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Outfit your toolbox with quick-change drill bits

Dear Ms. Builder: When I got divorced, my husband took all the tools. I am not an experienced do-it-yourselfer, but I have to learn now. Do you think that the quick-change drill sets are really worth the price? - Meg. H.

Dear Meg: It is not uncommon the wife gets the house, and its maintenance problems, but not the tools to maintain it. Actually it may be a blessing in disguise. There are so many neat new tools now that you can start out filling your toolbox with the best from the start.

Since most of the annual tool improvements today are marginal, it is often difficult to justify throwing away an old one to get just one or two new features. Every year, each manufacturer offers its "new and improved" hammers. Other than the really unique Ridgid Tool RoboHammer, there really isn't much that can be improved with hammer design.

First, you referred to it as a "drill set". So that the hardware store salesman does not know how inexperienced you are, the various-diameter pieces are actually called "drill bits". The drill is the electric or cordless device that the drill bits go into and spins them.

The new quick-change drill bit sets are a significant improvement in convenience and performance when using drills. Everyone who has worked with a drill with a key-type chuck (the part that holds the drill bit) has crunched his or her knuckles on the teeth - oooch!

Keyless chucks, that tighten by hand, make changing drill bits easier and safer, but it still takes some time. One problem with them, particularly for a woman without a lot of hand strength, is twisting it tight enough to keep the drill bit from spinning in the drill. Drilling in wood is usually not a problem. When drilling through sheet metal, the bit may slip.

There are several variations of quick-change drill bit designs, but they all have a base socket that is tightened into the drill chuck. The individual bits have a male end that fits into the female socket in the base. To change drill bits, you just pull one bit out of the socket and slip another in.

These are excellent for someone like yourself. Although each quick-change drill bit is more expensive than a standard bit, you will not be wearing them out as often as a professional builder. The end that fits into the drill chuck is hexagonal, it will not spin even if you cannot make it as tight as a man can.

The basic differences among quick-change drill bits sets is the method by which the bits lock into the base socket and the array of bits and accessories that are included in the complete sets.

You should be able to find these sets at most hardware and home center stores. If you cannot, here are some of the major manufacturers to contact for the names of local dealers: American Tool (847-478-1090), Craftsman (any Sears tool department), DeWalt (800-433-9258), Stanley (800-782-6539) and Vermont American (800-742-3869).

The Craftsman line, called "Speed-Lock", probably has the greatest array of sets and accessories from small 28-piece to over 80-piece sets. With this design, the drill bit is inserted into the base. Slide and snap the collar down and the bit is locked in place. It fits snugly to minimize wobble.

Sears also has a nice accessory for driving screws. There is collar that slides out over the head of the screw. This holds the blade of the bit in the slotted or Phillips screw head. If you have tried to start screws with a drill before, you will appreciate this accessory.

The DeWalt design does not require you to move a collar to lock the bit in place so you can easily do it with one hand. You do have to use two hands to remove the bit.

Send your questions to Ms. Builder, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com/msbuilder.