Review By Dean Bielanowski  Black and Decker Website - http://www.blackanddecker.com


Black & Decker SC1400
Cordless 14.4v Lithium Ion Drill/Driver
Review
By Dean Bielanowski

Black and Decker were one of the first companies to mass produce and sell electric corded drills to the home handyman. My father still had one of the early models way back when they were made with full cast metal bodies and chucks and were as tough as Hulk Hogan himself! That drill lasted over 25 years before it finally gave in, something which few, if any, drills would last in today's age. As power tools for the DIY and home handyperson became more popular through the 90s, it seems Black and Decker earned a reputation for producing tools of much lower quality than in their earlier years. This resulted in a much less regarded name for their products in the market, much of which still seems to exist today. But over the years, the company has produced a few diamonds amongst the less desirables... The SC1400 drill reviewed here may just be one of those... perhaps with some extra polishing work required to make it really shine...

The Black & Decker SC1400 Cordless Drill/Driver
I am one who believes, in part, that you get what you pay for... but this doesn't always hold true. When it comes to cordless power tools however, in the majority of cases, your better tools are going to be from the better and more well respected brands, like Makita, Hitachi, Bosch, Panasonic etc. Many of the problems with lower priced cordless, battery powered tools is that the batteries themselves and not of the highest quality, leading to early failure and lack of power or power capacity. I am sure many of us have owned cordless tools that fit in this category. The tool itself is fine but can you get a battery for it that last more than 12 months of fair use? It's difficult, that's for sure. The higher priced tools generally come with better power cells, leading to longer battery life, better performance and much less frustration, which invariably results in more positive reviews and comments from their users, hence improving that brand's name. Then along comes Lithium Ion battery technology, promising smaller cells, greater power output and memory free charging. And so far it seems the technology is delivering up to expectations. The SC1400 uses this battery technology so we could assume it might be a decent product...

Ok, onto drill... I have owned this drill for about 20 months now and have used it quite a bit around the home and in the workshop. It has its pluses and minuses. Let's see what these are as we examine the specifications and features.

To begin with the SC1400 is a 14.4v cordless drill, putting it about mid-range of the current line of cordless battery drill voltages. 14.4v is actually not a bad "size" in terms of power output. It is "heavy" enough for most drilling and fastener driving tasks, yet small and light enough not to be cumbersome to use over long periods. There is no indication on the battery or in the tech specs to indicate the battery capacity. At least I could not find any, but my guesstimate is that the battery has a capacity of around 1.5 Amp Hours. It seems to last quite a while on a single charge and will get you through a day or three of home workshop driving tasks without much trouble

There is a catch to this drill when it comes to the battery, and that is its non-removable design. yes, the battery is "built in" to the tool, making it difficult to replace when it finally dies and no longer takes a charge. Given the life of lithium ion batteries when properly cared for, this should at least see the tool last for around 5 years of fair use which is not too bad a lifetime given today's tool manufacturing and "throw away" society. I am sure it would be possible to change the cells to new ones if you really wanted to by dismantling the tool and having them replaced, but the cost of doing so would probably render that idea impractical against the cost of a new drill. So, the battery is not easily removable or replaceable, which is perhaps a negative point, however, with permanent battery attachment, you are not having to go look for a battery to connect to the drill or try to remember where you put it last time you used it, so there are some small advantages to having a fixed battery as well. The drill will deliver from 0-1400 revolutions per minute via its gear system, and switchable between ranges of 0-350 RPM when used in High Torque mode (number "1" on the speed selection switch) and 0-1400 RPM in High Speed mode (number "2" on the speed selection switch). The speed selector slide switch is located on the top of the drill body as can be seen in the accompanying photos. The drill delivers a surprising 210 in-lbs of torque when used in High Torque mode. This is not too shabby considering its size and voltage. It is certainly enough torque to drive most fasteners into harder materials.

The marketing blurb comments that this drill has "100% more power than traditional 18v drills for tough applications" but it is a little misleading. Sure it does probably have close to that figure, even though it is a 14.4v drill thanks to the lithium ion battery power, but I'd say those comparisons were against a "traditional" Ni-Cad powered drill (older battery technology) and perhaps not a very good quality one at that. 

Being a drill with an integrated battery, it has its own charging "dock" like an iPod may have. The charge contacts are located on the bottom of the drill and recessed slightly so as to not be damaged when the drill is sitting on a flat or hard surface. The drill simply sits on its charging dock (see photos) when it requires charging and a red light on the front of the charging dock illuminates to show the drill is being charged. There is no indicator on the charging dock to say when the drill is fully charged, however, that task is taken on by the battery charge meter on the drill itself...

At the rear of the drill you will notice the battery level indicator display. When the small black button is pressed and held, green lights will show the current battery charge remaining. With three bright green lights you have a full or near full charge. As the battery depletes, the lights vary in intensity and number so only 2 lights may be showing in their light windows when half full or so, and only one when the battery is running low. This is a great feature I wish was apart of every cordless drill. It is also an important one for this drill, given its single integrated battery and no provision to add another one, so you need to know the current state of the battery so you can charge it up and be ready for use when required. Charging from flat to a fully charged state takes roughly about 90 minutes on the charging dock. You can use the battery level indicator while on the charger to check whether the battery is fully charged. I usually just wait until all three lights on the meter are showing, then give it another 30 minutes on charge to ensure it is indeed fully charged, however, being lithium ion battery technology, which has no memory effect, you can pull the drill off the charger at any time if needed and you cannot wait for it to be fully charged, and this will not affect battery condition or life. The lithium ion technology also means the battery has a good shelf life and low self-depletion rate. I pulled the drill off the shelf to complete this review just recently after it having been sitting on the shelf unused for 2 months (winter over here in Australia) and it still had probably 90% of battery remaining. Just remember that if you are going to store it for a while, ensure it has a fully charged battery.

