14 Types of Wood Drill Bits for Every Project (The Ultimate Guide)

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You’re standing in your newly organized workshop, ready to start on that dream project you’ve planned down to the last detail. But as you align your wood pieces and power up your drill, you’re met with a problem.

Despite your enthusiasm and meticulous planning, you realize the drill bit you’re using is leaving ragged edges, and the wood is splintering. What should have been a smooth process is now leading to frustration and subpar results.

Choosing the wrong type of wood drill bit can not only affect the quality of your work but can also dampen the joy of crafting with wood.

This is where our comprehensive guide comes to your rescue. By providing you with an extensive exploration of the different types of wood drill bits, we empower you to make informed decisions for your specific project needs.

We’ll guide you through each bit’s distinct purpose, from the common twist bit to specialty self-centering bits, offering insights into their applications.

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Moreover, we include valuable factors to consider like wood type, hole depth, and drill bit materials – all to ensure your work is precise, efficient, and enjoyable.

Related: 13 Types of Power Drills for Different DIY Projects (Beginners Guide)

Types of Wood Drill Bits (Summary Table)

DRILL BIT IMAGE APPLICATION RECOMMENDED
General Purpose Bits
Twist Bit Twist drill bit General drilling, pilot holes Check Price
Pilot Bit Pilot bit Pre-drilling for screws Check Price
Bits For Rough Applications
Spade Bit Spade Bit Quickly drilling large holes Check Price
Auger Bit Auger Bit Deep hole drilling Check Price
Self-Feeding Bit Self Feeding Bits Drilling in tight spaces Check Price
Bits For Special Application
Brad Point Bit Brad Point Bit Dowel hole drilling Check Price
Installer Bit Installer Bits Installing wiring Check Price
Countersink Bit Countersink Bit Countersinking screws, creating flush holes Check Price
Forstner Bit Forstner Bit Creating flat-bottomed, clean holes Check Price
Hole Saw Bit Hole Saw Bit Creating larger diameter holes Check Price
Self-Centering Bit Self-Centering Bit Precise drilling for hinges Check Price
Step Drill Bit Step Drill Bit Drilling holes of various sizes Check Price
Plug Cutter Bit Plug Cutter Bit Creating wooden plugs for filling holes Check Price
Pocket Hole Drill Bit Pocket Hole Drill Bit Creating pocket holes for joinery Check Price

Importance of Choosing the Right Wood Drill Bit

In woodworking, precisely drilled holes are essential for creating joints, installing hardware, or preparing an area for further detailing, and the quality of these holes is largely determined by the type of drill bit used.

The right bit can pierce through wood cleanly and effortlessly, whereas the wrong type can lead to splintering, wandering, and ultimately an unsatisfactory finish on your project.

It’s easy to default to using a general-purpose bit for every task, but this one-size-fits-all approach can shortchange your workpiece and your efforts.

For instance, a twist bit is adequate for drilling small pilot holes, but when you require a perfectly smooth, large diameter hole in a piece of fine furniture, a Forstner bit is the more suitable choice.

The importance of choosing the right drill bit extends beyond just the appearance of the hole. Using the incorrect type of drill bit can also impact your drill’s performance and potentially damage the bit, the material, or even the power tool itself. Excessive heat generated by a dull or inappropriate bit can result in burn marks on the wood, and in extreme cases, can even cause the wood to catch fire due to the friction.

Anatomy of a Simple Wood Drill Bit

Anatomy of a Simple Wood Drill Bit

Tip or Head

The tip of the wood drill bit is the first to make contact with the wood, kicking off the cutting process. For wood bits, many feature a specific design such as spur or brad point tips that help to accurately position the bit and start the hole without slipping. These points can sometimes “pull” the bit through the wood, aiding in smooth and accurate drilling.

Flutes

The flutes of a drill bit refer to the grooves that spiral around the bit, looking somewhat like the threads of a screw. Their primary job is evacuating wood chips and sawdust from the hole that’s being drilled. The efficiency of this process is critical – the better the flute design, the faster it removes debris and reduces the likelihood of both overheating and jamming of the bit.

