About 2 months ago, a representative from WoodOwl reached out to me with a brief, but much appreciated and very exciting introductory email. WoodOwl manufactures a range of wood boring drill bits, ship augers, deep cut augers, and related drilling tools and accessories. And they make all these drill bits in Japan.
This wasn’t my first introduction to WoodOwl – that happened back in 2011 when I ordered some WoodOwl bits from Sears. Yes, Sears. They had a great tool buyer a couple of years ago that brought lots of offbeat tool brands to the catalog and online store. At the time I ordered a 1/2″ x 7″ auger bit, a 3/4″ x 7-1/2″ ship auger, a 3pc OverDrive bit set, and a 1/2″ OverDrive drill bit.
I remember exactly why I purchased the WoodOwl bits. First, they were an exotic brand I had never heard of before, and the drill bits were made in Japan. They were affordable too. Surely those are enough reasons to try them out, right?
One thing I love about ToolGuyd is how it gives me the opportunity to try new tools and brands to introduce you to. How many of you have heard about WoodOwl or used their drill bits before?
Second, the OverDrive bits intrigued me. WoodOwl OverDrive bits are said to be specially designed to be used with cordless tools, and not just because they have 1/4″ hex shanks. This made me want to buy them even more. I needed to see what was so special about these cordless-specific wood boring bits.
And so I ordered 4 sizes of OverDrive bits and 2 other WoodOwl auger bits, just to see what the differences were.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember ever testing the bits, and lost track of them. I put them in a small tool box for safe keeping shortly before our last move, and they ended up buried until now. I found them just this week, and that’s because it drove me crazy to not know where they were.
The good news is that I found the bits, but also that WoodOwl supplied me with a nice assortment of fresh new bits to test and use.
This is supposed to be an introductory post, but I thought it was important to share with you my past feelings towards the brand. I was interested, curious, and optimistic enough to plunk down cash to try them out.
Next up in this post, I’m going to tell you a bit about WoodOwl’s offerings. Full reviews of these and a couple of other bit styles are still in the works. Also in this post are some photos of how these drill bits are made! Ken recently visited the WoodOwl factory in Japan and shared some pics with us. All of the following product images and factory photos were provided by Ken Gratz, who works for WoodOwl and their parent company STAR-M International.
These are some of WoodOwl’s offerings. You can see all of their current products, except for the new extensions discussed below, on their website. They make a couple of other bits, such as Ultra Smooth auger bits, flat spade bits, “installer bits,” and also combination countersink and counterbore bits.
WoodOwl OverDrive Wood Boring Bits
These OverDrive wood boring drill bits were designed with cordless drills in mind. What does that mean?
- Brad point and unique chamfered cutting edges for smooth and fast cuts
- Clean holes with minimal blowout
- Precision ground cutting edges for durability and accuracy
- Reduced 1/4″ hex shank for wide cordless drill compatibility
WoodOwl has said that their OverDrive bits are so much more better at cutting quick and accurate holes that they provide an estimate of about 35% battery savings compared to other bits.
Normal auger bits are self-drilling and require a reverse motion in order to back out or remove a bit. Since these drill bits have brad points, users can stop and restart drilling without having to reverse the bits out as with augers that have self-feeding bits.
I was told that these are “impact compatible as well,” but I’m thinking that this probably refers to the 1/4″ hex shank compatibility.
The bits are machined from S55C high carbon steel before being induction hardened and given a parkerized finish, presumably to further increase wear resistance.
More Info(via WoodOwl)
I’ve used self-feeding bits on occasion, but not as much as spade and auger-style bits. I’m saving the one WoodOwl sent over for testing last, as it’ll require testing with a few other brands’ bits to give me a good review context.
These are said to have up to 50% wider cutting tooth surface, for added stability and truer holes. WoodOwl’s self-feeding bits also have chamfered back edges for easier bit removal from work, a machined lead screw, machined straight shaft for greater concentricity and truer holes, and a quick-change shaft.
