We have been posting a lot about this year’s Black Friday 2021 tool deals, and a reader asked an interesting question about why we don’t see deals on individual drill bits.
With all the holiday season deals happening, there are lots and lots of good deals on drill bit sets and driver sets etc. But what I never seem to be able to find is a deal on just specific common sizes of drill bits. And somehow, some gremlin always seems to break into my drill bit sets and break the more common smaller ones.
Ideally I’d like to find a five or ten pack of 3/32, 1/8 and 1/4 hex shank drill bits to replace the broken ones in my other sets. But when I look for them I only find very generic unbranded ones, or the prices are so high, I am just better off buying a whole new kit along with all the other sizes I don’t need.
Just like always needing a 10mm socket, I find myself needing to replace some of the smaller bits, and I want to get them as a value rather single packs.
Have you ever seen deals like that?
To start off, I’m just going to copy/paste over a couple of deals snippers from recent posts.
Dewalt 14pc Drill Bit Set – $9.98
Dewalt 13pc Drill Bit Set – $7.97
Milwaukee 15pc RedHelix Impact Drill Bit Set – $15
There are other deals, but these are enough to make a point.
These prices are in some cases a fraction of the price you would pay if you were to buy each size separately. For the Milwaukee 15pc impact drill bit set, the packaging says that you get “over $65 value.” These claims are usually pretty accurate, although nobody ever really pays that much.
How many of these drill bit sets do you think that the brands built up and shipped to retailers this holiday season?
Home Depot’s website says that they can ship 8,492 units to my zip code. That’s on top of the sets that my local stores still have in stock, which number from 11 to 100 depending on the store.
Let’s assume that each Home Depot store received (60) Milwaukee 15pc drill bit sets to stock their holiday season promotional displays. This is perhaps a conservative estimate, but since don’t know for certain, consider it a hypothetical value.
The last time I checked, Home Depot operated nearly 2,000 stores in the United States. Rounding up, that’s 2,000 x 60 units (minimum) = 120,000 units, plus another 8,500 (at least) that can be shipped to my area.
While this figure can be wildly inaccurate, it’s fair to at least say that Home Depot has tens of thousands of Milwaukee 15pc impact drill bit sets at promo pricing right now.
Home Depot stores also have a Dewalt 10pc special buy, although the 13pc and 15pc sets shown above are better values in my opinion. The stores near me are reporting between 6 and 132 units in stock, and there are 3,830 units that can be shipped to my zip code.
So, there are also tens of thousands of promo-priced Dewalt drill bit sets in stores for the 2021 holiday shopping season, and likely more than 100,000 units.
These are huge product volumes.
Will they bring you to the store? Will they keep you in the store? With a set of drill bits in-hand, what other gift or deals center items might you also find enticing? Maybe.
Then there are the branding benefits. That’s a MILWAUKEE drill bit set in your kit. Or Dewalt, or Bosch, or Diablo. These things stick with you and build brand loyalty.
Maybe these are your first power tool accessories from that brand. Are you gifting the drill bits to someone, possible along with a new cordless drill? Maybe it will be their first taste of that brand’s accessories as well.
If all you need are just a couple of drill bit sizes, it can still be more economical to just buy a set. While this can be frustrating, it’s still very much true. The same is sometimes true for cordless power tool combo kits, mechanics tool sets, hand tool sets, and other tool-related products.
What’s more economical, buying 4 water bottles from the refrigerated section of your local grocery or general home goods store, or a case of 24 water bottles?
At Home Depot, they have a screwdriver bit set and right angle adapter promo for $9.88. Meanwhile, the right angle adapter is priced at $19.97 by itself!!
These promo sets bring you into a brand’s ecosystem, and there’s value in that.
So why aren’t there drill bit deals?!
Economy of scale and sales numbers factor into everything. Let’s say you are a retailer or tool brand. Would you do anything differently?
All of this is true for ore than just drill bits.
Harbor Freight has been expanding their ICON line of mechanics tools, but they still don’t have open stock items, presumably because it’s not economical and the prices would be too off-putting to customers.
