I’m always looking for better drill bits because my work involves making a lot of holes. My dream bit would make a clean hole (entry, exit and every surface in between), it wouldn’t clog and it would make a hole that is the exact dimension stamped on its shaft.
In my experience, you can only get two of those three characteristics in a drill bit.
The WoodOwl Overdrive bits are likely the best bits I’ve encountered so far. They aren’t perfect, but they come closer than any other bit I’ve encountered. Here are some details.
Hole cleanliness: The Overdrives are as good as I’ve seen. The bits cut rapidly and leave a clean hole – even if the exit hole isn’t backed up with a sacrificial board.
Bit cleanliness: The Overdrives don’t clog. They have large flutes that pull the waste away rapidly. And waste doesn’t get packed into the flutes like on some other augers.
Accuracy: Here is where the bits fail me a bit. When used in a handheld drill, the flutes of the bit can cut the round hole into an oval. This is, of course, user error – I moved the drill. But the Overdrives have very sharp flutes, and it can be difficult to avoid making the hole a little bit oval-shaped.
This isn’t a big deal in many applications. In fact, most woodworkers won’t notice it. But if you drill an oval through-mortise and have a round tenon, the error will show.
But other than that detail, I love them. The Japanese-made bits have the added benefit of having a hex shank, so they won’t spin and gall in your drill’s chuck. And they are remarkably inexpensive for what you get. They are outstanding bits for your drill press.
If you live in the U.K., get the Star-M F-Type bits (they’re made by the same manufacturer). They have a little different bit geometry, but that have all the same excellent characteristics of the Overdrives.
— Christopher Schwarz
Read other entries from The Anarchist’s Gift Guide here.
20 thoughts on “Anarchist Gift Guide Day 12: WoodOwl Overdrive Bits”
Been using the Star-M version here in Scotland this weekend to make holes for holdfasts in my new bench (waiting for shellac to harden on my first woodworking project so thought I’d make my bench) and they are excellent in a brace. For other parts of the bench I’ve tried a few other brands and I’m just going to have to save up for a set of these. It’s like night and day and keep a great edge too. Made the job really easy.
Has anyone tried these for boring on their lathe?
” … the Overdrives have very sharp flutes … ”
Have you tried dulling the cutting sharp flutes with fine sandpaper ?
I did this on a (cheap) set of long augers I bought that were a bit rough on the leading edge of the spirals. I honed the cutting edges and dulled / deburred the spiral. Haven’t used them in earnest yet, but imagine this would improve ‘tracking’ / reduce sideways ‘eating’.
For chair making, which sizes are used the most?
I use 1″, 5/8″ and 1/2″ for about 99 percent of my chairmaking.
Great, thank you!
These are excellent bits. I bought my first on Chris’ recommendation I believe. Now I have the full range. They work equally well with a power drill and a manual brace.
Please explain how you can get a round bit intersecting a plane at an angle to give anything but an oval/ellipse. Shine an LED flashlight at a surface at an angle. No blades, No wobble. just light.
Perspective. If you look straight down an angled bored hole it will appear round. Or should. If you look at the hole from a different angle, the hole will appear as an oval. It’s why drafting kits include circle templates for 2D drawings, and oval templates for 3D drawings.
I am discussing the tendency of the bits to side-cut (I hope that’s clear), not the inherent geometry. Yes, a hole at any angle (if you measure close enough) will be an oval/ellipse. But the round tenon that goes into it will also be an oval/ellipse as it intersects the wood.
Side-cutting makes the hole into an hourglass-shaped ellipse (in section) that a simple round tenon will not completely fill. A wedge (or two) can help fill the gap. But sometimes the wedging isn’t enough.
I haven’t tried the WoodOwl bits, but have been using U.S.-made brad-point bits from the Morris Wood Tool Company (http://www.morriswoodtool.com/index.htm) for years. I have their 1/16″ to 1/2″ by 64ths set, along with a few larger ones.
Thanks for the UK link, much appreciated.
Isn’t it more likely that the mounting of the bit into a hex head is making slightly out of round? I’ve tried numerous hex head drill bits and they’ve all tended to leave out of round holes due to mismatch of bit and hex head.
If all the holes were wonky, I might suspect something was wrong with the bit or the chuck. But when only one out five is radically ovalized, then it’s likely user error.
Thanks for doing this gift guide again. I look forward to it every year. Do you have a recommendation for smaller size twist bits? Do you still like that set of Rockler bits you suggested several lists ago?
I use the Rockler bits in the little plastic case every day. If you want something nicer, get the Lee Valley brad points.
I’m curious how these compare to the WoodOwl Tri-Cut auger bits. I ask because I have several of the Tri-Cut bits, but if the OverDrive bits have advantages, I would consider those, as I pick up additional sizes.
The Overdrive bits leave a clean exit hole – even without a backing board. And the walls of the hole are cleaner than with the WoodOwl tri-cuts.
Could well be a blog post/article in its own right but I would be very interested in (and appreciative of) of even a quick run down comparing the handful of modern bits Chris has written rather positively about in recent years.
Star-M F-type Bits/WoodOwl Overdrive
WoodOwl Nail Chipper
WoodOwl Ultra-Smooth Tri-spur Augers
Fisch Jennings-pattern Auger Bits
Have any of these supplanted or exceeded another you’ve recommended in the past? If not, assuming each has a specialty where it shines, which ones stand out for various applications (brace vs power drill, 90 degree vs angled, fast vs clean, etc)?
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