As with the OverDrive bits, and it looks like all of their auger bits, these self-feeding bits are heat treated and hardened for durability.
They’re available individually in diameters from 1″ to 4-5/8″, as well as in 4pc and 8pc sets.
Nail Chipper Ship Auger Bits
This is the auger bit you want when you need to drill into wood that might have nails embedded in it. The WoodOwl Nail Chipper ship auger bits have a Tri-Cut leading edge with precision ground edges. They are also said to be lighter than standard augers, which is beneficial when you’re working with large, long, or large and long bits.
WoodOwl Nail Chipper augers are made from heat-treated carbon steel.
Like the self-feeding bit, these augers have quick-release shanks.
That brings me back to an older post – what are 7/16″ hex impact wrenches used for? Bits like these. You could also chuck them into 1/2″ drill chucks.
WoodOwl Nail Chipper bits are available in 3/8″ to 1-1/2″ sizes, and 7-1/2″ and 18″ lengths.
SworDriver Adjustable Length 1/4″ Hex Extensions
What you see here are adjustable length 1/4″ hex bit extensions. You can use them for screwdriver bits, or for 1/4″ hex shank drill bits, such as the OverDrive bits mentioned above.
They come in two sizes, a small 8″/10″/12″ model, and one that extends from 14″ to 24″.
A Peek Inside WoodOwl’s Factory
Courtesy of Ken Gratz, here’s a peek inside WoodOwl’s production facility and how they make their auger bits:
Each drill bit starts off as a blank that’s ready to be turned in a lathe. These S55C steel rods appear to have first been cut, beveled, and center-drilled.
Here we have some of WoodOwl’s Ultra Smooth Ship Augers in an intermediate stage. These bits are similar to the Nail Chipper auger bits, but are instead optimized for ultra smooth cutting without blowout. They have spurred edges for fast and smooth cutting.
Each ship auger is milled individually. I wish I could have seen this in person.
Ken says that it takes nearly 8 minutes for the machine to mill the flutes for an 18″ Nail Chipper bit.
Each bit is also deburred by hand to ensure perfect edges. This one’s an Ultra Smooth auger.
This is Ken loading up the induction hardening machine. I find it impressive that the bits are loaded into machine one by one for heat treatment.
Here we can see a standard ship auger being sharpened. And yes, it looks like it’s also being done by hand.
I was told that the OverDrive bits are not hand sharpened one by one, but that most other bits are. And if there’s any wobble after sharpening? There’s a step where each bit is checked manually and corrected if necessary, one bit at a time.
The caption for this one was standard ship auger centerless grinding for concentricity. Judging by that stack of bits and the worker’s actions, it seems that this is another step where each bit is handled and fed into the grinding machine one-by-one.
Here’s a closer shot of the ship augers shown in the previous photo . It looks like they’re parkerized (right) for greater corrosion resistance, and then ground (left) to precise diameters for accurate and resistance-free drilling.
A Few More Words
In our emails, Ken remarked about how labor intensive WoodOwl’s drill bits are to make. I didn’t know what to think, until he shared the above photos with me. I too am surprised by how each bit is cared for by so many human hands. It gives me the sort of impression that each WoodOwl bit isn’t just another power tool accessory or consumable, but a tool in its own.
I was interested in WoodOwl in the past, and have seen some great results with the recent test samples they sent over. But knowing a little more about how these bits are made seems to make them seem a little more special.
You can buy these drill bits through Amazon, Timberwolf Tools, Traditional Woodworker, Lowes (online only), ToolPlanet, Sears (very limited stock), and many other independent tool dealers.
I don’t remember how it came up, but at the recent Dewalt media event, Tools of the Trade’s David Frane said something about how a lot of the auger bits he’s used have burs that cause their performance to suffer. Or something to that effect. I looked at some of my inexpensive but brand-name bits, and they do have some horrible burs and inconsistent edges. But not these! All of the WoodOwl bits I have just checked are as perfect as could be. David, you’ve GOT to try these!
