This Milwaukee bit set has a good range of sizes and doubles for the most popular bits!
Click image to enlarge

Milwaukee 21-Piece Thunderbolt Drill Bit Set

Quality trumps cheap when you need tools that work

Text, photos and video by Tom Hintz

Posted – 10-12-2010

All too often drill bits are treated as a throwaway tool with replacements purchased based more on low price than quality. That strategy makes this cheap first form of economy a self-fulfilling prophecy. Even if a short lifespan is acceptable, cheap drills also lose drilling efficiency very quickly which can result in oblong and oversized holes. The Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bit Set reviewed here lets you to drill holes where you want with the dead on sizing that you need. These are welcome traits to find in a drill bit set when you are working with any material but especially metal.

The Basics

The Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bits are given a black oxide coating which adds lubricity that reduces temperatures and in the process increases their performance and useful life. Harder to see is the tapered web that helps these bits resist side loads and breakage.

The tips of the Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bit Set have 135° degree split point that encourages the bit to start the hole without walking. That is especially helpful when using hand drills or working with a curved surface. The Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bits also have a parabolic flute design that makes the removal of chips more efficient. Clearing the debris more quickly lets the bit run cooler and cut a more concentric hole.

The specially designed tips (left) give the Milwaukee drills great bite that helps eliminate wandering. the shanks of the larger bits have three lands (right) ground into them that virtually locks them into standard chucks.
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Even the shanks of the Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bits have been given engineering attention with the addition of a 3-flats on bits 13/64” and larger. Even the reduced shank on the ½”-diameter bit has the three flat design incorporated into its 3/8”-diameter.

Smart Set

Chances are the Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bit Set was designed by people that use drill bits regularly. Notice within the list of included bit sizes below that the most commonly used bits are supplied with a quantity of 2 rather than one. The included bit sizes are (2) 1/16", (2) 5/64", (1) 3/32", (1) 7/64", (2) 1/8", (1) 9/64", (1) 5/32", (1) 11/64", (2) 3/16", (1) 13/64", (1) 7/32", (1) 15/64", (2) 1/4", (1) 5/16", (1) 3/8" and (1) 1/2".

Because the Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bit Set comes in a nice carry case with labeled positions for all of the bits, including the doubles, it is easy to see if any bits are missing or if you need to get a replacement. The case also helps keep your bits organized and protected.

In the Shop

While I do most of my metal drilling on my Powermatic PM2800 drill press there are jobs that just make more sense when done with a hand drill. During this evaluation I used the Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bits both ways and found them to be very effective in the press or hand drill. While they cut very well in the hand drill I think I was better able to notice the reduced force needed to keep the Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bits “engaged” or cutting on the drill press. The design of the point gets that cutting action started immediately and helps prevent the bit from walking around on the surface. While I normally use a center punch to help get a drill bit started, I tried drilling several holes without the punch. Unless I was trying to drill into a dramatically angled or rounded surface the Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bits started and cut a nice round hole every time. I am not foolhardy enough to expect these drills to start cleanly on the side of a piece of tubing but with common sense care in your setup they really do start cleanly in situations in which I would have fought wander with my old (cheap) bits.

This set includes doubles (left) of the most popular bit sizes. The flutes (right) and tapered web design work together to strengthen the bits as well as enhance chip removal which lowers temperatures while letting the bit drill straighter.
Click images to enlarge

The flats on the shanks of the larger Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bits do a very good job of preventing it from spinning within the chuck. Even larger bits spun consistently when breaking through the bottom of 1/8”-thick steel. I could hear a short drag on the motor as the bit powered open the bottom of the hole and that further proved the bit was not slipping within the chuck.

While it is hard to quantify how much easier these bits cut, it was noticeable when compared to the same size bits from the selection I had amassed over the years. Even the unused bits in my drawer don’t come close to matching the performance of the Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bit Set. After doing this review on the Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bit Set my old drill bit collection has been relegated to last resort status. The Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bit Set will take its rightful place at the front of my drill drawer.

Conclusions

While the current street price for the Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bit Set hovers around $30.00 (10-11-2010) their performance rivals any bit set I have tried in the last several years. I know that I can spend more money but have nearly zero confidence that I can actually get better bits for those extra dollars.

Video Tour

The Milwaukee Thunderbolt Drill Bit Set is a very good value for any shop that works with metal. Some people may be better off with a larger bit set from Milwaukee but for me this 21-piece set is just right. Any larger drills I need will be purchased individually for specific jobs. Another point in favor of Milwaukee drills is their widespread availability.

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