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Pull my wire
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi, I'm looking at adding a step drill bit to my personal tool collection and would like to get more info on what's good and what's the most useful out there. Trying to keep it under $50, mostly for 1/2" and 3/4" knockouts (7/8" and 1-1/8"), looking on Amazon.com I saw the Milwaukee #9 at $35, Irwin #9 at $30, Bosch at $35, Lenox VB11 at $43, Lenox VB12 at $55, DeWalt DWA1789IR at $51 (1/4" shank impact rated).

And then more and more.

Ideally I'd like to have a 3/8" shank or even better 1/4" hex lock as I could use it with my drivers, and to do at least up to 1-1/8". Self-drilling tip optional, but has to have thick steps for knockouts in thicker materials (just had to do 3 knockouts in 1/4" thick dense aluminum beams today, had an old Lenox VB11 laying around that saved the day). It's gonna be for occasional use, but has to be quality.

I feel like Irwin, Lenox and Milwaukee have the edge in this market, but I see DeWalt and Bosch are also in the game. I really like the DeWalt impact rated one for the hex shank, but not the price.
 

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Have you considered carbide hole cutters? Faster, more precise, and the material thickness is irrelevant.

I have a Hilti step bit. It's pretty good but more expensive than the others.
Those Dewalt impact rated ones look pretty spiffy though:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=digtOfIz6Fo
Whatever you buy, make sure the shank isn't circular. Lobed at least or hex preferred.
Two cutting edges/flutes are better than one.
 

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Have you considered carbide hole cutters? Faster, more precise, and the material thickness is irrelevant.

I have a Hilti step bit. It's pretty good but more expensive than the others.
Those Dewalt impact rated ones look pretty spiffy though:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=digtOfIz6Fo
Whatever you buy, make sure the shank isn't circular. Lobed at least or hex preferred.
Two cutting edges/flutes are better than one.
A carbide hole saw is not relevant if you are opening up a hole. Also a lipped edge or the hole you are cutting meets the arc of another hole it tends to take out a tooth. They have their place but carbide holes saws are not the end all. It is nice to have one step bit to solve multiple situations that you run into. If it is 1/2, 3/4 or 1" holes into tubes a carbide is the way to fly, besides that I do not opt for them.

I have use a large variety of brands since the boss just tosses you them on jobs. The shop I work for are very willing to purchase tools to speed up a job. Any notable brand is about the same from what I have witnessed. Keep the speed down so you do not burn them up same as any drill bit.

In a impact is the way to go, since it is what I typically stroll around with, it also keeps the rpms low if you keep good pressure on it.

Personally I have not had good luck with milwaukee or irwin drill bits or hole saws they are just a poor design and do not last as long. Milwaukee only if it is a corded tool.
 

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Electrical Contractor
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I've got an Irwin 1/2" that I've been using for a long time. I've also Greenlee that's held up very well. Got a Milwaukee still in the package.
 

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Pull my wire
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Discussion Starter #7
As my family owns 1 triplex of 5 apartments and 2 summer houses, we have a fair bundle of tools, most of it being at home, and some at the beach house, and step drill bits have been very useful for anything above 1/2" in metal or when spade bits wouldn't do. Since I'll be moving to Vancouver, I won't have all these tools, so that's why I'm looking into a step bit to bring along, but I'm not there yet as to buy expensive job specific accessories like carbide cutters for home use.

I find step bits to be pricy too, you can almost buy a set of carbide cutters for the price of a single 7/8 to 1-3/8 step bit.
 

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They all suck about the same. I try to preserve them for occasions when I'm opening up an existing hole. The smaller steps, because of the way step bits are used, get dull as hell before the larger steps are barely broken in.
 

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Pull my wire
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Discussion Starter #10
They all suck about the same. I try to preserve them for occasions when I'm opening up an existing hole. The smaller steps, because of the way step bits are used, get dull as hell before the larger steps are barely broken in.
Opening or enlarging a hole is pretty much what I plan on doing with step bits. I'd usually drill first before moving to the step bit. As you say, it's for occasional use.
 

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You've certainly put a lot of thought into a single tool purchase, IMO.

I've only had the ones that do can clearly work a .3/4" hole. I never worried about the shank size.

It's a passive tool that one might need or never need in a daily course of work.
IE some days it's worthy of ownership, most times it's just avoiding rust.

I like slug busters maybe more because I do more new work than rehab. but in
most cases the hole is already the correct size for larger device boxes.

Unrelated;
I've took the leap and bought carbide hole cuts because I needed them
for SS boxes on job. Frankly I didn't want to chase down the company supplied
tools somewhere on the job... and then have to return it ASAP.
 

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Get a step drill from one of those traveling tool tent sales are Harbor Freight to see if you even have a use for one before you spend real money on a decent one.
 

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I got a 3 pack of them from HF to clean out a 1/2" PVC pipe that had broken off in an FS box. I was able to do 4 before it dulled. Got a Greenlee step bit that I still use, although the small portion of the bit has died.


Sent from my house using 2 cans and a string!
 

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An over smart guy here on ET shamed me for suggesting that drilling with an impact is a good idea. The reasoning is that you don't want to drill with an impact. Heed the knowledge of the Internet.

And get the Lennox.
 

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Pull my wire
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Discussion Starter #19
Sorry, should have made it more clear that it was for my own tool box, not to bring on the job site (unless it's a side job/home owner job), I expect my boss to supply the proper KO tools.

And yes I had several uses for a 7/8" step bit, mostly to open up holes to fit the 1/2" connector. It's just that I can only bring my own tools when I'll move from the east to the west coast.

Btw, I see the Lenox VB9 being made for 7/8", 1 1/8" and maxing out at 1 7/32". Is 1 7/32" a trade size of ours ?
 
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