Torture Test: Spade Bits and Beyond
We take traditional spades and their modern competitors for a spin.
Synopsis: Spade bits provide a low-cost means for plumbers, electricians, and framers to drill medium- to large-diameter holes. In addition to the original paddle-shaped spade, bits are now available with barbed edges, curved paddles, and self-feed screw tips. For this article, electrician Brian Walo put 13 spade bits (1 in. dia. and 6 in. long) through two tests: a high-speed/low-torque test and a low-speed/high-torque test. The Bosch Daredevil, a curved-paddle bit with a self-feed screw tip, not only was the best overall performer, but it also yielded the lowest cost per hole. As a group, the fluted bits performed poorly in the high-speed/low-torque test, but they outdistanced all other competitors in the low-speed/high-torque test. A third test was also performed, on wood spiked with framing nails, but because few bits survived this test, results are not included in the article.
Familiar job-site companions, spade bits have long filled the void for plumbers, electricians, and framers needing to drill medium to large-diameter holes without lugging around a dedicated 1⁄2-in. right angle drill. Spade bits are relatively inexpensive and widely available in a range of sizes to suit most tasks on the job, making them an easy choice for tool buyers with slim budgets.
Because they are such a common sight on the job, we began to wonder how the brands would stack up against each other for speed and durability in a couple of different scenarios. Also, in case you missed it, the market has expanded beyond the standard paddle shaped spade and now includes bits with barbed edges, curved paddles, and self-feed screw tips.
Our goal? To see if the new spins on the traditional spade design affect performance and longevity, or whether the traditional spades would prove the old adage about not fixing something that’s not broken.