No matter what the task, there is a drill bit to match. If you are drilling through metal, you should consider if you have the right bit for the job. The best drill bits for metal have qualities that other drill bits lack.
We look at the best drill bits for drilling through the hardest materials, like steel, and determine which one is the best.
What Type of Drill Bit Should You Use for Metal?
There are three types of drill bits you should consider for drilling through metal. The first is high-speed steel (HSS) drill bits. These bits are harder and can cut through robust materials without dulling too quickly.
The second type is a cobalt steel drill bit. Cobalt steel is an alloy that contains at least 5 percent cobalt to make them super-tough. These drill bits hold their sharpness better than high-speed steel varieties, but they are prone to snapping under extreme pressure.
You should also consider the third option, carbide-tipped drill bits. These are constructed of high-speed steel but have a carbide coated tip. It is a material made from titanium or tungsten, and it is the most hardwearing drill bit you can buy.
How To Choose a Drill Bit for Metal
Making the right choices when picking a drill bit to cut through metal is crucial. It is the difference between a poorly executed task and a job you can be proud of.
Here are some things to consider:
You will need a drill bit that can withstand the punishment that comes from drilling through metal. It needs to have the ability to take extreme temperatures because heat dulls the drill bit. It also needs to keep its cutting edge.
Metal on metal creates a lot of heat and friction, so the drill bit needs to stand up to these pressures if you want to save money in the long run and have the best outcomes.
High-speed steel is exceptionally robust. They are a cost-effective option when compared to other, more expensive drill bits. However, try and get ones with a black or gold oxide coating to protect them against rust, because bare HSS is susceptible to corrosion.
Cobalt steel is an amalgamation of HSS and cobalt. The cobalt element typically accounts for between 5 and 8 percent, but the mixture of the two creates an incredibly strong metal alloy. It is heat-resistant and holds its cutting edge better than high-speed steel.
Carbide drill bits are suited to the very hardest material out there. They are more durable than HSS and cobalt drill bits. It is possible to get HSS bits with carbide tips that increase the cutting prowess and decrease the damage that heat has in dulling the bit.
Essentially, there are two types of tip angle. They cater to the hardness of different materials based on the angle of the cutting edge and how aggressive it is.
For softer materials like plastic and wood, you should consider a 118-degree point. They are sharper and better suited to gripping quickly in less robust materials.
A 135-degree angle is better suited to drilling through metal. It has a less pronounced point that grips metal and prevents the bit from walking.
Keep in Mind
The Best Drill Bits for Metal of 2020
Drill bits come in many shapes and sizes, but finding the best drill bit for metal is a challenge. We have narrowed the search to bring you the best in the field to help you make a wise choice.
1. DeWALT DW1354 Titanium 14-Piece Set
This DeWALT drill bit set is popular, selling in the thousands on Amazon. It also commands a respectable rating. For price, popularity and customer satisfaction, we have crowned this the best overall drill bit for metal.
These bits are titanium, so they are resistant to heat and won’t dull quickly. They come in a set of 14 to cover all your drilling needs. And they benefit from DeWALT’s pilot point tips that remove the need to drill pilot holes first to stop the bit from walking across the surface of the metal.
The titanium coating protects the high-speed steel and stops it from corroding, and the no-spin shanks mean that the bit grips in the chuck. And to top it all, if we had an award for value for money, this set would win that too.
- Titanium coating.
- Pilot point tips.
- 14-piece set.
- Great value for money.
- Hard to get back into the carry case.
- Made in China.
|Set size||14 pieces|
|Size range (inches)||0.062 to 0.14|
|Material||High-speed steel, titanium coating|
2. DeWALT Black Oxide 20-Piece Drill Bit Set
This DeWALT black oxide set of drill bits are hard-wearing, and the oxide coating protects them from friction and heat. It also helps to reduce instances of corrosion. This is a 20-piece set, so there should be a drill bit size to suit any task.
The bits have a 135-degree split-point tip that reduces walking and helps to cut neatly into the metal surface. They also have a parabolic flute design to increase the strength of the drill bit. And the price of this set is such good value for money that each drill bit works out at just over $1 each.
DeWALT drill bits occupy the first two spots on the review, and rightly so. They are popular and get the job done.
- 20-piece set.
- Black oxide coating.
- 135-degree split-point tip.
- Parabolic flutes.
- Made in China.
