Bits Aren't Boring

Whether you are doing home repairs or fine woodworking, you inevitably will need to drill holes.

Most of us don’t give a lot of thought to drilling, but all holes are not created equal.  There is a big difference between punching a hole in a 2×4 and boring a precise hole for furniture joinery or a hinge.  It’s easy to get a hole that is out of round or has splintered edges.  To drill a satisfactory hole, you need the right type of drill bit.

Consider a few of the types of bits available for drilling wood:

Twist Drills are the most commonly used bits. Great in metal, ok for wood, they work well on a variety of materials.  They were invented by a mechanic named Morse in the 1860’s and are sometimes referred to Morse drills.  You can recognize them by the spirals along the length of the bit that pull dust and chips from the hole.  Twist drills have a wedge point that can wander or skate so care must be taken when starting the hole to keep it in place.

Brad Point Bits are also known as wood bits.  The have a central point and two spurs that help cut clean edges and keep the drilling straight. The central point allows the bit to be precisely positioned and will keep the bit from skating sideways.

Spade Bits have a center point to keep the hole centered and flat, steel blade on both sides that cut away the wood.  They yield a flat bottomed hole but may cause chip out on through holes. Not suitable for enlarging holes.  Great when you need a quick hole in softer woods.

Forstner Bits are perfect for producing holes with perfectly smooth sides and flat bottoms.  Use a forstner bit to drill overlapping holes or to enlarge a hole.  Run at slow speeds and withdraw often to clear chips.

Auger Bits are used in hand braces to drill large-diameter, deep holes in wood.  The outer spur cuts the circle and the flat chisel edge removes the waste.  The threaded spiral in the center pulls the bit into the wood.  Not suitable for power drills.

Countersink Drill Bits drill a hole and forms a conical recess for the head of a screw in one operation.  Different bit and countersink combinations are sized for various screw sizes.

Tapered Drill Bits are often used with countersinks.  The slim tapered head will reduce splintering when it exits the other side of the board so they are perfect for jobs like installing knobs in drawers.

Whenever you are drilling be sure to work safely:

  • Wear proper eye, ear and dust protection
  • Always remove the chuck key before starting the drill
  • Clamp your workpiece to the worktable whenever possible
  • Keep loose clothing and hair clear of the drill chuck

You need a good set of high speed twist bits, but you can really up your woodworking game by using specialized bits.  The right bit is never boring.

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