20 Types of Drill Bits (And Their Uses)

Updated
Categories Drills
Learn about the types of drill bits and what they do.

Drill bits are a vital element to include in the tool kits of DIY enthusiasts and professionals. Without them, it would be impossible to perform basic construction tasks. From drilling and fixing the frame on a roof to hanging pictures, no job is too big or small for drill bits.

But there are many drill bit types, and each different kind performs a specific role. So, are you thinking of tackling that drilling project and want to know what drill bit to use? We’ll go over the different bits and tell you when they are useful.


20 Types of Drill Bits Explained

1. High-Speed Steel (HSS) Bits

Photo by: Irwin

HSS drill bits specialize in drilling through steel. These drill bits derive their strength from a mixture of vanadium and tungsten content. They typically have a hardness grade of 60 or above on the Rockwell hardness scale.

HSS drill bits are commonly referred to as twist bits because of their cylindrical shank and are the go-to drill bit for general use. They come in sizes ranging from 0.8 mm to 12 mm, and they also drill through wood and plastic.

PROS:
  • Drills through steel.
  • Robust.
  • Multiple uses.
  • For multiple materials.
CONS:
  • Can clog easily.
  • Smaller bits are brittle.
  • Damages the titanium when sharpened.

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill
UseWood, Metal, Plastic, Composites
CompatibilityElectric Drill, Power Drill, Hand Drill
SharpeningDrill Sharpener, Grinder, Oilstone

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2. Brad Point (Wood) Bits

Photo by: Irwin

The brad point drill bit, or spur point, has the same shape as the twist bit, but the tip is shaped like a “W.” That allows the outer points on the edge to start cutting the hole before the center point makes contact with the material. Sizes range from 3 mm to 10 mm.

It means you get less resistance and a cleaner hole. Brad point drill bits are ideal for drilling wood and plastic, as well as specific jobs like dowling. These drill bits often have a depth stop to allow you to choose the required depth of the hole you drill.

PROS:
  • Less resistance.
  • Great for detailed jobs.
  • Depth stop.
  • Neat finish.
  • Suited for wood.
CONS:

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill
UseWood, Plastic
CompatibilityElectric Drill, Power Drill, Hand Drill
SharpeningGrinder, Diamond File

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3. Masonry Bits

Photo by: Irwin

Masonry drill bits are perfect for drilling into concrete, stone, and brick when the drill is set to hammer. They have a tungsten carbide tip for added durability and come with a cylindrical shank or a hexagonal shank to stop them from slipping in the chuck when the drill is under pressure.

The maximum reach of a masonry drill bit is 400 mm, and they range in size from 4 to 16 mm.

The strain on masonry bits is immense, causing them to heat rapidly. This melts the tungsten coating and causes the drill bit to heat up. Either keep some cold water nearby to dip the bit, or make sure you remove debris from the drill bit as you work.

PROS:
  • Robust.
  • Easy to sharpen.
  • Suitable for hammer action.
CONS:
  • Limited use.
  • Overheat quickly.
  • Dull quickly.

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill, Specialty
UseMasonry, Concrete, Stone
CompatibilityElectric Drill, Power Drill, Hand Drill, Hammer Drill
SharpeningDrill Sharpener, Grinder

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4. Multi-Purpose Bits

Photo by: BLACK+DECKER

These drill bits are a good all-rounder. They can be used in hammer or rotary mode, and have a diamond ground tungsten tip. It can drill through metal, wood,  plastic, ceramic tiles, and masonry.

When drilling masonry, use the rotary mode because the prolonged use of the hammer setting may damage the coated tip. For extensive masonry drilling, the recommendation is to use a dedicated masonry drill bit.

PROS:
  • Multi-purpose.
  • Suitable for most materials.
  • Diamond ground tip.
CONS:
  • Not suitable for masonry.
  • Dulls with constant hammer use.

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill
UseWood, Plastic, Ceramics, Light Masonry
CompatibilityHand Drill, Power Drill, Electric Drill
SharpeningDrill Sharpener, Grinder, Diamond File

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5. Titanium Nitride HSS Bits

Photo by: Makita

The titanium coating on the drill bit helps to reduce overheating. It’s the reason that this bit has a lifespan up to six times longer than other comparable drills. Like the high-speed steel drill bit, this one can drill through wood, metal, and plastics.

