Makita Tools have always been a favorite with
tradespersons and professionals around the globe, and continue
to be to this day. They produce a large range of quality power
tools to suit many professional tasks and have dominated many
markets for a long time.
Cordless tool technology is taking great leaps
forward in recent years, and the advent of NiMH batteries has
almost seen the end of Ni-Cad cells as a choice for battery
power for serious professionals. However, NiMH looks set to suffer a very short life in
the market as new Lithium Ion (Li Ion) cells begin to flood the
market. Most of the major tool brands are now turning to the new
Li Ion technology to power their cordless tools, and there are
many good reasons for this, which we will see later.
I wanted to get my hands on some Li Ion tools,
and to begin with, I thought the most common cordless power tool
used around the world to date, the cordless drill, would be a
good starting choice. I brought myself a Makita 18v Lithium Ion
drill kit, and it has many advantages over older Ni-Cad style
batteries and drills. Let's take a closer look at this kit!
Makita BDF452HW 18v Cordless Drill/Driver
You could be forgiven for thinking this particular drill was
anything but a Makita. Why? Well, since when did Makita switch
their tool colors to black and white? I am not sure, but this
model is offered in this striking and contrasting color combination.
In fact, the only sign of the traditional Makita blue/grey color
scheme is the plastic molded case the kit ships in, as well as the charger. An interesting
choice nonetheless. But to me colors are not really important.
I'd happily use a fluorescent pink drill if it was a great
performer. Well, maybe not in public, but you get my point! It's
all about performance, not looks, in my opinion.
The kit ships with the drill, two batteries, a
charger, and an instruction manual, plus a couple driver bits.
Just add your own drill bits and you are ready to go. The
batteries have quite a bit of charge in them out of the box too.
This drill has a length of eight inches front to
back, and a weight of just 3.5 pounds, which is quite light
given that it offers 18v of power and up to 450 in-lbs of
torque. This isn't a toy drill that's for sure. It has a
recommended drilling capacity of 1/2" in steel and 1 1/2" in
It offers two speed settings which are switched
between speed setting 1 and speed setting 2 via the sliding
switch on top of the drill's motor casing. On the slow speed
setting (1) the drill's all-metal gear construction delivers
variable speed between 0 - 400 RPM, which is the range you want
for most high torque, lower speed fastener driving tasks. The
higher speed setting (2) is for drilling of materials and offers
a variable speed range between 0 and 1500 RPM. This will handle
drilling into most all materials with the correct type of drill
bit implemented. The variable speed is controlled by the drill
trigger. The further you depress it, the faster the rotation
speed. A three-position direction switch allows the drill chuck
to rotate in forward mode (clockwise), reverse mode
(anti-clockwise) and direction/trigger lock (the central switch
position where the trigger cannot be depressed, hence "locking"
the tool from use).
The Jacobs drill chuck is of the ratcheting
variety which allows one-handed tightening of drill and driver
bits. You can loosen the chuck jaws with one hand as well.
It has a bit chucking
capacity range from 1.5mm to 13mm, or 1/16" to 1/2".
These chucks are the best type if you ask me. I
have a ratcheting chuck on one of my older Pro Series Ryobi
cordless drills and they simply can't be beat for ease of use
and strong bit gripping capacity. I rarely have a bit slip in
the jaws with this type of chuck and jaw design, and no bit has
slipped yet in this drill since I purchased it several months
The drill clutch offers 16 settings, readily
dialed in via the clutch ring behind the chuck. The settings
engage very positively with solid click stops at each of the
settings, and beyond the 16th clutch setting, there is a general
drilling setting for maximum clutch torque. For those not
familiar with clutch actions, these settings are designed
basically to prevent you overdriving a fastener. The clutch will
"slip" once it passes its torque force threshold, preventing the chuck
from rotating further, and hence preventing the fastener being
driven any further. The higher the clutch setting number, the
higher the torque on offer for driving fasteners. There is no
hammer action on this drill, so its application for masonry
drilling is limited. When set to the drilling setting (indicated
by a drill bit icon) the chuck will not slip at all.
