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Five tips for choosing the right drill bit

Jun 29th 2015 at 1:26 AM

With the heft of a drill in your hand, you might feel ready to take on the do-it-yourself world but as you approach the drill bit wall at the local hardware store, be prepared to feel more than just a little overwhelmed. For every job you can imagine, there’s a bit to match and selecting the right one for your project can mean the difference between total success and complete DIY failure. Here are five tips to keep in mind when facing the limitless wall of bits in front of you:

1. Understand bit construction

Take a look at the bit’s point. The angle of this point dictates the material its best suited for. Bits with flat heads (135 degree angles) are meant to tackle harder materials and often require a pilot hole before drilling to stop the bit from wandering. Bits with sharper points (118 degree angles) are perfect for softer materials like wood. Some bits, like those with two points, are designed to stay in place while drilling and mitigate the dreaded drill-bit “wandering.”

2. Know your bit’s material

Cobalt bits are rugged and don’t overheat—perfect for aluminum and heavier metals like stainless steel.
Steel is perfectly suited for softer woods but can dull in a flash when used on hard woods. High-speed steel is a multi-purpose material that enables bits to tackle harder wood, PVC and fiber glass. High-speed steel bits can come coated in black oxide that increase durability and increase the bit’s range of material, to include metal.
Carbide-tipped bits are durable and stay sharp longer than most other types. They’re perfect for masonry projects and drilling through tiles.

3. To twist or not to twist?

Twisted bits are some of the most common bits available in tool kits, their twisting design is actually built to drill metal at slow speeds. Looking to drill a hole in wood? Look for a brad-point bit with a notched spur on the tip to keep the bit in place while you drill. Brad-point bits are designed to move waste away from the work and help DIYers achieve a clean, professional look.

4. Get to know your atypical hardware

Not every bit choice is straight forward and it pays to understand what you’re working with. If your specific project requires the material to be beveled or flattened so the hardware sits flush, you’re likely looking for a special type of bit. In cases like this, a countersink cutter bit will drill your hole as well as creating a countersink chamfer to sink your hardware properly.

5. When you don’t need a hole in the wall

That’s right, some drill bits don’t even drill. Instead, sanding drums turn your drill into a multi-purpose tool inserted into a drill’s chuck that will smooth out small planes on your project and evens surfaces out. Typically, sanding drums are durable and long-lasting, negating the need to replace them often.
Drill bits are as numerous and unique as the projects we need them for. The key to selecting the right one is to understand your project and to match those needs to the specific capabilities and manufacturer’s recommendations of individual bits.

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