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Today, we’re going to be taking a look at drill bits. Obviously, there are many different sizes and qualities of drill bits that we all carry in our tool bags. I, personally, always start with ¼”, 3/8”, and then jump up to ½”, especially when I know that I will be drilling through metal. It is always important to phase up in size instead of just trying to ram a ½” bit through metal, as this will be hard on you and on the drill battery, not to mention the large bit you started out with. Self-auguring wood bits are nice to have in your bag for wood, and heavy-duty extensions are wonderful for very thick walls. Some extensions just have a hex head and don’t actually grab and secure the bit you are using, so be sure you have to extensions that utilize ball bearings in order to secure your bit in place with a click-locking type mechanism. You do not want to lose your bit in your workspace or, worse yet, the wall you are working in!
Let’s talk hardware store drill bits. In this department, you’re going to find that the selection is pretty limited in terms of what materials you can drill…mostly wood. You could probably drill through metal with these, but you won’t be drilling for very long, and I would not recommend it. You won’t be able to do any support metal or other thick pieces, maybe just a thin piece of trim. Again, we want to be sure to phase up in size, and not just jump into a large application. Another bit you could pick up at the hardware store is what is called an HSS, which stands for high-speed steel. This bit is going mild steel, but not hardened steel and not concrete. The HSS bits go up to larger diameters like 1”. This is great for enlarging and stuffing wires into the hole. Other sizes include ¼”, 5/8” and ¾”. The idea of starting small applies to these bits, as well.
Now for the game-changer, the StrongArm carbide bit, the king of drill bits. Since I have started using StrongArm bits, I have had great luck. I have ¼”, 3/8”, and ½” in these, as well. Looking at the ¼” Strong Arm and hardware store brands high speed steel bits side by side, you will notice that the fluting that runs the length of the bit on the hardware store brand makes it very weak. These bits are not very flexible because they are made from hardened steel. If you get hung up on something while drilling, this bit will snap right in half under the pressure caused by any kind of binding or even just a little bit of an angle. StrongArm carbide bits have more of a mild steel shank, so there is a lot more flexibility and very little chance of it breaking. It’s got a sharpened carbide tip that will allow you to drill through just about any type of material out there including metal, wood, and concrete. A little tip from me, if you can scratch some of the material off the surface of your thumbnail, you’ve got a really sharp tip on your bit and you’re ready to tackle all of the fore listed materials. These are basically masonry bits that are put through a special process with higher (and better) brazing. Thicker tips, thicker and higher-grade carbide, and really nice sharp cutting edges that will easily cut through anything you can imagine. Another highlight of these amazing bits are the various lengths they come in. 6”, 12”, 18”, and even 24”. These bits are really marketed to the safe and vault industry, but I quite enjoy them for electronic access jobs. Another really handy bit to have is a four headed bit. These would be used for getting through concrete with rebar in it because instead of having two sides to the bit, there are four. Hitting rebar with a two headed bit could bind your bit and snap it, but the four headed carbide head supports the bit all the way into the hole so that it cannot be shoved to the side with a weird angle on it. Putting enough pressure on the bit at this point will get you through the material at hand.
I also carry a couple of other gadget-y things in my truck because you never know when you need to get creative. If you need to get a fairly big hole that’s pretty far out there, step bits locked into ball bearing extensions will get the job done. The reason we came up with these was because years ago, we did not have access to these longer bits, and the hardware stores did not carry anything 24” long. I ended up making these tools myself at the hardware store and now, they are a great back up plan. In order to make this tool, you just need to have a big enough diameter to let the collar pass, and a hex shaped bit. Once you factor these things in, this tool is pretty interchangeable.
Now, we will move onto hole saws. I have learned my lesson with standard hole saws burning up while being used on stainless steel, so I always make sure I am carrying carbide hole saws in my truck as this is the best material on the market to get through stainless steel. The sizes on hole saws vary vastly. Sometimes you will need a 5/8” hole, and sometimes you will need a fist sized 6” hole for shoving a hand-full of wires into a wall. Be sure you have carbide so you can defeat any material.
Check out my assessment and comparison of the StrongArm carbide drill bit to a normal hardware store drill bit. Contrary to popular belief, all drill bits are not created equal! First, we will look at the hardware store bit. In my comparison video, I drilled for twelve seconds on stone with ample pressure, and did not even make a dent. The StrongArm bit made easy work of boring a hole through the many different materials on this application such as stone, metal, and wood! The stone was penetrated in less than two seconds with this bit, and the total drill job took just a couple of minutes. There is nothing that will pose a problem for this bit, it is worth the investment to get the job done quickly and efficiently. Remember, time is money! If you are interested in trying these bad boys out for yourself, please click the amazon link. For more information, visit WaynesLockShop.com
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