Hex-Head Drill Accessories

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This article is from Issue 47 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Finish faster with these click-change artists.

Decades back, hex-shanked screwdriver bits gained instant popularity because the shank provided high torque transfer without requiring the user to cinch a chuck white-knuckle tight. Since then, many more 1⁄4" hex-shank accessories have followed the path set by the basic bit. Just as keyless chucks have trumped keyed chucks, hex-head drivers and bits can take saving time to an entirely new level. Here are some tips you can use to assemble your arsenal of drill-and-drive accessories.

Get a grip

Your drill’s three-jaw chuck can get a solid hold onto hex shanks, but for speed and convenience, you’ll want a few different bit holders. The simplest rely on a small magnet and/or spring to grip onto short bits. 

Super-Mag has enough attraction to hold longer screws on the tip of the driver. This ability comes in handy when assembling big casework or hanging cabinets.

When drilling holes, magnets aren’t enough. Retracting a bit from a hole will pull the bit free from its holder. For this task, you’ll want a quick-change (or quick-release) chuck with a locking ring to anchor the bit to your drill.

Sink and bore

Combination countersink and counterbore bits (usually referred to simply as “countersink” bits) are often called into play when making jigs and projects. Drill bits snap long before the shank wears out, so select a set that accepts standard twist drills.

Note that most of these bits are designed to drill a countersink and a pilot hole, but not a clearance hole. (Without a clearance hole, the screw’s thread can engage the top board and lift it off of the target board.) To incorporate a clearance hole, follow up with a separate bit that matches the diameter of the screw threads.

Considering A Drill Or Impact Driver? Buy Both. 

Although they look alike, compact drills sporting quick-change chucks and impact drivers are not the same. An impact driver’s trigger isn’t designed to provide the same feedback or control you get with a standard power drill. The biggest difference arises when the going gets tough. When a driver encounters dense material, it shifts into impact mode. This hammer action is great for driving screws, but it’s slow and noisy. In a pinch, you can drill in impact mode, but you won’t want to for long. For that reason, I reserve my impact driver for screws and nuts. I keep a cordless drill nearby for pilot and clearance holes.

Perfect plugs

You already know that cutting plugs from scrap stock saves time and money, but you may not realize that most plug cutters are only intended for the drill press. (The shank’s shape prevents the bit from slipping when cutting dense woods.) For cutting plugs with a handheld drill, you need to use a cutter with a center point.

Now drive

You’ll want to have a good selection of driver bits on hand. Switch in a new bit as soon as the bit’s edges appear worn to avoid stripping a screw head or damaging the workpiece. Good driver bits are inexpensive, especially when you buy them in bulk. I make sure to have a collection of 1" insert bits, plus a few 2" and 3" bits for extra reach. Longer bits can also be used with an impact driver.

Specialty bits

Using several drills with designated bits makes sense at the workbench. But for the times when don't want to weigh yourself down, hex shank make more sense than round-shanked bits. For on-site cabinet work, such as installing shelves, drawer slides, and hinges, self-centering shelf pin and hinge bits will earn their place in your toolbelt. Similarly, Kreg’s drill-and-drive kit can cut your drill count in half. The included chuck has found a permanent home on my favorite drill.   

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