Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tool - Drill, Wedge & Shims

Tool - Drill, Wedge & Shims

I've wanted to learn something new. The time came to ask some serious questions. My stone buddy Russ B from Washington helped with a lot of my questions.  The question was - what to buy if I wanted to learn how to split stones with wedge and shims.

First question - what would be a good hammer drill to buy? He had suggested a Hilti (such as aTE 50/ or TE 60) or Bosch. I did some homework looked at the specs checked out craigslist. Looked on ebay found used Hilti's running around $200 plus. I did some more homework and found a great buy from Harbor Freight Tools. After reading all the reviews I made a minimum purchase of $80. How could I go wrong. I'll post more later when I have  put this drill to the full test. So Far So Good!

( 08/2012 update: Harbor Freight Drill still Rockin' it out. Best money ever spent!! Lightweight and fast! A must buy on the list of tools to own. )

Image Notes: the wedge and shims are only placed in the stone for the photo. In order to split this stone these would have been turned the other way. Helping to split the stone apart. The black rod on the drill is used as a gauge depth in order to help gauge consistent hole depths.

The next thing I learned was drill bits. Hammer drills use different style bits. All the above use a style called a SDS Plus system.  I'm still learning the terms. I'll report more on this topic in the future. SDS Plus bits can be picked up at most large hardware stores such as Home Depot. I looked on ebay and found 25 - 8 inch 5/8" drill bits which I won for $40. Most bits run on average $15 for a carbide mason bit. Yes I was very pleased with my 25 bits on ebay for $40.

Now it was time to understand sizes for wedges and shims. I picked up 2 sets from Trow & Holden in Vermont. This is a list of what they offer.

Now this was the confusing part for me. SIZE what size to order. Russ and others suggested I consider picking up 3 inch. What is that???

Yes the wedge is 3 inches. This is also the depth you would drill your hole. So when you buy a drill bit such as the one I use 5/8". Recap I bought the wedge and shims that are 5/8" (the drill bit size) Hole size 3" Hole depth. Why a bright color. I've been told it's not fun when you lose them. Bright paint can help locate your tools quickly.

I have already learned what stones work better to drill and split with wedge and shims. Soft porous stone don't break well. But a harder stone or sandstone normally break where you want them to. Just play with anything you can get your hands on.  I'm glad I was able to make  all my purchases at a price I could afford. Buying a $800 drill was out of the question at this point.

Special Thanks to - Russ
& Matt, Jared, Chuck, and Brian.


  1. Look forward to hearing how this works out. Got to love ebay by the way!

  2. Ya Ok I was wrong about the EBAY score - it was NEW 25-PC BOSCH 5/8" SDS-PLUS MASONARY DRILL 8" BITS! BONUS - unexpected 3 1/2 12 inch bits. All for $55 shipped. Can you say WOW. A $420 value. Yes I do love ebay.

  3. Curious how this turned out for you - this is something I've been learning lately, and I've found a few things re: wedges and shims. I go with a 1/2" bit, with 9/16" set of wedges and feathers. Also, drill beyond the length of your wedges and feathers. It helps with obtaining a clean break, and you won't bottom out your wedges.
    I wouldn't have gone with the harbor freight drill (I bought a used Bosch 1 9/16" max bit capability, with plenty of power). But, you're spot on regarding your bits. Bosch makes the best, lasting up to 550 holes before being deemed unusable, and they're a lot faster than both DeWalt and Milwaukee.

    1. The benefit to the smaller drill bit is less man hours drilling, less cost on drill bits and last less wear and tear. Adding to a quicker out come this is why the 5/8th drill bit is a much easier way to go. Yes drilling past your length of wedge is key mainly because of the stone dust. Readers should keep in mind if you have a 3 inch stone with a 3 inch feather wedge set you can drill 2 inches into the stone and still put your sets in. If you drill all the way threw the stone you end up with pop marks on the bottom from blow outs. As for the Harbor Freight drill I believe for some one you might not choose to make over a 500.00 investment you can get the job non very well with this amazing 80.00 drill. I've been very pleased with the out come. I'd rather spend the money on something else. Last thing readers should remember is that the the stone really dictates what size drill and feather and wedge set you should be using. The standard for most wallers is what I'm using.