Any woodworker or craftsman will tell you how important it is to choose the correct type of drill bit when working with wood. Not only will using the correct drill bit ensure that work is completed precisely and every hole is drilled cleanly, but using the incorrect drill bit can be dangerous.
By choosing the best drill bits for wood, you can avoid splinters, splits, cracks, and rough surfaces, diminishing the overall quality of your finished project. Rather than risk damaging your tools or project piece and risking injury to yourself, it’s time to understand which types of drill bits are the best options for wood.
We will explain some important factors to consider when choosing a drill bit for wood to help you achieve precise, efficient, and safe results on your next woodworking project. From there, we will cover some of our top picks, as well as cover some frequently asked questions.
So, let's dive right in!
Factors to Consider When Choosing Drill Bits for Wood
When choosing the correct drill bit for wood, always consider the following factors:
1. Type of Wood You Will Be Working With
As you may know, different types of wood have different qualities. Some hardwoods, like walnut, maple, and oak, require sharper and more durable drill bits than softer woods like pine and spruce.
If you know that you will primarily work with a specific type of wood, consider the physical properties of that wood and choose a drill bit made from an appropriate material.
2. Drill Bit Material
Drill bits are made from a range of metals. Each has unique advantages, so it is important to choose a drill bit made from a material that has the properties you need.
- High-Speed Steel (HSS) is a common wood drill bit material because it is affordable and can maintain sharpness at high speeds and temperatures. An HSS bit is a good option for hardwood projects.
- Carbon Steel is affordable but offers less heat resistance than an HSS bit, so it is more suitable for softer woods.
- Cobalt Steel is an expensive, high-performance drill bit material. Its strength, durability, and outstanding heat resistance make cobalt bits suitable for drilling hardwoods and even metals.
- Carbide drill bits combine some of the most durable metal alloys, which makes them incredibly durable. A carbide bit can maintain sharpness with regular use of hard materials, so they work well to drill hardwoods and composites. With that said, they are expensive and can be overkill for casual woodworking projects.
3. Bit Shape & Size
Depending on the size and shape of the holes you need to make in the wood you are drilling, you must choose drill bits that are the correct size and shape. This is a fairly straightforward choice, as you will know how large the holes you need to drill are.
In terms of shape, spade bits can create large holes quickly, while brad point drill bits are better suited for an accurate, clean hole.
4. Drill Bit Coating
The best wood drill bits have protective coatings that can help with performance and durability. Which type of coating you need will depend on the hardness of the wood you are drilling and how precise your drilled holes need to be.
Titanium nitride (TiN) coatings help reduce friction and heat buildup to extend the bit's lifespan. While it can help improve the strength of the drill bit, it is better suited to projects that involve softwoods.
Titanium carbonitride (TiCN) coatings have improved heat resistance over TiN-coated bits, making it a better coating for drilling hardwoods. Titanium aluminum nitride (TiAIN) coatings are the most durable option, so they work best for drilling the hardest woods and non-wood materials.
Black oxide coatings are pretty basic and usually used on cheap drill bits. It provides corrosion resistance without significantly reducing friction or improving durability. Drill bits with this coating are only really useful for drilling softwoods.
Top Picks for Best Drill Bits for Wood
Now that you know what to look for, we can get into our top recommendations. Choose the option that meets your drilling needs and your budget.
The Overall Best Drill Bit Set for Wood: Cle-Line 29-Piece Drill Bit Set 1/16-inch to 1/2-inch
This best drill bit set is designed and manufactured in the United States. Each drill bit in the 29-piece set has a long, straight shank that follows a 135° angle, which improves torque while decreasing flaring.
The drill bits range from 1/16th-inch to 1/2-inch, so you can complete a wide range of products. Thanks to their impressive durability, you can drill all types of wood with them, including the toughest hardwoods, like walnut and teak. They are even suitable for drilling through stronger materials, like hard plastics and sheet metals.
Whether you are a professional woodworker or a casual hobbyist, this impressive Cle-Line Drill Bit Set has you covered.
