The 7 Essential Drill Bits Every Woodworker Needs

A Drill Press or Hand Drill is useless without drill bits. Even if you have these machines, you still wouldn’t be able to bore holes without bits. Today, let us give you the seven essential drill bits that you should have in your toolbox. 

To help you create clean and tear-out-free holes, you need to learn how to use these drill bits.

  1. Twist Drill Bits
  2. Brad-Point Bits
  3. Spade Bits
  4. Masonry Drill Bits
  5. Forstner Bits
  6. Countersink Bits
  7. Hole Saw Blades

When it comes to choosing the size, always remember that larger bits mean slower speed to prevent overheating due to friction. It is the opposite of smaller drill bits. If you want to know what every type of drill bit does, keep on reading. 

What Are Drill Bits?

Drill bits are cutting tools that forcibly remove a part of the material to create holes, which are almost always in circular cross-section. It comes in various types, for different purposes. Each kind has many sizes and shapes to help the user bore holes in many ways and materials. To use drill bits, the user must attach it to a drill. Its job is to power through the material to cut the workpiece.

Characteristics Of Drill Bits

Every size and type of drill bits come in various characteristics. Let’s understand what you should expect when it comes to the style of drill bits.

  • Spiral Or Twist Of Drill Bits – It is the part of the bit that controls the rate of removing chips. Fast spiral, high spindle, or compact flute drill bit is famous in high feed rate applications even at low spindle speeds. Therefore, it results in a massive removal of chips on the material. On the other hand, little spiral drill bits are suitable for cutting applications where they require high cutting speeds. It is ideal to use if the material tends to gall or clog on the bit, such as aluminum or copper.
  • Lip Angle – It determines the amount of support provided to cut the material. A higher angle of the lip causes the bit to cut more aggressively under the same amount of point pressure as a bit with a smaller angle of the rim. Both conditions can lead to binding, wear, and eventual major failure of the tool. The correct amount of lip clearance depends on the angle of the point. A very acute point angle with more web surface area requires an aggressive lip angle. On the other hand, a flat bit is susceptible to small changes in the lip angle due to the small surface area that supports the cutting edges.
  • Point Angle – It refers to the angle formed at the tip of the drill bit. As a rule of thumb, more robust materials require a larger angle of a point. On the other hand, softer materials need a sharper angle. 
  • Functional Length – It determines the capacity of the drill bit regarding how deep a hole it can bore. Moreover, it also tells the stiffness of the bit and accuracy of the hole. Generally, longer bits can drill deeper holes and are more flexible. 

7 Essential Drill Bits Every Woodworker Needs

We know that, just by looking at every type of bit, it is confusing to pick the best kind for your projects. So, if you’re a starter, here are the seven essential drill bits that every woodworker must-have. Take note that you don’t have to buy all of it at once. Just a couple is enough to bore a hole, but you still have to pick the right size depending on your project, which we will also talk about.

Essential Drill #1 – Twist Drill Bits

These drill bits are useful for both metal and wood-boring. Twist Drill Bits or Carbon Steel Bits are helpful for every beginner woodworker. Moreover, it is one of the most popular and widely used types of bit. Not to mention, it is the cheapest kind that you can buy in woodworking shops. However, one problem that you have to know is that it is more challenging to center it on the material. 

For better results, you can start with a 1/16-inch pilot hole so that you can still keep a big twist bit on track. As a woodworker, you can start with a complete set of drill bits with up to ½ inch in diameter. Take note that twist bits larger than ⅜ inch have a reduced shank so that its shaft can fit perfectly on any drill.

Essential Drill #2 – Brad-Point Bits

Brad-Point Bits have a sharper center-point that helps in preventing you from wandering off your mark. Moreover, it also has two sharp spurs to create a clean-edged hole. Compared to the first one, Brad-points are more precise, but more expensive as well. So, if you are a beginner, it is better to begin with several standard sizes like ⅛, ¼, ⅜, and ½ inch bits.

With a guided centerpoint, these bits will resist wandering. Moreover, it has sharp corners or spurs so that you can cut cleanly across the grain while eliminating tear-outs. As a result, you can produce a hole with clean sidewalls. The deep flutes can also clear chips easily, for as long as you stick to bits ranging from 1⁄8 to 1 inch.

