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Step-bit or Unibit

Article written by Troll

Date Added: 10/21/2012

Jeepers that wheel are Jeepers that modify. Jeepers that modify will inevitably have to drill holes in metal.

Of course we all have traditional twist drill bits. They?re by far the most common for a good reason. They can drill a huge variety of materials. But just because they work, doesn?t mean they?re always the right choice; and it only take one time drilling sheet metal to show why they?re not the ideal bit to use. Let me guess. That first time drill a hole in sheet metal probably started out by drilling too fast (go sloowww, let the bit cut) and when the bit broke through, the back side of the steel the flutes of the drill bit brought things to a stop quickly. Most likely the drill continued to spin while the bit sat stationary, or the bit and drill plunged down into what you were drilling.
The better choice for thin steel or sheet metal is a step drill bit, also called a unibit. Primary reason? No flutes to hook into or tear the steel. But the benefits of a step bit don?t stop there.
Having no flutes pulling up on the metal, unibits drill a cleaner flatter hole. Because the bit is stepped, just kissing the hole with the next step of the bit allows for easy beveling of the hole.And if you need to open up an existing hole? Unibits are great for taking an existing hole up to a larger size unlike traditional flute bits.
Of course as wonderful as the unibit is it does come at a cost ? both monetarily and in versatility.

  • Brand name step bits go from expensive to very expensive.
  • Not easily resharpened like a twist bit.
  • Thickness of the material you can drill is limited to the depth of each step.

Bottom line: if you have sheet metal to drill, get a unibit. You probably won?t use it often, but there is a satisfaction that goes with having the right tool for the job. Besides, we all like excuses to get new tools, right?

Final Thoughts

We mentioned that brand name unibits go from expensive to very expensive and that you can?t readily resharpen unibits. These two facts make it a bit hard to cough up the cash knowing that this expensive bit with limited applications is essentially a disposable tool. The pictured step bit comes from Harbor Freight as part of a three piece set for about twenty bucks - typically on sale for less than fifteen. We have been using this set for quite a while on sheet metal with nothing but praise. Understand, we have no delusions that the Harbor Freight Step Bit is a grade A premium bit, but it?s been plenty good enough (and cheap enough) to be a very effective disposable tool. And frankly even if you only use it once, it?s way better than using a twist bit on sheet metal.

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