Forstner bits - buy cheap or buy quality?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Power Tools, Hardware and Accessories forum

Forum topic by Awlsome posted 11-10-2015 07:54 PM 1353 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Awlsome's profile


7 posts in 966 days

11-10-2015 07:54 PM

I’m really just dipping my toes into woodworking as a craft instead of a skill – I usually work with metal. I have discovered that in metalworking you honestly need high quality drill bits, but what about forstner bits? I need your experience. Do the cheap ones dull like crazy or tend to do pretty well regardless? How often do the good ones need to be sharpened (lets assume while drilling material like moderate density hardwood)? I’m not trying to start a flame war – just trying to get a general consensus.

23 replies so far

View Mike's profile


406 posts in 2685 days

#1 posted 11-10-2015 08:02 PM

I bought the cheap set. I use them often and they stay sharp for a while. If you use the proper feed rates on them they should last. After 6 years I just purchased a replacement set to fill in the gaps that were created by worn out bits.

-- look Ma! I still got all eleven of my fingers! - -

View Ghidrah's profile


667 posts in 1220 days

#2 posted 11-10-2015 09:06 PM

My experience with drill and router bits when trying to build up a variety of tools, the majority of the cheap ones had issues. With brad point bits, brads points would be out of line and many of the bits were bent enough to wobble so bad that the cuts were unusable even for larger holes. Cheap router bits have lost bits of carbide via the weld, fortunately the couple times this happened the carbide embedded in the wood.
Be careful

-- I meant to do that!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4985 posts in 2491 days

#3 posted 11-10-2015 09:07 PM

I bought a set of Freud Carbide forstner’s over 15 years ago (the set cost $80 back then). I’ve had them sharpened once. They have cut a lot of holes in stuff that HSS struggles with, HPL, Melamine, lots of MDF (holes for jigs).....along with all manner of hardwoods. Still going strong. I also have a cheap set of chinese ones I use for softwood, and a handful of Freud HSS ones. While my favorite is the carbide bits, especially for the tough stuff, the Freud HSS cut much cleaner holes. I’ve tried to sharpen the Chinese ones a few times, and I guess ti worked…I still use them for softwood. I agree with Mike the feed rates make a difference (also the right speed).

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View jmartel's profile


7891 posts in 2148 days

#4 posted 11-10-2015 09:08 PM

Buy quality ones. If you don’t want to buy a full set at once, buy them individually as you need them. I have had good luck with the Freud ones, and I can get them at Home Depot when I need more.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View HokieKen's profile


4998 posts in 1136 days

#5 posted 11-10-2015 09:14 PM

I bought a set from Harbor Freight a bit over a year ago. I use the 3/4” a lot and the others when I need them. The 3/4” still has a good edge. The HF set is a good quality CS and for the price, I definitely recommend. The only issue I’ve had is with MDF. No matter how much I jog the quill, it still clogs the cutter. But even then, no damage done, just blow it off and keep going. The most important thing with any Forstner bit is to remember there’s no fluting for chip evacuation so you have to make sure you get the chips out by backing out of the cut. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the cutting geometry of Forstners but there’s no way I’d even think about sharpening them beyond a quick clean up with a slipstone.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View OSU55's profile


1670 posts in 1987 days

#6 posted 11-10-2015 10:35 PM

I bought a couple of cheaper sets (different size ranges, I think from Grizzly) and they have worked ok. I have needed to resharpen the most used sizes. I will eventually replace the most used sizes with higher quality bits as needed. Easy to put a lot of $ into high dollar sets with most seeing limited use.

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2630 days

#7 posted 11-10-2015 10:42 PM

CMT makes a pretty nice Forstner bit. Most sell on Amazon for ~$10-15 each. I have a CMT 8-bit set. I only use 3-4 different sizes though.
If I were you, I would buy a reputable brand, but I would just order a few bits that you think you’ll use.

View conifur's profile


955 posts in 1149 days

#8 posted 11-10-2015 10:44 PM

All things aside about quality control of exact diameter and being on center. Heat is any cutting tools enemy, in drill bits too fast a RPM and/or to fast a feed will dull them very fast. I go cheap, and replace as needed, since I do not use them alot and have infinite speed adjustment on my DP I can set it to any RPM, not like a stepped pulley one.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View BasementShop's profile


69 posts in 1298 days

#9 posted 11-10-2015 11:02 PM

Like HokieKen, I bought Harbor Freight’s set and have had really mixed results. One or two burn more than cut. The others have mediocre results. I couldn’t afford a full set at the time, and plan to replace them one at a time with a better quality bit.

Full disclosure statement: I am a hobby woodworker and don’t yet do high quality stuff.

I’d recommend that you buy as you need and get quality. Or get a set you can afford and plan to upgrade the ones you use the most.


View AandCstyle's profile


3052 posts in 2255 days

#10 posted 11-10-2015 11:31 PM

Awlsome, I very rarely buy sets of anything because you end up paying for 1 or 2 that you will never use. If I am doing something that I doubt I will ever do again, I go basic, but if it is a common size, I buy the best I can afford. I have 1/4”, 5/16” and 3/8” by Fisch and one no-name for European hinges that I haven’t used in 10 years. HTH

-- Art

View exelectrician's profile


2327 posts in 2425 days

#11 posted 11-11-2015 04:49 AM

Bought the Harbor freight set and love them – So nice to have the drill size you need when you need it, which is right now usually. I wish they made a 1/16” set to go in-between the 1/8” set.
I have sharpened them with my dremel with a cut off blade mounted (all you need is to touch the edge) and they are sharp again. I never use MDF so I cannot say one way or another there. I do use them on all the regular hard woods and they cut perfect holes all the time.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

View devann's profile


2246 posts in 2690 days

#12 posted 11-11-2015 05:14 AM

Quality. It’s cheaper in the long run.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View hairy's profile


2703 posts in 3530 days

#13 posted 11-11-2015 04:08 PM

View waho6o9's profile


8190 posts in 2575 days

#14 posted 11-11-2015 04:11 PM

View MrRon's profile


4769 posts in 3241 days

#15 posted 11-11-2015 06:18 PM

It depends on how much you need to use them. For the occasional hole I drill, a cheap set from HF has served me well. If I were to need to use forstner bits all the time, I would go for a better set, but for the occasional large hole, HF works well. The same goes for brad point bits. Since we are talking about woodworking, cheap bits of any type work. It’s only when, in my case I do a lot of metalworking that quality bits are mandatory. Most cheap bits won’t ensure precision holes in metals.

showing 1 through 15 of 23 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics