The age-old question when it comes to working on projects that require a power drill is how to find the right drill bits for wood vs metal. This guide will help you understand some of the most important differences, including shape and color.
You’ll find a lot of different kinds of bits in the hardware store, but it’s not always obvious what ones are best for different materials. Some metal and wood drill bits resemble each other closely and can be used with different types of drills.
Whether you have a metal or wood project that requires a power drill or impact driver, what is the best drill bit for the job? Here’s what you need to know.
Drill Bits Wood Vs Metal: What are the Main Differences?
When you first look at most drill bits for wood vs metal, you probably won’t notice a significant difference. At a glance, they look similar in size and shape, and may even have similar colors.
However, a closer examination will prove that there are some important differences that allow each type of bit to go through their respective materials.
Although there are variations of wood and metal drill bits, the most common type is known as the twist bit. Both metal and wood drill bits can be twist bits, with slight variations that help them glide through their materials.
There are two main differences that you’ll notice that can help you spot a wood bit from a metal bit:
- Color. Wood and metal bits can both come in various colors, from silver to copper. However, most metal bits range from black to dark gray in color because of their coating, which is usually titanium or black oxide. Some metal bits are gold. Wood drill bits are often silver.
- Tip. The tip of a metal drill bit will look different than the tip of a wood drill bit. Metal drill bits have a slightly angled tip, but a wood drill bit will have what’s known as a brad, which is a sharp tip that snags the wood and helps prevent the bit from wandering as it turns.
The Problem with Using the Wrong Type
As you might guess, a drill bit made for wood won’t work correctly with metal material, while a drill bit made for metal won’t work right with wood projects. But what exactly will happen if you use the wrong one?
Wood drill bits aren’t intended to cut through a material as tough as metal. What you’ll likely see when you try to use one on metal is damage on the drill bit. Usually, your drill bit will strip and, if you’re using a thin metal, you might see some abrasion on the material.
Metal drill bits are very strong and shaped in a way that lets them slice through metal. Since metal is a stronger, tougher material than wood, the metal drill bit can damage your wood, causing it to crack, splinter, or possible even split its whole length.
If you were able to get a metal drill bit through the wood without an issue, it can still cause damage to the wood on its way back out.
Using the right drill bit for the job will help you bore a hole through the material easily and quickly without damaging your project. You can’t expect a drill bit made for glass, for example, to cut smoothly through a piece of wood, and you can’t expect a drill bit for wood to make it through a piece of glass at all.
What Type of Drill Bits are Best for Wood?
If you’re creating a wood project that requires a power drill or impact driver, what is the best bit for the job? Wood drill bits can vary because there are so many projects you can make with wood, and they come in various sizes to meet those needs. The following three types are among the most common that you should familiarize yourself with if you’re going to work with wood:
Flat or Spade Wood Bit
The flat wood bit, also known as a spade or paddle bit, is one that’s made to drill a large hole quickly into wood without splitting it. These bits are often helpful when electricians need to run wiring through studs in the walls to create a hole big enough for several wires to pass through.
The spade bit is flat but has a pointed tip like a twisted bit that helps grab the wood and propel the bit through without it sliding.
Brad Point Bit
The brad point bit is the most common drill bit for wood and is also the twist bit we mentioned earlier. This bit has a corkscrew shaft that creates guides for a screw to enter, and the tip has a pointed brad that prevents the bit from slipping when it enters the wood.
Countersink bits are also common for woodworking projects that require you to hide a screw from view. Sometimes, screws can take away from the look of the finished project, so these bits create a hole that lets the screw head fit inside, hidden from the surface.
You won’t find countersinking bits for metal because metal isn’t a material that cooperates nicely with countersinking, nor is it usually necessary to hide screws on metal projects.
What Type of Drill Bits are Best for Metal?
Metal drill bits don’t vary as much as wood drill bits, but there are still a few specialty bits that you might need for metal projects. The most common metal bits are standard high-speed steel bits and premium high speed steel bits.
High Speed Steel (HSS) Bit
Standard high-speed steel bits, also known as HSS bits, can drill into metal, wood, and several other materials. However, since they don’t have brads to help guide them, they can easily split wood, especially soft wood varieties.
Most HSS bits are made from carbon steel, which is durable enough to resist breaking under the pressure that high-performance power tools put on them to get through metal.
Titanium or Cobalt-Coated HSS Bit
While standard HSS bits can get through most lightweight metals, like aluminum, you might need something even stronger to cut through more durable metals, like steel or iron. That’s where premium HSS bits can come in handy.
These bits are usually more expensive than standard HSS bits, but they can also handle tougher jobs. You’ll find them coated with either cobalt steel, carbide-tipped steel, or titanium, which makes them harder and stronger, and can last up to six times longer, than their standard counterparts.
Conclusion: Drill Bits, Wood vs Metal
Your wood and metal projects won’t look or act the same, nor will they require the same tools and hardware. It’s crucial to know the difference between drill bits so that you don’t risk damaging your hard work by using a bit that’s either too weak or too strong to handle the job.
When considering drill bits, wood vs metal projects will need different types, but they can sometimes be tricky to distinguish with their similar features. We hope our guide helped you navigate the options you have to find the right drill bit for your project.