Milwaukee Red Helix Drill Bits Review
Think about the most common cutting tools in your box, did your drill bits come to mind? Probably not. The twist drill is one of the most important, yet least understood, and most neglected of all cutting tools.
When shopping for drill bits most people typically want to know two things; how long will they last, and how much do they cost? Up until recently, that’s about all the average consumer needed to know, but thanks to Milwaukee and their relentless effort to improve well, pretty much everything, it’s time you put some more effort into our twist drill research.
Milwaukee Red Helix Bits: Material Composition
Back in 2009, Milwaukee introduced the Shockwave Impact Duty line of accessories specifically designed to stand up to elevated and extreme torque applications. In September, Milwaukee added to the Shockwave line by fielding the Impact Duty Titanium Red Helix Twist Drill Bits.
Tooled out of high speed steel, the name is actually derived from a titanium nitride (TiN) coating. TiN is a ceramic material that the bit a hard outer coating and provides a thermal barrier resulting in increased production rates and longer tool life in harder materials. There’s no compromise here as Milwaukee claims 3x longer life with TiN coating while still providing the same benefits of corrosion protection, increased tempering, and stress relief found in black and bronze oxide. TiN coated bits are suitable for drilling wood, iron, and steel as well as aluminum, magnesium, and similar materials.
Also in the Red Helix family (but not Shockwave) are the Milwaukee Cobalt Red Helix Drill Bits. Ripping straight from the pages of the press release Milwaukee tells us they’re, “engineered for extreme durability and long life in hard metal applications. Used more so in specialty drilling applications such as stainless steel, 4140 and cast iron. Cobalt Red Helix Drill Bits provide up to 10X more life than Black Oxide Drill Bits.”
It’s worth noting some pros and cons of both materials. TiN coated bits are actually harder than cobalt and more slippery to reduce friction, they’re also more resistant to corrosion. Despite this, cobalt (really a steel alloy with 5-8% cobalt) is better for drilling metal due to a high resistance to the massive heat generated when drilling through highly abrasive materials. Cobalt bits are great for high production rates as the cobalt is found throughout the entire material so the bit can be sharpened without losing any performance. Bits with a titanium coating are better for general purpose drilling in softer surfaces since the coating is only on the surface, and sharpening means losing the coating and all of its benefits.
Milwaukee Red Helix Bits: Design and Innovation
In my opinion, here lies the real genius of this tool. You can find other cobalt and titanium bits, but this feature is truly innovative. Typical twist drills have a standard helix with the flutes being uniform all the way down the shaft. Not true of both the Titanium and Cobalt Red Helix bits. These bits start with a tight 35° twist on the helix at the tip and then spread out to 15° at the base.
The design pulls waste out of the hole at a quicker rate and with fewer rotations of the bit. Quicker waste removal reduces friction and heat that dulls bits and leads to binding and the despicable experience of snapping off a drill bit in your work piece. In a hasty test of the variable helix design at the PTR Labs, we were able to repeatedly bore ½ inch holes over 5 inches deep in pressure treated pine without any binding or argument from the bit. I was really impressed with the smooth cutting action.
135° Split Point with Chip Breaker
In the past, drill point standards have been accepted based on precedent, rather than logic and design innovation. Some argue that the standard 118-degree point is wrongly assumed to be a good compromise for general-purpose drilling in a variety of different metals. Drawing from the professional drilling industry, Milwaukee has chosen to go with a more advanced split drill point and flatten the angle out to 135°. The split point design increases the cutting edge on the tip, and the blunter 135° angle means more of the cutting edge touches the surface sooner. The tip also features Milwaukee’s new Chip Breaker design, intended to remove waste quicker and reduce bit dulling heat. All this combines to create a drill tip that cuts faster, stays sharper longer, and resists walking off center.
Since both kits are designed for use in abrasive material, the shanks are modified accordingly. The Milwaukee Cobalt Red Helix Drill Bits are expected to take the most abuse. The shanks are flattened on 3 sides, and specifically designed for better grip in a standard drill chuck. The Titanium Red Helix Twist Drill Bits come with a hex shank so you can toss it in your impact driver and go. Being part of the Shockwave family, they are specifically designed for this purpose.
Over at the PTR Labs, we needed to drill mounting holes in the steel building frame to hang lighting. Chucking the Milwaukee Cobalt Red Helix Drill Bits in a cordless drill we were able to consistently drill through 1/8 inch steel framing in less than 10 seconds. The bit left a nice, clean, burr free hole. The 135° split point made solid contact and we had no issues with walking. Punching through was quick, easy, and accurate. In short, the experience was basically uneventful, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for. Drilling a hole shouldn’t be a major event, your bits should just work. The Milwaukee Cobalt Red Helix Drill Bits performed flawlessly.
The Cobalt bits come in a 15 piece kit while the Titanium set is offered in 15, 23, and 29 piece kits. Both kits are jobber length, include a ½ inch twist drill, and come in a sturdy case which should come in handy since these bits will likely be around your toolbox for a good long while. All in all, these are some nice twist drills. Hats off to Milwaukee for staying frosty and pushing the boundaries on the basics rather than settling for the status quo.
Milwaukee Cobalt Red Helix Drill Bits
- Cobalt Red Helix: 1/16″ – 1/2″ (29 sizes in 1/64″ increments)
- (48-89-2331) 15 Piece Cobalt Red Helix Kit
Milwaukee Titanium Red Helix Drill Bits
- Shockwave Titanium Red Helix: 1/16″ – 1/2″ (29 sizes in 1/64″ increments)
- (48-89-4630) 15 Piece Shockwave Titanium Red Helix Kit
- (48-89-4631) 23 Piece Shockwave Titanium Red Helix Kit
- (48-89-4632) 29 Piece Shockwave Titanium Red Helix Kit
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