Essential Drill #3 – Spade Bits

If you have to drill bigger holes, spade bits are for you. It usually comes from ¼ inch to 1 ½ inch in diameter and is relatively inexpensive. The spade bit has a significant lead point that makes it very useful to center the bit on your mark. However, take note that it is not suitable for furniture making. Still, these bits make short work of drilling holes in construction-grade wood projects. The centerpoint guides the bit, and the outer spurs help reduce the tear on the hole’s edge. You can start using Spade Bits with 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 inch diameter. When using it, make sure to back up the material to reduce the blow-out as the bit exits the board.

Essential Drill #4 – Masonry Bits

Masonry Bits, from the name itself, are tough. It consists of hard tungsten carbide tips that are beneficial for boring holes in concrete, brick, or stone. The edge of the drill bit is larger in diameter than its shaft underneath. Drilling at a reduced speed is more effective for drilling through concrete while preventing the bit from overheating. 

Essential Drill #5 – Forstner Bits

Forstner Bits are exceptional in quality and perfect for boring larger holes in various materials. However, buy the right size depending on the thickness of the project that you often do because this type is quite expensive. Still, it will help you make very clean and flat-bottomed holes that won’t affect the varying wood grain for the best results. Use the Forstner bit to drill flat-bottomed holes, overlapping holes to create mortises or partial holes that extend off the edge of the board. 

The sharpened rim produces clean edges and angled cutters between the spur and the lip. Occasionally, due to the large shavings they create, you have to remove the bit from the hole while drilling to clear the chips and reduce the chance of the bit binding or overheating. These bits may have a smooth rim or a saw-tooth rim with a diameter of 3⁄16 to 4 inches. 

Essential Drill #6 – Countersink Bits

Ideal for drilling pilot holes for screws, it creates a hole for the screw shank. Moreover, it creates a recess that allows the screw head to sit flush with the wood surface, or to be countersunk. Countersink bits will help you make a tapered recess to accept the head of a countersunk wood screw. 

First, drill your hole. Then, set the point of the countersink bit in your hole and run the drill at high speed. This way, you will be able to make a clean countersink. Adjust the collar up or down around the bit to match the length of the screw. Find bits that match #4 to #12 wood screws.

Essential Drill #7 – Hole-Saws

The bi-metal hole saw can cut through wood and metal. On the other hand, a carbide edge saw works on more solid materials, such as ceramic tile and masonry. Finally, a diamond-edged hole saw also works on tile and masonry but cuts faster than carbide designs. 

These are very useful for projects where you need a large hole through your material, like when you install a door handle or a combination lock. You can purchase Hole-saws from 1 inch to 3 1⁄2 inches in diameter. Secure the bit’s shank in your drill, and the saw blade spins to cut a large hole. 

Other Kinds Of Drill Bits

With the development of various tools and technology, the needs of a woodworker for the project change. Therefore, more kinds of drill bits allow you to do more than just drilling a small and deep hole. Although you don’t have to buy each type of drill bit, it is nice knowing that some types exist to help you in your future projects.

Screwdriver Bits

There’s a screwdriver bit to fit your drill for every screw available in the market today. Just make sure to avoid the standard slotted wood screw for use with a drill screwdriver bit. The bit doesn’t have anything to anchor in the screw. Proper bit and screw combinations make it easier to fasten wood projects together. The appropriate screw driving tips on hand will be very helpful for all your projects.

Auger Drill Bit

The auger bit has a screw tip that starts the hole and pulls the bit through the workpiece to create a clean hole quickly. These bits could be as long as 18 inches. An auger bit with a hollow center provides even more chip removal, allowing for deeper boring.

Self-Feed Drill Bit

Self-Feed Drill Bit is more compact. It doesn’t have a twist bit of the standard flutes, so you need to pull the bit back periodically to clear off the chips and dust.

Installer Drill Bit

The installer bit is a special twist bit designed for wiring installation, such as for entertainment or security systems. The bit can be up to 18 inches long, and you can drill it through the wood, plaster, and some masonry. 

