Types of Drill Bits

Different Types of Drill Bits Available in the UK Market

If you do any type of drilling, then you know that you need a drill and the correct type of drill bit. In this article we show you what types of drill bit are available in the UK and what those drill bits should be used for.

Just below we explain the main types of drill bit that are typically used around the home. We then go on to explain what other types of drill bits are available in the UK market, so as you have a great understanding of what is available.

For now though let's start with the basic type of drill bits. In this article we are going to show you the many different types of drill bits, that are currently available in the UK marketplace. As you can imagine there are lots of them. The type of drill bit that you need to do a job, will however come down to a couple of very basic decisions:

  1. What type of material you are drilling into?
  2. What size of hole you want to make?

Understanding Drill Bit Shanks

The shank of the drill bit, is simply the end of the drill bit that goes inside the chuck of the drill. When the chuck gets tightened, then the jaws of the chuck close around the shank and prevent it from slipping. These shanks come in a few different styles. For most general purpose drilling, and for most drill bit sets this shank will be round.

Improved gripping can be achieved, by having something like a hex shank. Having a round shank, inside a round chuck can be problematic as it can slip. This is especially true, if either the chuck or the bit are of poor machined quality.

The hex grip, simply because of its shape is a better method of gripping. The drawback is that these will be slightly more expensive. In my opinion though, that is worth the small price that you will pay.

Standard Round Shank

round shank on a drill bit

Hex Shank

hexagonal shank on a drill bit

There are a few different types such as brace, straight, hex, triangle, SDS and Morse Taper. Most people need never care about that though, as they are mainly for specialised drilling. Most home owners are perfectly fine with the standard round shank. If you want something more solid, with no risk of slipping, then pay a little extra for hex shanks.

Video Guide for Types of Drill Bits

The video below is very useful as it shows and explains the different types of drill bits, available on the market today. This will give you a very good overview.

Things to consider before buying drill bits

Key Properties

Features that make a good quality drill bit

Longer life

They should be made from a good quality alloy steel that has been hardened and with carbide tips to make them last longer

Clean and Precise Drilling

The point of the drill bit should have an active centre to make drilling precise in concrete. In addition the number of cutters on the drill point determines which material it can drill through.

Material Extraction

The flutes must be well designed and the diameter consistent to remove dust and cuttings from the hole

Mounting System

Drill bits can have a round shank, a hex shank or SDS and with Bosch they also have a Power Grip System for round drill bits to stop the bits from slipping in the chuck.

General Purpose Drill Bits

bosch drill bit set

For most home users, you will be doing regular drilling as such. From time to time, you may need to drill the odd hole to hang something up. You may also need to perhaps drill a hole through a wall, or maybe to help do some type of task outside.

Now if you do plan on doing some serious and regular DIY, it is certainly worth investing in a few good drill bit sets, of different types.

For the normal home use though, a general purpose set will almost always suffice. These type of sets contain the most popular drill bit sizes. They also include drill bits for drilling through various materials. Typically you will get a few brad point bits for wood, a few spade drills for wood, a few metal drilling bits and a few masonry bits.

If you own one of these sets, then you will have enough drill bits, to be able to do 90% of the jobs required around the home and garden. If you are only ever going to buy one set, then spend a little extra and get good quality bits from a good brand. Avoid really cheap bits at all costs. They don't last long and they seldom do the job either, which will just leave you very frustrated.

The one shown in the image above is a very good quality and good value drill bit set from Bosch. A set like this will cost around £20-25. If you have something like this in your home, then you will have plenty of good bits to use, as and when you need them. You can pick up similar sets for half the price, but they will never last.

So for general purpose drilling, around the home and garden, something like the above will do very well. For those who plan on doing more serious DIY, I think it is worth understanding, and purchasing some extra drill bits. These will allow you to take on the bigger, and more complicated jobs and tasks around the home.

We would recommend the general purpose Bosch drill bit set which you can read more about by clicking here.

What are the main types of drill bits?

There are 3 main types of drill bits that are used in and around the home and garden

  1. Twist drill bit
  2. Brad point drill bit
  3. Masonry drill bit

We have an image of each of those below so as you can easily identify them. We have also explained how much they cost on average and what they are designed to be used

Twist Drill Bits

twist drill bit set

Brad Point Drill Bits

brad point drill bit set

Masonry Drill Bits

masonry drill bit sets

Drill Bit Type

Average Cost of a drill bit set

What is the drill bit used for?