- Build quality Issues.
|Set size||20 pieces|
|Size range (inches)||0.016 to 0.50|
|Material||High-speed steel, black oxide coating|
3. Neiko 10193A Titanium Step Drill Bit Set
This set of step drill bits are made from high-speed steel and coated in titanium to increase their longevity and decrease their dulling from heat and friction. What these step bits do is give you 28 size options but with just 3 drill bits.
The sizes range from 0.188 inches up to 0.75 inches. So, whatever the size of the hole, this set has you covered. The tips are 135-degree split points, which are the ideal style for drilling through metal. It decreases the chances of the bit wandering on the surface of the metal.
This set also benefits from a tri-flattened shank to stop the drill bits moving in the chuck.
- 28 sizes.
- Titanium coated.
- Tri-flat shank.
- Great price.
- Harder to sharpen.
- Not standard drill bits.
|Size range (inches)||0.188 to 0.75|
|Material||High-speed steel, titanium coated|
4. Mars-Tool Solid Carbide Drill Bit for Hardened Steel
This carbide drill bit eats through metal. It is aerospace quality and can cut both wet and dry. This is a 2-drill bit set with 118-degree 4 facet point tips to reduce wandering and to increase accuracy.
This bit cuts aircraft metal, alloy steel, stainless steel, titanium, carbon steel and copper. It will even slice through glass. This bit is made from tungsten carbide and scores 91.3 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale.
The overall length is 2.5 inches with a flute length of 1.38 inches. Solid carbide drill bits are harder than carbide-tipped varieties and can withstand heat better. These bits can also be sharpened many times over using a diamond stone.
- Heat resistant.
- Aerospace quality.
- Scores 91.3 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale.
- Can be sharpened many times.
- Extremely brittle.
- Dulls quickly.
|Size range (inches)||2.5 inches|
5. Makita B-65399 Impact 14-Piece Titanium Set
Makita has coated this drill bit set in titanium nitride, which they claim gives them 2.5 times the lifespan of non-coated drill bits. Like the DeWALT black oxide drill bits, this set employs a 135-degree split-point tip to prevent slipping and increase the cutting process of the bit.
This set has a hex shank to fit impact drivers for greater grip in the socket. This drill bit set loves to chew through stainless steel, cast iron and any other hard surface you care to mention.
The sizes range from 0.015 inches to 0.50 inches, so it is a versatile set and has most hole sizes covered.
- Titanium nitride coating.
- 14-piece set.
- Hex shank.
- 135-degree split-point tip.
- The bits wobble.
- Build quality issues.
|Size range (inches)||0.015 to 0.50|
|Material||High-speed steel, titanium nitride coating|
6. Irwin Tools M-35 29-Piece Drill Bit Set
When it comes to drill bits, Irwin holds a special place because they patented the world’s first auger drill bit (1). This is a 29-piece set, so you will be spoilt for choice. The cobalt element makes up 8 percent of the alloy but adds so much more to the bit’s ability to handle friction and heat.
The sizes range from 0.016 inches up to 0.50 inches. The tips are split-point, 135-degree varieties, making them the perfect drill bits to bite into hard metal surfaces.
This set eats through steel and cast iron with ease, and given their pedigree; you should consider this set the next time you are thinking of replacing your old drill bits.
- 29-piece set.
- Irwin pedigree.
- 135-degree split-point tips.
- 8 percent cobalt.
|Size range (inches)||0.016 to 0.50|
|Material||High-speed steel, 8 percent cobalt|
7. Black and Decker 10-Piece Drill Bit Set
Black and Decker invented the first handheld drill, so they should know a few things about drill bits (2). This set is incredible value for money. It almost feels too cheap! It is a 10-piece set, so you are a bit restricted in size choices, but the price does help you see past that.
Diameter sizes range from 0.016 inches and stretch up to 0.25 inches. These drill bits are constructed of high-speed steel, so while they may cost very little, they can last the distance.
For the price, these drill bits will likely be used in a domestic setting for the occasional DIY project. However, they are still robust enough to drill through metal when required.
- Great price.
- High-speed steel.
- 10-piece set.
- Limited size selection.
