What twist drill bits to buy?

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Forum topic by Sanderguy777 posted 04-08-2015 05:26 AM 1132 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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170 posts in 1196 days

04-08-2015 05:26 AM

Topic tags/keywords: humor question drill-driver joining refurbishing

I have two 1/16-1/2 B&D sets, a no-name 1/16-1/2, and an Irwin 1/16-1/2. Of all those bits there are about 5 bits that are less than 7/64th inches. The B&D are TiN coated, the no-name are Black Oxide coated, the Irwin bits are cobalt and are the only set with anything less than 7/64th.

I need advise on what GOOD bits to get. The Irwins are the best but I think the only reason they still have any life left is that I avoid using them because those sizes break on me.

So to get to the point, I need a bit set that will last. If that means buying one with 5 or so each of those sizes, fine. I don’t use them enough to warrant 10 though… I would like a set with up to 3/4 in. in 1/64 in. steps. Maybe I should just get a separate Forstner bit set for the 1/2” to 3/4” and then a set of 1/16-1/2” bits.


P.S. I was drilling a hole and I needed a small size so I stood around looking for ONE bit for, like, ten minutes. Come to find out, I really only needed the 7/64th bit!!! Oh well, I’ll need the bits someday, may as well have them when I do.

P.P.S. I need them to bore through metal. Most of my projects are wood, but some involve metal.

I work in various types of wood, but predominantly, Pine, plywood, some Oak, Ceder. Mostly soft wood.

The metal I work with is soft… I think… but I have drilled hacksaw blades, hinges, plate steel, knife blades, rebar, and maybe some aluminum.

4 replies so far

View runswithscissors's profile


2750 posts in 2019 days

#1 posted 04-08-2015 06:09 AM

I prefer cobalt bits for metal, as they can stand the heat generated. In fact, they are the only bit for drilling stainless steel (there are ways to do it with ordinary HSS, but won’t go into that here).

But cobalt bits can be somewhat brittle. I’ve even snapped off bits up to 5/16” or more, usually when the bit hangs up. This can happen easily even in aluminum.

For enlarging holes in thin metal (16 gauge or thinner) the step drills work great, better than a twist drill, as they don’t make a wonky shaped hole. Harbor Freight’s seem to work fine, and are a lot cheaper than others I’ve seen. They work best in mild steel. Tool steel is a little too hard for them. Their’s are Tin coated, though I’m not convinced that Tin coating really does much for an ordinary twist drill.

I took a chance on a set of HF cobalt bits, as they were very reasonable in price. They seem to hold up as well as the much more expensive ones I normally buy individually at my local hardware store. I can’t help you with a “best brand” recommendation, but probably someone else on here can.

For intermediate size holes (say 1/4” to 1/2”) I prefer brad point drills to forstners, as the forstners don’t clear the chips very well in the smaller sizes.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

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170 posts in 1196 days

#2 posted 04-08-2015 09:37 AM

That explains the Irwin bits breaking like the B&Ds….

I bought one set of TiN and knew they didn’t do their job. First clue, if B&D has them, they can’t be that great…

So for an all around set, I should get some cheap package of cobalt bits, some bulk small sized bits, then brad points from 1/4”-1/2”, then Forstner bits for anything above that.

I usually don’t do sheet steel. I wish I did, cause I’ve seen the step bits at HF for a few bucks.


View Tennessee's profile


2872 posts in 2508 days

#3 posted 04-08-2015 11:26 AM

I’ve had one of those complete sets with numbers and letters in the long gray box for years that I got from Graingers. They are cobalt. Really nice set that a company I worked for bought for me and I took them when I left. I cannot remember the last time I used them. Instead….

For daily use on mild steel, galvanized, and some very hard woods where I might use a twist drill, I also took a chance with a $9.99 super coupon for those TiN coated Harbor Freight drills. The 29 piece set. #95873. Currently shown in a gray box. Mine are in black boxes. Here is the page:

The coupon itself often shows them in a red box, but mine came in a larger black box and the drills are a little longer than you might think.
I bought one set, and it worked so well I decided I would get another when another coupon came up. Somehow, over the period of about 18 months, I ended up with four sets before I came to my senses. Just could not resist these drills at $9.99 for a set up to 1/2”, 29 piece. I’ve never broken one, and they are all still sharp in the first set. I don’t think I have ever taken one out of the other sets yet. I drilled lengths of heavy wall rigid galvanized conduit yesterday to make some chimes. Ironically, the bit I used was 7/64th. Used it, put it back in the box. No problems.
Unfortunately with Harbor Freight, you might think that all of their 29 piece sets are the same drills put into different boxes, but they source different factories for the same product in different packages, so one set might be great, but the same set in another box might be junk.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2364 days

#4 posted 04-08-2015 01:06 PM

I have a set of the Craftsman Ti coated twist drill bits that I use, I got them before I got into woodworking. They work OK. I also have a set of drill bits I picked up for carburetor work, and if I had to guess, there’s probably like 100 bits in there, and they go down to the size of a needle.

Even though I have 100+ twist drill bits, I find myself almost always reaching for these brad-point bits when woodworking. They’re really sharp out of the box, and after over a year of use, they still are. If not those, I use Freud forstner bits and have been happy with them, as well. I only have 5 or 6 different sizes, one of which being the 1 3/8 size for euro hinges.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

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