Drill bits

Posted by Chris Sugden on

Drill bits can seem something of a mystery for the uninitiated. They might be clearly labelled in the shop, but when you start working with them, it might be impossible to tell them apart. Drill bits are instantly recognisable, but the features and materials that make one good for wood and another good for masonry can be harder to spot.

Which drill bit is the right one?

It might seem that the purpose of a drill is to make holes, and on a simple level that is true. However, those holes can serve all sorts of different purposes, and that’s where the different drill bits come in. The hole might be intended to serve as a guide for something else, it might need to be a precision hole that’s precisely the right diameter or could be in anything from a soft wood to hard masonry. Each will need a specific bit.

Drill bits for wood

Wood drill bits include some of the most distinctive bits. One common feature of drill bits designed for wood is that they will usually have a sharp point that helps with precision, ensuring you get the hold in exactly the right spot.

Spade bits are the most distinctive looking drill bits. The end looks almost like a chisel, wide and flat. These are great for making large, but rough, holes in wood.

Augur drills look like a corkscrew, these are used at a lower speed, but create a smooth, uniform, and precise hole.

Finally, there are standard twist drill bits for wood. These look like a typical drill bit, although perhaps with a slightly flatter point — a little like the spade bit — and are great for multipurpose use with wood.

Drill bits for masonry

The chief feature of masonry drill bits will be the material. They need to be tough and long-lasting, so will typically be made from materials like tungsten carbide, other materials will quickly wear out and run the risk of breakage in use.

It’s worth noting that drilling masonry should usually be done at a slower speed and that it will require a hammer action drill.

Drill bits for tiles

Like masonry, drilling through tiles needs a tough drill bit. Tile is, by design, a hard-wearing material, so the bits will typically be tungsten or even diamond tipped.

There is a big risk of damaging tiles when drilling them, so it’s always sensible to use bits that are not worn, and to use masking tape to help stop the bit from drifting until you are through the tile’s glaze.

Drill bits of metal

Like masonry and tile, drilling into metal needs a tough bit. However, drilling into metal tends to use higher speeds. A high-speed steel drill bit is, therefore, recommended for these uses.

High-speed steel is strong enough to drill metal (and good for harder woods too) but can also dissipate the heat that builds up from the friction.

Using the right drill bits

Always use the right drill bit for the job in hand. You might get away with using the wrong drill bit a few times, but it will soon wear out, and you risk the damage and potential injury that might come from a breakage.

If you are unsure which bits are the right ones, or if even have the right ones, it’s always worth a short wait to get new ones to make sure you do the job properly.

What next?

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