And I’m not just talking to David. If you use auger drill bits, self-feeding drill bits, or anything of the like, take an even closer look at the brand. WoodOwl bits are great, and I’ve quickly become very impressed with the brand and how they operate.
I would be willing to give the WoodOwl auger bits a try but they don’t make the very handy 4-inch short, stubby self-feeding auger bits like Irwin or Harbor Freight (which I haven’t tried yet).
Our parent company in Japan makes quite a few more types of bits than we sell in North America. If there is enough demand for a particular product, and the numbers make business sense, I can certainly consider bringing it over.
Out of curiosity, what dia. do you use? And 1/4″ quick change?
Thanks for the info, Ken. 3/4″ is the most common diameter that I use but I know a number of electricians who use 7/8″. The 1/4″ quick change shaft is perfect for the ultra smooth ship augers but I would also be interested in the nail chipper bits too because of their ability to cut through nails in studs.
Thanks again for listening to us on ToolGuyd.
My pleasure, and thanks for your opinion. With clean pine, a 1/4″ shank is fine, but if you are looking at potentially going through nails, the 1/4″ shank may snap, especially if hitting 12d or 16d. 1/2″ shank and up is better, however, you eliminate the quick change option.
A couple notable benefits of our Nail Chipper design is that it really chips away at the nails, and the triple cutting edge balances the cut compared to single-edged, standard ship augers, which pulls and bends the nail. But, we do offer those too.
Just a quick follow up, if you do have a 7/16″ quick change impact, the shortest bits in our Nail Chipper series are 7-1/2″ long – though actually the shortest bits for most of our augers are 7-1/2″. It slipped my mind to reply earlier. Still checking out to see about bringing over our shorty Nail Chippers from Japan. We would, however, need to adjust the shank size as they are currently Japanese spec so it might take a bit of time. Thanks.
Back in 2007 (according to my old inventory) we wanted some 18 inch long auger bits in 7/16, 9/16 and 11/16 inch sizes. Wood Owl part No’s 02804, 03806 and 02808 respectively – were the only ones in those sizes that we could find, back then, that were readily available. I’m not sure where we sourced them from – but we liked them well enough to buy more.
Darn, I was hoping that you hadn’t heard of WoodOwl yet. One of these days I’m bound to surprise you again!
Good luck with that, Stuey(yeah, I know you like that)! I’m guessing that if that day arrives, bits/hole saws will not be the topic that day. But who knows? Not me. But I do know Wood Owl. Lots of electricians, who can discuss tools without shouting ‘Klein’ every four words, use Wood Owl bits. And I -think- Greenlee retails some stuff that Wood Owl OEM’s. They source lots of stuff from Japan, in any event. BTW, not that my opinion matters much, but I do like Klein. Especially the wire strippers they print their name on. I just don’t follow marching orders from ‘Klein Fuhrer’.
Neat article. I’m definitely going to keep them in mind for future purchases.
A note on the “impact compatible.” It is quite possible they aren’t labeled that way just for the hex shank. An electrical lineman introduced me to using a 1/2 impact with a heavy duty quick connect hex adapter. When they are boring through the solid cross-arms they’ll use impact guns to run the self drilling auger bits. The impact gun helps prevent your arm from being torn off if it catches. It’s also easier on the operator because you aren’t fighting the torque you would normally experience with a standard drill. My guess is these bits could have been hardened in a way that allows them to be used in impact gun situations (1/4, 3/8 or 1/2) and still hold up.
Amen to that tip – been using them that way for years – also use the impact gun to hand drill wide flanges – where couldn’t fit a magnetic drill press .
For a big garden project – last year – I bought a Milwaukee 2765-20 M18-Fuel 7/16 Impact Driver. Found it great for drilling clearance holes with a ship auger and then driving the big lags.