Cutting Edges

Running alongside the flutes are the cutting edges. These sharp, carved elements of the drill bit slice through the wood, creating the hole. Their sharpness, angle, and design are pivotal in determining the smoothness of the cut and the finish inside the hole.

Shank

The shank is the portion of the bit that fits securely into the drill’s chuck, holding it in place during the drilling operation. Shanks come in various shapes – round, hexagonal, or triangular – to match the specific type of chuck on the drill and to prevent the bit from slipping when dealing with high torque levels. Hex-shaped shanks are particularly useful for ensuring a firm grip when drilling large holes that require more force.

Length and Diameter

These dimensions of a drill bit are straightforward yet crucial. The length of the bit determines how deep you can drill, while the diameter corresponds to the size of the hole you intend to make. It’s always advised to know the exact specifications of the hole you plan to create before selecting the appropriate bit, as they significantly influence the outcome.

Understanding the Different Types of Wood Drill Bits

Here, we’ll explore the various wood drill bits and their applications, helping you to navigate through the options with insight.

General Purpose Bits

1. Twist Bit

Twist drill bit - Types of Wood Drill Bits

Twist bits, also known as twist drills, are the most commonly recognized drill bits and are distinguished by their cylindrical shank and helical flutes. They are designed to cut while the entirety of the bit rotates in the chuck.

Suitable Wood Types

Ideal for softwoods, hardwoods, and even some composite boards, they perform well for a variety of tasks.

Applications

These bits are versatile and can be used for creating pilot holes, drilling into studs for wiring, or even larger holes when equipped with a larger diameter.

Recommended: Milwaukee IMPACT DUTY Titanium Twist Drill Bit Set (23-Piece)

2. Pilot Point Bit

Pilot bit

Pilot point bits are an advanced version of twist bits, designed with a small, non-cutter point at their tips. This point helps to keep the bit centered when starting the hole, reducing bit walking and ensuring a precise location. The main cutting edges are located behind the pilot point, often resembling the twist bit but offering cleaner entry and exit points.

Suitable Wood Types

Pilot point bits are versatile and can be used on a wide range of wood types, from softwoods to hardwoods, making them a good all-around choice for general woodworking tasks.

Applications

These bits are excellent for tasks that require precise hole placements but may not need the specialized finish provided by Forstner or brad point bits. They are a great pick for pre-drilling for screws and for drilling through wood where precision is important but not the only priority.

Recommended: Klein Tools 1/4 in. x 3-1/4 in. Pilot Bit

Bits for Rough Applications

3. Spade Bits

Spade Bit

Spade bits, also known as paddle bits, are characterized by their flat, paddle-like appearance. The flat, broad shape features a pointed tip to aid in positioning and two cutting spurs at the edges that help create clean hole borders. The main cutting edge removes material quickly, making for rapid drilling.

Suitable Wood Types

Spade bits are suitable for softwood, some types of hardwood, and composite boards. They are designed to handle fast cutting through less dense woods but can be used on denser woods with care and at the right speeds.

Applications

These bits are optimal for creating larger holes quickly, making them ideal for running cables, installing plumbing, or when rough cuts are acceptable. Spade bits are frequently used in construction for rough-in work where precision is less critical than speed.

Recommended: Milwaukee High Speed Wood Spade Bit Set (8-Piece)

4. Auger Bits

Auger Bit

Auger bits are designed for precision and deep drilling, featuring a screw tip that starts the hole and pulls the bit through the material, which results in less pressure being required from the user. These bits have a single-spurred cutting edge to cut the circumference of the hole, a twist in the body for removing debris, and a wide, deeply spiraled flute.

Suitable Wood Types

Primarily used with hardwoods, auger bits are also capable of drilling into softwoods. They work well with thick and difficult materials, where precision and clean holes are necessary.

Applications

They are commonly used for tasks such as creating deep, clean holes for cabinetry, furniture making, and other fine woodworking projects. Auger bits are also good for drilling through beams for electrical and plumbing services since they can handle drilling deep holes with relative ease.