Step Drill Bit

The step bit is primarily designed for drilling thin materials up to ¼ inch metal but will work with wood as well. The step design allows you to use a single bit to drill holes with different diameters. The diameter of each step is often etched into the bit. You can also use this type of bit for deburring the holes, clearing the waste material.

Tile Drill Bit

From the word itself, it is for drilling tiles with the help of its carbide tip. This setup reduces the chance of chips and cracks. 

Materials Of Drill Bits

Depending on the application, many different materials are applicable to drill bits. Many hard materials, such as carbides, are much more brittle than steel and are much more likely to get broken. To understand further, let us explain the ability of each drill bit material.

  • Steel – Drill bits use different kinds of steel that are suitable for various materials.
    • Soft Low-carbon Steel – It is inexpensive, but it also requires frequent sharpening. It is only suitable for drilling soft and hardwoods.
    • High-Carbon Steel – It is more durable due to its properties conferred by hardening and tempering the material. However, once over-heater, it loses temper, which leads to a soft cutting edge.
    • High-Speed Steel – It is harder than the first two sheets of steel, but more resistant to heat. Still, you can use it to drill metal, hardwood, and most other materials.
    • Cobalt Steel Alloys – This material holds its hardness at much higher temperatures, which are suitable for drilling stainless steel and other hard materials. The main disadvantage of cobalt steels is that they are more fragile than the standard HSS.
  • Tungsten Carbide – It is a sturdy material that can drill any materials. However, it is more expensive compared to steel. Most drill bit manufacturers use it mainly on drill-bit tips.

Drill Bits Coatings

To get the best result, make sure to pick the appropriate drill bit coatings that your drill bits have. Generally, most bits have black oxide coatings because they are inexpensive compared to others. Moreover, it can still provide heat resistance, corrosion resistance, and lubricity. This coating also ensures a long life span of high-speed steel bits.

  • Titanium Nitride (TiN) – It is a ceramic particle material that manufacturers use to coat a high-speed steel bit, like a twist bit. Moreover, it is excellent in extending the cutting life by three or even more times. Even after sharpening, the front edge of the coating still provides improved cutting and durability.
  • Titanium Aluminum Nitride (TiAlN) – It is almost similar to the first one that is also excellent in extending the life of drill bits to 5 or more times.
  • Titanium Carbon Nitride (TiCN) – It is another coating with superior strength and adds protection against tear.
  • Zirconium Nitride – It is suitable for a drill-bit coating that adds strength and protection, while expanding the lifespan of the bit.
  • Al-Chrome Silicon Nitride (AlCrSi/Ti) – It is another multilayer coating made of alternating nanolayer. It does an excellent job of protecting the sharpness of the bit while adding more durability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Drill bits are confusing at first, but it is easier to pick the right kind if you know what you need. So, it is essential to understand the thickness and the hardness of your material to choose the right one. In the meantime, let us answer some of the most commonly asked questions about drill bits.

What drill bits are best for wood?

Twist Drill Bits with High-Speed Steel coating are one of the best kinds of bit for drilling wood. Moreover, it is versatile that you can use it on other light metals, fiberglass, and even PVC. You can also use Twist Drill Bits in Black oxide coating. These are more durable while preventing rust, even with prolonged use. Just like high-speed still, you can also use it on drilling hardwood, softwood, PVC, fiberglass, and steel.

Do drill presses need special bits?

More often, the available drill bits today are suitable for the current models of drill presses. The process of changing bits is almost similar to hand-held drills. So, it is only a matter of picking the right drill bit, depending on the project that you are working on. 

What is the best drill bit for hardened steel?

Twist Drill Bits are one of the best bits for hardened steel. However, if your projects require more accuracy and cleaner holes, Forstner Bits are a better option. Forstner Bits are of exceptional quality and perfect for boring large holes in different materials. However, buy the right size depending on the project that you often do because it’s quite expensive. Use the Forstner bit to drill flat-bottomed holes, overlapping holes to create mortises, or partial holes even on steel.


Drill bits are an essential part of any toolkit for woodworkers. Be sure to take a look at your project plans and make purchases accordingly. You’ll quickly find that buying a range of quality drill bits and accessories is much cheaper than buying each bit one at a time with low quality. In the end, it is all about matching your drill bits’ needs to the hole that you want to create. More importantly, know the material that you will use and its size.

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