Drills, saws and other basic power cutting tools used by electricians have changed significantly over the past several years. The introduction and rapid acceptance of lithium-ion battery cordless models is one of the most significant advances in cordless tool technology, and many other improvements make cordless and corded tools lighter, more productive and easier and safer to use.

It sometimes is easy to overlook the importance of power tool cutting accessories. Drills and saws cannot function without bits and blades, and there have been important advances in them, too.

More powerful, higher torque tools require more durable cutting accessories. New materials cut smoother and last longer, and improved geometric shapes make cutting through materials faster and easier. There are more specialty blades and bits available today that are designed for specific cutting tasks in more different types of material.

Improvements in tools themselves—especially cordless models—is a driving force that has lead to improvements in cutting accessories.

BOSCH POWER TOOLS, Steve Angus, group product manager: “General purpose blades still have their place, but electricians are finding more application--specific purposes for reciprocating and other saws.

“Saw blades must also keep up with the changing dynamics of the tools themselves. And saws come equipped with more power and lighter batteries that last longer, which results in higher blade speeds and increased blade temperature. Today’s saw models also require blades designed to withstand the stress exerted on the blade [and] enhance value by increasing the lifetime of the blade.

“Many tools today are able to perform more heavy-duty applications that were traditionally left to machine shops. With these advances come opportunities such as cutting metals. Blades must be taller and thicker than standard blades in order to withstand these tough applications. The teeth in most cases are also optimized for the tough applications. Speed is still a consideration, but lifetime of the blade becomes a more important feature.

“Most tool manufacturers are also designing their tools to reduce fatigue, limit vibration and decrease noise for end-users. Blade technologies will follow suit by optimizing different aspects of the blade, such as blade geometries, heights, thicknesses, tilt angles, teeth per inch configurations and tooth settings for the application.”

DEWALT, Simon Barrett, product manager for saw blades: “In general, power tools continue to be developed with increased torque and amps, and as a result, the accessories performance requirements also increase in terms of life and durability. For example, new impact drivers generate higher levels of torque, which require the accessories to be able to withstand the greater impact generated.

“Titanium coatings on drill bits have led to higher drilling speeds due to their ability to dissipate the heat from the cut. Additionally, the advancement in cutting in geometries has led to improved cutting efficiencies of accessories.

“Due to a wider array of material available today, there is demand for more specific material/application-based accessories. It is critical to match the correct accessory with the material being cut. An example would be the extended service from cobalt drill bits for drilling through hardened materials, such as stainless steel versus coated bits where the coatings can wear off.”

GREENLEE TEXTRON, Brian Allison, senior product manager: “The market has seen new tool designs in the past several years. The real contribution for the new power tools is not necessarily new designs but improvements made to current products. The increased battery life and power has forced the market to create better, more durable products to compliment the performance of the power tool.

“Some of the more significant improvements have been material changes to give products more wear resistance or better impact life; changes in cutting-edge technology to provide faster, safer cutting; and changes in surface finishes that also help improve product life and speed of cut.

“It is very important to match the tool to the job/material for several reasons:

1. It helps make sure you get the best hole possible, as fast as possible.

2. It prolongs the life of the tool.

3. It is the safest way. It is possible to buy a tool that will cut multiple materials, but if you want the fastest, cleanest, safest hole, it still requires multiple tools for multiple materials.”

HILTI, Kris Cleveland, product manager, cutting and grinding: “Most people don’t pay much attention to matching the accessory to the base material. However, this can make a big difference in performance of the tool as well as the quality of cut. With reciprocating saw blades in particular, there are many blades that will all cut metal. However, the tooth pitch and configurations are designed for specific types and thickness of metal. More recently, there are tooth configurations that offer a progressive tooth pitch that will give the operator greater flexibility in base materials.

“Open any hardware catalog and you will see that the variety of blades and bits has definitely grown. This indicates that there is a definite need in the market to get the best performance possible out of a blade. The biggest impact on the market will be an increase in performance of cordless tools. As cordless saws continue to replace corded tools on job sites, there is a definite opportunity to improve performance of the tools by using consumables that have been designed to maximize performance of these tools. This can be through the use of coatings, blade thickness and tooth designs that reduce the advance pressure of the blade, which in turn reduces the drain on the tool and battery.”

IDEAL INDUSTRIES, Aaron Mattison, product manager: “The most significant recent improvements that we have seen with cutting tool products include dual cutting edges on ship augers and step drills, various coatings used to optimize performance and durability of cutting tool products, and the use of carbide technology.

“Today’s bits and saw blades are manufactured with better equipment and more durable materials than they were in the past. Improvements in steel quality, grinding, milling and brazing technology, and the introduction of durable and heat-resistant materials combine to produce products that are superior to their predecessors. Today we see cutting accessories made from a number of materials that were not utilized in the past.

“The introduction of carbide technology has dramatically changed cutting accessories. In addition, coatings are becoming more prevalent. These new materials improve the overall performance and durability of today’s cutting accessories.

“As more and more nontraditional building materials show up on construction sites and people invent better and more efficient ways to cut through existing materials, we will see cutting tool products become available to handle these applications. This is a constantly evolving industry, and cutting tools will evolve with it.”

LENOX, Web Shaffer, Lenox senior product manager for hand tools: “The increased power of cordless machines has spurred a number of changes in cutting tool accessories for drills; the increased power has made hole saws much more versatile. Previously, cordless drills did not have enough power for hole saws to cut through steel and wood. Because of the increased amount of power on cordless drills, large diameter hole saws can now get through these materials with ease.

“Cordless power has also increased significantly on reciprocating saws. On average, cordless machines have increased from 11 to 15 amps or from 18 to 36 volts. This increased power is transferred to the blades and allows the saw to maintain a higher cutting speed. The downside to this is that the faster cutting speed increases both friction and heat, which can lead to premature blade failure. In answer to these new variables, blade manufacturers are now designing blades for cordless reciprocating saw blades that can withstand the increased power and, therefore, higher speed.

“With reciprocating saw blades, matching the tooth per inch (TPI) to the cutting application is critical to efficient cutting and maximizing blade life. Beyond TPI, blade dimension is another key consideration.

“For hole saws, TPI is less critical than the edge material. For example, a diamond edge hole saw is best for use on harder materials like porcelain and stone. Carbide grit hole saws are best for more abrasive applications like ceramic wall tile, fiber cement board and drywall. Carbide tipped hole saws are excellent for extended cutting in wood, metal and cast iron. Standard bimetal hole saws are great for general purpose cutting of wood, nail embedded wood and metal.”

M. K. MORSE CO. (Metal Devil metal cutting saws and blades), Kim Reynolds, national sales manager: “We have seen demand increase in the past year for more specialized blades, which led to development of stainless steel and stud-cutting circular saw blades.

“For higher torque, lower rpm circular saws, special metal-cutting blades manufactured in different configurations are most appropriate to handle different materials, such as steel, thin steel, aluminum, stainless steel and steel studs. Important differences between blade configurations are the number of teeth on the blade, shape of teeth and the carbide grade. Even differences engineered into the plate help provide the longest life possible from both the blade and saw and minimize user fatigue.

“These metal cutting circular saw blades provide better cutting solutions than those traditionally used. Metallurgy of the carbide tips mean there is minimal heat transferred to the inner plate. These blades move through metal up to five times faster than traditional cutting methods. The combined effect is a more productive day.”

GRIFFIN, a construction and tools writer from Oklahoma City, can be reached at 405.748.5256 or up-front@cox.net.