Anyone who's ever used a drill knows how irritating it can be when you are in the middle of a project and your drill bits go numb on you. To make things worse, they usually come up dull on a Sunday night, when your 4x4 is torn apart and sitting on jack stands and you have no way to get to work on Monday if you don't finish your project. Sears and Lowe's are both long closed and even if you could get to Wal-Mart, you know the bits you find won't be as good as what's sitting there lame, still chucked in your drill.
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If you're like me, you like to buy drill bits once. The last time I bought bits, I spent about $65 on a set. I wanted good bits that would last and I wanted a large array of sizes. I even splurged and bought those fancy-schmancy pilot-point bits from Dewalt.
It didn't take long for me to realize that I had made a mistake. Yes, those neato pilot-points worked great for lining up the bit without drilling a pilot - once or twice. After the first couple uses, those pilot points were dull and wouldn't barely drill a hole through butter. So now I have a large array of bits with useless pilot-points but are still nice and sharp on the business tip, assuming I can ever get them to my work surface to bite!
So what's the point of this story? The point is that perhaps more expensive bits are not worth the extra money over a good set of standard bits. It's now a crap-shoot when I go through my set of bits, hoping to find one that will work well. If there is a next time, I won't bother with pilot-point bits. I'll just buy a good set of traditional bits.
That said, like any red-blooded American male, I have a collection of drill bits in the drawer of my workshop that probably date back to the 60s or even earlier. Some bits were my grandfather's and others my father's. Then there are those cheapo bits I bought when I was single and starving because I had to have some bits around and they were all I could afford.
Recently, I got an email from Pro Tools Mfg. Frankly, when it first came in I thought it was spam and I deleted it. Then something told me to get it back out of the trash folder and read it. Upon second inspection, I realized that it was a legitimate offer from Pro Tool offering to send me a Drill Doctor to play with and review if I liked how it worked. So I followed up and, sure enough, the email was for real and a few days later a model DD750 Drill Doctor arrived at the office.
I had always seen the Drill Doctors when walking through the tool department at Lowe's. Wandering down the aisles in my usual dream state they always caught my eye but I always thought that maybe they were a scam or just plain cheapo like so many other things you come across. As I'd pass, I'd always think to myself, "aw, if my bits are dull, it's my own fault and I'll just have to replace them with a different kind next time." Silly me.
OK, so my dream came true and I got a Drill Doctor. The Drill Doctor lineup currently has six models to choose from, ranging from the $44.95 retail DD100, which uses your drill for power up to the king-daddy DD750, which retails for around 200 bucks. The models obviously vary by features and included accessories. As you move up the line, you gain the ability to sharpen larger bits, do more than one cut angle, and also do split points. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Drill Doctor's slogan is "Drill bit are meant to be sharpened." Honestly, I had never given any thought to resharpening my old bits or my newly-dulled brand new bits, for that matter. Heck, I wouldn't know how to do it, anyway! What I've learned after a short time with my Drill Doctor is that I've been throwing money away all these years on replacement bits.
The DD750 is the top-of-the-line Drill Doctor model. The kit includes the Drill Doctor, two chucks, a sharpening wheel-changing wrench, great instructions, and an instructional video. For me, the video was the kicker. I did ok in school, but reading and comprehending text books was never my strong suit. I'm a visual person, so sitting in front of the tube watching a video demonstration was right up my alley. After a few short minutes on the couch, I had learned more than I ever thought I could about drill bit design and I was ready to go try my hand at sharpening my old bits.
Using the Drill Doctor is easy once you understand what everything does. There are basically three or four steps to sharpening the bit.
- Using the point angle gauge on the housing, determine whether your bit is a 118 or 135 degree point angle and set the alignment head angle handle on the unit accordingly.
- Set the bit in the proper chuck and align it properly on the front of the unit.
- Turn the motor on and insert the bit and chuck assembly into the sharpening port and rotate according to the instructions.
- Split points can be sharpened or even applied to standard bits to help prevent the bits from walking on your project's surface. Essentially, a split point is an extra cutting edge put on the heel of the bit. If you want a split point tip, insert the bit/chuck assembly into the splitting port to sharpen. You can even add split points to bits that did not originally have them. Bonus!
Aligning and setting the bit in the chuck.
Sharpening the bit.
The beauty of using the Drill Doctor is that everything just happens like it should. If you were to sharpen a bit by hand, you would have to duplicate a precise sharpening motion on each side of the bit's tip in order to have it come out even and properly-centered. The Drill Doctor takes care of that for you. When you turn the chuck in the sharpening port, it rotates the bit's tip on the diamond-plated sharpening wheel for you in just the right way. Once you get the hang of it, bits come out perfect every time.
The DD750 can handle standard 118 degree or 135 degree points. It can also handle masonry bits.
The grinding wheel and particles are in view through a protective safety cover.
The Drill Doctor worked so well, in fact, that I had to try it on my worst-looking bit. The tip was so worn out that it was almost straight across! Ah, the perfect challenge! The DD750 comes with two chucks. The standard chuck handles bits from 3/32" to 1/2" and the second chuck fits 1/2" to 3/4" bits. My bit required the standard chuck.
I fit my flat-head bit into the chuck and aligned it properly. I began sharpening and noticed the grinding had stopped after just a couple of turns. I looked at the bit and realized that it was working but I needed to align it again in order to hit the sharpening wheel. I did so and sharpened again. Once more, I realigned it and sharpened. Within two minutes, my flattened bit was at 118 degrees and as sharp as a brand new bit. It worked! It really worked! Cha-ching!
The heart of the Drill Doctor is this 180 grit grinding wheel. A coarser 100 grit wheel is available if you do mostly larger bits.
The chucked bit goes in through the top portal and rotates the bit against the spinning grinding wheel.
I spent the rest of my time testing out the Drill Doctor on various bits, doing both standard and split point tips. Now my grandfather's and my father's bits are as sharp or sharper than the day they bought them. As for my pilot-point Dewalts, well, they'll take a little more work. In order for me to sharpen those, I will need to use a grinder and remove the pilot points. Once that's done I can sharpen them with standard or split point tips, making them useful once again.
The Drill Doctor DD750 proved to be the perfect medicine for my worn out bits. It revived the worst bit I had in my drawer and will cure the ills of my poorly-designed bits when it's time to send them to surgery.
The DD750 is the most complete Drill Doctor model. The DD500 is the same setup but does not include the chuck for the larger bits and is a bit less expensive. Not everyone needs one of the pro models, though, and there is a Drill Doctor for every budget, be it the basic DD100, the mid-line DD400 or the fully-outfitted DD750. Instead of spending endless cash replacing drill bits for the rest of your life, get a Drill Doctor and renew the ones you've got. Then invite your friends over with their bits for a pizza party and tell them they're buying.
Mike Cohn is the Editor and founder of Rockcrawler.com. Mike is known among his friends as being able to break anything. Mike was perplexed but overjoyed to review a product that actually fixes something he has destroyed.
Contact Mike at email@example.com