Most people buy individual drill bits out of need. Correct? So, you’re going to buy it anyway, aren’t you, deal or no deal. Right? Where’s the incentive in lowering the profit margin there?
For what number of combination wrenches is it more economical to buy a set instead of individual sizes?
Barnes & Noble (a national bookstore in case you didn’t know or forgot) has a free kids club, and they’ll send members a coupon for a free cupcake or similar treat in their birthday month. What are the chances that your visit to the bookstore will result in a slight loss on their part? What are the chances that you will buy something before you leave the store with child’s treat in-hand?
Individual drill bits? You’re going to buy those anyway, and so where’s the incentive for stores or brands to offer you a discount? This isn’t an area where brands or retailers will compete for your business on the consumer level.
Industrial suppliers, however, are a little different. Some do regularly discount tooling such as drill bits, but there are marketing benefits there too. If you’re looking through a sales flyer, maybe you’ll see something interesting and spend more than you had planned to. Or maybe a particular brand has paid for placement in the sales flyer.
That all said, I don’t think I have EVER seen holiday season promotional pricing on individual power tool accessories, at least not at retail stores. Come to think of it there are rarely promotions on individual drill bits, screwdriver bits, hole saws, reciprocating saw blades, and most other such accessories.
Think about your own purchasing behaviors. If you’re buying individual drill bit sizes, that’s usually a deliberate purchase, right? Is that ever an impulse buy? And what about drill bit sets, screwdriver bit assortments, or reciprocating saw blade packs?
Personally, I’m still contemplating buying a couple more drill bit sets from the links above. A Shockwave 3/8″ drill bit costs $13.57 by itself right now. Will I need another 3/8″bit this year? If so, it’s worth it for me to buy another 15pc set. Or will I need more smaller-size twist drill bits? The Dewalt 13pc set has been awfully enticing and has duplicates of commonly-used smaller sizes. Should I stock up?
Here are Amazon links to a Dewalt 1/8″ drill bit 2-pack, and a single 1/4″ drill bit. And here are links to the 13pc set of smaller drill bits for $7.97, and the 14pc bit set for $9.98. While they’re not the same drill bits – the individual ones look to have a TiN finish and the sets have black-and-gold drills – most people are going to look strictly at the price. Be honest – which would you buy? All you really need are a pair of 1/8″ drill bits and a 1/4″ drill bit – would you buy one of the set options, or would you spend the $9 and change for the individual sizes?
As for where to find replacement bits with impact-rated alloys and hex shafts, I haven’t a clue. Coupon promos can help. Amazon has the Bosch 1/8″ drill bit for $3.32, and it’s eligible for a “10% on 4 select items” offer, as well as $20 off $100+. (Here’s more on the Bosch buy 4 save 10% offer.)
It is fair to guess that most individual users will restock their kit by buying impact drill bit sets at promotional prices. This also means that lower sales volume will keep individually-packaged bits priced at full retail.
The upside to all this is that we can still buy sets with “over $65 value” for just $15. It seems unnatural, and the math used to give me a headache, but that’s just the way things are.
You will find similar pricing throughout the industry. The Dewalt 20V Max DCD777C2 cordless drill kit, for example, is seasonally priced at $99 (Amazon listing). Some retailers stock the bare tool, DCD777B. While it’s good – in theory – that there’s a bare tool option, nobody will knowingly buy the bare tool at $129 when they can get the kit for $99.
What about in… January? Well, when the promo-priced accessory sets sell out or jump back to their regular or interseasonal pricing, users will be more inclined to buy individual replacement bits, or bulk packs. Which brand or style are they likely go with? Much of the time, they’ll go for the one that they’ve been using.
If you were on the brand or retail side of things, what would you do differently?
Makes perfect sense. I keep an eye out for sets with lots of small bits, or deals on individual small bits (the latter is usually only available from industrial suppliers). Not much you can do otherwise.
At least some bit kits come with two 1/8″ bits now – those are definitely the first ones I break.
If you buy from an industrial supplier as opposed to a home improvement or hardware store that’s set up for normal retail sale you can certainly find drill bits in bulk, and their quality will exceed what you get from hardware and home stores as well.
But in this case, Jeff wants hex-shank bits, which limits selection to construction brands.
