Man putting new drill bit into electric drill

Are Drill Bits Universal? The Answer May Surprise You

There is a common belief shared by many that drill bits are universal. Some people will tell you you can use the same drill bit when making a hole in metal, wood, ceramic, etc.  However, this is not the case.

 Drill bits are not universal. In fact, using the wrong drill bit on certain applications can and typically will cause more harm than good to the material you are working on or the bit itself.

 If you were in the category of people who once believed drill bits were a universal tool, look at the article below so we can help you clear up this common misconception. Here we will explore the different types, sizes, shapes, and more.

Types of Drill Bits

Different types of drill bits

Various drill bits are available, each specifically designed for a different

application. For that reason alone, drill bits can not be considered universal.

So what types of drill bits are there? Would you know the difference if a large variety was set out in front of you? If you can’t differentiate between drill bits, chances are pretty good you won’t get the outcome you are looking for in each application.

Some of the most common types of drill bits out there include:

  • Installer bits: Used for installing wiring. There are holes in the sides of these bits where the wire can be fed through.
  • Self-centering drill bit: These bits are perfect for pre-drilling holes when mounting objects. The self-centering bit centers the drill hole for accurate placement.
  • Drill saw bits: Used to cut holes in wood.
  • Screw extractors: Bits that help extract broken or stuck screws.
  • Pocket hole bits: Best used for making angled holes.
  • Right-angle drill attachments: These drill attachments offer the user access to tight spaces where other bits may not fit.

This is just a short list of bits you can easily find at your local hardware store. However, they are also the most common. As we get into the article, you will notice each of these bits tackles different tasks, whether you are working on wood, ceramic, metal, etc.

Drill Bit Compatibility

Your drill bit is only compatible with the tool it was made for and the application you are working on. You can differentiate between the bits when looking at the shank size and shape and the various chucks types.

Drill Bit Size and Shape

First and foremost, your drill bit has to fit your drill to work correctly and efficiently. Each drill requires a specific-sized and shaped bit.

The size of your drill bits and shank determines the size or diameter of the hole you drill into your project.

  • Shank size: The shank of a drill bit is the tip end that cuts the hole into the wood. The size of the shank will look different depending on the type of bit you are using. It is the size of the shank determines how big or small a hole gets drilled into the project you are working on.
  • Shank shape: the shape of your drill bit shank will also help you decide which application it is best suited for. A thin shank creates smaller holes, while a thicker shank cuts larger ones.

The type of chuck you use is just as important to consider as the shank. The chuck is the portion of the driver that grips the bit. The chuck holds the drill bit in place, securing it to your tool. If your chuck and bit are not the right fit, you won't maintain a steady and secure hold on your drill bit.

There are four types of drill chucks:

  • Keyed Chucks: Keys are used to adjust the chuck
  • Plain Bearing Keyed Chucks: A similar version of the keyed chuck
  • Stainless Steel Keyed Chucks: A heavy-duty chuck
  • Precision Keyless Chucks: Chucks that can be adjusted without using a key

The most common type of drill chuck today is keyless. Typically the user just has to twist the drill top to grip and release the drill bit.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Drill Bit

Different types of drill bits laid out around piece of wood with hole drilled into it

There are a handful of variables to consider when choosing a drill bit. These factors indicate that no two bits are the same and definitely not versatile.

Material of the Drill Bit

The material your drill bit is made from determines what material you can work with. You will quickly find that a drill bit made from soft metal will do little when working on stainless steel, cement, or other hard materials. However, it would work just fine on most softwood and plastic.

The various materials drill bits are made from include:

  • High speed steel (HSS): Used for wood, metal, and plastic (PVC)
  • Cobalt: Used for steel and hard metal
  • Titanium-coated: Used for hardwood, fiberglass, steel, softwood, PVC
  • Diamond: Use for glass, rocks, and minerals
  • Alloy steel: Sheet metal, thin materials
  • Black oxide: Hardwood, fiberglass, steel, softwood, and PVC


There are drill bits available for every type of job out there. The bit you choose should be designed for the material you are drilling into, the angle you need, and the strength required to get the right results.

Here are some drill bits to consider for specific applications.

  • Twist drill bits: A twist drill bit is the most common option. It can be used for most DIY jobs and on plastic, wood, metal, ceramic, and masonry.
  • Pilot and brad point drill bits: Used on wood, creates clean holes.
  • Tile drill bits: Used on porcelain and ceramic tiles
  • Auger drill bits: Used for large woodwork projects. Drills large holes easily and quickly.
  • Glass drill bits: Used on ceramics and non-tempered glass.
  • Forstner bits: Used on wood, creates clean holes that do not penetrate through the entire thickness of the wood.
  • Step drill bits: Used on metal or wood to create holes of different sizes with the same bit.
  • Countersink drill bits: Used for woodwork and cabinetry. They drill holes that leave hollow crater-shaped holes to hide screw heads and other fasteners.
  • Installer drill bits: Used with wood. They make plugs to conceal fasteners.
  • Hole saw bits: Used on metal, wood, masonry, and tile.
  • Masonry drill bits: Used on masonry, concrete, and brick.
  • Spade drill bits: Spade bits are used on wood and create large diameters.


Although many people believe drill bits can be universal, this is not the case. As you now know, each application requires a specific bit. Use the information provided to help you choose the perfect bit for your next project.


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