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Spline Drive or SDS Max?

Guppy's picture

I am considering the purchase of a mid-capacity spline drive or SDS-max drive rotary hammer (1 1/2" to 1 9/16").  I was looking at a Hitachi spline drive (DH38YE (?)) and a Makita SDS Max (HR4000C (?)) or spline drive (HR3851 (?)).  I am not sure of the exact model numbers.

Right now, I use SDS Plus exclusively.  Does anyone have any input regarding these tools (or similar tools that have performed well)?  Is SDS Max preferred over spline drive?  Spline drive seems to be the older system.  I will be using these tools to drill/drive ground rods and to drill holes in old and new concrete at or near the maximum solid bit capacity of these tools.

I appreciate your comments.


(post #123543, reply #1 of 12)

I have used just about everything ,

I have a Bosch SDS Max right now, and I can't tell the difference.

If $$$ was not a factor, I would have a Hilti

If you don't have a collection of bits for either style, I don't think that any differences are noticeable.

I will say though, that for driving ground rods, I am partial to Boschs' BIG electric jackhammer, (the yellow one)

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(post #123543, reply #2 of 12)

I have the spline drive Hitachi , it is an excellent tool. If I was going to buy a new one I would get  an sds max model , only because the bits are signifiganly less expensive.

(post #123543, reply #3 of 12)

If you could show me an example of the cost savings I would appreciate it

Edited 9/6/2005 6:08 pm ET by maddog3

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(post #123543, reply #4 of 12)

Well- Whenever I have gone to buy bits the sds maxes have always been 10- 15$ less than spline.

 I just looked at Amazon to confirm, & it seems that is not always true.

So which shank? I don't think it matters. Whatever is more available.

(post #123543, reply #6 of 12)

I was wondering what thesavings were, because once in a while I would order a large / longer bit , and somebody in the shop would always ask me ,


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(post #123543, reply #7 of 12)

I was in a tool store today, a 1" x 18" spline shank bit was marked at $ 56, the same bit-same manufacturer with a sds max shank was $ 40.


(post #123543, reply #9 of 12)

thanks a lot, jayzog,

a little info is a dangerous thing !

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(post #123543, reply #10 of 12)

The local HD out here in Almost West Virginia carries the Hilti and Bosch SDS and variations, but stoppied selling the splines over a year ago. 


(post #123543, reply #11 of 12)

Out here in LA, HD changed over about a year or two ago from all Bosch to all Hilti.



-- J.S.




-- J.S.


(post #123543, reply #5 of 12)

Spline drive is the heavier duty and more durable system. But your going to have to pay a pretty big premium for the privilege of having the extra capacity and durability.

Question is: Do you really need the extra capability? Beyond just bragging rights can you justify the cost? Will it save you enough time and effort to pay for the difference?

(post #123543, reply #8 of 12)

SDS Max... wider range of accessories and bits for less money than the sline...

A bosch !-9/16 woops butt...

Hilti if ya got the bucks...

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming

WOW!!! What a Ride!

Forget the primal scream, just ROAR!!!

"Some days it's just not worth chewing through the restraints"

(post #123543, reply #12 of 12)


Not only is the SDS-Max cheaper to buy, the bits are easier to clean (the drive ends) and they are a fine system. As time goes on, the spline bits will get rarer and pricier. A big rotohammer is an investment most of us will have for many years, so it pays to consider the trend in consumables.


Edited to add: In 1999, when I bought my 1-1/2" SDS-Max Bosch, the spline bits were cheaper than SDS-Max. I preferred the system, and gambled that it would eventually dominate the market. This seems to be happening already.

Edited 9/13/2005 12:55 am ET by BillBrennen