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What Are the Best Drill Bits for Wood 

By  Enda McLarnon

This article will help you find the best drill bits for drilling wood. If you are someone who likes working with wood, or perhaps have a project to do, that will include making holes in different types of wood, then hopefully you will find this article very helpful.

There are a number of excellent drill bits that will easily bore through wood, but it really comes down to what type of hole you need to make. There are more than you may initially think, but we will cover that off later in this article.

You can also click on these links if you want to know about the best types of Drill Bits for Hardened Steel or the best drill bits for masonry.

Various Types of Drill Bits For Use on Wood

Most drill bits are made from high speed steel, (HSS), and then they are coated in some way to help increase how long they will last. These coatings vary a lot but include cobalt, black oxide coated bits, titanium coated, diamond coated or carbide tipped.

In the main the quality or hardness of the coating will determine how long your drill bits actually last. For example a steel bit will be the cheapest and is fine for drilling through softer woods, but will blunt quickly if used to drill through any type of hard wood. For the most purposes HSS bits are ideal for drilling through all types of wood.

Twist Drill Bits for Wood

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This is the all rounder type of bit commonly used to drill through wood and plastics.

These are used for drilling the small straightforward holes or for making pilot holes in wood.

These can be bought individually, but is is more cost effective to buy them in a small set, like the one shown to the left. 

This set is a huge best seller, and is from the high end Dewalt brand.

These are coated with titanium which greatly increases the life of these bits

Brad Point Drill Bits for Wood

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These are really good for drilling through wood as they have a point, known as a brad, for really accurate positioning.

They also have extra wide flutes which help remove the wood chips and shavings.

The brad point allows you to push it down into the wood for real accuracy. These are very popular with anyone who works a lot with wood.

They certainly avoid any potential of slipping when starting up the initial drilling sequence. You do feel a lot more confident when using these especially if pin point accuracy is really important.

Initially though when the hole is being created you may find that these will tend to jar a little more than a twist drill bit. For that reason, depending on the size of hole being drilled, some people will use a twist drill to make a small pilot hole and then use the brad drill bit

These types of brad point drills also have really precise cutting edges and that helps a lot in reducing the amount of splinters in the wood. The point though also helps a lot to reduce what is called wandering. In simple terms the sharp point grips the wood, and keeps the drill bit straight.

Auger Drill Bits for Wood

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An auger drill bit has a screw tip thread to start the hole, and it then uses this to pull the bit through the wood to make the hole. You will find that all of these types of bits, will have really large flutes to help remove the drilled wood.

These were initially used with hand drills by carpenters, and indeed many still use that method today. Those old type of drills were called a brace and are still popular enough.

Personally we use an electric drill set a fairly low speed and that works very well. Again buying a set is probably the best idea simply to get the best value for your money.

These used to be very expensive to purchase, but typically you can get a set of 9-10 auger drill bits for around $15-20 and they will be very good quality.

One of the best makers of this type of wood drill bit is the Irwin brand. They are very good at this self feed process and the hex shank helps a lot as it stops the bit slipping in the chuck. With this particular set the cutting spurs have 3 cutting edges.

Those are in fact the main type of drill bits, that you will need to drill through wood. If you have a set of each, you are pretty much in a really good position to be able to drill through all the different types of woods. It is just worth mentioning that there is no need ever to use the hammer function, when drilling wood. The most popular choice for many people is the Dewalt drill bits shown above.

There are however other types of drill bits for drilling through wood that you should know about.

Spade Drill Bits for Drilling Larger Holes in Wood

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If you are someone who needs to drill large diameter holes, then you will need a set of spade drills. It is either that or buy a hole saw.

The Bosch brand seem to be really popular for this style of drill bit and do get the highest online buyer reviews

They deliver a nice cleanly drilled hole and that is all that they are required to achieve

The hex shank makes for reliable gripping in the drill and also avoids jarring or slippage. These bits are also fast which is also important

The paddles on these also have a slight angle on them and that seems to work really well. Drilling with these spade type drill bits can be hard if you have never done it before. As you are cutting a wider hole the drill can twist and try to pull out of your hands. If you are using really cheap drill bits, they just burn the wood, or jam up and are a real pain. We found with these particular bits we had none of those problems.

Hole Saw for Drilling Larger Holes in Wood

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These are of course designed for cutting larger holes through wood with diameters from around 1" up to 2 1/2".

For most home owners these will not get a great deal of use, but when you need to, it is nice to have set that will do the job. There are plenty to choose from but for these we once again revert to DEWALT.

Yes they are more expensive than any of the others, but they work each time, every time. When you are doing jobs that need this type of hole drilled, you want two things in our opinion.