A single LED light is incorporated into the
drill and is located just above and forward of the trigger
under the clutch setting ring. It is activated each time the
trigger is depressed, and remains illuminated for roughly 10-12
seconds after you release the trigger. There is no way to turn
off this light or disable it if you do not want it, but there is
no real need. LED lights consume very little power and there
will be an extremely minimal effect on battery life. It is handy
to have of course, in dark areas, or indoors to illuminate the
immediate area you wish to drill or drive fasteners in. LEDs
offer good luminance and despite it only having the single LED
"bulb", it will light up the area enough so you can see where
that drill bit or fastener needs to go quite accurately. A nice
The tool is covered quite extensively with rubber
overmolds, and these both aid comfort and grip, and provide some
protection against knocks and falls. By falls, I mean knocking
it over on the bench, as opposed to dropping from the bench to
the floor. Of course, the overmolds would offer some protection
in this case as well, but I'm not going to drop my nice drill
deliberately for the sake of testing this. It did get knocked
about the workbench a fair bit however and suffered no
noticeable damage. I can't say whether it would survive a large
fall from one or two stories and still continue to operate.
Moving down the handle we see it too is wrapped
with rubber overmolds, and in the hand the drill is very well
balanced. Interestingly, this doesn't change whether the battery
pack is attached or removed from the drill. There is a slight
forward weighted bias, but nothing that is going to give you
excessive wrist ache just by holding the tool. Naturally, this
bias is exaggerated slightly when a bit is secured in the chuck,
which moves the weight distribution forward, but it is balanced better than most drills I have used.
Now we get to the battery... As mentioned above,
this vital component of the tool is what can make or break a
cordless drill. Makita, like many other companies now, are
employing Lithium Ion cells into their battery packs. The
general consumer electronics market have been using them for a
lot longer (in laptops, digital cameras, portable media devices
etc) and it's good to see that power tools are now benefiting
from the same technology. So what makes Lithium Ion batteries so
good? Well, to begin with, they have a much longer shelf life,
i.e. they will not bleed power from the battery pack as quickly
as Ni-Cad or NiMH batteries. This means you can charge up a
battery pack, leave it idle for two months or so, come back and
grab it, attach it to your drill and you can expect some good
life remaining in the battery pack. A Ni-Cad battery would
probably be half-dead, if you are lucky (there are a lot of
factors here). NiMH would fair a little better, but not as well
as Li Ion. In fact, it is claimed by Makita that their
batteries have as much as five times lower self-discharge rate
than other batteries. Now it doesn't say what type those other
batteries are, but I would assume they are rating them against
Ni-Cad cells, which are still the most common on the market at
the present time.
What other advantages are there? How about a
very quick recharge cycle. How many of us have Ni-Cad drill
batteries that take at least a couple of hours (often 3 or 4)
to fully charge. With the Li Ion batteries included in this kit you can cut this in
half... and half that... and half that... and half that again.
Yes, it is claimed the Makita Li Ion batteries will charge fully
in just 15 minutes using the DC18RA Rapid Charger included in
the kit. According to my time tests, I was able to charge a "flat"
battery in about 20 minutes. So the claims are certainly not far
off the mark (and perhaps environmental conditions could be
playing a part in recharge time here too?).
Regardless, a sub-20 minute recharge time (for
the 1.5Ah battery packs) is nothing to be sneezed at. It means
that even if you forget to recharge the battery the night (or
morning) before you need it, you don't have hours to sit and
wait for the pack to recharge, saving downtime and cost (if you
are in the trades or using the tool to make a living). But since
this kit comes with two batteries, you probably won't even have
that problem to begin with. The two 1.5Ah Li Ion battery packs
included in the kit should easily last a full day of regular
drilling and driving. And if you find they are not lasting
(perhaps because you are doing more drilling than driving, and
into some very dense or hard materials), you can purchase higher
capacity 3.0Ah Lithium Ion battery packs from Makita that will
fit this particular drill. A 3.0Ah lithium battery is not going
to die very quick! In fact, a single 1.5Ah battery from the kit
seems to easily keep me going all day during my regular
woodworking or renovation projects. Your mileage may vary of
course. The 3.0Ah batteries will take longer to charge too,
about 45 minutes according to the Makita documentation. Li Ion
cells also offer excellent power to weight ratio, hence why this
drill is lighter than most other 18v NiCad or NiMH drills.
When it comes time to charge the batteries,
simply hook one up to the battery charger supplied in the kit.
It is a smart charger, it can charge both NiMH and Li Ion
batteries from 7.2v to 18v, and with its inbuilt processing chip
it communicates with the battery's onboard circuit to deliver
consistent charge as well as safe current, thermal and voltage
control to maximize battery life. It is also claimed the charger
can recognize a battery's history, analyze its current
condition, and then choose the best charging method for the pack
based on these factors. I don't know how true that is, or how it
is supposed to work, but if indeed it is true, then hey, I won't
complain! If it delivers longer battery life then I'll take
whatever technology Makita want to throw at me to achieve this.
Three lights on the charger show charge status.
