Drill bits, saw blades and other cutting accessories are designed to get maximum productivity from the latest cordless tools. They are made to cut cleanly and smoothly, which reduces tool wear, and they are durable for a longer useful life.
The growth in the selection of cordless power tools has created an opportunity for manufacturers to consider the tool and cutting accessory as a system that can make more cuts per charge, so that a single charge may last the whole work day or the number of times the user has to change to a fresh battery is reduced.
Today’s cutting accessories help increase productivity cutting performance and specialization to cut specific materials.
The shift from “cut everything” for all applications to job-specific designs has had significant impact on overall tool performance. Tool and accessory designs are engineered to achieve the best possible balance of cutting speed, life and productivity. The more specialized the cutting product, the greater the overall performance, with fewer trade-offs.
Metals used to make cutting accessories continue to evolve to keep up with the demand to get more done in less time. Metal for high-speed steel accessories has become a cost-effective material. Alloy upgrades, cutting-edge refinements, heat treatments and special high-heat coatings are being used for high-speed steel cutting products. Tungsten carbide tips for cutting edges have broadened the scope of these applications.
Because electricians often must cut through a “sandwich” of more than one type of material, multipurpose blades are available, and specialty bits and blades are designed to cut quickly through specific types of lateral material. With an ever-growing selection of bits and blades, users can find the combination of tool and cutting accessory for every need.
Karl Weber, senior product manager at Milwaukee Tool, Brookfield, Wis., said the cutting accessories most used by electricians are reciprocating saw blades, bandsaw blades, step bits and hole saws. He added that there also is a range of electrical-specific cutting accessories, such as knockout punches and dies for putting holes into electrical boxes and cable cutting blades that produce installation-ready cuts on larger building wire.
“In the last 12 months, manufacturers of cutting accessories continued to upgrade the life cycles of their products,” Weber said. “Not new, but a significant change in the past 12 months has been upgrading the life cycle of current products. To better satisfy electricians’ needs and demands, more durable cutting products coincide with the shift in the market to increased cordless tool usage.”
As most lithium-ion battery tools become more powerful, accessories are better designed to withstand the power outputs and maintain user satisfaction with consumable cutting products. Electricians cut a variety of materials.
“Most commonly, a user has to cut through multiple materials in one cut. For example, in demolition jobs, electricians may need to cut through metal pipes or support beams. Premium carbide teeth accessories are best used for demanding cutting applications such as stainless steel,” he said. “Using the wrong blade or bit can be frustrating and inefficient. Electricians would need to purchase multiple bi-metal reciprocating saw blades and waste time changing blades when cutting in stainless steel. A reciprocating saw blade with carbide teeth would be the correct blade for this application to save time, money and user frustration.”
As cutting accessories continue to evolve, Weber believes the most significant change has been their ability to cut more materials faster while maintaining a much longer product life.
He said the application of carbide to cutting teeth of reciprocating saw blades and hole saws helps complete demanding applications such as cutting stainless steel, which in the past could not be done without going through multiple bi-metal bits.
“Milwaukee Tool provides innovative cutting and hole-making solutions trade-focused for the electrical industry,” Weber said. “Reciprocating saw blades, bandsaw blades, hole saws and step bits would be the most common solutions. In addition, cobalt drill bits, carbide cutters and metal circular saw blades have a place in the electrical industry.”
Rob Bentley, senior product manager at Greenlee, Rockford, Ill., said cordless tools and their cutting accessories continue to advance in ways that enhance job-site productivity. New materials and designs allow tools and accessories to help improve ease of use, speed and ergonomics at work sites.
“Updating cutting accessories for the smaller size and lighter-weight tools is beneficial,” Bentley said. “New accessories are also being made with lighter materials and innovative designs that will put less strain on the user and perform the job faster. For example, the Greenlee step bit now has a progressive split-step design that places less overall torque affecting the user, minimizes drill stalling and allows for more holes per charge. The newer design is up to two times faster and the bit has a longer life.”