This drill bit requires less maintenance and is a great all-rounder.

PROS:
  • Reduces overheating.
  • Long-lasting.
  • Robust.
  • Great on metal, wood, and plastic.
  • Requires less maintenance.
CONS:
  • Loses titanium coating when sharpened.
  • More expensive.

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill
UseWood, Metal, Plastic
CompatibilityHand Drill, Power Drill, Electric Drill
SharpeningGrinder, Oilstone

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6. Cobalt HSS Bits

Photo by: Dewalt

Cobalt HSS bits are made from precision ground, alloyed high-speed steel, and solid cobalt. They are incredibly hard-wearing as well as resistant to high temperatures and abrasion.

Cobalt drill bits can tackle steel, cast steel, stainless steel, cast iron, bronze, and other high tensile steels. This is one tough cookie!

PROS:
  • Hard wearing.
  • Resistant to temperature.
  • Resistant to abrasion.
  • Drills high-tensile steels.
CONS:
  • Not suitable for wood.

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill, Specialty
UseMetal
CompatibilityHand Drill, Power Drill, Electric Drill
SharpeningGrinder

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7. Reduced Shank HSS Bits

Photo by: Dewalt

These drill bits have a wider diameter and a reduced shank to fit your drill chuck. The purpose is to drill holes larger than the width capacity of your chuck. As an example, you might have a 13 mm width capacity on your chuck, but the reduced shank bit has a maximum diameter of 16 mm.

When drilling pilot holes, don’t exceed 25 percent of the reduced shank’s diameter. This drill bit is great for drilling wood, metal, and plastics.

PROS:
  • Increases hole diameter.
  • Fits standard drills.
  • Drills metal, wood, and plastic.
CONS:
  • Suitable for large holes only.

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill
UseWood, Metal, Plastic
CompatibilityHand Drill, Power Drill, Electric Drill
SharpeningGrinder, Oilstone, Drill Sharpener

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8. HSS Rivet Bits

Photo by: Tool Guy Republic

These drill bits are designed for drilling tiny holes to insert rivets. They have fluted sides to increase the longevity of the bit. It means more holes for your money.

The depth of the hole must not exceed one and a quarter times the diameter of the hole. Also, the drilled hole has to be larger than the rivet to allow for expansion and reduce fatigue.

PROS:
  • Fluted sides.
  • Long-lasting.
  • Specialty rivet drill.
CONS:
  • Only drills small holes.
  • Only suitable for rivets.

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill, Specialty
UseMetal
CompatibilityPower Drill, Electric Drill, Hand Drill
SharpeningGrinder, Diamond File, Oilstone

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9. Spade Bits

Photo by: Irwin

When you want to drill a large hole through wood, this spade bit is the one for the job. They have a ¼-inch hex shank for better grip in the chuck, and a long spike with two spurs on either side. This brad point drill bit has a long reach, but it can reach further with a shank extension attachment.

Spade bits typically range in diameter from 6 to 38 mm.

PROS:
  • Cuts large holes.
  • Suitable for wood.
  • Long reach.
  • Hex shank.
CONS:
  • Only fit for wood.

Additional Specs

TypeFlat Bottom Boring Bits, Specialty
UseWood
CompatibilityPower Drill, Electric Drill, Hand Drill
SharpeningDiamond File, Oilstone, Grinder

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10. Auger Bits

Photo by: Irwin

Auger drill bits are capable of drilling larger holes in dry, thick, and hard lumber. They are distinctive by their size. The shank is hexagonal for extra purchase in the drill chuck, and the screw-thread tip draws the drill into the material with minimum effort.

Auger drill bits have large flutes for removing the wood, while the single-spur cutting edge cuts a neat and wide hole circumference.

PROS:
  • Drills large holes.
  • Screw-thread tip.
  • Minimum effort required.
  • Flutes remove lots of material.
  • Hexagonal shank for better grip.
CONS:
  • Only suitable for large holes.

