Power tools have all but conquered the modern woodworking workshop, but there’s still a place for hand tools.
Gimlet tool sets are a great example: they get the job done quickly, take up very little space in the toolbox, and are immensely satisfying to use.
Read also: 12 essential woodworking tools for beginners
I’ve been an avid user of gimlets for years now, and I’d recommend anyone interested in woodworking or carpentry to pick up a set.
You’ll never again have to struggle to fit your power drill into tight spaces!
To help you choose which one is right for you, I put together this list of the best gimlet tool sets you can buy online.
Keep reading for the full list, or grab one of the quick picks below. They won’t let you down!
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Best gimlet tools: Quick picks
Garrett Wade Steel Twist Gimlets
- 7-piece set
- Very easy to use
Robert Larsen Gimlet tools
- 4-piece set
- Very easy to use
- Better global availability
What is a gimlet tool?
A gimlet is a small hand tool used for boring holes into wood and other materials. In many ways, it can be seen as the precursor to modern drill bits.
Like drill bits, gimlets are typically sold in sets of four or more. They’re remarkably affordable, and if taken care of, can last a lifetime.
Read also: The definitive guide to Japanese pull saws
These tools are typically made of steel, with either a twisted metal or wooden handle at the end. Some of the more modern gimlet designs feature a screwdriver-like plastic handle.
The opposite end of a gimlet is a screw which pulls the tool deeper into the wood as it turns. This means you don’t need to apply constant force once the cut is started. Waste is pulled away through the spiral flutes on the sides of the shaft.
A larger version of a gimlet tool is called an auger, and has more widespread use. However, the term gimlet only refers to the small, handheld tool.
Best gimlet tool sets
1. Garrett Wade Steel Twist Gimlets – Set Of 7
For most people, this 7-piece gimlet tool set is the one to get. It includes gimlets to make holes sized #2 through #9 (2-5mm), and features a sturdy, all-steel design that will stand the test of time!
Made in France, this set is sold by Garrett Wade and is cheaper than most alternatives.
For less than $17 you get a complete set that will last forever. That said, for those of you in the UK or other parts of the world, the other options on the list might be easier to get your hands on.
Learn more at the link below!
2. Robert Larsen Gimlet tools – Set of 4
If you don’t need or want a full gimlet tool set, this smaller 4-piece set is a great pick.
Made from the same material as the set above, this is exactly what you need to create pilot holes on the go. It includes 3, 4, 5, and 6mm gimlets, which should cover the most commonly used screw sizes.
For those of you in the US, this gimlet tool set isn’t much cheaper than the one mentioned above, but those in the UK and EU will find it a better buy.
Click below to learn more.
3. Taytools French Gimlet 7 Piece
If you want even more versatility, this set is essentially the same as the first on the list, but offers a wider range of options in the matter of international deliveries.
Like the Wade Garrett set, it includes 7 gimlets sized 2-5mm (or roughly 1/16 to 3/16 in). Although it isn’t clear, it’s possible that the manufacturer of this product is the same as the first, as this set is also made in France.
You won’t find a more complete gimlet tool set than this one, and it’s still conveniently small enough to fit in your pocket.
4. 5 Piece Silverline Twist Gimlet, Bradawl & Awl Set
This gimlet tool set from Silverline has a slightly different aesthetic than the classic twisted design.
Its blue plastic T-handles are larger, which may make gripping and turning easier for those with limited hand and wrist mobility.
The set includes three gimlet tools (3, 4, and 5mm), as well as a 3mm bradawl and a 3mm carpenters awl.
Although the plastic handles may not last quite as long as the all-steel models listed above, the price of this set simply can’t be beat.
You can get this set now for less than $10 at the link below.
5. YYGJ Hand Drill Bits Set 7 in 1 Manual Tool
My last pick isn’t exactly a gimlet tool, but it effectively does the same job. This small 7″ hand tool has a chuck that fits bits sized 6mm to 6mm, and comes with a set of 5 bits.
It isn’t quite as compact as a gimlet tool set, but it’s still remarkably small. The bits, however, are standard and don’t have the same screw tip, so you’ll need to apply a bit more pressure.
Also, it does not have the same screwing action as a push drill-like or yankee screwdriver. You’ll need to manually twist it with your wrist.
How does a gimlet tool work?
Gimlets work by applying light pressure and pushing them into wood. Once the screw tip grips the wood, you no longer need to apply pressure and can just spin the gimlet to bore deeper.
Do not apply excessive downward pressure, as it can cause the gimlet to snap.
To remove the gimlet, just twist it in the opposite direction — it really is that simple of a tool!
Read also: Best marking gauges: A full buyer’s guide
Keep in mind, however, that gimlets may struggle to bore into exceptionally hard woods. Really though, most standard drill bits will have trouble with these materials, anyway.
In those cases, you may want to opt for a power or hand drill, instead.
When were gimlets invented?
Suprisingly, gimlet tools have been around since at least the 18th century. Nails and screws at the time often split wood, so gimlets were used to make quick, simple pilot holes.
Augers have a longer history, as they have more uses beyond just making small holes.
What’s the difference between a gimlet and an auger?
The main difference between gimlet and auger tools is size. A gimlet is essentially a smaller version of an auger.
Augers typically have a longer handle designed to be operated with two hands. This allows the tool to make much larger holes for all kinds of purposes.
Wood augers have a longer history, too. They’ve been around since at least the 15th century, if not much earlier.
Fun fact: a similar tool designed by Archimedes in 250 BCE was used to move water uphill.
Another type of auger, called an earth auger, is used to dig holes. The blades pull dirt up as the auger spins, and powered versions are still very common today.
Is a gimlet tool more useful than a drill bit?
Both have their specific functions. Gimlets are great for small spaces, but can be taxing to use for an extended amount of time.
Drill bits are more versatile and can fit in both power drills and hand drills, but don’t necessarily function on their own.
However, since both are cheap it’s definitely worth owning a set of both so you have the right tools when the time comes!
That’s it for this guide to gimlet tool sets! How has your experience been with these handle little tools? Let everyone know in the comments below!