Pros & Cons:
- Made in the USA
- Comes with a protective case
- Highly durable
- Precise angle and shank
- Largest drill bit is 1/2-inch in diameter, which might not be large enough for some projects
The Best Budget Drill Bit for Wood: Cle-Line 21-Piece Jobber Length Drill Bit Set 1/16th-inch to 3/8X64th Index
These highly versatile, American-made drill bits are the perfect option for anyone on a tight budget. Despite their budget-friendly price, these CLE-LINE drill bits offer outstanding precision and versatility.
You can use them in any drill press, angle grinder, cordless drill, or power drill, so you do not have to worry about compatibility issues. Each drill bit is crafted from High-Speed Steel and features a hardened cutting edge that is fully corrosion-resistant. The edge of each bit is also designed to maintain its sharpness, even after regular use.
While you may assume that an affordable drill bit set would only be capable of drilling through softer and less dense woods, like pine and cedar, they can handle metal and hard plastics and easily tackle hardwoods.
Pros & Cons:
- Made in the USA
- Affordable price
- Comes with a protective case
- Rust-resistant cutting edges
- Made from highly durable High-Speed Steel
- 21-piece, which could be lacking for those looking for an all-in-one kit
The Best High-End Drill Bit for Wood: Cle-Line 29-Piece Drill Bit Barrel Set
For those who don’t mind spending a little bit extra on a wood drill bit set designed to last, this 29-piece set from Cle-Line is an outstanding option. Each drill bit in the set is made from High-Speed Steel, so they can withstand daily use without losing their sharpness.
The precise machining of each drill bit’s shank means that they will not wobble, even when operating at high speeds in the densest types of wood. Each bit is polished until it has a smooth finish, which ensures a cleanly drilled hole every time. They also have a unique hexagonal shape, which helps reduce wear on your drill.
An added exterior coating also helps improve corrosion and wear resistance, so you can continue to rely on them for many years. The barrel shape of the protective case also makes it easy to keep your drill bits organized in your toolbox. Whether you work with wood professionally or tackle the odd DIY project, these high-quality wood drill bits should be considered an investment.
Pros & Cons:
- 29-piece set
- Protective barrel-style case
- Corrosion and wear-resistant coating
- Precisely machined shank prevents wobble and wear to your drill
- Somewhat pricey when they are not on sale
Frequently Asked Questions
What size drill bit should I use for wood?
The size of the drill bit you use will depend on the requirements of your project. Consider how big of a hole you want to drill and the thickness of the wood you are working on. If you are drilling a hole for a screw or fastener, choose a drill bit that is slightly smaller, as this will ensure a secure fit and prevent the wood from splitting.
What is the best coating for drill bits for wood?
The best coating will depend on your specific needs and your budget. Titanium aluminum nitride (TiAIN) is generally considered the best coating for wood drill bits, but it is expensive.
Unless you are working on hardwoods, or need professional results, you can probably get away with a less expensive coating, like black oxide or titanium carbonitride (TiCN).
How do I choose the right drill bit for my project?
Every woodworking project is different, so you must choose a drill bit that fits your needs. Consider the size and length of the drill bit and the hole it will make. The material the drill bit is made from and whether or not it can handle the type of wood you are working on.
You also need to consider compatibility to ensure it will fit your drill. Finally, consider the drill bit’s coating to ensure it will withstand the heat from drilling your chosen wood.
Choosing the best drill bit for wood depends on your specific needs and budget. What might work for one project might not be the best option for another. If you are in the market for a new drill bit, we recommend purchasing a complete kit rather than an individual bit. By doing so, you will be able to tackle various projects.
To explore your options and find a great deal on a high-quality drill bit set, look at our Drill Bit Collection.
For More Information
If you want to know more about drilling wood, we recommend checking out the Woodworking Networks informative article – 5 Tips for Drilling Dowel Holes in the Right Locations.
You can also look at our Drill Bit Size Guide to learn more about the type of drill bit you will need for your next project. For more woodworking tips, we also offer a breakdown of the Best Bandsaw Blades for Wood.