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill, Specialty
UseWood
CompatibilityHand Brace
SharpeningDiamond File, Oilstone

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11. Forstner Bits

Photo by: Irwin

Benjamin Forstner invented this drill bit in 1874. They are commonly used for drilling holes for concealed hinges like the sort found on kitchen cabinets. They range in size from 26 mm to 35 mm and are capable of drilling large diameter holes in wood.

Two types are available:

  • Saw tooth, which leaves a larger and rougher hole. These are better for drilling end grain.
  • The continuous rim variety, which leaves a neater and smaller hole size.
PROS:
  • Drills large diameter holes.
  • Saw tooth and continuous varieties.
  • Drills end grain.
CONS:
  • Rough cut holes.
  • Not a precision tool.
  • Suitable for wood only.

Additional Specs

TypeFlat Bottom Boring Bits, Specialty
UseWood
CompatibilityPower Drill, Electric Drill, Hand Drill
SharpeningDiamond File, Oilstone

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12. Countersink Bits

Photo by: Drill America

Countersink bits create beveled openings at the top edge of a pilot hole. Typically, they come in 13 mm, 16 mm, and 19 mm, and there are different varieties for drilling metal and wood.

They are used in conjunction with countersink screws and rivets that sit flush with the surface of the material.

PROS:
  • Creates beveled openings.
  • Neat finish.
  • Precise.
  • Drills metal and wood.
CONS:
  • Only one use.

Additional Specs

TypeCountersink Drill Bit, Specialty
UseWood, Metal
CompatibilityPower Drill, Hand Drill, Electric Drill
SharpeningCannot Be Sharpened

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13. Drill/Countersink Bits

Photo by: Dewalt

This countersink bit is an amalgamation of the HSS drill bit and the countersink drill bit. It sits in the chuck via a small grub screw, which is adjusted using an Allen key to get the desired length.

Drill/countersink bits are useful for drilling pilot holes for countersunk screws and come in two varieties — fluted or cross-hole. They are identified by the gauge of screw they correspond to, such as 6G, 8G, and so on.

PROS:
  • Adjustable.
  • Fluted or cross-hole variety.
  • Drills pilot holes.
  • Drills and countersinks in one.
CONS:
  • Not cost-effective.
  • Only have one use.

Additional Specs

TypeCountersink Drill Bit, Twist Drill, Specialty
UseWood
CompatibilityPower Drill, Routers
SharpeningCannot Be Sharpened

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14. Self-Centering Bits

Photo by: Bosch

Self-centering bits drill accurately centered holes for hinges in wood and other material. The drill bit has a tip that sits in the countersunk hole, aligning itself with the center. When pressure is applied, the bit gets released from the spring-loaded sleeve and works into the material.

Like the drill/countersink bit, the HSS bit in the sleeve is removable, by turning a grub bolt with an Allen key. Self-centering drill bits are also associated with the size of screws they are designed to pre-drill.

PROS:
  • Precise.
  • Find the center of the hole.
  • HSS drill bit is removable.
CONS:
  • Only one purpose.

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill, Specialty
UseWood
CompatibilityHand Drill, Power Drill, Electric Drill
SharpeningGrinder, Diamond File, Oilstone

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15. Spear Point (Glass and Tile) Bits

Photo by: Bosch

The name describes the design of this bit. They are tungsten-tipped drill bits that specialize in drilling through glass and ceramic tiles. Spear points will drill through porcelain, but toughened glass is beyond their capabilities.

The diamond ground carbide tip shaves rather than cuts to deliver an accurate pilot hole. Spear point drill bits work at low speeds. You will also need a coolant like water or kerosene to keep the blade moving smoothly.

Under no circumstances should you use the hammer action on your drill, or you will shatter the material. To gain extra purchase on the surface, apply tape to allow the drill bit to bite into the glass or ceramic.

You can also use this drill bit to drill stone, marble, and granite.

PROS:
  • Precision tool.
  • Diamond ground tip.
  • Drills pilot holes.
  • Suitable for glass and ceramics.
  • Drills stone, marble, and granite.
CONS:
  • Requires coolant.
  • Cannot use hammer drill.
  • Only suitable for slowest speed settings.
  • Not suitable for toughened glass.

