Impact drivers have been around for a while, but until recently, they really weren't a preferred tool for woodworking. However, as many of these impact drivers have become smaller, more lightweight and even more powerful, they have taken away some of the common tasks that were typically handled by cordless drills, and to an extent where considerable power was needed, electric power drills. The impact driver has shown to be particularly useful when driving long deck screws while building pressure treated lumber projects, or on those projects using stout hardwoods.
As opposed to a cordless drill, that uses a relatively steady rotation when driving a screw (discounting, of course, the variable speeds that can be achieved when depressing the trigger further on the drill), an impact driver uses a rapid start and stop motion that increases the amount of torque applied to the fastener without transferring that torque to the operator.
This specific motion allows a much smaller, or in some cases, even a palm-sized impact driver, to drive long screws into woods with ease.
The Case for a Strong Bit
Because of the appreciable increase in torque applied to the screw head, or more appropriately, the rapid fire herky jerky motion of the impact driver's chuck as it applies the torque to the screw head, many tool manufacturers (and subsequently, carpenters and woodworkers) have discovered that impact drivers require tougher bits for driving screws. This is exactly what Irwin has done with their new line of Irwin Impact driver bit set.
These bits are available in a variety of configurations, from single bit packages to the 33-piece impact screwdriver bit set shown in the center of the image above, all in a sturdy hard-shell plastic case. These bits were engineered to be used specifically with impact drivers, to handle the increased torque and start-and-stop motion of an impact driver. As such, the manufacturer claims that these bits will have three times longer life than the typical screwdriver bits available on the market today.
What Makes Them Different?
The bits in the Irwin Impact Performance Series line are manufactured using heavy-duty, cold-forged high grade steel designed to withstand the forces applied by impact drivers. Additionally, all of the bits, drivers and nutsetters in the series are coated with a black oxide finish to help resist corrosion and thus increase the life of the bit as well.
These bits are more than just quality steel with a protective finish. The bits are specifically designed to drive the fastener from the side instead of forcing the corners to turn, which helps to maintain the contact with and the integrity of the fastener, helping to reduce stripping and breakage of both the bit and the fastener. This also helps the bit to grip the fastener in the corners, particularly on a screw head that has been painted.
What Types are Available?
The full set of Irwin Impact driver bit set includes three sizes of Phillips head bits (#1, #2 and #3 sizes), four sizes of square tipped bits, seven different Torx bit sizes and three nutsetters (1/4-inch, 5/16-inch and 3/8-inch sizes), plus a 3/8-inch socket adapter, a bit-extending screw guide (with a sliding outer cover to help guide long screws) and a C-ringed bit holder that securely holds the shorter bits included the set in the chuck of the impact driver. Each of the aforementioned pieces is housed in a sturdy folding plastic carrying case with a secure lock that will protect the entire set if it is dropped or thrown into a toolbox.
The C-ring bit holder has an external clip that rides neatly inside a groove around the tip of the bit holder. This clip adjusts to help securely hold the bit insert in place, and is backed by a powerful rare earth magnet that would likely be strong enough to hold the bit in place on its own without the clip, but in combination, the bit is firmly entrenched in the holder when used with an impact driver. Of course, this rare earth magnet has the added benefit of helping to hold your screw in place when positioning the screw onto the wood.
TIP: Because the strong magnet can be damaging to electronic circuitry, do not use these bits when working on computer or other electronic equipment.
Additionally, if you need to drive a bolt or nut that is not of the three preset sizes included in the kit, you can place a socket of the necessary size onto the socket adapter to use with your impact driver. This socket adapter has a ball-lock retention system to firmly hold your socket onto the tip of the adapter, allowing the torque to focus on the nut or bolt being tightened.
As impact drivers become more and more powerful and you find more uses for them in your shop, you may find it useful to invest in a set of bits and adapters that are designed to handle the abuse that an impact driver can impart on your fasteners. These Irwin Impact Performance Series Bits would be an appropriate choice to consider in such a case.