Review By Dean Bielanowski  Milwaukee Website - http://www.milwaukeetools.com


Milwaukee Black & Bronze Twist Drill Bits
Mini-Review

By Dean Bielanowski

One of the most basic tools in the woodworker's arsenal is the humble twist drill bit. Used in the corded or cordless drill, or even in the old egg-beater type drills, their frequent use in the trade or hobbies make it all the more important to have a good set on hand when the time comes to use them. Despite what some may say, there is a BIG difference between the budget $5 sets from the local big box hardware or auto stores and the more expensive and professional brands. I learned this very early on, many years ago, when first trying to drill cast iron. The $50 set of supposedly titanium coated bits (which included about 60 drill bits) was virtually reduced to dust when I went to drill through my cast iron band saw table to mount an aftermarket fence. The drill bit was stripped and "turned" down to a cylinder in the presence of cast iron. I immediately went out and spent the extra few dollars on a single, high quality Sutton twist drill bit and it ate through the cast iron like there was no tomorrow... an amazing difference in quality and drill bit hardness.

Since then I have never purchased another "cheap" drill bit. Only quality, and I have not had another problem. But like clamps in a workshop, it seems you can never have enough drill bits either. I am sure many of us have good sets where half the set has gone missing or never been put back in the original container and since been lost. It's a natural occurrence it seems. And as a result, I probably have a dozen different sets of drill bits floating around, all missing one bit or another. So, I also find myself continuously buying small drill bit sets, whether I need them or not, just to make sure I have that right bit when I need it most. For my latest set purchase, I decided to give the Milwaukee Black and Bronze twist bits a go...

Milwaukee Black & Bronze Twist Drill Bits
Now, these bits are marketed for metal cutting use primarily, but that doesn't mean they cannot be used for wood. In fact, in my opinion, the best twist drill bits for wood (at least for rougher carpentry or woodworking), are those designed for metal, with their flatter cutting tips designed to reduce drill tip wander. These often also cut more aggressively in timber, which is a good time saver.

The set I purchased comes in a handy plastic case and features 14 twist drill bits ranging in size from 1/16" up to 3/8". In fact the range appears to be only available in imperial sizes. There are two 1/16" bits in the set, as well as two 1/8" bits. The rest are individual sizes, to provide a good range of common twist bit sizes for a variety of tasks. The included sizes in order are:

1/16", 5/64", 3/32", 7/64", 1/8", 9/64", 5/32", 3/16", 7/32", 1/4", 5/16", 3/8".

Each bit has a black and bronze coating. This is supposedly to make the bits more durable. I am a bit dubious about these coatings on drill bits, because often they wear off quite quickly and you are left with whatever quality steel is underneath. With good drill bits, this is usually no problem as the steel core is of high quality and hardness, and this appears to be the case with these bits. While the black and bronze coating does readily identify which set the drill bits come from, it does also appear to offer a little more durability on the flute edges at least. These bits are lasting as well as my favorite P&N/Sutton drill bits, which I consider to be some of the best available, so the underlying steel is of decent quality it would seem.

Being metal cutting bits primarily, they feature a 135 degree split point tip. These tips, along with the split point grind, are designed to prevent the bit (or at least reduce it) from "walking" when starting to drill. You know how it is... you go to drill a hole in some sheet metal and the bit decides to wander away from where you want to drill and the hole ends up in the wrong spot. Sure, you can center punch to start, but that's just another time consuming step in the process. However, this split point 135 degree tip will not totally prevent bit wandering on initial drilling. It does seem to reduce it quite a bit however, and when cutting wood, the split point tip provides a faster, more aggressive cut. This is good if you want to drill quickly, but be aware that on some woods, the shallow angle can result in greater occurrences of splintering or chipout on entry and exit surfaces, particularly if the drill bit is blunt or dull. It will perform well in most woods and leaves a smooth, splinter free finish, particularly if a backer block or scrap material is supporting the exit area of the drilled hole. For drilling metal, you do not want anything other than a 135 degree split point. It engages in the material much faster, particularly on thinner sheet metals, and produces a quicker and more accurate cut.

The other major feature of these bits is in the shank. Three "flats" are ground into the shank to provide a secure grip in the drill chuck. This will help prevent the bit slipping in the chuck, particularly if you have a chuck jaw design with flat engaging surfaces itself. It may seem like a minor thing, but with keyless chuck cordless drills, any improvement in this area is welcome. I have not had any of these bits slip to date when tightened securely in my drill chucks.


These bits cut very aggressively in lumber, center easily and are some of the better drill bits for metal. Shown on the right boring into 3mm aluminum angle.

Use and Conclusions
If you are looking for an aggressive cutting bit for woodwork, or for drill bits less prone to wandering when drilling metal, the Milwaukee Black and Bronze range will definitely meet expectations. They cut fast and well, and hold their edges for a long time. I love the split point design and using my Drill Doctor sharpening device, I have most of my twist drills converted to split points at present. They make a world of difference in cutting potential. For fine woodwork however, these bits must be used with caution. They are prone to more entry and exit chipout and splintering than regular twist drill woodworking bits, but they will deliver a clean hole within the material being drilled. They are great general carpentry drill bits (if finish is not a factor).

Overall I'd have to say these bits rank fairly high in the quality and function scales. I wouldn't say they are my favorite bits of all time, but they are a close second, and are certainly a cut above your mainstream no-name brands. They are best used for metal drilling or rough carpentry/woodwork.

 

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Milwaukee Black & Bronze Twist Drill Bit Photos
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A handy little kit containing 14 twist drill bits.


A place for each bit...


Black and bronze coatings. The bits certainly look the part...


The flats milled on the shanks secure the bits in drill chucks much better.


Note the split point design in this end-on photo.

 

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