Recommended: DIABLO HSS Auger Drill Bit Set (3-Piece)

5. Self-Feeding Bit

Self Feeding Bits

Self-feeding bits are aggressive drilling tools that feature a screw tip that acts as the pilot. This distinct tip design allows the bit to essentially pull itself into the material. Alongside this, the bit boasts large, prominent flutes to aid with swift removal of wood shavings and chips during the drilling process.

Suitable Wood Types

These bits are often used for drilling through relatively soft wood, including both softwood and some types of hardwood. They are particularly suited for tasks that involve drilling deep holes or working with long lengths of lumber.

Applications

Commonly employed in the installation of deck posts, framing, or even in certain plumbing and electrical applications where large, deep holes are required. Their self-feeding nature is also a boon when creating holes for wiring or piping, where consistency and speed are necessary.

Recommended: DEWALT Self-Feeding Bit Kit (5-Piece)

Bits for Special Applications

6. Brad Point Bit

Brad Point Bit

The Brad point bit, also known as a doweling bit or lip and spur bit, is easily identifiable by its sharp central point flanked by two raised spurs. These spurs help to maintain the bit’s position and prevent it from wandering when starting a hole. The design also includes large, wide flutes that assist in removing wood chips and shavings quickly.

Suitable Wood Types

The Brad point bit is ideal for both softwood and hardwood, as well as for some types of manufactured panels like MDF or particleboard. It’s specifically designed to deliver precision and prevent the wood from splintering.

Applications

This type of bit is perfect for tasks requiring high precision, such as dowel or tenon jointing in furniture construction. It is also excellent for projects where clean entry and exit holes are crucial for the final product’s appearance.

Recommended: DEWALT HSS Brad-Point Drill Bit Set (6-Piece)

7. Installer Bits (Bell Hanger or Fishing Bits)

Installer Bits

Installer bits are specialized drilling tools primarily used for wiring applications. They feature a long, flexible shaft that can drill through several types of materials, including wood, plaster, and some metals. The tip of these bits often includes a small hole, which is used for pulling wires through the drilled holes after completion.

Suitable Wood Types

These bits are versatile in terms of the wood types they can handle. They work well with both softwood and hardwood, and their flexibility makes them ideal for drilling in tight or hard-to-reach areas where traditional bits cannot maneuver.

Applications

Installer bits are ideal for electrical, telecommunications, and security installations where wiring needs to be routed through studs, floors, and walls. They can also be used for fishing cables through existing structures with minimal disruption to the surrounding area.

Recommended: DIABLO 1/2 in. x 18 in. Installer Drill Bit

8. Countersink Bits

Countersink Bit

Countersink bits are designed to create not only a hole for the body of the screw but also an additional wider opening to accommodate the head of a countersunk screw. The bit typically features a conical shape and may be a separate tool or combined with a standard drill bit, thus performing drilling and countersinking in one operation.

Suitable Wood Types

These bits work with a wide range of wood types, from softwoods to hardwoods, and are particularly useful in applications where the screw head needs to be flush with or below the surface of the wood.

Applications

Countersink bits are typically used in woodworking projects where the aesthetics of the product are important, such as furniture making, cabinetry, and joinery. They are also used in decking and other applications where a smooth finish is desired.

Recommended: RYOBI Power Groove Countersink Drill Bit Set (5-Piece)

9. Forstner Bits

Forstner Bit

Forstner bits are characterized by their cylindrical shape with a flat bottom and a series of sharp teeth along the rim. They are known for their ability to create flat-bottomed, clean, and precise holes with smooth sides. Unlike other drill bits, Forstner bits work by cutting rather than spiraling into the material.

Suitable Wood Types

Forstner bits are excellent for drilling into both hardwoods and softwoods. They are particularly effective in dense or exotic woods where a clean and accurate hole is desired.

Applications

These bits are commonly used for woodworking tasks that require flat-bottomed holes, such as installing hinges, creating mortises, or drilling out dowel holes. They are perfect for precision drilling and creating decorative recesses or holes with a polished finish.