Additional Specs

TypeSpecialty, Countersink Drill Bit
UseGlass, Ceramics, Tiles
CompatibilityHand Drill, Electric Drill, Power Drill
SharpeningOilstone

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16. Diamond Tile Bit

Photo by: Dewalt

This drill bit is better suited to hard surfaces like masonry and tiles, including porcelain. Start by rotating the drill bit at a 45-degree angle, then as it starts to bite, ease the drill upwards until it is straight.

Like the spear point drill bit, set the speed on your drill to slow. You also need to have a supply of water to help keep it and the material cool and to increase the abrasion.

PROS:
  • Works on masonry and tiles.
  • Diamond-coated tip.
  • Hard wearing.
CONS:
  • Difficult to master the technique.
  • Works on slow speeds.

Additional Specs

TypeSpecialty, Counterbore Drill Bit
UseMasonry, Ceramics, Tiles
CompatibilityHand Drill, Electric Drill, Power Drill
SharpeningCannot Be Sharpened

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17. Special Direct (SDS) System

Photo by: Bosch

SDS drill bits are for drilling into dense material like masonry, concrete, and stone. They are incredibly robust and work with your drill in rotary hammer mode. The shank has unique slots to allow for speedier bit changes.

This drill bit gets its name from the German words, steck, dreh, sitzi, which translated into English means, stick, turn, seated. Over time, it has become universally known as the special direct system.

There are two types of SDS drill bits — SDS-Plus and SDS-Max. These variants last longer, making them a good choice for extensive heavy drilling.

PROS:
  • Robust.
  • Long-lasting.
  • Suitable for extensive drilling.
CONS:
  • Only suitable for hammer mode.
  • Suitable for one purpose.

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill, Specialty
UseMasonry, Stone, Concrete
CompatibilityPower Drill, Hammer Drill
SharpeningGrinder, Diamond File

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18. Step Drill Bit

Photo by: Bosch

Step drill bits have a conical body with stepped sides. Imagine a child’s drawing of a Christmas tree, and that sums up the style. This is your go-to drill bit for making multiple hole sizes.

They make holes in thin material, enlarge existing holes, and lightly burr. Step drill bits have a titanium-nitride coating to minimize heat build-up and increase lubrication. Conical versions are available without the stepped pattern.

PROS:
  • Creates different size holes.
  • Titanium coated.
  • Great for thin material.
  • Enlarges existing holes.
CONS:
  • Not for general use.
  • Specialist tool.

Additional Specs

TypeSpecialty, Countersink Drill Bit
UseMetal, Wood, Sheet Material
CompatibilityHand Drill, Power Drill, Electric Drill
SharpeningCannot Be Sharpened

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19. Plug Cutting Bit

Photo by: Montana Brand

Plug cutters are excellent for hiding screw heads. One part of the drill bit cuts a hole with a countersunk base, while the other cuts a plug to the exact dimensions of the hole. This conceals the screw.

They are a favorite of cabinet makers and craftspeople who build high-end wooden products. To cut accurately, use a center press as these drill bits have no central point to steady them as you make your cut.

PROS:
  • Diamond-coated tip.
  • Ideal for cabinet making.
  • Countersinks.
  • Cuts plugs.
CONS:
  • One specific use.
  • Hard to master technique.
  • Need a center point.

Additional Specs

TypeSpecialty, Counterbore Drill Bit
UseWood, Sheet Material
CompatibilityHand Drill, Power Drill, Electric Drill
SharpeningCannot Be Sharpened

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20. Saw Bit

Photo by: Eadetech

Saw bits have a standard HSS drill bit tip, but the shaft of the drill bit changes to a cutting edge after the first 15 mm or so. As the drill bit bites into the material, the abrasive teeth give you the ability to cut laterally.

Drill bits work best with a downward force toward the tip, so working the drill bit sideways across the surface of your project can be difficult to control. This creates inaccurate holes.

PROS:
  • Cuts, as well as drills.
  • Robust.
CONS:
  • Difficult to control.
  • Creates inaccurate holes.

