I often use step bits when I’m doing field work as an electrician. Now that my 9 – 5 has me in the shop, I use them every single day for fabricating and wiring control panels on large pumps. The challenge, of course, is that the materials I drill through can quickly wreak havoc on our shop bits. The resulting holes can sometimes end up with burrs. So, I’ve got my fingers crossed for these Milwaukee step bits I just got my hands on. Will the Milwaukee ShockWave Impact Duty Electrical Step Bits perform better than the competition? Let’s take them for a spin.
- Fast, burr-free drilling
- Long life
- Solid performance in an impact driver
- No major drawbacks
Milwaukee Step Bit Feature Set
- Optimized for Impact Drivers, Drill/Driver Compatible
- Titanium Aluminum Nitride (TiAlN) coating
- Rapid Strike Tip provides fast and accurate starts
- Dual spiral flute
- Optimized Shockzone reduces early shank breaks
- Made in the USA with global materials
- 13 steps with laser engraving
For my work, the impact-rated Milwaukee bits offer three benefits if they can get the job done. First, I can use the higher RPM of my impact driver for faster holes. Next, I can maneuver into tighter spaces because my impact is (and most impacts are) smaller than a drill. And if someone happens to borrow my drill (ahem!), I’m not stuck until I get it back; I can just use my impact driver.
It’s quite common to drill through aluminum and stainless steel, the two materials that will typically doom a step bit. Even with a generous amount of oil, it’s hard to keep my normal bits working for more than a couple of days. Since these shop bits aren’t impact-rated like the Milwaukee Step Bits, I’m consigned to drilling at low RPM to preserve sharpness. Slow to drill and quick to dull – it’s not a great combination! So I inserted one of the Milwaukee bits into my impact, and away I went.
And… wow, these bits drill quickly. I didn’t take it easy on them, either, using oil only sparingly. I had initial doubts that the Milwaukee step bits could stand up to all the aluminum and stainless, but they did with flying colors. Aluminum couldn’t make the bits break a sweat, although I noticed some smoking in the stainless steel. To be fair, that’s common with any bit in stainless.
Over the course of the review, I used the smallest bit most frequently, drilling at least 100 holes. Although the titanium aluminum nitride coating has started to wear, the flutes are still sharp and it’s still working very quickly. I drilled about 20 holes with the middle size and a handful with the biggest. Both performed just as well.
While the performance is impressive, it does show one of the trade-offs with titanium. It gives you a lower-cost bit than cobalt, but it’s a coating that will eventually wear off and lose its benefits. Cobalt blends with the steel so you get the benefits throughout.
The Milwaukee Step Bits tracks very well at the beginning of the hole and leave it virtually burr-free. There’s very little of the annoying and time-consuming de-burring on any of the holes, even as that smaller size starts to show its wear.
At least part of this is thanks to the helical design, which uses spiral flutes instead of just progressive gradations. Even after all of this use, I can still see the side markings clearly since they’ve been shielded from wear inside the spiral.
Price & Value
Individual bits start at $25 and run upwards of $99. Ideal’s 4-piece kit 35-520 (the set I typically work with) runs right around $195. That price falls right in line with this 3-piece Milwaukee Step Bit kit at $130. Though the prices are comparable, the Milwaukee bits perform better and last longer than any other step bit I’ve used. In fact, I’ve already talked to our purchasing manager in hopes of changing to Milwaukee.
The Bottom Line
I have only good things to say about these bits. They exceeded my expectations and are now the ones I use for fast, burr-free drilling.
Milwaukee Shockwave Impact Duty Electrical Step Bits Specifications
- Kit Item Number: 48-89-9257
- Shank: 1/4-inch Hex
- #1: 1/8 – 1/2-inch
- #4: 3/16 – 7/8-inch
- #9: 7/8 & 1-1/8-inc
- Also available: 48-89-9256 with #2, #3, #8
- Price: $129.97