Recommended: RYOBI Steel Forstner Drill Bit Set (7-Piece)

10. Hole Saw Bits

Hole Saw Bit

Hole saw bits consist of a hollow cylindrical shape with sharp teeth around the rim. They are designed to create larger diameter holes in wood, typically used for installing door knobs, running cables, or creating openings for pipes.

Suitable Wood Types

Hole saw bits work well with both softwoods and hardwoods. They can also be used on materials like plywood, MDF, and some engineered wood.

Applications

These bits are specifically used for creating large-diameter holes in wood for various purposes, such as installing electrical boxes, running plumbing lines, or creating holes for dowels.

Recommended: Milwaukee Hole Dozer Bi-Metal Hole Saw Kit (8-Piece)

11. Self-Centering Bit (Hinge Bit)

Self-Centering Bit

Self-centering bits, also known as hinge bits, are specifically designed to accurately drill holes for hinges. These bits feature a spring-loaded guide that centers the bit precisely at the marked location, ensuring proper alignment and preventing any drilling mistakes.

Suitable Wood Types

Self-centering bits work well with both softwood and hardwood, making them ideal for various woodworking projects involving the installation of hinges.

Applications

These bits are primarily used for drilling holes for hinges in doors, cabinets, and furniture. The self-centering design eliminates the need for additional measuring and marking, ensuring that the hinge is correctly positioned.

Recommended: General Tools Steel Hinge Bit Set (2-Piece)

12. Step Drill Bit

Step Drill Bit

Step drill bits, also known as cone drill bits or step bits, feature a conical shape with multiple graduated steps of increasing diameters. Each step allows for drilling holes of different sizes without the need for switching between different bits.

Suitable Wood Types

Step drill bits are well-suited for drilling holes in various wood types, including softwoods and hardwoods.

Applications

These bits are commonly used for tasks that require multiple hole sizes, such as installing electrical components like conduit fittings, junction boxes, or cable glands. They are also useful for creating holes for pipe fittings or deburring edges.

Recommended: Grand Rapids Industrial Step Drill Bit Set (3-Piece)

13. Plug Cutter

Plug Cutter Bit

Plug cutters are unique bits used to create wooden plugs or dowels that can be used to fill counterbored or counter-sunk holes. They typically feature a hollow cylindrical design with sharp cutting edges on the rim. Plug cutters are available in various sizes to accommodate different hole diameters.

Suitable Wood Types

Plug cutters are suitable for use with hardwoods, softwoods, and some composite materials. They work best with relatively dense woods to ensure clean, flush-fitting plugs.

Applications

These bits are specifically used for creating plugs or dowels that will blend seamlessly with the surrounding wood surface. They are commonly used in furniture making, cabinetry, and woodworking projects where a smooth and professional finish is required.

Recommended: General Tools Plug Cutter Set (3-Piece)

14. Pocket Hole Drill Bit

Pocket Hole Drill Bit

A pocket hole drill bit, also known as a stepped drill or stepped bit, is specifically designed for creating pocket holes. These holes are typically used in joinery and woodworking projects to securely connect wood pieces together at an angle. The bit features a stepped design with a pilot tip and a larger diameter cutting edge.

Suitable Wood Types

Pocket hole drill bits are suitable for use with a wide range of wood types, including softwoods, hardwoods, and plywood.

Applications

These bits are primarily used for creating pocket holes for joining wood pieces at angles, such as in cabinet making, furniture construction, and other woodworking applications. They provide a sturdy and hidden joint that eliminates the need for additional fasteners like screws or nails.

Recommended: Kreg Jig Pocket Hole System

Factors To Consider When Choosing a Wood Drill Bit

Choosing the right wood drill bit involves considering various factors. Here are some of them:

Torque of your equipment

Ensure that your drill or drill press has enough power to handle the specific drill bit you intend to use. Different drill bits may require different torque levels to operate effectively.

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Sharpness and speed of the bit

A sharp drill bit enhances cutting efficiency and reduces the chance of splintering or tearing the wood. Consider the speed at which the bit can effectively cut through the wood without overheating or causing damage.

Type of wood

Different wood species have varying levels of hardness and density. Match the drill bit to the type of wood you are working with to ensure optimal results. Hardwoods may require more specialized bits to avoid burning or dulling.