Drilling speed is controllable via the variable speed trigger , as is direction via the three-position slide switch located just above it. The central direction switch point acts as a trigger lock to prevent the operation of the drill. I have noticed through use there is a tendency sometimes for the trigger to get "stuck" or grab as you use it. This only happens on occasion but the trigger is not as free moving as on most other drills I have. I am not sure whether it is the climate or humidity of the environment I live in (here in Australia - think Florida, USA - similar) but some days it seems to grab and not be smooth in operation. I have remedied it somewhat by occasional spraying of a silicone based spray lube around the trigger housing. It seems either casing is too snug around the trigger, or, most likely, the spring behind the trigger is a bit stiffer than it needs to be and it can be difficult to get spray lube behind the trigger itself without disassembly. For the most part it works ok and has never really been stuck in the ON position, more so, just stiff to use at times which can make fine motor control a little tricky when trying to drive screws precisely with a light touch on the trigger.

The drill has adjustable clutch settings which can be changed via the clutch setting ring behind the drill chuck. There are only six settings available, one being for drilling mode, the other five for driving mode. Five settings is limiting, given that most cordless drills have around 16 individual clutch settings to prevent overdriving of fasteners, but I have found that I can dial up one of the five settings to give myself a good chance of not overdriving screws all the time. 16 settings is definitely better of course, especially if you are crafting fine furniture items where drive depth accuracy is critical but you can get by with just the 5 settings offered on this drill without too much trouble. It may just mean a little more switching between settings to get the job done. It is perhaps one of the few things I would like to have seen changed on this drill.

Onto the chuck, and it is a simple affair indeed. It is a 10mm hardened plastic cased chuck with a single action mechanism. That is, you can tighten and release bits with one hand turning in one direction. There is no ratchet action like on some higher end drill chucks but it doesn't seem to be needed. You just grab the chuck, and turn it to tighten as much as you can (bearing in mind the harder you tighten it, the harder it is to release it as well). But even with a light but firm tighten of the chuck to hold a bit, I haven't really had any problems with round shank drill bits slipping in the chuck. Just ensure you drill bits are sharp and don't try to force the drill to bore a hole using dull bits and you should find there is no problem with chuck grip issues.

The handle has rubber overmolded grip wrapping around the back of the tool and under one finger at the front as you grip the drill. It is shaped for comfort and fits my hand quite well. The trigger and direction slide switch are both within easy reach of my thumb and forefinger. The SC1400 does a noticeable front weight bias which you can see quite readily as it is easy to knock the tool over forward when sitting on a bench and you give the rear of the tool a small tap. It is much harder to tip it backward, confirming the forward bias. Why does this matter anyway you ask? Well, when you hold the drill in your hand and hold it level as if you were going to use it for a task at arm height, the forward weight bias places extra pressure on your wrists. Just hold a forward-weight-biased drill in the normal upright position for a while and you will feel it! If you are doing a lot of drilling work using the drill in its normal position ( like when it is sitting on a bench) then the rill can cause extra user fatigue and strain, particularly at the wrist. This is not so desirable, however, that forward weight bias, at least in my opinion, does make it easier to use the drill when it is driving or drilling straight down (in a vertical angle) and often with less fatigue. I didn't do any scientific tests on this, and I may well be wrong, but it seems like there is less effort to drilling and driving in vertical planes with a forward weighted drill as opposed to a balanced or more rear weighted drill.

 

 
Various application photos...

In Use and Conclusion
I must admit to being a bit skeptical when I first looked at this tool. I purchased it from Amazon.com almost based on battery technology alone, having owned some of the Makita Li Ion tools before and seeing the benefits of the technology. I was after a 14.4v drill primarily for lighter duty work around the home, and for workshop screw driving tasks. It also had to be easy to use and charge so my wife could use it. With an integrated battery and charging dock, she found it simple to use and manage and it doesn't have overly complicated features you need an engineering degree to understand. The price sealed the deal thereafter. At the time it was much less than many other lithium ion cordless tools so I thought I would give it a go, plus it would give me the opportunity to review it for you good folk reading this now. I couldn't find any other decent reviews of this product previous to purchasing it, except for the 3-4 reviews on Amazon itself, all of which gave it 4-5 stars. Although I don't usually take those reviews as gospel, they all did mention good battery life, which was a prime issue in my decision.

I can say that I am happy with my purchase of this drill. It is obviously not the most advanced or feature packed drill on the market, but it is compact, easy to use and does get the job done surprisingly well. It had no problem drilling 1" diameter holes in pine stud framing using a spade drill bit, and handled screw driving tasks in a variety of forms quite well. It is no pneumatic impact driver or rattle gun, but it has plenty of power for its size and enough features to make it a good basic home workshop, DIY or light to medium duty cordless drill option. The kit comes with drill, charger, 8 driving bits and 8 drilling bits in a plastic case. It ships with a 2 Year warranty from Black and Decker.
 

Available to Order Online through these companies...
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Amazon.com (USA)
 

 

Black & Decker SC1400 Photos
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Use without prior written permission prohibited


The Black & Decker SC1400 Cordless Drill


Five driving settings and one drilling setting on the clutch ring.


At the rear of the tool is the battery level meter. High/Low speed slide switch also shown.


10mm single action chuck.


Variable speed trigger and rotation direction switch above it.


14.4v lithium ion battery is integrated into the base of the drill.


The SC1400 in its charging dock.


 


 

 

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