Additional Specs

TypeTwist Drill, Specialty
UseWood, Sheet Material
CompatibilityHand Drill, Power Drill, Electric Drill
SharpeningGrinder, Diamond File, Oilstone

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Drill Bit Maintenance Tips

  • Center punch the spot where you want to drill for accurate drilling. It stops the bit sliding over the surface.
  • Know the correct speed to use for each material. Hard surfaces require a slower speed. Soft materials need faster speeds.
  • Apply the correct amount of pressure when drilling. Too much, and the bit will deflect. Too little, and the drill bit won’t bite through the material.
  • Store drill bits in a dry place. Moisture will cause them to rust.
  • Know what each drill bit is for. That way, you don’t select the wrong bit for the task.
  • Know when to use hammer action and when you shouldn’t. Some drill bits will dull with too much hammer use.
  • Keep a jug of cold water near you when you drill. Masonry bits get hot, so they need to be cooled down regularly to preserve their integrity.
  • Larger drill bits transfer considerable force to the drill. Make sure you have a tight grip.
  • Apply pressure on the drill bit in a straight line. Always use downward or forward pressure.
  • Make sure the drill bit is in the center of the chuck and straight.
  • When drilling metal, apply lubrication fluid like water and cutting fluid.
  • Don’t have the drill bit in reverse. If it spins the wrong way, it could dull and overheat.
  • Clean your drill bits regularly during use. Removing debris stops it from getting trapped and causing the bit to overheat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Cobalt Vs. Titanium Drill Bits: Which is Better?

Cobalt and titanium drill bits have similarities. They are both used for hard surfaces like metal, and they resist heat when drilling. But there are differences.

Titanium drill bits are coated in either titanium nitride or titanium carbonitride. Both coat the surface of the bit to protect it against heat.

Cobalt drill bits have no coating and are constructed from steel alloy and cobalt. They also deflect heat when spinning. Titanium drill bits are less robust than their cobalt cousins, and when you sharpen a titanium coated drill bit, you risk scraping away the coating.

As the coating is what gives the drill bit its strength and heat deflecting properties, you could render the drill bit weaker.

Cobalt drill bits can be sharpened without damage, so they retain their protections, making them the better choice.

Are Cobalt Drill Bits Worth It?

The simple answer is that it depends on what you are drilling. Cobalt drill bits are among the toughest you can get, so they lend themselves to drilling the hardest materials. Think steel, iron, masonry.

If you need a general drill bit to drill softwood, then save yourself the added expense and buy a standard type of drill bit. But if you need something with strength, spend the extra cash and invest in a cobalt drill bit. It will save you money in the long run.

What Color are Metal Drill Bits?

Metal drill bits come in a variety of colors, depending on their material. High-speed steel drill bits are generally black because of the oxide or carbonitride coating. Titanium nitride coated drill bits are gold in color, and cobalt drill bits are gold, silver, and sometimes they have a blue tip.

What is a Carbide Drill Bit?

A carbide drill bit is a step up in strength from a cobalt drill bit. They are typically used in the professional arena to drill the toughest material. They deflect heat, so retain a cutting edge for longer, and run at higher speeds.

What is the Difference Between 118-degree and 135-degree Drill Bits?

A 118-degree drill bit is better suited for softer material like wood and plastic. It has a more aggressive shape and a smaller chisel, and the tip is pointed. While it will puncture steel, the 118-degree drill bit will dull quicker.

A 135-degree drill bit punctures harder materials like metal and masonry. It has a flatter shape with a shorter chisel but has more pitch. These bits are better suited to drilling repeated holes.


And Finally, the Last Bit

With all the different kinds of drill bits on offer, it can be a little confusing. Titanium nitride coated drill bits are tough, but cobalt is tougher. Carbide drill bits are the strongest.

Remember to think about what you need it for when considering which one you should use. What material are you drilling, and does it require a drill bit with strength, super-strength, or cutting power like it came from another planet?

It boils down to this — choose your drill bit based on price, the task you are using it on, if you want a bit with longevity, and whether you’ll hand-sharpen it. Carbide-tipped and titanium nitride drill bits will lose their superpowers if you hand sharpen them.

Cobalt drill bits will survive sharpening because they are constructed from a steel alloy mixed with cobalt.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.
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