Types of Drill Bits

Different Types of Drill Bits Available in the UK Market

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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
















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

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.

Auger Drill Bits

The auger bits will normally be bought as individual bits. I 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

They get their name from the simple spade like shape. These are for drilling wider holes in wood. Again it is better vale to buy these in a set, though individual bits are available.

Forstner Drill Bits

These are used to drill round holes that leave a flat base when finished. These are very popular for people who make doors, cabinets and kitchens. These are more expensive though, and typically cost around £20 for a set of 7-8 drill bits.

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.

Titanium Step Cone Metal Drill Bits - These are now a very popular choice for many engineers. These can also be used for drilling wood.

Jobber Drill Bits for Drilling Hard Metals - 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 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.

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.

Best Drill Bits for Drilling Tiles

Drill bits for drilling tiles

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.

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

hole saws and drills

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.