Adam wrote in, seeking recommendations for some new tool and accessory purchases he’s faced with making. The first topic – drill bits for general purpose use.
I’m just getting back into doing actual construction work, after years in retail. I’m looking for a good quality set of drill bits (or two) for general use in wood and light metal. I’d rather not buy anything made in China, if possible. Do you have any recommendations? I’m hoping to spend $50-75, but could go a little over that if needed.
Hmm… those are some tough criteria to meet.
For general purpose drilling. I still enjoy using Dewalt’s Pilot Point bits, although they’re not made in the USA. For drilling in sheet or light-gauge metal, Milwaukee’s USA-made step bits are superb. I was going to say Milwaukee’s new step bits, but they’ve been out for a little over a year now! Boy, how time flies.
As an aside, Lee Valley makes some super-superb brad-point drill bits for higher precision wood-drilling applications.
Okay, so back to general purpose USA-made bits. I would have to point to industrial brands for this. You’re not going to find suitable bits at a home center.
Norseman is a good brand, as is Precision Twist, and Triumph. Those are the first 3 that come to mind, and there are plenty others.
You’ll want to keep drill bit angle (118° or 135°) and geometry in mind, as well as coatings.
I bought a small Triumph Trinado bit set with 135° split point tips before realizing that the black oxide and bronze coatings makes the bits best suited for use in iron, steel, and tough steel products. I mainly work with wood, plastic, and aluminum, and so for my “mega set” of 115 drill bits I went with Triumph HSS bits.
Triumph’s latest catalog (PDF) has a handy drill bit selection guide on page 6. According to that guide, their ThunderBit TiN-coated bits work best in every category. They’re bound to be pricey, though.
The bright finish HSS (high speed steel) drill bits with 118° points should work great in wood, plastic, and softer non-ferrous metal materials, and okay in steel (but not stainless steel or hardened) materials. If you’ll primary work with steel materials, Triumph and other brands offer general purpose black oxide-finished bits.
I just checked, and my set of black oxide screw-machine-length Precision #1-#60 wire gauge drill bits were made in Brazil. That’s not China, but also not USA.
For Triumph, Cleveland, Champion, Precision Twist, and other brand-name drilling, tapping, and cutting tool sets, I often look to Enco and MSC’s deals flyers. One can save a lot of money off list prices by doing so.
Harry Epstein is a good source of Norseman bits. If you want to go the quick and easy route, their 29pc Norseman bright finish HSS drill bit set is just $60.30, plus shipping. I only have a couple of Norseman bits in my drawer, but I’ve been pleased with their performance.
Oh, and you’ll want Jobber’s length twist bits. Unless you don’t. If you want shorter bits, then you’ll want to look at mechanic’s or even screw machine lengths.
I made this too complicated, didn’t I?
With a $50-$75 budget, I’d go with that $60.30 29-piece Norseman bright finish HSS 118° point drill bit set from Harry Epstein’s. Then I’d probably spend an extra $200 on other tools I only realized I needed after searching for “just a couple” of additional items to help make the most of the shipping fee.
The Triumph 29pc drill bit sets I would consider are models 090517 (~$77-100), and 090829 (~$115), but only if I could catch them on sale. The more expensive of the two sets has reduced shank bits so that you could fit a 1/2″ drill bit in a 3/8″ drill chuck.
Now, if you don’t want a 29pc set, that opens up more options for the $50-$75 budget.
Surprisingly, Triumph’s 21pc bright finish HSS drill bit set is currently just $56 and change via Amazon. That prompted me to check the price of the 29pc set, which is currently $76 and change. That makes the overall decision a little harder to make, especially since the Norseman set from Harry Epstein’s is $60.30 plus $16.63 shipping, or nearly $77 total.
$77 for the Norseman set via Harry Epstein, or the Triumph set from Amazon? I typically default to Amazon when possible, but if ordering from Harry Epstein I would add some loose sizes and other tools to my cart. HE’s is the best Norseman supplier that I’m familiar with, or even aware of.
Enough of what I think. What would you guys recommend to Adam?