Twist Drill Bit

£8-£15

Used to drill through wood, metal and plastic

Brad point drill bits

£10-£20

Used to drill through wood and have a point which helps align and centre the drilling hole

Masonry drill bits

£10-20

Used to drill through masonry including brick, block and concrete

The prices will vary by brand and also by the number of bits that you get in the set. They will always include the most popular sizes.

Best Drill Bits for Drilling Wood

The most common form of drilling is through wood. Wood is either classed as soft wood or hard wood. Generally speaking soft wood comes from conifer trees which stay evergreen. Hardwood comes from deciduous trees and these lose their leaves each year.

The reason hard woods get their name is that these trees grow much slower, and as a result they are more dense. If they are more dense, then they are harder to drill through.

Have a look at the table below, where we have shown the different types of wood, and shown them as either hard wood or soft wood.

Soft Woods

Hard Woods

Cedar

Mahogany

Fir

Balsa

Juniper

Beech

Pine

Alder

Redwood

Maple

Spruce

Oak

Yew

Teak

Walnut

80% of all timber that you will come across is soft wood. This type of wood has a wide range of applications such as windows, doors, MDF, joists, stud walls etc This wood is cheaper to buy than the harder woods.

Hard woods are typically used for areas where there is a lot of foot fall, or where there is solid construction required. These would include floors, decking and furniture.

I don't want to bore (pardon the pun) you with all of the technical stuff any longer. The important thing to understand is that drill bits for wood are usually suitable for drilling through both types of wood. It is however a great deal easier to drill through softer woods than the harder woods.

There are four main different types of bits for drilling through wood. The ones you use will depend on what type and size of hole you are trying to drill. I have shown the four main types below.

Brad Point Drill Bits

brad drill bit set

Auger Drill Bits

auger drill bits set

Spade Drill Bits

spade drill bit set

Forstner Drill Bits

Forstner Drill Bit Sets

Brad Point Drill Bits

brad point drill bit set

The most common and popular of these types is the simple brad point, Usually these are bought in sets. They normally cost around £5-10 for about 7-8 drill bits in the most popular sizes. These are available from companies like Bosch, Dewalt Silverline and Draper. The brad point actually refers to the sharp point you will find on the end of these drill bits.

Brad point drill bits are sometimes known as "spur point" drill bits. They are used for drilling wood and are particular useful for drilling holes for dowels. They have a central point which makes for an easy start when drilling wood and stops the bit from slipping. On each side of the central point is a spur and these 2 spurs then catch the wood and help keep the bit very straight. The spurs also help make a very clean drilling hole, which is exactly what you want for dowels or for bolt holes.

There is another type of brad point called a "bullet point" and this one can be used on wood, metal and most types of plastic.

Overall though these tend to be more accurate and faster for cutting neater holes in wood. They come in sets also and they can range in sizes from 3mm to 10mm. These are mush harder to sharpen than twist bits so most people just replace these when they wear out.

Auger Drill Bits

The auger bits will normally be bought as individual bits. We think however that a set of these is simple better value. A typical set of these cost around £12-15 and is a good investment. These are for drilling longer or deeper holes. They are popular with kitchen makers, furniture makers, carpenters and joiners.

Spade Drill Bits

Spade drill bits are designed to drill larger holes in wood. They are used mainly for drilling holes in wall studs for framing, and also for making holes for electrical wiring or plumbing. It usually has a pointed end with two sharp tips that can make holes very quickly.

These are really only good for making rough holes and as such no good for anything that needs a neat finish. These are probably the hardest drill bits to use as they are drilling out a lot of wood at any given time.

Our advice is to avoid at all costs anything that looks really cheap to buy. You will find these are low quality, heat up very quickly and just burn out. They also really struggle to drill holes and will leave you very frustrated.

You can buy cheap sets around £10 which will do if you only need a few holes drilled. For a good quality set that will last, such as Bosch or Sabrecut, expect to pay £25-£30. We think the higher investment is a better idea as they work really well and are made to last.

Forstner Drill Bits

Forstner Drill Bit Sets

Forstner drill bits are used for drilling larger diameters into wood. These are mainly used by kitchen and furniture makers. The reason for that is that they create a very neat flat bottom hole which is suitable for installing door hinges. Carpenters, joiners and woodworkers are also likely to need these.

This type of drill bit make precise holes with a very clean edge. They also tend to be very expensive. These are more expensive though, and typically cost around £20 for a set of 7-8 drill bits.

