The other day I posted about Dewalt’s new impact-rated step drill bits. In a comment, Fred wondered whether step drill bits wear down quicker than if two separate twist bits are used instead, and if there are any real time savings. This made me think about the benefits of a step drill bit.
I have several step bits in my accessory box, mostly Irwin Unibits, but there are one or two other brands in there as well.
What are the benefits?
- (relatively) clean holes
- short length for easier maneuverability
- faster drilling
- no need for multiple twist drill bit sizes*
- not easily resharpenable (professional sharpening services can do this for you, and there are a number of DIY sharpening tips floating around the web)
- you might still need to drill a pilot hole
Unibits and step drills work exceptionally well on sheet metal. They can be used on other materials as well, but you won’t get a straight smooth-walled hole in solid materials thicker than the step height.
Step bits are incredibly useful for one-step drilling operations, but they’re not suitable for all operations. Although I prefer brand-name bits, many DIYers and pros have sung praises for the many low-priced options that have become available over the years.
*Some step drills are self-starting, but the larger ones require a pilot hole. Often you can use a smaller step drill bit to bore the pilot hole for a larger one.
Some people hate step bits, but many love them. They seem to be quite popular with professional users who only need to carry a step bit or two rather than several twist bit sizes.
It can be a hard sell, convincing someone of the merits of a step bit. The price of better quality bits starts at $18 or so, and climbs higher for the larger sized bits, but as mentioned you can get generic-branded bits for less.
My first step bit was the 1/8″-1/2″ Irwin Unibit, and that also happens to be the size I use most often. I also have a 3/4″ bit somewhere, and for larger holes I usually reach for a hole saw.
Step Drill Bits via Amazon
It feels like I’m missing something – are there any other benefits or disadvantages of Unibits and step drill bits that I may have forgotten about?