Hole type and depth

Consider the type and depth of the hole you need to drill. Some drill bits are better suited for creating specific types of holes, such as countersinking or pocket holes. Ensure the bit’s length and diameter are appropriate for your project requirements.

Chuck diameter

Ensure that the drill bit’s shank diameter matches the chuck diameter of your drill or drill press. Using a bit with a mismatched shank size may result in slippage or improper gripping, leading to inaccurate drilling.

Shank size

Consider the type of shank (round, hexagonal, or flat) and its size. Different shank designs provide varying levels of grip and stability, particularly when drilling larger holes or using impact tools.

Drill bit size

The size of the drill bit should match the desired hole size. Ensure the bit is suitable for the size and depth of the hole you intend to create.

Application

Consider the specific woodworking application you are working on, such as general drilling, precise hole placement, countersinking, or creating specialized joints.

Wood Drill Bit Materials and Coatings

Wood Drill Bit Materials and Coatings

When selecting wood drill bits, considering the materials they are made from and any coatings they may have is essential. Here are some common wood drill bit materials and their characteristics:

High-speed Steel (HSS)

High-speed steel drill bits are versatile and commonly used for drilling wood. They are durable and heat-resistant, making them suitable for a wide range of woodworking applications.

Carbon Steel (low & high carbon)

Carbon steel drill bits are softer than high-speed steel but are still suitable for drilling wood. Low carbon steel bits are more affordable but may wear down faster, while high carbon steel bits offer better durability.

Titanium

Titanium-coated drill bits are known for their corrosion resistance, lightweight nature, and strength. They are well-suited for drilling softer materials, including wood, mild metals, and plastic. The titanium coating adds longevity to the bit and helps dissipate heat.

Cobalt

Cobalt drill bits are ideal for drilling through harder materials such as cast iron or other metals. They have excellent heat resistance and can be used for drilling into materials like stainless steel, where high-speed steel bits may struggle. However, cobalt bits can be more brittle compared to other materials.

It’s worth noting that certain drill bits may also feature coatings, such as zirconium or black oxide coatings. These coatings can enhance durability, reduce friction, and improve performance. For example, zirconium coatings make drill bits harder and more wear-resistant, while black oxide coatings provide corrosion resistance and longevity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What drill bits should a beginner setting up their wood shop buy first?

We recommend; spade bits for quickly drilling large holes, twist bits for general drilling and small holes, plug cutters for creating wooden plugs to conceal screw heads, Forstner bits for making flat-bottomed holes essential in cabinetry, countersink bits to ensure screws sit flush with the wood surface, and hinge (self-centering) bits for precise drilling of hinge screw holes.

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Together, these types create a versatile toolkit that prepares you for most woodworking tasks, from basic construction to intricate joinery work.

Download our full list of essential tools for setting up a basic wood shop here

Can wood drill bits be used for other materials such as metal or plastic?

Wood drill bits are specifically designed for drilling into wood and may not be suitable for other materials. When drilling metal, it is best to use drill bits specifically designed for metal, such as HSS (high-speed steel) or cobalt bits. Plastic materials may require special bits made from materials like acrylic or high-speed steel with a specialized coating.

What brand makes durable wood drill bits?

For durable wood drill bits, top brands like Dewalt, Milwaukee, and Ryobi are renowned for their quality and dependability, offering a wide range of options suited to various woodworking tasks. Lesser-known brands such as Diablo and Klein also produce high-quality drill bits that professionals and hobbyists alike commend for their durability and precision.

Conclusion

Remember, woodworking is a blend of science and art, and part of honing any craft is experimentation. So, take the time to explore and experiment with different drill bits, find what works best for your project, and elevate your woodworking to new heights of precision and creativity.

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DIY Wooden Plans - Editorial Team
DIY Wooden Plans - Editorial Team

We’re a small team of skilled woodworkers and engineers with a combined experience of over 15 years using power tools for woodworking. We have been creating power tool tutorials since 2020. Our aim is to become the largest free woodworking power tool resource website in the industry.

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