It is important to select the proper bit or blade for the material being cut and use the power tool correctly for each application.
“An example is that drilling into stainless steel requires not only a special bit, but the power tool must also be used at low speed with the proper amount of force,” he said. “Drilling stainless steel at high speed will not only burn up the bit/blade being used, it can also harden the material, making penetration nearly impossible.”
Drilling into wood that may contain nails requires a specially hardened bit.
“The hammer capability that accompanies many tools is important in high-torque applications that can make it very difficult to handle the drill with one hand. Not using the hammer in high-torque applications can result in injury,” Bentley said.
He said Greenlee’s cutting accessories line includes step and auger bits, bi-metal hole saws, knockout tools, carbide-tipped hole cutters, ultra high-speed steel cutters, carbide grit flexible installer bits and spade bits. Electricians widely use spade, step and auger bits, bi-metal hole saws, knockouts, carbide-tipped hole cutters and reciprocating saw blades.
Mike Oppor, group manager of product and channel marketing for accessories in North America at Bosch, Farmington Hills, Mich., said the company has introduced a new line of turbo high-speed step drill bits.
“These bits provide a smooth finished hole with no burrs, so little to no filing is needed to finish out a hole,” Oppor said.
“We also released cobalt spiral drill bits. These are designed with higher cobalt content, which makes the bit more durable and capable of keeping its sharp edge, and it helps the bit resist heat breakdown in tough drilling materials such as stainless steel.”
“The accessories we see most commonly used by the electrical industry are spade bits (known as Daredevil), step drill bits, metal cutting circular saw blades, band saw blades, self-feed bits, self-feed bit extensions, bell hanger bits, auger bits, high speed auger bits, self-feed spade bits, nail strike spade bits, hole saws, impact tough hole saws, spiral drill bits (black oxide, titanium, cobalt), taps and dies, bit tips and holders, sockets, carbide concrete bits and hammer steel, diamond cutting wheels, abrasive cutting wheels, reciprocating blades and oscillating blades,” he said.
“One of our newest accessories to the Bosch lineup is the nail strike bit,” Oppor said. “This robust and durable bit was designed for applications where drilling might encounter an occasional nail. It is designed to power through and cut the nail so the hole can be completed.”
Matthew Savarino, director of product management, power tools and accessories at DeWalt, Towson, Md., said oscillating multitools are being used by more people in the trades, including electricians.
“Oscillating tools are faster and easier to use than a traditional jab saw for cutting out electrical boxes and offer more versatility, as they can cut many different materials such as wood, nails and paneling,” he said.
Savarino said that not using the right blade for a specific type of material will result in the teeth stripping off or wearing down.
“Choosing the right blade is critical, as it will efficiently get the job done with little to no frustration and ultimately, with less frequent blade changes,” he said. “The DeWalt line of oscillating multitool accessories offers electricians solutions for cutting wood, drywall, plastic, nails or metal as well as specialty blades for applications like scraping or grout removal.”
DeWalt’s Elite series circular saw Elite 7 ¼-inch 24T blade lasts up to 320 more cuts and cuts up to 1,282 more linear feet.
“This extended lifespan is achieved through a breakthrough multitooth design and proprietary welded carbide tips that increase bond strength and provide extraordinary durability,” Savarino said. “In addition, the blades’ large vents are designed to reduce heat buildup and improve chip ejection, producing effortless, smooth cuts. The portfolio of Elite series blades can cut wood, hardwood, LVL beams, trim, cross-cutting, sheet goods and softwood, making the blades ideal for general construction applications.”
Elite saw blades are available now in 6½- and 7 ¼-inch diameters.
In addition, DeWalt’s Lenox bi-metal reciprocating saw blades are designed for cutting wood, metal or plastic, offering versatility for a variety of applications with the types of materials electricians frequently encounter on job sites.