If you want hex shank bit of real industrial quality I strongly recomend looking into hex shank collets from Make it Snappy tools.
They let you use any bit you want and make it compatible with any hex shank based tools or accessories. when you inevitably break the bit you just change the bit at much lower cost that replacing a whole hex shank bit.
They also work well with countersinks, taps and other odd tools that are hard or impossible to find in hex shank versions
Not true, but the USA industrial brands are harder to find and you’ll likely need to wait for a special order. CTD (aka Norseman/Viking) has an entire line of GOOD hex shank QR bits from 1/16 to 1/2 by 32nd, sets or cards. Rocky Mountain Twist (Montana subbrand) also has some. I believe a couple others do (or did) like Champion and Precision Twist. The CTD are a benchmark and well worth the cost if you aren’t going to just abuse them terribly. Sometimes these are on Amazon or Ebay but there’s an outfit in Texas that is a great option named Edge of Arlington Saw or something like that – not so fast to ship, usually, but great pricing and real people to work with, will special order anything and still give good prices in that case.
It’s not just drill bits. If you buy a drill index the n SBD, Milwaukee, etc., compete for your attention. If you buy a single drill there is far less competition. Usually you will buy the one that matches the brand you have. Most machine shops though do buy and stick individual drill bits in bulk. It’s one thing to buy an entire index, quite another to replace 1 or 2. It’s sort of like…do you really shop around for nuts and bolts or is your decision based on Grade 5 vs 8 and that’s as far as it goes? It says something when many hardware stores sell nuts and bolts by weight. Just wish they did that with drills.
You’re right about always buying small individual drillbits with a purpose. Everybody is always breaking their 1/8 and 1/16 drill bits. Nobody’s gonna want to buy a bunch of full-size sets when I only need two or three drillbits.
I bought this set a couple years ago from Rockler.
Decent quality and way easier than trying to buy a replacement when one individual size breaks.
That the ticket. Search over. Great find.
Oh that’s the stuff.
Nice find, I’m adding that to my Rockler Black Friday order.
Love this…great idea for a set!
I picked up this similar-ideaed one a few years ago and have found it to be great: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B074XQ4K78/
A couple times in years past, there have been holiday deals on proper bit indexes, 1/16” – 1/2” graduated by the 64th. Those are the deals I look for and the ones worth buying. It’s inevitable that the sizes skipped in these value sets will be the ones I need late at night or on a weekend when time is of the essence and precision matters. the value sets might work for the average homeowner but not for dedicated carpenters and fabricators.
As for the question of bulk bits, I’ve found that harbor freight actually has the best deals on bulk bits in terms of ready availability. We’ve been buying the Bauer name 4 packs of smaller size bits and we usually break them before the dull.
A 115pc set covers a great deal of my drilling needs, although I still use power tool brands’ drill bits for most handheld drilling tasks. The exception is when using certain jigs, as the bushings can sometimes be higher tolerance than drill bits meant for general construction use.
Here’s a quick example of a 115pc set – https://www.amazon.com/Viking-Norseman-43550-Bright-Finish/dp/B001EHJRTS/?tag=toolguyd-20
My Dad could turn a drill bit faster than I could make it to HD and back. I still have a bunch in odd sizes he made that require a micrometer to know for sure. He would call me a butcher because I didn’t works in 1000th’s of an inch.
Now I keep lots of complete sets on hand because the individual bits are generally a rip offs. But having an incomplete set makes me crazy.
McMaster sells individual bits
Lots of stores sell individual drill bits and screwdriver bits, as well as small quantity packs. But what we’re talking about here is the absence of deals and discounts.
Sets are generally different sizes. Packs are multiples of a single size. I have seen some good pricing on “packs” for both drill bits and screwdriver bits. I have also seen it for things like hex keys.
Exactly why I won’t buy a set of metric wrenches that skip some sizes. It costs more to add the 16 and 20 mm to a set than the whole “missing a few sizes” set costs. Might as well pay the money for a COMPLETE set….(and yes, I do have machines with fasteners that are of those sizes).
Or you could buy from drillhog.com. 12 identical bits for $20 is a pretty good deal if you keep snapping them.
