Drill Doctor: New Life for Old Drill Bits

Drill Doctor: New Life for Old Drill Bits

Hank O’Dougherty, president of Drill Doctor, wants you to know three things. First off, drill bits were meant to be re-sharpened. Second, his company’s product, the Drill Doctor, makes it easy to sharpen them accurately. Third and most importantly, sharp drill bits save you time!

Sure, re-sharpening means you’re not spending more money on drill bits, but Hank feels that saving time is the big benefit with Drill Doctor. Woodworkers, like most people, have only a certain amount of time they can devote to their projects. A dull drill bit brings everything to a halt, and sends you off to buy a new one.

Hank wants to change the way people think about drill bits. His company offers a line of drill bit sharpeners that easily and quickly restores a drill bit to its original sharpness.

“Most woodworkers know how to sharpen chisels and blades, but their drill bits have been collecting in a tin can or drawer. Re-sharpening seems beyond a lot of people because they think that the flutes do the cutting. But once they get the idea that it’s the tip, it makes sense. It’s like a lightbulb comes on when they suddenly make the connection between all those old drill bits they’ve got laying around and the Drill Doctor.”

It’s all a matter of drill bit geometry. As Hank described it, the Drill Doctor uses a camming system to create the same motion as the CMC sharpener that originally made the drill bit. A chuck holds the bit near the tip and by the flute, rather than holding onto the shank … this prevents any chatter while it’s grinding. How far the bit sticks out of the chuck determines how much material will be removed. Only a subtle downward pressure is required (depending on the size of the bit) and, once the bit is sharpened, the grinding wheel doesn’t touch the tip anymore. Since it only takes a few turns, a minimum of material is removed and the number of times the bit can be re-sharpened is maximized.

The Drill Doctor uses a diamond-impregnated wheel, and since the wheel is made from a steel blank it never changes shape. What about coated bits or a bit that has overheated and lost temper (usually turning blue or purple)? According to Hank, on coated bits you’re only sharpening the tip so the coating remains intact, and you can actually restore temper by sharpening down to good steel.

“We make a highly accurate drill point,” Hank explained.”The chisel point has to be right in the middle of the drill bit for both the cutting lips to work accurately. We hold ourselves to within 3/1000 of an inch — that’s one half the width of a hair!”

To demonstrate this point at trade shows, Hank pulls out two 3/8″ bits. One is brand-new and about 3 to 4 inches long. The other has been sharpened by a Drill Doctor 200 times and it’s now one inch long. Hank admits it’s an extreme example, but it demonstrates his premise: Drill bits are made to be sharpened.

rill Doctors are already available everywhere power tools are sold … at Lowe’s and Home Depot and in catalogs and online at companies like Amazon.com and Northern Tool. There’s also an infomercial you might run across on TV, but one of the company’s biggest boosters is radio commentator Paul Harvey. A woodworker himself and big fan of the product, Harvey promotes it on his program.

The company, headquartered in Ashland, Oregon, was started in 1998 when it split off from Darex, a company that makes CNC sharpening equipment for the industrial market costing in the $15 to $20 thousand dollar range.

At the time, there were (and still are) existing products for sharpening drill bits. Mostly bench jigs that Hank characterized as either working well, but hard to operate, or as easy to operate, but can’t sharpen with the proper geometry. In fact, combining easy use with precision was the company’s goal when it started … plus making it affordable. Suggested retail prices range from $44.95 for the drill powered 199 Traveler 100, up to $189.95 for the heavy duty 750 Professional.

The company recently sold its one millionth unit … so word is spreading. But how big is the potential market? According to Hank, 900,000 drill bits are sold each day in USA.

“Those are our customers,” Hank noted. “If they weren’t having a problem with dull drill bits they wouldn’t keep buying. Everyone has a drill, and everyone wants sharp bits. Dull bits waste time. Drills are only as good as the bits you use. We need to change the way people think, so that, along with a drill, every toolbox includes a Drill Doctor!”

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