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Drill Bits Buying Guide

Using the right drill bit can make almost any home improvement project easier, and understanding available drill bit types will help you choose the best fit for your project.

Spade Bit Boring Hole.

Drill Bit Materials and Finishes

The materials from which bits are manufactured and the finishes applied to them play a significant role in the life and performance of the bit. Common materials and finishes are:

Steel bits: inexpensive and work well for boring in softwood, however they dull quickly in hardwood.

High-Speed Steel (HSS) bits: harder than steel bits; stay sharper longer.

Cobalt bits: extremely hard and can dissipate heat quickly; most commonly used for boring in stainless steel and other metals.

Black oxide-coated bits: have a finish designed to help resist corrosion

Titanium-coated bits: cost slightly more than HSS bits, but their titanium coating is tougher and stays sharp longer than HSS or steel bits.

Carbide-tipped bits: more expensive than other bits, but they stay sharp much longer than steel, high-speed steel or titanium bits.

Caution

Drill bits have many different shank sizes and styles. Always choose your bits based on the drill manufacturer's recommendations.

Drill Bit Types

Drill bits are available in many variations of purpose and design. Below are some of the different types of drill bits you may find.

Type Uses / Details Example
Twist Bit

General purpose drilling in wood, plastic and light metal.

A point with a flatter angle is suited for drilling into harder material, while a point with a steeper angle is suited for softer material.

A point with a steeper angle will stay on center better and produce a cleaner entry and exit hole.

Bits with split-point tips improve drilling accuracy.

Twist Bit.
Brad Point Bit

Boring in wood.

Has a point (brad) for easier positioning and accurate drilling.

Has extra-wide flutes for chip removal.

Brad Point Bit.
Auger Bit

Boring in wood.

Has a screw tip to start the hole and pull the bit through the work piece.

Has large flutes for chip removal.

Auger Bit.
Installer Bit

Installing phone wire, TV cable, computer and security system wire.

Has a hole for pulling wire through the material you're drilling.

Installer Bit.
Self-Feed Bit

Boring in wood.

Has a screw at the tip that draws the bit through the work piece.

Self-feed Bit.
Spade Bit

Boring large diameter holes in wood.

Available from 1/4 inch to 1-1/2 inches in diameter.

Has a point that centers and steadies the bit.

The cutting edges may have points that help create a neater entry hole.

Spade Bit.
Hole Saw

Boring in wood and light metal.

Creates large holes, usually ranging from 1/2 inch to 6 inches in diameter.

A pilot bit centers and steadies the cutting blade.

Hole Saw.
Forstner Bit

Boring in wood.

Creates flat-bottomed holes.

Forstner Bit.
Counterbore, Pilot and Countersink Bit

Boring in wood.

Can drill pilot, countersink and counterbore holes.

Counterbore, Pilot and Countersink Bit.
Step Bit

Repetitive drilling in steel, copper, brass, aluminum, plastic and wood, as well as deburring holes.

Can have multiple presets for drilling holes of different diameters.

May have hole diameters marked on the bit.

Step Bit.
Glass / Tile Bit Boring in glass or tile. Glass / Tile Bit.
Masonry Bit

Boring in masonry.

Used in rotary hammers or hammer drills.

Masonry Bit.
Plug Cutter

Boring in wood.

Cuts wood plugs for use in concealing recessed fasteners.

Plug Cutter.

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Other Bit Options

In addition to more common drill bits, there are other options and accessories:

  • Adjustable wood bits can bore holes of different diameters.
  • Scaling chisels work in rotary hammers or hammer drills for chiseling, scaling and chipping masonry.
  • Drill saw bits cut irregular holes and contours in wood and metal.
  • Extensions extend a drill's reach.
  • Depth stops prevent drilling beyond a predetermined depth.
  • Driver bits and bit holders work on a drill / driver to install or remove fasteners.
  • Screw or bolt extractors work with a reversible drill / driver to back out damaged fasteners.
Caution

When selecting a drill bit or accessory, make sure it is compatible both with the material you'll be drilling or driving and also with the tool you'll be using. Always follow manufacturer's instructions for use, maintenance and safety.