Countersink Drill Bits

Countersink Drill Bits

Countersunk drill bits are what you should use when you want to have a screw sitting flush in wood. The countersunk drill bit creates the shape of the screw head in the wood or metal, and this leaves for a very nice finish.

Most of these are made of High Speed Steel (HSS) and will typically have 3 edges that do the cutting, and of course the tip of the drill bit is tapered. You can buy these in various sizes from around 6.3 mm up to 20.5 mm which are the sizes of most standard screw sizes.

Small diameter sets cost around £7-8 and the larger sizes tend to get more expensive at around £20 a set. The good news is that they have a long life as they are not doing a lot of cutting.

Best Drill Bits for Drilling Metal

Most home users will seldom need to drill through anything metal. This is mainly done by trades such as electricians, plumbers and anyone working with roofing or general construction. There are of course different types of metal such as iron, cast iron, steel, stainless steel, hardened steel, aluminium, zinc, copper and more.

Engineers and those who have to drill through metal, will have extensive knowledge of what they are working with. Most home users will probably not have this level of knowledge. If you own a general purpose drill bit, it will most likely contain a few metal bits, that you can use if ever required. If you don't have that type of set, then you can buy a single bit for metal, should you ever need it.

There are also specific drill bits for getting through metal, and I have shown those below. These include twist metal drill bits and cone style drill bits, or often referred to as step drill bits.

Standard Twist Metal Drill Bits

drill bits for metal

Cone or Step Drill Bits for Metal

Cone bits for metal drilling

Jobber Drill Bits for Harder Metals

drill bits for harder metals

Most bits for drilling metal are made from High Speed Steel (HSS) and can then be coated to add strength and durability. The coatings include titanium, nitride and cobalt.

Standard Twist Metal Drill Bits

 This is the most common drill bit available, for straightforward drilling into all types of metal. Usually these come in a set of 10-12 bits, in a range of sizes, and they cost around £10-15 for the set.

Twist drill bits are the most popular and also the cheapest to buy. They can be used to drill through wood, metals, plastics, plasterboard etc. You will notice that the point of the drill is set at an angle which does the actually drilling, and the rest of the shaft of the bit has spirals that help to remove the waste and also to keep the bit straight.

Twist drill bits are made from two slightly different steels:

  • Carbon steel - this type of twist bit is for drilling wood only and are better for that purpose though they tend to be brittle so don't use them for anything other than wood
  • High speed steel - bits made from HSS are good at high temperatures so a better choice for drilling materials like metal, plastic and wood
  • Gold coloured twist drill bits - You will also find twist bits that have a gold colour. This is actually a coating of Titanium Nitrade which makes the bits harder. You should only use these for drilling metal as the coating is of no use with other materials

As we mentioned earlier, these are the cheapest to buy and the most popular to use. They come in sizes from as small as 0.8mm and then up to 13 mm. That means they can be used for drilling small holes. The bits do last well as long as you don't force them to work too hard. You can sharpen these, but in reality people just tend to replace them when they get worn out.

Step Drill Bits Explained

Step drill bits are used to be able to drill a range of different sized holes by just using a single bit. In a normal drill bit set, you buy a number of drill bits and each one is a different size. With a step drill bit, it is shaped as a cone and that allows you to drill a variety of hole sizes using just one bit. The diameter of each step is etched into the metal drill bit.

When they were first released, their purpose was to allow the user to widen a hole in metal, primarily sheet metal. You can use them on wood but that is not their main purpose.

Jobber Drill Bits

There area lot of hard metals used in engineering and in the making of many products. These jobber drills are designed to work for drilling through those. Like most bits, buying a small set is always much better vale. These are also not that expensive.

Best Drill Bit for Angle Iron

Angle iron is a particular type of structured steel which is really hard, and the shape allows it to be used as strength for supporting structures. A bit made of carbon steel is the cheapest option, but a tungsten carbide drill is the most popular as these last longer, and we believe offer better value for money.

You can also use cM35, cobalt or carbide drill bits as these are tough, but they are also more expensive.

Read more about the best drill bits for angle iron by clicking here

Best Drill Bits for Drilling Masonry

masonry drill bit sets

Masonry includes a range of different materials. The most popular include brick and breeze block. However there is also concrete, mortar, stone and granite. For the most, these are hard materials which require a special drill bit known as a masonry bit. One of those along with a hammer action drill, can get through most masonry materials.

The majority of home users, will want one of these drill bits to drill into brick, or breeze block. They may also use it to drill through plaster and even plasterboard, found covering stud walls. This is where you will drill a hole, insert a wall plug of some kind, and then put in a screw. Putting up shelves on a wall is probably one of the most common tasks.