HD had a closeout on 9/64 DeWalt $0.77 each. Bought a dozen. Going to take me awhile to get through them.
Honestly a lot of this is just poor customer service on the part of the hardware and home improvement shops, and I’m sure it’s all done deliberately in the name of more profit.
When I worked at a mom-n-pop hardware store in the 1990’s we sold most things in as small a unit as possible. Nuts and bolts were sold each, nails and staples by weight. We sold PVC by the full stick but also by the foot. Chain, rope, cable, was all sold by the foot. Same with hardware cloth, chicken wire, window screen, shade or weed fabric for the garden, etc. Nowadays it seems that kind of service is hard to find. Nuts and bolts are sold in small bags or plastic packs. Only need one? Tough, you have to buy 10. Tubing comes in pre-cut 10 and 25′ lengths. Hardware cloth or screen comes in a roll of however many feet. Some rope is sold by the foot but most is pre-cut. I can see how this is easier for the store, and it forces you to spend more than you otherwise might, but it sucks for the customer.
Back then we sold individual drills too–every size in the sets, and the prices were reasonable for singles too. But that’s evaporated over the years…I think the makers learned they could jack up the prices for the individual bits and people would still pay out.
Don’t get me started on the hardware packs at the big box store. In an effort to make pricing easier, all of the bags in one section are $2.99. So you end up with a small bag of nuts with 12, but go two sizes up and you get a bag with 7. What are the odds that I need an odd number of bolts like 7? And since I will likely need 8, I have to buy two bags and have most of the second bag as leftovers. I miss the old time hardware stores that had them in bulk or in single pieces.
There is a hardware store here in Atlanta, General Hardware, that looks like it came from the 50s. The have a huge metal box that has single drill bits by the 64th that are sold as singles. It must have come from a time machine. The place looks like a rats nest, but the guys and gals working there know where everything is. I bought 1/4″ hose clamps for 15 cents a piece, needed a couple to put a fuel filter inline for a lawn mower. They had a metal box similar to to the drill bit one with 50 plus sizes between 1/8″ and 3/4″ of all types (round wire, metal bands, etc.). I could wander around the store for hours.
There used to be a hardware & welding supplier in my town just like that. It was a massive sprawling network of metal buildings and add-ons, they had an enormous selection of oddball items. Want hemp rope up to four inches in diameter? They stocked it. O-rings the size of hula hoops? They had those too, as well as anything smaller. They made hydraulic hoses, custom welding cables, and had a variety of parts for old welding machines and farm equipment going back to the 1950’s. Their selection of pipe and plumbing fittings was amazing too with all sorts of oddball sizes and configurations. Their selection of saw blades, hole saws, drill bits, reciprocating blades, taps and dies, etc, was honestly amazing. Sadly they got bought out by Praxxair who cleared out 90% of the inventory and now all they sell is welding gas and a very basic selection of related tools and supplies. All the old and knowledgeable employees are long gone.
Think retailer use of resources and profitability. As other respondents have pointed out, there are sellers of individual and small quantity bits–albeit at undiscounted prices. Discounting low value items, particularly if bought in low quantities by the typical retail customer is an exercise in how not to make money. Look at the electrical aisle and consider how they sell something like electrical outlets. Home Depot usually has a price for each and a much better quantity price. That’s a normal practice on many hardware items but it’s not applied across all product categories. Labor is a huge cost for all sellers and stocking and selling onesies and twosies of low value items is labor intensive and not particularly profitable It takes as much labor to sell a 99 cent item as a 99 dollar item. I don’t like it but it’s business and they only exist to make money, not to make our life more economical.
Acme has some individual sizes on clearance right now, but it’s a pretty small markdown, still $5 for a single Irwin cobalt HSS bit:
I checked and Jobbers length 1/8 high speed steel drill bits are $1.38 each on mcmaster.
Is it possible this is a case of not knowing where to buy these things cheaply in bulk?
No – that’s about right for standard 1/8″ drill bits at industrial suppliers. Others, such as MSC, have similar pricing.
But these are still jobbers length twist drills. The person that wrote in is specifically looking for hex-shank impact-rated drill bits.