- Better for domestic tasks.
|Size range (inches)||0.016 to 0.25|
|Product||Best||Set size (pc)||Size range (inches)||Material||Weight|
|DeWALT DW1354 Titanium 14-Piece Set||Overall Drill Bit||14||0.062 to 0.14||High-speed steel, titanium coating||14.9 oz|
|DeWALT Black Oxide Drill Bit Set||Black Oxide-Coated||20||0.016 to 0.50||High-speed steel, black oxide coating||8 oz|
|Neiko 10193A Titanium Step Drill Bit||Step Drill Bit||3||0.188 to 0.75||High-speed steel, titanium coated||0.25 oz|
|Mars-Tool Solid Carbide Drill Bit||Solid Carbide||2||2.5||Tungsten carbide||0.81 oz|
|Makita B-65399 Impact Titanium Set||Titanium-Coated||14||0.015 to 0.50||High-speed steel, titanium nitride coating||1.05 lbs|
|Irwin Tools M-35 Drill Bit Set||Cobalt Drill Bit||29||0.016 to 0.50||High-speed steel, 8% cobalt||4.5 lbs|
|Black and Decker Drill Bit Set||Budget Drill Bit||10||0.016 to 0.25||High-speed steel||1.6 oz|
How To Sharpen a Drill Bit for Metal
There are several ways to sharpen your drill bit. You could use a diamond-tipped file or a dedicated drill bit sharpening attachment for your drill. By far, the most common method is to use a bench grinder or belt sander.
For this article, we’ll focus on using a bench grinder.
What You Will Need
- Bench grinder.
- Dull drill bits.
- N95 face mask.
- A diamond-tipped file.
- Cold water.
- Scrap wood.
1. Prepare Your Bit
Run your file across the surface of the bit, including the shaft. The last thing you want is for a burr to cut into your hand as you are working.
2. Prepare the Bench Grinder
Make sure the guard is more than 0.125 inches away from the wheel to avoid the bit getting stuck.
3. Learn How To Hold the Bit
If you have never sharpened a drill bit before, it is important you get a feel for the correct way to hold the bit against the wheel. Hold the drill bit in both hands and place them against the machine support.
The drill bit should be held at roughly 60 degrees, with the landing facing the grinder wheel. Hold the shaft with your left hand to control the movement of the bit, while your right hand presses the bit against the wheel.
4. Turn on the Grinder
Allow the bench grinder to reach maximum speed before applying the drill bit. At this point, you should put on your goggles and face mask. Make sure the cold water is nearby.
5. Cut the Landing
Raise the left hand to cut the landing while applying gentle pressure against the sharpening device.
6. Shape the Chisel
Move your left hand towards the right to create the chisel angle. Do this a couple of times until the chisel angle is roughly 45 degrees from the lip.
7. Shape the Landing
Rotating the drill bit counter-clockwise will create a rounded landing that offers better support for the lip.
8. Combine Techniques
Now work the drill bit using all of the techniques, making sure you rotate the bit 180 degrees across the surface of the wheel.
It may take some time and practice to achieve perfect results where the angles on the tip are equal. With experience comes better accuracy. Keep working the bit until you are satisfied.
10. Drill a Test Hole
To check how the bit cuts, grab some scrap wood and make a few test holes. If you are happy, switch the grinder off and pat yourself on the back. If not, go back to grinding until you achieve the desired result.
How Do You Drill Through Hard Metal?
- Wear Goggles: Always protect your eyes when drilling through metal. Slithers of razor-sharp debris are common and could become lodged in your eye, especially when you are inspecting your work.
- Use Clamps: You need to stop your material from moving when making precise holes. Clamps hold your project in place, leaving your hands free to concentrate on the important things.
- Put Wood Beneath: It is a good idea to place a strip of wood below the metal to stop the drill bit from damaging your table. It also protects the bit as it penetrates the other side, and you have to withdraw it back through the hole.
Top TipCreate a sandwich of wood by placing a strip on top of the metal. This helps to guide the drill bit and to keep it on course. It also helps to reduce walking as the bit makes contact with the surface of the metal.
- Use a Punch: A punch creates a dent for the bit to grip. This helps with accuracy and reduces the chances of the bit wandering before it starts to bite into the metal.
- Deburr the Hole: Don’t worry about buying an expensive deburring tool. Place an oversized twist bit in the hole and turn it by hand. It removes any shards and deburrs the surface of the hole.
- Lubricate: Lubrication reduces resistance and eases the passage of the drill bit. If you have less friction, you also have less heat, and that preserves the life of your drill bit.
- Take It Slowly: Drilling through metal requires more torque and less speed. The harder the material, the slower you should go. At faster speeds, you run the risk of wearing out your drill bit because you increase the friction and the heat.
Straight to the Point
Drilling through metal sounds like a tough job, but it can be surprisingly easy with the right tools. Always use a drill bit design for that specific job, or you run the risk of damaging your drill, your project, and the drill bit.