The Right Tools for the Job: Woodworking Drill Bits
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The Right Tools for the Job: Woodworking Drill Bits

Having the right tools for the job distinguishes the pro from the wannabe woodworker. Having the right drill bits for the job makes the job go faster and results look more professional.

One sure way to tell a real woodworker from a wannabe woodworker is by the drill bits he, or she uses. The wannabe woodworker uses the ubiquitous twist drill bit for drilling holes in everything from metal to wood, but they are designed for drilling holes in metal, not in wood.

The standard, double-fluted, twist drill bits are relatively inexpensive, available in any hardware store, home centers and most big-box stores which makes them extremely popular, but that does not make them the right tool for the job. The biggest problem with using twist bits to drill wood is that they do not have a center point which allows them to wander. Without the center point, it is extremely difficult to drill an accurately positioned hole in wood. The serious woodworker invests in specialty bits.

Brad Point Bits

At first glance, Brad Point Bits look like the standard double-fluted, twist drill bit, but at closer inspection, two significant differences become apparent. The Brad Point bit has a sharp center point that ensure the accurate positioning and starting of every hole you drill. The second difference is that the brad Point bit has two spurs positioned 180 degrees apart that score the wood fibers ahead of the flutes assuring a smoothly drilled hole. Less obvious is the fact that the flutes are ground at a slightly steeper angle than the standard twist drill bit. The steeper ground flutes eject the wood chips at a faster rate which helps cut down on the heat generated by friction. With the steeper ground flutes, there is less burning of the wood.

Although I use Brad Point bits for most of my projects, they do have a couple of negative aspects that you need to be aware of. The first is that they tend to cause tearout on the backside of the wood being drilled the reason for this is that the Brad Point is longer than the spurs and is forced through the workpiece first. This forces the wood fibers apart, causing tearout to occur. The easy to prevent that tearout is to place a backer board behind the workpiece being drilled. The second problem with Brad Point bit is that they do not work well when drilling into end-grain. The problem is that the spurs have a tendency to grab and follow the grain which make drilling accurately positioned hole extremely difficult.

End-Grain Bits

End-Grain Bits look a lot like the Brad Point bits, but there are two significant differences between them. The End-Grain bit has smaller spurs, which reduces the chances of them grabbing and following the wood fibers. The second difference is that the flutes are ground at a slightly different cutting angle.

Spade Bits

Spade Bits are an excellent choice for less demanding tasks because they have a large center point for starting the hole and small spurs for scoring the wood. Spade bits are relatively inexpensive too. They are terrific when you are drilling a lot of holes through framing members when rouging in electrical wiring or similar tasks.

V-Point Bits

V-Point Bits are another specialty bit designed for drilling holes at an angle. Because V-Point Bits lack a center point, drilling at an angle becomes easy.

The Forstner Bits

The Forstner Bits are specialty bits used to drill flat bottomed holes in wood. The Forstner Bit is a rim guided bit which makes them ideal for drilling overlapping holes. One popular use of these bits is for drilling the holes needed to mount inserts, like clock movements and the such. The Forstner Bit can be used in a portable electric drill but are best used in a drill press that allows setting drilling depth and assures that the drill bit is perfectly perpendicular to the workpiece.

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Comments (4)

Another winner Jerry, another winner.

Have you ever watched Rough Cut Mac and Woodsmith Shop? Good article!

No, Lady Samantha, I not only have never watched those two TV programs, I have never heard of them. Are they on cable in the United States?

They are usually on PBS networks