The Pros and Cons of Six Drill Bit Materials

Cnc machine tooling

Homeowners engaged in any type of major remodeling project have likely encountered the many options available for tools. Drills, cutting tools, custom tools, and many more options are available, and all marketed to you, the consumer, as the best option. Marketing aside, however, effective tool management is not served by simply picking up whatever you are told is the best choice, but by researching options. Checking the difference between metal and plastic cutting tools, researching tool coatings and examining drill bits can save time and money in the long run. For drills, there are six primary materials used in making the bits, and the pros and cons of each are included here.

  1. Low Carbon Steel: There is really only one positive aspect to this material option for drill bits, which is that they are inexpensive. This does not necessarily translate to cost effective, however, as they are only suitable on softwoods, and even then need to be resharpened constantly.
  2. High Carbon Steel: With a higher heat resistance than their low carbon counterparts, high carbon bits can be effective with thin metals and hardwood, and need to be sharpened less often. They are still inexpensive, and although far more brittle than other materials, they are a good choice for everyday drilling.
  3. High-Speed Steel: As the name implies, these steel bits can be used at higher speeds than other steel options. This ability results from a higher carbon level, which makes then more resistant to the heat generated by the high speeds. They are, naturally, more expensive than regular high carbon steel as a result.
  4. Solid Carbide Bits and Carbide Tipped: The primary benefit of carbide bits lays in their ability to dissipate heat rapidly. This makes them able to hold their edge and perform at high temperatures better than many other drill bits. Unfortunately, they are quite brittle and will chip or break if mishandled. Their longevity still makes them a valuable option however, although many prefer solid carbide bits to carbide tips to increase their effectiveness. The drawback to solid carbide bits, however, is an increase in price.
  5. Cobalt: These are extremely useful when a job requires drilling through thick or extremely hard metals. Although more resistant to heat than any other drill bit material, it is brittle enough that accidental damage happens frequently.
  6. Diamond Drill Bits: These are carbide bits coated with diamond particles and are the hardest bit material available. They grind rather than cut into materials and can drill into very hard materials, including granite, stone and the heavier metals. As one might suggest, the cost of this material is the negative aspect, often outweighing its benefits.

This list hopefully will give homeowners two insights. First, that their are a number of options available, likely far more than they were aware existed. Second, and more importantly, that there is no one right answer for tool selection. Research and forethought are necessary to find the right choice for you, and in the case of doubt, ask a professional for their opinion

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