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As residential and commercial builders and remodelers, we install a mind-boggling amount of steel to meet the stringent seismic requirements of the California building code. To make mechanical connections, we drill 1/2-inch- to 1-inch-diameter holes through steel I-beam flanges up to 3/4 inch thick and steel plates up to 1 inch thick. Until 2009, we bored these using standard high-speed-steel twist drills. Each took about an hour, and we could go through hundreds of dollars' worth of drill bits per job. Then, following the lead of local ironworkers, we started using a Hougen HMD904 portable magnetic drill with Hougen Rotabroach annular cutters.

At 27 ½ pounds, it's one of the lightest magnetic models on the market and can bore holes from 7/16 inch to 1 1/2 inches in diameter, up to 2 inches deep. To use the drill, you position it on the material, press the rocker switch to turn on the magnet, push an adjacent button to turn on the motor, and rotate the feed handle to power the...

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