ensure you have for optimal results when cutting tenons.
1. Low RPM
RPM's (revolutions per minute) is a measure of the frequency of rotation, specifically the number of rotations around a fixed axis in one minute. It is used as a measure of rotational speed of a mechanical component. We recommend a drill with 450 RPM's or less. This ensures that the drill has enough power to run our tools. If the drill comes to a complete stop while cutting, it means that the drill doesn't have enough power to operate the tenon cutter. In some circumstances, this can also occur if the log is larger than the tenon cutter will accept.
There are a lot of drills available that offer variable speeds. Many of them operate with a trigger function. These drills are not ideal for cutting tenons. The variable speed drills often do not have enough power to operate the cutters, and can also cause uneven tenons because of the speed variation. Variable speed drills also make it harder to keep the drill in place, and the user tends to do more of a rocking back and forth motion while operating it. Most of the time, variable speed drills do not have enough power to pull the tool through the wood.
3. Pipe Handle
While a pipe handle drill isn't necessary, it is an excellent feature to have on your drill. It allows you to have a better grip on the drill overall, and more control of the cutting process.
If we had to choose one drill to recommend, it would be the Milwaukee 1660-6. This drill meets all of the specs necessary to cut tenons, and has been tested with all of our tools. You will see it in any of our photos of the cutters in use. We offer it to our customers for sale as a courtesy, but you are welcome to buy it from any supplier for use with our tools.