Yeah, that 2765 seems nice! Lots of workers just use 1/2 inch with adapter cause that’s much cheaper. I’ve seen some reeeal nice Greenlee 7/16 types with lineman’s ring, also expensive like the 2765, but I think Panasonic was OEM(they did NOT have Makita batteries) so that would be my probable choice, if I were looking for tools to use while ‘monkey-ing’ around. I’ve long thought impact augering was the best approach, but it seems there is a strong and pervasive bias for ‘daHoleHawg’. Should described as a fetish really, it’s very strange. Though I once worked with a lady plumber, who was maybe 115 lbs/5′ 3″, who used an I-R right angle impact with 7/16″ adapter. Think the tool was called a Hammerhead or something. Worked pretty good on 3″ holes through lam-joists. Said she learned that method in Mexico City.
That’s right. Sorry for the late reply. All of our bits are hardened where they are impact compatible. We just don’t label/market them that way. That is a good point, though, and something I may have to add in future marketing just to ease any concern. But to be honest, the performance of our bits should negate the need for impact. Haha.
The 7/16″ bits work very well with the Milw. 7/16 Impact. The Wood Owl Ultra Smooth Ship Auger bit is the only bit we use. I ship them all over the country for our guys. The Milw. Fuel 7/16 Impact has taken the place of our Hyd. impact once used and adding this bit it allows for less load on the Milw. Battery. Great combination in the utility world!!!!
In fact when i get asked for drill bits they lineman ask for wood owl bits. We have tried several in the past and Wood Owl is the best. Milw ship auger bits are terrible and Greenlee Nail eaters are ok.
Thanks Chris. Very much appreciated! We are very proud of our bits and their performance and longevity – not to mention weight reduction compared to others. As this story pointed out, A LOT goes into making our WoodOwl bits, and I hope more people start to realize and appreciate that fact.
Not too long ago I was talking to my dad about auger bits. He has been in electrical distribution for a long time, and rolled his eyes when talking about our bits. He said bits are bits. I laughed and took out one of our Ultra Smooths out of the tube like unsheathing a sword. He stopped, looked and just said, “holy s**t!”
I love your Dad’s comment because that is exactly what our lineman said when i first showed this to them maybe a few more curse words in there. Keep up the good work innovating product’s to make a safer and more efficient environment.
I use spade bits often, I’ll have to try these.
I have a Drill Doctor that does spade bits and when they are kept sharp they do a very good job. I see they also have an adjustable spade bit, I use my old one occasionally.
Adjustable length 1/4″ hex bit extensions might just be my next purchase!
I’m going tom share this with one of my electrical contractors. He’s a tool fiend but I’m not at all sure he’s familiar with this brand. We shall see.
Good post indeed.
I don’t need any new wood bits at the moment, but the adjustable length hex driver extension sure seems to be calling my name!
You mentioned that the self-feed bits have “have chamfered back edges for easier bit removal from work.” I really wish they would come out with a self-feeding bit that has sort of a rough cutting edge on the top of the bit. There have been a couple of times when I was drilling a deep hole with this type of bit and I wasn’t paying enough attention to cleaning out the hole as I drilled. The chips build up in the hole and it can make it very difficult to remove the bit. I think it would be helpful if they had some type of “cutter” on the top edge so it would break up the chips while removing the bit.
Just ordered those extensions for the shop and I think eventually we will have the whole line. Not much else out there of this quality these days, though milwaukee selfeeds and augers are decent everything irwin makes is mediocre hobby grade.
I was having a hard time finding a 3/4″ bit for drilling newel posts for handrails on an angle. I found the aggresive self boaring bits the major brands make but just needed something longer than a forester bit that was not self feeding. WoodOWL Overdrive seems to fill the gap in the market for a high quality flat bottom bit at a reasonable price. Thank the Samauri Carpenter for his video on their bits!
Is WoodOwl the same company as OwlTools?