Sharpening Drill Bits by Hand: A Beginner's Guide

Sharpening Drill Bits by Hand: A Beginner's Guide

If you notice that your drill isn’t getting the job done like it used to, then your drill bit is probably dull and ready for a little maintenance. While you can pay for this service, it will save you a lot of time and money to do it yourself.

Whether you are a professional or a first-timer, sharpening drill bits by hand can be easy once you get the hang of it.

Below is a list of steps and other tips and tricks to help you get your drill bit back to optimal working conditions by hand and right at home.

How to Tell When It Is Time to Sharpen Your Drill Bits

Damaged end of twisted drill bit

A drill bit not performing properly isn’t the only way to tell that it is time for sharpening. There are many other tell-tale signs that your bits are in need of some help.

  1. The bit starts to overheat when used. A dull drill bit will start to rub instead of cut, which will cause friction and a lot of heat, making the bit hot.
  2. You apply access pressure to your drill chuck. While using a drill, it is often recommended you apply a light amount of pressure, allowing the bit to do most of the work. If you have to start applying excess force, the bit is probably dull.
  3. There’s a lack of penetration. If you are using your drill at a high-speed level but still not getting through the materials, your drill bit needs to be sharpened.
  4. You notice a slow chip rate. If the chipping rate of your materials starts to slow down, your drill bit is getting dull.

To sum things up in a nice little package, if your drill bit isn’t performing as it used to, you probably need to have it sharpened.

When to Toss It Out

Typically, you know it is time to toss out your drill bit and replace it with a new drill bit when it doesn’t seem to perform like it should after filing. Of course, you should also replace any broken, rusted, bent, or damaged bits in any other way.

Steps to Sharpening Your Drill Bits By Hand

Check out this video for examples of how to sharpen drill bits.

There are two main ways to sharpen a drill bit by hand: using a file or a grinder. Files are easier to work with if you are a beginner, but grinders can do the job faster and more precisely. But both options will get your old, dull drill bit back to drilling holes like it was brand new.

You may want to consider using a drill bit lubricant or cooler during the process to reduce friction.

Sharpening a Drill Bit With a File

For the best results, you should always use a diamond file to sharpen your drill bits. These are strong, durable, and will get the job done with ease.

To sharpen your drill bit with a diamond file:

  • Clean the bit thoroughly, removing any access metal shavings or debris.
  • Secure the bit into a vice, keeping the edges easy to access and in clear view.
  • Move the file against the cutting edge in one direction for about five seconds.
  • Now, file the other side of the blade, running the tool along the edge for five seconds.
  • Repeat this process seven or eight times to ensure the blade is smooth and sharp.

To sharpen your drill bit with a grinder:

  • Safety first. Ensure you are appropriately geared up with safety goggles and standing at a safe distance from the machine.
  • Turn on the angle grinder and make sure it is working properly.
  • Hold the bit tightly and slowly place it against the grinding wheel at a consistent angle at 60°. DO NOT TURN THE BIT. Keep it parallel to the grinding wheel at the factory angle of 60°.
  • Hold the bit in place for around five seconds, then remove it.
  • Dip the bit in ice water to cool it down, preventing damage, and return it to the bench grinder wheel if it still needs additional grinding.
  • Once satisfied with the sharpness of the bit, start the process on the other side.

Test the Bit Out

If you believe the bit is sharp enough, you should always test it before putting away your tools. This will keep you from having to pull everything back out again if you didn’t get it to like-new conditions.

To test your sharp drill bit, load it into your drill and create a few holes. If the process goes smoothly, you are good to go. If not, it may be time to invest in a new set of drill bits.

Drill Bit Maintenance Tips

New aluminum drill bit drilling holes in metal

To reduce the number of times you have to sharpen or replace your bits, you can do a few things to maintain them.

  • Only use the bits for their specific tasks. Each material requires a particular type of bit; stick to the recommended items.
  • Drill with care. Using the drill correctly can positively affect the condition and life of your bit.
  • Use a coolant. Using coolants or lubricants on your bit while in use can reduce friction and high temperatures, keeping the bit in good shape.
  • Purchase bit sets. Instead of buying one bit at a time, purchase drill bit sets so you always have options to ensure the best bit is used for each job, reducing wear and damage.
  • Store the bits properly. Storing them in a dry carrying case will increase the product's life, keeping them from environmental exposure.

Following these simple rules will save you time and money, keeping your bits good as new for a very long time.

Try Your Hand at Sharpening Drill Bits

Sharpening a drill bit by hand is easy and shouldn’t take very much time when done right. Following the steps above can turn an old, blunt drill bit into a perfectly sharp, like-new tool in the blink of an eye.

Remember, sharpening metal can always lead to shavings, debris, and various materials floating through the air. Always protect yourself with the proper safety gear when performing this task.

Back to blog