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.
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.