Apart from drilling through wood, this is the next type of job that most home owners will have to do. With a good drill, and the right type of drill bit, this is easy enough to do.

You do of course have to exercise some care, as there are often electrical cables, and water pipes located in the walls. For now though let's focus on masonry drill bits. These are best bought in a small set, and they will all typically cost under £10 for good quality bits.

Masonry drill bits are used to drill the harder materials including masonry, brick, block, concrete and also stone and quarry tiles. Most of them can also be used to drill tiles and glass. Masonry bits have a distinct arrow shaped head and a spiral fluted shaft. They are made from different materials

  • C45 steel with carbide tips - carbide tips handle heat really well and help extend the life of the drill bit
  • YG6X steel alloy with tungsten carbide tips - these are better quality and last longer than standard masonry bits but will be more expensive
  • CYL-5 steel with diamond cutting edges - mainly used by professionals for faster cutting but they are expensive.

When using a masonry drilling bit, you should do so at a slower speed and also remove the drill bit regularly to remove dust. This helps keep the drill cooler and avoids over heating the tip. You can buy these as a single bit or in a set. Sets usually have sizes from 4-10mm in size.

Longer Masonry Drill Bits

The only real variation of these is that you can buy them in longer versions. There may be times you where will have to drill through, an outer wall, a cavity space and then an internal wall. To do that requires a much longer masonry bit, and a powerful hammer action drill.

Masonry drill bits are usually made from steel and can be tipped with a harder compound, such as carbide. You can also buy these as individual bits or in smaller 3-5 piece sets.

SDS Drill Bits

SDS stands for "Slotted Drive System" which means the shaft of the drill bit has been designed to be used by clicking into the grooves in an SDS chuck. The grooves then allow for an up and down movement that creates a strong hammer action.

You should only buy and use these if you own an SDS drill as they can not be used in a standard cordless drill. SDS drills are large powerful drills which have even more power than a hammer drill. These are used mainly by construction workers for heavy duty drilling of masonry products such as concrete and brick.

Best Drill Bits for Breeze Block

Breeze blocks are a difficult type of masonry to work with but they are very popular in the UK. If you drop one it easily breaks, and yet when you want to drill through it, it seems to resist.

Many homes up and down the United Kingdom, have the walls made from breeze blocks. The reasons for using breeze block is that they are cheaper than brick, and because of their size they cover the area much quicker than laying rows of bricks. You will also hear breeze blocks referred to as "block."

Find out more about the best drill bit for breeze blocks by clicking here

Best Drill Bits for Plasterboard

The quick and easy answer to this question of drilling through plasterboard is that you can use just about any drill bit to get through it. Some people may tell you that you need a masonry drill bit but that is not the case. You also do not need a hammer drill and any type of drill will do.

A wood drill bit, a masonry bit or a general purpose drilling bit will go through a piece of plasterboard with considerable ease. You can very easily push a screwdriver through plasterboard and you can also simply put a nail into plasterboard or screw directly into it.

Find out more about the best drill bit for plasterboard by clicking here

Best Drill Bits for Drilling Tiles

tile drill bits

This is one of the hardest tasks that a home user will have to do. Trying to put a toiler roll holder, a bathroom cabinet, or towel holders on top of tiles is a job many people fear. They know that if they crack a tile, then it will look pretty bad. Even though tiles are hard, as they are baked in an oven, they are also really brittle as well.

Too much pressure and they will crack. Drilling through them is tough because of the hard surface.

Having the right drill bit will make a world of difference. There is also a good technique to use, but the bit type is the most important thing. Now it is worth noting that you can use a masonry drill bit, shown above, to get through most tiles. It is the not ideal bit, but in most cases it will do the job.

You can see from the image that a bit designed specifically to drill through tile, has a much different shape to a masonry bit. The pointed spear shape allows you to have a fine point, that will puncture the very hard surface of the tile.

Again, like all the other drill bit types, these are better purchased in a small set. You may need to drill different sized holes in porcelain, or ceramic tiles. It is always good to have a choice, when doing this task. These small sets of 3-5 bits will cost around £5-10, depending on the brand you purchase.

Tile drill bits can be used to drill most types of tile. These are made from an alloy steel and will almost always have a tough tungsten carbide tip that will make the drill bits last longer. They usually have a spear shaped head so they are easy to identify.

