Al Ladd  Fine Edge Woodworking

Brushless motor drills are the power source for the Little Proteus power feeder. I was initially exposed to the properties of brushless drills by this video from woodworking Youtube star Matthias Wandel.

Regular cordless drills, or even corded drills, typically (universally?) have little torque at low speed, and so won’t work as a power source for a power feeder unless the speed is reduced by at least 25:1. Further inspiration, and confirmation of the superiority of brushless motor drills for a small power feeder came from this video from Roy Salvesen.

Especially since I want my power feeder to be capable of band saw resawing use, I incorporate speed reduction into the gears that distribute the drills power to the three feed rollers. The Little Proteus gears reduce the speed of the power source by 3.8.

I’ve tested eight brushless motor drills for their suitability as my power feeder’s power source. All of them pass, but some are clearly better than others, and no one stands out as having the best of all qualities for this purpose. They’re all a bit different, with several traits varying that are important in its use as a power source for the feeder.

About half of them have an auto-shutoff after 5 minutes to prevent battery depletion from accidental switch activation. This can be overcome by simply turning the drill off and back on, accomplished in an instant with the swiveling drill switch I designed. So if you’re doing a production power feed job with a drill that has this “feature” you’ll need to figure a timing regimen, and turn the drill off and back on every board or two or three. If you forget to do this, and the drill shuts itself off, the drill does act as a brake, so the wheels will hold the stock in place. Of the eight I've tested (Kobalt, Ryobi, Rigid, Skil, Milwaukee, Makita, Hitachi, Porter Cable, ) the latter 3 had this "feature". The Dewalt has it too.

Although all these drills are described as having a speed range that starts at “0”, they all have a distinct minimum speed, and as you increase the speed by depressing the trigger further, the speed increases in distinct increments. The slowest speeds of the drills I've tested vary from about 12 to about 60 RPM's. 60 RPM’s translates to a feed speed of about 12 feet per minute. This is a good speed for much table saw and router table use, and may be within range for resawing on a bandsaw with stock up to about 2” thick, but it’s too fast for resawing thick wood. For resawing thick stock on a bandsaw, unless your saw has a huge motor, you’ll need a speed as low as 2-3 FPM. The Hitachi, Rigid and Porter Cable all allow a feed below 3 FPM, and the Makita is below 4. Some of them (Ryobi and Kobalt,-- Milwaukee is marginal) go too fast for resawing thick wood. All of them do have a speed slow enough for all other work, router and tablesaw, and resawing of wood up to about 2 inches thick.

Another difference is how they respond to torque. Most are pretty much unaffected, and don't slow down appreciably under load. But some slow down considerably with fairly low torque, and then more or less hold that speed in much higher loads.

There's also a big difference in the increments between speeds. The Hitachi and Rigid both have very low slowest speed, but then jump up a lot from there. The best performance for slow speed with small increments up from there is the Porter Cable.

In general, the best drill will be the one you already own, but if the feeder's intended purpose will be resawing thick wood, then some will be much better than others. Hitachi (I tested the hammer drill) is the slowest, followed by Rigid and Porter Cable, then Makita. Al