New power tool features and improvements attract the attention of electricians, who are ever alert to advances that make work easier and more productive.

The continuing trend toward cordless tools, recent breakthroughs in battery technology, and ergonomics are important features of today’s power tools, but the drills, hammer drills, various types of saws and hole cutters routinely used for electrical and datacom work would be useless without bits, blades and other cutting accessories.

Using improved metals, heat-treating technologies, coating materials and cutting geometries, products cut faster, cleaner and last longer than ever. More saw-blade designs for cutting through different materials, combination bits that drill and tap in one operation, and step bit-designs to prevent over-drilling are some of the more significant innovations.

“More and more, electricians are finding themselves in situations that include more difficult cutting applications,” said Jeff Tisdell, product manager for cutting supplies for Ideal Industries. “Power tool accessories have finally evolved to address the many needs of the changing work environment. In addition to carbide and bimetal technologies and titanium coatings on many power tool accessories, unique tooth and cutting geometry have been developed to improve product performance.”

Representatives of several leading manufacturers offer these comments about cutting accessories.

“Today’s bits and blades last longer and cut more efficiently. Improvements include multipurpose to specialty blades, technological improvements, such as tooth-geometry for reciprocating blades, and the introduction of carbide tips for circular saw blades,” said Kurt Honakur, accessories brand manager, Bosch Power Tools. “Especially in the areas of recip blades, manufacturers have a specialty blade for nearly every application. Drill bits remove material more efficiently, avoid overheating and extending the accessory. Carbide tips are better positioned to last longer and be more productive. In all, accessories are also saving time and money on the job.

“Our new color-coded reciprocating saw blade line for professionals offers 60 fast-cutting and long-lasting blade solutions for a complete range of applications. Incorporating patented technologies such as two-by-two tooth combinations, tooth patterns, glow-in-the-dark paint and durable construction, the new line is perfect for demolition, wood, metal, sandwiched material and specialty applications.”

Peter Ciello, senior product manager at Greenlee Textron said, “Improved products include saw blades with progressive pitch, which make them more universal in application without loss of performance and reducing the need to swap out blades based on the material being cut. Enhancements to step bits improve drill times and longer lands at popular steps prevent over drilling.

“Other new bits on the market include combination bits that can drill and tap in one operation, enabling users to drill the proper hole size and tap the hole all in one operation. These drill-tap bits are designed to tap up to 10-gauge metal and have a high quality hex shank to provide a strong connection for end users in residential, commercial and industrial applications. They are made of hardened high-speed steel rather than carbon steel and will provide longer life. Shanks designed with a back taper behind the tap will prevent thread damage from over drilling. A deburr-countersink function contributes to time and money savings.

“Quality bimetal hole saws have a design where the body of the saw is made of a softer metal that resists fracturing, while the teeth are made of a high-speed tool steel, such as a high grade M42 of 8 percent cobalt that can withstand heat and maintain sharpness. High-speed cutters cut clean holes in steel, gasket, fiber, rubber and plastic. As a result, they provide the lowest cost per hole when cutting mild steel. High-speed cutters offer maximum performance and cost-effectiveness when cutting steel and will outlast conventional hole saws 10-to-1. Carbide cutters and traditional hole saws now offer a growing number of quick-change arbors, designed to save you time and money. These arbors allow you to quickly change the hole cutter size without changing the arbor.”

According to Keith Kirk, senior market manager at Hilti, “The quality of bits and blades comes down to the components and manufacturing process used. Manufacturers are using a wider range of materials (titanium and alloy metals) than they did in the past, which allows for a longer lasting higher performing product. Higher quality steels and carbides, tighter manufacturing tolerances, tooth configuration, pitch, better quality control and new manufacturing technology such as bimetal and carbide attachment methods have all had a positive effect on the life and performance of bits and saw blades.

“Selecting the proper blade or bit is critical for getting the job done correctly and in a timely manner. An example would be using the proper reciprocating saw blades, hole saws or band saw blades for the right base material. Hard, thin materials require finer pitch teeth on saw blades—for 1/8-inch material, 16 teeth per inch minimum, two teeth for every 1/8 inch. Using the wrong accessory can produce less-professional results, extend cutting times, damage the accessory, and produce less than professional results.”

Ideal Industries’ Jeff Tisdell, product manager—cutting supplies said: “Using high-quality power tool accessories that are designed for specific applications provides superior performance, improves overall productivity and dramatically reduces down time. 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 braising technology and the introduction of durable and heat-resistant materials combine to produce products that are superior to their -predecessors.

“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, you will see cutting tool products become available to handle these applications. This is a constantly evolving industry and cutting tools will evolve with it. Stay tuned!”

“Bits and blades have evolved and improved as power tools have evolved and improved,” said Nick Morrisroe, director of marketing, power tool accessories at Lenox. “Today’s reciprocating saws have become more versatile and more powerful—some saws have rotating heads, many can operate at 13 amps and can cut tougher materials like angle iron and rebar. Recip blades have evolved to perform these applications; they’ve gotten wider and thicker so that they are more durable and last much longer than the recip blades of even five years ago.

“Some manufacturers are now looking towards improvements in tooth geometry to power through these tougher materials, and some innovative manufacturers have found that coatings, when applied correctly, can drastically improve blade life. Jigsaw blades have gotten longer to accommodate changes in material, stroke length and shoe plate thickness. Metal cutting jigsaw blades have grown in length from 3 to 35/8 inches to account for a thicker shoe plate and thicker pipe size. This change has allowed faster and more accurate cutting than before.

“Users of auger bits have likely noticed that they’re now able to power through nails without severely damaging the bit because some manufacturers have reinforced the head of the auger bit to accommodate nails.

“For rough wood drilling, hole cutters have dramatically changed the operation from a task that was typically performed with a self-feed bit. Self-feed bits tend to require high torque because they shave the material away until it creates a hole. A hole cutter actually cuts a kerf around the diameter of the hole which makes the application faster and requires less torque,” Morrisroe said.

Brent Withey, Makita brand manager said, “Saw blades have become more innovative with new tooth designs and materials. Today’s saw blades have many features that are designed to extend the life of the blade and improve overall performance. Features such as heat vents, expansion slots, tooth design and friction-reducing coatings are just some of the ways manufacturers have improved the performance of saw blades.

“Examples are our innovative new wood-cutting saw blade with a unique M-shaped, dual-bevel tooth and the new ultra-coated blade for pressure treated and wet lumber. There has also been an increase in blades for metal cutting solutions such as the blue steel, 7¼-inch metal cutting saw blades with ceramic metal tips.”

According to Richard Peterson, brand media manager for Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp., “Research and development of new materials allows blades and bits to hold their sharp cutting edges longer, and more accessories are being designed that are task specific. Properly selected bits and blades will allow the electrician to get the job done faster, and the selection of cutting available for electricians today includes recip saw blades, circular saw blades, hole saws, carbide tip hole saws, step bits, self-feed bits, twist bits, flat boring bits, auger bits, ship auger bits, cable bits and bell hanger bits.” EC

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