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Beginner's Guide to Drill Bits - Materials and Finishes 2019

by Bryan Barrows June 26, 2019

drill bit

A drill is among the most versatile tool that homeowners and working professionals alike can have in their collection. The main reason why the drill is such a versatile piece of equipment is largely because of the wide range of drill bit attachments that are available for different tasks and applications. RockHardToolz offers a wide variety of different drill bits. You can use this beginner’s guide to pick out the best bit for your drilling needs.


There are different bits for different applications. The type of drill bit that you need would need largely depends on the material that you are working with. Just about anything can be drilled. Metal, masonry, and wood, can all be drilled with relative ease using specially designed bits which are manufactured from different materials.


The materials from which a drill bit is made and finished largely dictate the capacity, functionality, and lifespan of the bit. What follows is a brief introduction to the materials and finishes of some the most common drill bits that are available in the market.


Carbon Steel Bits

  drill bit

Carbon steel bits are divided into two types--low carbon steel bits and high carbon steel bits. Low carbon steel bits are softer but are able to drill through wood without a problem. The primary reason to buy carbon steel bits is that it is very inexpensive compared to drill bits made of higher quality materials.


High carbon steel bits have better tempers than low carbon steel bits. This allows them to hold their form and functionality for much longer. High carbon bits are hard enough to cut through both wood and metal. High carbon steel bits are the better choice when drilling through hardwood. These bits are still inexpensive--just a hair more in price than low carbon steel bits.


High-Speed Steel Bits

  drill bit

High speed steelis arguably the most common material used in drill bit manufacturing. More popularly known as HSS drill bits, high speed steel drill bits are harder than high carbon steel bits. HSS drill bits also have higher resistance that allow them to maintain their structural integrity even when used at higher drilling speeds.


HSS drill bits can penetrate through hardwood and metal with ease. HSS bits are typically coated with a number of other alloys to give it better lubricity, improved their functionality, and longer life span. 


Titanium-Coated Bits

  drill bit

An HSS drill bit that is coated in specialized titanium coating is generally tougher than a basic, non-coated, HSS bit. Because titanium is a corrosion resistant alloy, titanium coated drill bits are ultimately able to preserve their sharpness and material integrity for much longer. This enhanced longevity is what makes titanium HSS drill bits a viable option for repetitive, high heat limit drilling applications.


Titanium coated drill bits are very versatile and can drill through wood, plastic, PVC, fiberglass, iron, and steel, among other material surfaces.


Carbide-Tipped Bits

  drill bit

Carbide-tipped drill bits are characterized by their ability preserve their sharpness for much longer than basic HSS and even titanium-coated HSS bits. Carbide is the hardest, and ironically the most brittle, among commercially used drill bit materials. The carbide tips are able to dissipate heat very quickly, allowing for maximum sharpness retention. These drill bits are engineered to drill through the most demanding materials.


Carbide-tipped drill bits are predominantly used for production drilling where the bits are loaded in highly specialized drilling equipment. It is not advisable to use carbide bits in hand drills and drill presses as the carbide tips especially brittle and are prone to chipping if used improperly.


Cobalt Bits

  drill bit

Cobalt, when combined with HSS, makes for an extremely tough drill bit that is able to dissipate heat rather quickly. Cobalt is able to retain its material properties at higher temperature more effectively than titanium. This is material retention in the face of extraordinary high temperature is what allows cobalt bits to drill at a much higher speed.


Cobalt drill bits are typically used for materials that coated HSS is unable to penetrate such as stainless steel and aluminum, among other highly resistant metal surfaces. A drawback of cobalt drill bits, however, is their relative brittleness making them quite prone to accidental chipping.


It is worth understanding that different drill materials, different ratio distributions, and different bit designs will ultimately yield different drill bits. Outside of these manufacturing variables, the quality of the drill bit is also largely influenced by the quality of the manufacturing process.

Bryan Barrows
Bryan Barrows

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