September 18, 2022
Are wood drill bits and metal drill bits the same? Can I use my wood drill bits to drill into metal?
These questions and similar variations are some of the most common we’ve encountered in recent times. Indeed, the metal vs. wood drill bit debate is one that has caused many controversial arguments in workshops around the world. So, today, we’ll take some time out to ensure you find the answers you’ve been looking for.
Using the proper tools is, no doubt, crucial to the success of every project. Not surprisingly, the same logic applies when working on a drilling project in either a wood or metal workshop. With the right drill and bit, you not only achieve the hole you want in your workpiece, but you’d also do it very quickly. Of course, this is assuming you possess the necessary skills.
Understandably, distinguishing between a wood drill bit and a metal drill bit can be somewhat confusing in the beginning. After all, both tools have similar functions and look very similar. But, separating one from the other becomes relatively more straightforward if you know where to look.
On this note, we can help clear the air on the metal vs. wood drill bit controversy.
This blog post will help you identify the significant differences between a wood drill bit and a metal drill bit. It will also give you some insight into the appropriate bits for various wood and metal projects. To top it off, you will discover whether or not you can use a wood drill bit for a metal project and vice versa.
So, keep reading to find out all you need to know about these drill bits!
Major Differences Between a Metal and a Wood Drill Bit
At first glance, you may think there is no difference between the wood drill bit and its metal counterpart. However, while this assumption is decidedly wrong, it is forgivable given that both bit types look very much alike. Nevertheless, all it takes to differentiate a wood drill bit and a metal one is a closer examination.
Of course, it helps if you know the specific characteristics you’re looking out for. That said, here the two most significant differences between a metal drill bit and a wood drill bit:
Color is arguably the most obvious way to differentiate a metal and wood bit. You see, while drill bits come in a range of colors, metal bits usually have a different color from wood ones. More often than not, metal drill bits have either a black or space gray color due to their coating. They usually have a titanium coating or, sometimes, black oxide. However, some metal drill bits may have a gold color.
On the flip side, drill bits for woodwork are usually silver. So, if you ever find yourself holding a silver drill bit, chances are it is a wood bit.
Another way to tell a wood drill bit apart from a metal drill tip is to examine their tips. Indeed, this method may be more reliable than using the color variations. This is because the tip of metal bits is always different from that of wood as they work on varying materials.
Metal drill bits typically feature a tip that’s slightly angled. In contrast, wood drill bits have what experts call a brad, which is essentially a much sharper tip.
Now, while color and tip-type may be the most obvious ways to differentiate a metal drill bit and a wood one, some other characteristics can help you clarify things. Moreover, you can ascertain a 100% with colors as different manufacturers can vary their colors if they choose to.
That said, here are some other things you can look out for when trying to tell a wood drill bit apart from a metal one:
- A wood drill bit has two unique features – a lip and a spar. Don’t worry. We’ll break it down. The lip is the chisel-like part of the drill bit, and it cuts off wood fibers to ensure that hole you drill has a smooth finish without flakes.
- On the other hand, the spar is responsible for keeping the drill bit in the center of its rotation. This makes it crucial to a wood-drilling operation as its keeps the bit from ambling off while it drills. The significance of this is that you achieve much more accurate and neater projects.
- Drill bits for woodwork typically have a much larger diameter than their metalwork counterparts.
Different Types Of Wood Drill Bits
Identifying that a drill bit is for woodwork is only the first step towards completing your wood-drilling project in your workshop. Next, you have to figure out what type of a wood bit will get you the results you want. This way, you not only achieve the hole you wish to, but you also enjoy the most straightforward and stress-free drilling process possible.
So, keep reading to discover the various types of wood drill bits that exist and their most appropriate drilling projects.
Flat or Spade Wood Bit
Some people may also call this type of bit the paddle bit. However, while this bit may have a generally flat surface, its tip is pointed to help snag the wood piece and push the drill bit through.
The flat wood bit is ideal if you’re looking to drill a relatively large hole into the wood without ruining the workpiece. It is also worth mentioning that this drill bit achieves large drill holes relatively quickly. So, they are typically the go-to for many woodworkers, depending on the type of hole they want to drill.
