I wish I'd invented this tool, because I've needed it my entire building life. The UHE 28 Multi looks like the standard 1/2-inch drill/hammerdrill you use for drilling in wood and concrete, but with a simple chuck exchange it quickly converts from a wood-driller to a combination rotary/chipping hammer, and once you graduate from hammerdrill to rotary hammer, there's no turning back.

Since my jobs are in New York City, everything I touch has concrete. I use rotary hammers to drill thousands of anchor holes, but I also have to chip high spots, seams, and tiled surfaces away. Then there's all the wood and steel we work with, from 1-1/2-inch-thick countertop blanks to steel studs. A single tool that can dutifully work in all of these materials and keep my crews moving forward?instead of chasing three different tools around?really earns its keep. It also means I only have to buy one drill instead of three.

Out of the Box. From the get-go the tool and box look tough. The box is durable plastic with recessed side latches that stay closed better than other boxes I have. The working end of the drill is all steel while the grip and housing are strong plastic. This minimizes weight and provides plenty of toughness. The handle and grip are comfortable and the tool feels well-balanced. Its 14-foot cord is a real winner, too?it's long enough to use on lots of projects without an extension cord.

Power. This tool's got power. It drills 1-1/8-inch holes in concrete and 1-9/16-inch holes in wood and handles up to a 2-1/2-inch chipping bit. I also had no problem with a 3-inch hole saw in 1-1/2 inches of birch plywood, which can really bind up a tool. In fact, it's got enough power that I really needed the included side-handle because the tool bit hard into everything I drilled. The UHE 28 also has a clutch to eliminate reaction torque. In other words, if you hit a piece of re-bar, the drill will stop spinning instead of taking you and your hands on an uncontrolled ride.

Chuck. The ingenious part of the UHE 28 is the quick-change bit holder/chuck system. It allows you to switch between the SDS-Plus bit holder and a 1/2-inch wood-drilling keyless chuck in an instant. A one-handed pull on the collar is all it takes. Now you're in the SDS-Plus world of high quality concrete-drilling bits. This vastly increases the tool's versatility and your productivity. In addition, a "hammer-only" setting enables you to chip, which opens up a full range of chipping attachments up to 2-1/2 inches wide.

Field Test. We set a lot of anchors for all kinds of structural members and fixtures into everything from 3,500-psi reinforced concrete to super-hardened 100-year-old-plus concrete. One problem we encounter is lining up holes for shields right on layout, as even good bits can wander when you start drilling. The UHE 28 is perfectly designed to help us avoid this problem. First, we put a bull-point chisel in the tool to start the hole, then switch to chipping mode and chip a little pilot hole. Next, we flip the switch to exchange the bit and start drilling. The bit drills where it's supposed to and the hole falls right on the layout mark. And when the inevitable high spots or joints line up where we need to put an anchor, we change bits, flip the switch again, and knock them down without running for a new tool.

Metabo has come as close as I've seen to making the perfect drilling tool. With features that even the big, expensive combination hammers don't have, this drill is a must for anybody who drills in wood and concrete. The UHE 28 sells for about $375. Metabo Corp. 800-638-2264, www.metabousa.com


Erik Elwell is a Manhattan-based contractor specializing in high-end commercial and residential remodeling.