Of course, with your drill, you are also going to need a variety of drill bits, and what kind of bit you get is going to depend on the job at hand. Today, we want to look at a special kind of drill bit, the step drill bit.
This is one of the most unique kinds out there, and it has some very specific uses that you need to know about, so let’s get to it.
What Is a Step Drill Bit?
They have a very sharp point at the front and then step by step, as the name implies, they gradually get wider and wider, thus looking something like an ice cream cone.
Now, something to keep in mind is that step drill bits, although they can be used for thin sheets of wood, are generally best used for sheets of plastic, metal, and other such materials. For the most part, unless you get something very special, step drill bits cannot be used on materials that are more than 1/4-inch thick or 1/3-inch at the very most.
The main purpose of the step drill bit is to drill wide holes in relatively thin sheets of materials. Moreover, step drill bits are often used to widen already existing holes that were created with normal drill bits.
Keep in mind that step drill bits are not really designed for actual screw insertion. In other words, a step drill bit cannot be used to drill a pilot hole for a screw.
Step Drill Bit Advantages and Disadvantages
If we are looking at step drill bits, there are a few advantages and disadvantages that need to be mentioned.
Let’s start off by taking a look at the beneficial aspects of step drill bits.
1. Fairly Clean Cut
One of the major advantages of using a step drill bit is the fact that it does create fairly clean holes without much tear-out. If you get a high-quality step drill bit, tear-out, splintering, and other such issues should be kept to a minimum, thus allowing for a much cleaner finish.
2. Widens Holes Easily
Another major advantage of the step drill bit is also its major function, which is that of drilling wide holes or widening holes that have already been made. If the normal drill bits you have are not wide enough, say to insert a bolt or a thick screw, then you can use the step drill bit to widen that hole. Wherever you need wide holes drilled into thin sheets, the step drill bit is what you need. This is its number one purpose, as well as its biggest advantage.
3. Removes the Need for Multiple Twist Drill Bits
The fact of the matter is that depending on what job you are doing, you could need a whole lot of regular twist drill bits. Depending on the job, it is not uncommon to need half or even a full dozen different drill bits. If nothing else, having to switch between various bits is very inconvenient, a problem that a single step drill bit can solve.
4. Fast Drilling
Due to the fact that step drill bits remove the need for multiple bits, using them is very fast and efficient.
5. Fairly Maneuverable
The other good thing about step drill bits is that they are quite short. This makes the step drill bit very maneuverable, making it especially ideal for tight spaces where regular twist bits might not be able to fit.
Trying to drill a hole in sheet metal with a regular drill will likely result in the metal twisting. However, due to the design of the step bit, this is not a problem that will occur.
Just like any other tool or product out there, the step drill bit also has some disadvantages that you need to know about.
1. Cannot Be Sharpened
Due to the design of these drill bits, they cannot easily be sharpened. Yes, it is technically possible to do so, but you will need to hire a professional. This is really not something that you can do on your own.
A step drill bit will cost a lot to purchase. You can expect a good step drill bit to cost anywhere from $60 to $200 depending on the material, size, and brand.
3. Limited Drilling Depth
Due to the cone-like shape of these drill bits, and due to the fact that they gradually get wider, they are not suited for drilling long or thin holes.
4. You May Need a Pilot Hole
Some step drill bits are not overly sharp and may require a pilot hole to be drilled first.
4 Step Drill Bit Uses
Now that we know what a step drill bit is, let’s take a quick look at the various uses it has. Beware that due to the special nature of this bit, the uses are limited.
1. Drilling Holes in Sheet Metal
The number one most common use of a drill bit is to drill new holes or to enlarge existing holes in sheet metal up to 1/4-inch thick. Practical uses of this can include drilling holes to run wires and conduits of different widths.
2. Drilling Holes in Acrylic Sheets
With the right kind of step drill bit, just like with sheet metal, they can be used to drill or enlarge holes in plastic and acrylic sheets.
3. Drilling Holes in Wood Sheets
Although less common, step drill bits can also be used to drill or enlarge holes in sheets of wood.
On an interesting side note, due to the special shape of these bits, they are ideal for removing burrs from existing holes, something that comes in handy when working with sheet metal.
As you can see, although the uses of a step drill bit are somewhat limited in the sense that there are only really a couple of things that it can do with great efficiency and accuracy, the fact of the matter is that those few tasks they can do are very important.
This is true whether we’re talking about electrical work, woodwork, metalworking, or anything in between.
If you are serious about construction and renovation, then a step drill bit is something that you will absolutely need at some point in time, probably sooner rather than later. You can check my recommendations here.