Q&A / 

Change Drill Bits in a Snap!

DEAR TIM: I am really frustrated with the chore of exchanging different drill bits while doing projects. Using a drill chuck key can be a real pain. I have two drills that I can use, but this seems like a waste as well. What do you do to make switching drill bits and other accessories go smoothly? Surely there must be a better way! Steve D., Crown Point, IN

DEAR STEVE: I not only have experienced frustration, but also bloody knuckles on more than one occasion! Traditional drill chucks that require the use of a key are fine if you intend to use one bit for several hours or all day. But many jobs require switching of different bits or accessory tips within a matter of minutes. Enormous amounts of time and energy are wasted every time you have to use a drill chuck key.

Drill manufacturers thought they had solved this problem several years ago when they introduced the keyless drill chuck. I have several drills that use this very nice feature. Keyless drill chucks grasp drill bits tightly and are easy to use. However, they only solve part of the problem. If you need to change bits frequently, you still have to turn the chuck mechanism to release the bit and then adjust and re-tighten once you have the new bit or accessory tip in place.

The problem with drill chucks was solved not too long ago. Interestingly enough, the traditional drill chuck has been left unchanged. Someone had an ingenious idea to marry the simple, yet dependable, quick connect fittings commonly found on pneumatic tools, gas hoses, automotive tools, etc. to regular drill bits and other accessories.

The end result is so nifty you can't believe it. You can buy different tool kits that include a variety of different sized drill bits, drill extension rods, screwdriver bits, screwdriver guides, etc. that have a unique hexagonal shaft at one end rather than the traditional rounded end. Included with each kit is a special holder that you install into your drill chuck. After you tighten the drill chuck , you load and unload different bits into this holder with a simple quick motion. The holder grabs onto the bits or accessories and the hexagonal shaped shaft prevents slippage as the drill turns.

Some of the holders work differently than others. Certain ones have a sliding ring that clicks to an open position that allows you to load or unload a bit. When you have the bit in place, you then slide the outer ring backwards to lock the bit in place. Other designs have a spring loaded ring mechanism. You slide the outer holder collar down to load or unload a bit. Once you let go of the ring, it locks the bit into place. Another design allows you to simply push bits into the holder and they lock in place. To release the bit, you simply slide the outer ring and the bit falls into your hand.

These very handy tool kits come in different sizes. You can purchase smaller kits that have approximately 20 - 30 pieces including the bit holder, assorted wood and steel drill bits, flathead and Phillips head screwdriver tips, nut drivers, spade drill bits that cut larger diameter holes, and special screw countersink bits that have a small pilot bit included. As you might expect, you can also buy kits that have up to 85 pieces! All of the kits come with wonderful plastic or tough fabric cases that store the bits and accessory tips.

Many of the kits come with a very nice tool that has a sliding guide that surrounds a screw. When you slide the guide into place, it surrounds the entire screw. This makes it impossible for the screw to jump out of the bit that you have installed into the tool. As the screw is driven into the wood or metal, the guide retracts on its own allowing you to drive the screw without fear of making a mistake.

These new drill bit kits with the accessories are one of the best power tool ideas I have seen in a long time. It is now a joy to use a drill instead of a hassle. I can assure you that once you use this system, your old drill bits will soon be a garage sale item.

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