The key is to drill slowly and without too much pressure to avoid cracking the tiles. Always use water to keep cooling the tip of the drill bit down otherwise they will wear out very quickly. Sets of these cost around £9-15 depending on which brand you decide to buy.

You can also buy diamond tipped drill bits and these are the best choice for porcelain tiles, ceramic tiles, glass and granite. We have explained those type of drill bits just below. Just be aware that diamond tipped drill bits will be more expensive than tungsten carbide tips.

Diamond Core Drill Bits for Drilling Tiles

It is also worth knowing about diamond core drills. These come in sizes as small as 1 mm and go all the way up to 60mm. These drills are hollow on the inside and that allows water to flow up inside them and help keep the drill bit cool when it is doing the actual drilling work.

These are popular with craft people who need to drill glass, shells, plates, pebbles and tiles etc. With any type of diamond drill bit, you will need to use water or an oil based lubricant otherwise the biy overheats and wears out very quickly.

Diamond Drill Bits for Drilling Tiles

You can buy diamond tipped drill bits and these are the best choice for porcelain tiles, ceramic tiles, glass and granite. They are also pretty good at drilling through harder woods.

Some jewellers will also use these when drilling precision holes. Diamond is one of the hardest materials available and as such they work really well on tougher surfaces. Avoid using them on soft woods and plastic as those tend to clog up the small diamond pieces on the drill bit.

Best Drill Bits for Plastic

drill bit for plastic

Drilling plastic is actually pretty easy, but the major risk is that thinner plastic materials have a tendency to crack quite easily. The best drill bit for drilling through plastic should have a 90 to 118 degree drill point angle along with a 9 to 15 degree lip angle. Most importantly the rear side of plastic must be supported to prevent cracking during the drilling process.

t is also important to point out that almost any drill bit will be able to go through plastic. So if you already own some drill bits, the chances are that you can use those. However if you need to have neat accurate holes, then it is always wise to buy the proper drill bits for the job.

Find out more about the best drill bit for plastic by clicking here.

Best Drill Bits for Drilling Glass

Now if drilling tiles was not bad enough, they try drilling glass. Thankfully that is not a task that many home users will ever have to do. If you ever have reason to drill through glass, then tile and glass drill bits serve the same purpose. They use bits that are tipped with carbide or titanium for hardness and durability.

Drilling tiles is a tough job, that needs great care and patience. Like always, if you have the right tools, then it is easy enough to do.

Drill Bits for Larger Holes

There will of course be times, when you will need to drill much larger holes. I have already mentioned Forstner bits, spade bits and the cone style bits. These can all drill larger holes. If you want even larger holes than those, then you will need something like a hole saw.

These are often used for drilling out door locks, and getting pipes through walls or floors. They are used a great deal more by people in the trade. Home owners can of course make use of these, but they are not that commonly used.

If perhaps you decide to fit laminate flooring yourself, you may need something like this. These use a hex shank, to fit into your drill. A drill bit centres the hole, and the serrated edge of the spinning bit, cuts its way through the material. You need specific types depending on the material you are trying to cut.

Understanding Drilling Speeds

We have looked at the general types of materials that as home owners, we may have to drill through from time to time. For most people doing any type of DIY you will end up drilling at some stage.

To do that effectively, you will need a good drill and the correct drill bit for the material that you are trying to get through. The task could be something as simple as hanging a picture, putting up a shelf. It could also be as complex as building a shed, making a decking or putting up a fence.

A lot of new users to drilling do not have the knowledge of how drilling works. One key element in that is to really understand drilling speed. Depending on the material you are trying to go through, require different speeds.

This can get quite technical. However, to keep this simple, metal requires a fast speed, whereas drilling through glass, requires a much slower speed.

When it comes to buying an actual drill, it is important to know, that the drill you should buy is actually capable of doing the task you want it to do. For example if you want to be able to drill through concrete walls, you will need a drill with a hammer action. If you are in doubt about any of this, then I would recommend reading my drill buyer's guide.

Types of Materials That May Require Drilling

Wood - The most common material is of course wood. Even that is not simple though. There are many different types of wood ranging from soft woods to harder woods. I will cover that later in this article.

Metal - Like wood there are also many different types of metal. These range from lightweight metals like tin and aluminium to tougher metals like steel and iron.

Masonry - Masonry is the general description for materials like brick, concrete, granite and stone. These are all different and require different drill bits.

Tiles - There are again a range of tiles, the most common being ceramic and porcelain, and again different bits are required.

Glass - There are times when you may need to drill through glass. Again there are different types of glass and different bits are required

I have covered all of these in more detail below.