Another common application of flat or spade wood bits is with electrical wiring. Most electricians prefer to use a flat wood bit to drill holes in walls for their wires to pass through.
The brad-point is a twist bit and is arguably the most common type of wood drill bit today. It features a corkscrew shaft guides the bit’s screw to enter the hole. Furthermore, this drill’s tip has a pointed brad, which is how it got its name. The brad is what keeps the bit from sliding around during the drilling process.
Auger Drill Bit
If you’re looking to drill deeper holes into wood, this type of drill may be the best option for you. Auger bits can reach lengths of one foot, with some models even going as deep as 18 inches. Additionally, the auger drill bit features a screw-like tip, which begins the drilling and quickly leads the rest of the bit through to facilitate quick drilling.
Like the brad-point bit, the auger bit has large flutes, which help eliminate dust and chips as you drill. It also has a hollow center, which contributes to removing excess chips, thereby allowing you to drill deeper.
This type of wood drill is most common in woodwork projects in which you need to hide screws from view. In these cases, the appearance of a screw-on a finished surface may reduce the project’s aesthetic quality. This is where the countersink drill bit comes into play. The bit allows you to make a hole where the screw-head can fit, effectively hiding it from sight.
Self-feed Drill Bit
The self-feed drill bit is somewhat similar to the auger bit. They both have a screw tip, which helps keep the bit in the right position while pulling it into the workpiece. However, it is usually shorter and does not have the flute that comes with a twist bit like the auger. So, you will have to remove the drill bit periodically while drilling to clear the chips.
Types Of Metal Drill Bits
Metal drill bits typically come in an extensive range of materials from steel to cobalt, titanium, and carbide. However, in terms of their types, metal drill bits do not have as much variety as their wood counterparts. But, there are still a few that you should know about.
Standard High-speed Steel (HSS) Bit
More often than not, standard HSS drill bits are a product of carbon steel. This is because the bit needs to be strong enough to withstand the pressure that the drill’s engine puts on it to go through metal. However, for this same reason, if you use a high-speed steel bit on a softer material (other than metals), it may split such material.
Premium High-speed Steel (HSS) Bit
Although most standard HSS bits can drill through lightweight metals such as aluminum, they may counter problems without harder metals such as steel and iron. In this case, you may need much bigger guns (no pun intended) for the job. This is where the premium high-speed steel (HSS) bit comes into play.
Premium HSS bits typically have titanium, cobalt steel, or carbide-coated tips, thereby making them hard enough to drill into tougher metals. They are also more durable than standard HSS and can last up to six times longer. However, premium HSS bits are generally more expensive, which is honestly understandable.
Can I Use a Wood Drill Bit on a Metal?
Before we wrap up this article, let us answer one of the most pressing questions we get, ‘can I use wood drill bits on metal?’
Right off the bat, the answer is no. You cannot (or rather, should not) use a wood drill bit on metal. If you do, you’ll most likely ruin your drill bit without achieving the hole you want. Even if you succeed in drilling into the metal (maybe a thin metal), you will have done so at the expense of your wood drill bit. In other words, your bit may become unfit for further use.
In contrast, you can use a metal drill bit on wood pieces and almost any other material. However, you should do so with care. This is because metal drill bits are generally more suited to rigid materials, so they carry a tearing or splintering risk for wood. Therefore, it is best to use the appropriate drill bit for every project, when you can.
Hopefully, we have helped you clear the air on the metal vs. wood drill bit controversy. After reading this article, you should be able to tell a wood drill bit apart from a metal drill bit conveniently. Furthermore, you should also now have an excellent idea about the types of drills (both metal and wood) to use for specific drilling projects. We hope that this knowledge helps you handle workshop projects better.
Do you have more questions on drill bits for metal and woodworks? Please, reach out to us. We’d love to help!
Jason is a 40-year-old woodworker, carpenter and author who have been involved in the woodworking and woodcraft industry with 17 years of experience. He is expertise in technical aspects, woodcraft and furniture building projects.