The first is to be able to actually get the job done, and the second is accuracy and time. You can't afford to make mistakes when doing work like this, which is why we recommend these.

If you are only doing the odd job and you need to use a hole saw, then a cheaper set will do the job. With something like that, you will be able to get a few holes done, but they would not be that good for extended use. By owning a set like this Dewalt set, you will get plenty of use for a long time.

Forstner Drill Bits for Drilling Wood

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If you are drilling into a piece of wood, and you want a flat bottomed hole, then the perfect drill bit for you is called a Forstner bit.

We would recommend buying these individually if you need them, however they also come in sets like the oneweI have shown.

These are very popular in the cabinet making and the kitchen trades. For the really high end bits you could easily pay up to $100 for a single bit.

Many of the trades do, but the set we have highlighted here is ideal for people who need this type of hole for their hobby, or are keen DIY people.

We have used these to make a few wooden toys and they work really well and are still going strong. They are also great for doing railings or for drilling out holes for spindles etc. These work really well in soft woods, but in hard woods we tend to let the bit do the work, and don't apply too much pressure

Countersink Bits When Drilling Wood

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There may be times when you need to countersink a screw into wood.

To do that you basically need a drill that will create a pilot hole and also create a screw head shape into the wood. This of course gives a really neat finish.

The set we have shown is once again ideal for regular use and for this price you get excellent quality. 

These allow you to drill, countersink and counterbore in one step

Drill Bit for Wood Summary

So that sums up the different types of drill bits for drilling through wood, both soft and hard. As you can see there are certainly plenty of options available. It is all about picking the right drill bits for the type of job you are doing.

If you own a basic twist drill bit set, that will be able to do most of your wood drilling jobs around the home and garden. In addition to that if you own a spade set for drilling bigger holes in wood, that is all that most people will need to have.

Knowing The Type of Wood that you are drilling

Before picking any drill bit, it is useful to understand the different types of wood that are available. In essence there are really only two types of wood that you need to know about and these are:

  1. Hard wood
  2. Soft wood

A simple way to understand the difference between a hard wood and a soft wood is as follows. Hard woods come from trees which essentially only contain leaves. Soft woods come from trees that bear cones.

Now there are some exceptions but this is a general guiding principle. When people come to picking out woods there are two buying principles that should always be used:

  • Wood that needs a good finish is often called select lumber
  • Woods that are for general purpose use and will typically have defects such as knots in it.
  • Typical hard woods include ash, beech, cherry, ebony, maple, mahogany, oak, rosewood, and teak.
  • Typical soft woods include larch, pine, redwood, yew, hemlock, firs and spruce

The main reason this is important to know is that hard wood is typically more expensive than soft wood. Hard wood is also much harder to drill through than soft wood. You can use the same drills, but it will take more effort when faced with the harder type woods. They also need to be drilled at slightly different speeds to make sure the wood does not burn.

Can I use any drill bit for wood?

You can't use any drill bit type for wood. Some drill bits are made to drill through metal and some are designed to drill through masonry such as brick and concrete. Drill bits for wood are brad point, twist, spade, auger and Forstner bits. These will have specially formed tips and certain angles on the flute to make them ideal for drilling wood.

How do you drill really hard wood?

Drilling hard woods are more difficult than softer woods. Hard woods include ash, beech, cherry, ebony, maple, mahogany, oak, rosewood, and teak. These are more dense types of wood. The best way to drill through hard woods is to start with a pilot hole. That is simply a smaller hole than the actual hole size you need to drill.

It is always easier to drill a very small hole. That small hole then allows the larger drill bit to get through the wood a great deal easier. You should also know that soft wood should be drilled at a speed of 3000 RPM, while the same drill bit with hardwood requires 1500 RPM.

Why won't a drill bit go through wood?

The most likely cause that your drill bit won't go through wood is that it has gone blunt. Drill bits when used a lot start to wear. You can usually sharpen them if you know how to, but most people will buy a new drill bit suitable for wood.

If that is not the case, then check the speed of your drill. As mentioned above soft wood should be drilled at a speed of 3000 RPM, while the same drill bit with hardwood requires 1500 RPM.

In some cases there is also a real possibility that your bit has hit a knot in the wood. Knots can be really hard and sometimes you just need a bit of extra pressure to push through that. If that doesn't work, then try using a smaller drill bit to create a pilot hole first, and then revert back to your original bit size.

Resources Used in this Article

Enda McLarnon


Enda McLarnon is now retired and is now enjoying writing about his love of power tools. All types of these tools are now available and they make working on projects and DIY jobs around the home a great deal of fun

Enda McLarnon

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