Whether you’re a professional who has a drill in hand daily or a DIYer who only picks up picks up a drill on weekends, you should know how to use the tool to its full capacity. Naturally, that means understanding the technique behind boring clean, even holes – regardless of what material you are working with.
But at the same time, you should also understand the finer details of a drill’s hardest working components – its bits.
In all likelihood, your drill came with a starter set of bits that you’re plenty familiar with. But if you intend on branching out to drill materials other than basic wood planks, you’re going to need to expand your arsenal of drill bits.
To do that, you’ll need to learn all about the various types of drill bits available today. This guide will help you do just that, as well as learn about the best types for use on wood, metal, and concrete.
12 Types of Drill Bits and Their Uses
Let’s start by going through the twelve most commonly used types of drill bits.
Twist bits are easy to recognize based upon their cylindrical shank and loose corkscrew shaft. Typically, twist bits are made from “high-speed steel” or HSS, making them a viable option for drilling through most woods and plastics, as well as some thin metals. As such, they are considered a “must-have” for DIYers who use their drill for a variety of uses from job to job.
Step Drill Bit
A step drill bit is conical in shape and looks like a dull arrowhead with stair steps cut into to the untrained eye. However, in practice, these unique drill bits allow a user to gradually increase the size of an existing hole without needing to attach a new drill bit.
They can also be used to drill a variety of different sized holes in wood while relying on a single, versatile bit. These bits are often covered in a titanium-nitrate coating to prevent excessive friction from damaging the metal edges, as well.
If this sounds like something you might find useful, make sure to check my article about the best step drill bit sets one can get.
The bits’ design allows for these holes to have a very clean finish, as such making them ideal for use as finishing bits. That’s one of the differences between Forstner and spade bits. To learn more about how the two compare, you can check this article.
On the surface, a masonry bit looks like a twist bit with a similar shank and shaft. However, these bits instead feature a hexagonal tip that makes them ideal for drilling through brick, concrete, and stone when used in a hammer drill.
These bits also feature a carbide tip that helps disperse the rapid friction heat build-up caused when drilling through hard materials. That being said, these bits must often be cooled with water and used only at a recommended RPM.
Brad Point Bit
Brad point bits also look like a twist bit at first glance, with a similar style of fluting and a comparable shank. However, brad-point bits come with a unique, W-shaped point that enables them to create very precise holes in wood.
Not only that, but holes created with this kind of bit tend to come out very clean compared to standard drill bits. Many brad point bits also come with rubber stoppers that allow users to create uniform hole depths.
If this sounds like the type you need, make sure to check out my brad point drill bit set recommendations.
As their name suggests, these drill bits are shaped like a traditional wood auger and are best suited for drilling large holes in hard, dry lumber.
The single-spur construction of these bits creates a fairly smooth hole, while their threaded tip reduces the amount of force that must be exerted by the user. In many cases, an auger bit will also have a hexagonal or a triangle shank to provide a more secure, stable connection with the chuck.
While some people use them interchangeably with spade bits, there are considerable differences between the two.
Spade drill bits are easy to distinguish visually based upon their broad, flat heads and lack of fluting. Moreover, spade bits utilize a W-shaped tip similar to that of brad point bit, but on a larger scale.
As a result, these bits are used almost exclusively for boring large holes through wood. However, these holes usually come out rough in texture, making them better suited for use in places that will not be seen in the final product.
You can see my favorite spade bit sets here.
The multi-purpose bit is designed to perform most drilling tasks well, making it a major asset to users who want to get a lot of use out of just a couple bits. In terms of construction, multi-purpose bits utilize the same shank, shaft, and (in most cases) tip as a masonry bit.
However, these tips are usually coated in a special diamond-infused carbide coating that provides it with a heightened level of durability and resilience against friction. When used properly, these tips can safely work through wood, plastic, metal, tile, and more.
In terms of appearance, these bits are very short, with only a conical tip and little to no shaft. This allows these bits to make shallow bores as necessary while preserving the underlying pilot hole. These bits only come in a few basic sizes, though, and even come in variations optimized for both wood and metal.
If countersink bits are what you need, check my favorites here.
Spear Point Bit
Spear point drill bits are among the most specialized on the market, with only glassworkers utilizing them on a regular basis. That’s because their flat, arrow-shaped tips are able to safely bore holes in a piece of glass without damaging the pane’s structural integrity.
For much the same reason, these bits can also be used to drill through ceramic materials.
However, this effect can only be achieved when utilized with a rotary drill operating at a low RPM.
That being said, these bits perform this task better than any other thanks to their short shank length and narrow diameter. Also, those shanks often feature a tip at both ends, allowing a user to double the number of holes they drill before replacing a bit. That being said, these bits often need to be replaced, despite their construction from high-speed steel.
However, these bits are not used like other bits, which call for straight forward insertion; instead, tile bits must be placed against the work surface at a 45-degree angle before the drill is initiated at a very slow speed. From there, the user straightens out the bit while applying very little force to finish the bore.
What Are the Best Types of Drill Bits for Wood?
Other than specialized drill bits that are optimized for metal, glass, or tile, you can generally use any type of drill bit on wood. However, if you’re going to keep any type of drill bit close at hand for your wood-related projects, then be sure to keep a set of twist and auger drill bits in your tool chest.
Twist drill bits are an all-around great option for boring wood holes that are even and moderately clean, while auger bits excel at creating extra-large wood holes that are extra clean.
When it comes to choosing a material for said drill bits, high-speed steel is always a solid option that is as reliable as it is affordable. In many cases, HSS bits of several types can also be found at a local hardware store without needing to special order anything.
However, if you’re looking for an even more durable option, pay a little extra and buy titanium bits. These are better able to resist wear and tear from routine use.
What Are the Best Types of Drill Bits for Metal?
When it comes to drilling metal, precision is often the key.
For that reason, you should strongly consider investing in a step bit if you plan on drilling metal on a regular basis. Those bits are best suited to making precise holes in metal without requiring you to invest in a whole set of different sized bits. Alternatively, if you are only boring rivets, then a rivet bit will be a perfect fit for your needs.
In terms of material, it’s best to go with the most durable option you can afford. Metal drilling will take a toll on your bits fast unless you invest in a durable material like titanium (check my recommendations). Alternatively, cobalt bits are an extremely durable option that matches what many professionals use.
What Are the Best Types of Drill Bits for Concrete?
If you’re planning on drilling concrete, you’ll need to invest in some specialized bits that are suited to the task.
To be specific, you should look to purchase a set of masonry bits that are optimized for stone and concrete drilling jobs. In particular, you should look for a set with carbide tips because these will best be able to resist wear caused by heat build-up during the boring process.
All things considered, these are just a few of the most common drill bit types that you are likely to find at your local hardware store. However, don’t think that this means that you need to buy these all at once. Instead, only invest in the bits you know you’ll need for your most common DIY projects.
Doing so will help you grow your arsenal over time and ensure that you always have a bit with the right size, shape, and strength to complete the job satisfactorily.