When charging, the red light is illuminated. When battery
capacity reaches more than 80%, the green light starts to show
concurrently with the red light, and when fully charged, the green light
alone is illuminated. A third amber light is designed to
illuminate if it detects a problem with the battery pack, or so
I believe. The instruction manual doesn't really say much about
the battery charger at all, in fact, it says nothing really, but the icons on the battery charger
itself seem to indicate this is a problem indicator light. The charger's
graphical overlay also seems to indicate that the charger should
sing a tune to me (or something of that nature) when the battery
charge is 100% complete? Again, no info in
the manual on the battery charger so I am left guessing. If anyone
knows, please send me an email! An internal fan helps to keep
the battery cool while rapid charging the battery. Heat is a
battery cell's enemy so anything to keep it cooler will no doubt
help preserve or extend its working life.
Another advantage of Li Ion is that it claims no
memory effect. Now, whenever I mention memory effect with any
battery in my reviews I always get emails from readers claiming it does and
doesn't exist and any number of attached theories to support
their claims. I am no expert in the field, so I'm not going to
say either way whether it exists or not. But the consensus (from
what I have read so far) is that memory effect does not exist
with Lithium Ion cells, or is extremely minimal at most, so you can put them on the charger and
charge them up no matter how much charge remains in the battery
pack. I have been charging the batteries up the night before I
start on a project and so far I can't notice any decrease in run
time per pack or power output as a result of doing so. I'll
leave it at that. I could open a big can of worms!
As mentioned above, this Makita drill is very well balanced
in the hand, and because of the light weight of the lithium ion
battery in comparison to NiMH or NiCad, the fatigue factor over
extended use periods is reduced.
I have been using it for all kinds of tasks in
the shop and around the home in recent renovation projects.
There is plenty of power to drill hardwoods with large twist
drill bits. With a sharp bit and speed setting 2 engaged, it
slices its way through hardwood with little problem. I used 1"
spade bits to drill through framing members to run electrical
wires on a recent project and it had no trouble at all making
its way through the material. Driving masonry anchors and wood
screws is also easily accomplished with this tool. It certainly
has plenty of torque and grunt and the battery life is very
good. Being Lithium Ion however, it will have a tendency to die
very quickly when the battery charge falls to its lower limit,
and without the slowing down type warning that NiCad batteries
often give. So always have that second battery on hand just in
case. There is no indicator system on the battery itself like
some other brand Li Ion batteries offer, but since you can
charge the battery at any time, this didn't really pose any
problems. On full-day project use I didn't have any problem with
not having battery power available via either of the two cells.
The batteries seem to be able to take a solid workout well.
General wood drilling with a 3/8" drill bit into veneered
The drill is very comfortable to use but a firm
grip is warranted for larger drilling bit operations as the
drill's torque can induce some wrist twist, particularly if the
drill bit grabs in the material as it drills. This is not a bad
thing. The more torque the merrier in my opinion, but you just
have to ensure the material being drilled is held firmly, and
that you hold the drill just as firm. Using sharp bits helps
eliminate this in most instances however.
Drilling framing for electrical wiring using a
1" spade bit
Fastening masonry anchors for electrical conduit saddles. Given
that this drill does not have a
hammer action however, drilling holes for the masonry anchors
may be limited or less effective with this drill.
Overall I have to say that the Makita BDF452HW
18v Cordless Drill/Driver has certainly met my expectations. I
was expecting it to be a well-made tool given that it has the
Makita name plastered on it and it hasn't yet disappointed. It
is evident that the Lithium Ion battery technology sets this
drill apart from older NiMH and NiCad cordless drills and is
definitely a leap forward in ease of use, drill ergonomics and
even economics (given virtually zero downtime for recharging and
low purchase price for new technology).
Retailing with a street price (as at Nov 2007) of
around US$199, I feel this drill offers excellent value for
money and good performance for an 18v cordless drill/driver
solution for the woodworker, tradesperson, renovator or home DIY
enthusiast. The Li Ion technology has definitely won me over!
Order through these Companies...
Click graphic to go to
their direct product page for this item
In the USA
Makita BDF452HW Photos
All photos copyright onlinetoolreviews.com. Use without prior
written permission prohibited
The Makita BDF452HW Drill/Driver
Two 1.5Ah Lithium Ion batteries are
included in the kit!
The DC18RA Rapid Charger
Single-handed ratcheting style Jacobs chuck allows fast and secure bit
The LED light under the clutch ring provides some illumination in dark
Speed setting slide switch
Standard style variable speed trigger and
chuck rotation slide switch
Battery is a slide-on style Makita Li Ion cell
Extensive rubber overmolds throughout!