Introduction to Drill Bits for Metal
The first questions we’d like to address are what are drill bits, and what are they used for?
Drill bits are, simply put, different-shaped and different-sized ends to a drill that accord with a specific type of material or a particular job. Say you’re building a computer.
You’ll need drill bits that correspond to the material you’re using, the shape and size of the particular nodes you’ll need to drill, and how precise you need the bit to be.
Contrast that with drilling hardened steel for more industrial jobs. You’ll need a different set of drill bits in that instance. This article focuses on our top drill bit picks for metal materials.
There are a plethora of options when it comes to drilling metal surfaces. Metal surfaces include steel (hardened steel and stainless steel), aluminum, and several others.
In terms of the types of drill bits for various kinds of metal, there are:
- Cobalt: Cobalt bits are used for drilling hard metal and steel.
- High-speed steel (HSS): Used for drilling lighter metals.
- Titanium: These bits reduce friction and have a lot of durability and longevity. A titanium drill bit is for drilling steel.
- Black-oxide-coated: These are lighter and more durable bits.
- Carbide-tipped: These are very sharp drill bits. They are best used with steel.
- Alloy steel: These drill bits are good for thinner surfaces, most often sheet metal.
Top Picks for the Best Drill Bits for Metal
Let’s break it down by type.
HSS drill bits are highly hard-wearing and heat-resistant (say that ten times fast!). They’re pretty strong and designed to operate at astonishing levels of speed. For this reason, they’re great for lighter metals. Our picks are:
Cleveland Twist Drill 29-Piece HSS 118 degrees
This set of 29 jobber-length drill bits is made of high-speed steel and ranges from 1/16” to 1/2” to 1/64” in length. The HSS is durable and hard for extra tough jobs. They’re proudly made in the USA and meet ANSI specs.
Chicago Latrobe 150 Series High-Speed Steel Jobber Length Drill Bit Set
Imperturbable strength. Masterful manufacturing. Super-pricey. Thus are the descriptors of this set of drill bits from Chicago Latrobe. Meticulously organized by size, these 29 bits are made of HSS, treated with a black oxide finish, and can tackle even the sharpest jobs. They range in size from 1/16” to 1/2”. They’re basically Superman in a case.
Cle-Line 1802 Cobalt Heavy-Duty 135-degree Split Point #1 - #60 Bit Set (60-Piece)
This drill bit set is designed for tough, work-hardened stainless steel and armor. It is superiorly rigid for machine and hand drilling; its cobalt finish is heat-resistant for effectiveness for high-power and high-speed jobs and other extreme conditions; its angle eliminates walking; and it is precision-tightened for tight tolerances.
Viking Drill and Tool 23560 135 Degree Split Point Black/Gold Oxide Hi Molybdenum Steel Super Premium Screw Machine Length Drill, 60 Piece Set
With both a black and gold oxide finish, these drill bits are highly durable and made of the finest materials. Their 135-degree tilt is excellent for accurate centering, reducing walking, and quick penetration. They are precision-ground for accuracy and performance in high-intensity settings, and all their materials meet National Aerospace Standards.
Triumph Twist Drill Co. 012824 3/8 Diameter T1HDG High-Speed Steel Drill, Titanium Nitride Coated, 6-Pack
This titanium drill bit set, coated for increased lubricity, has bits angled at 135 degrees to prevent walking. While a small set, it is of superior quality. One of its most prominent benefits is its unique flute geometry, which aids in chip evacuation.
Many deem carbide drill bits the strongest, most high-performing on the market. Here’s our top pick.
Cle-Line C20929 Carbide-Tipped Masonry Drill Set
This drill bit set includes 1/8”, 5/32”, 3/16”, 1/4”, and 5/16” sizes. They are constructed from solid carbide with a spiral flute type. Their wide size range and the familiarity of the Cle-Line brand make this a solid choice for carbide-tipped drill bits.
Choosing the Right Drill Bit for Your Project
You’ll need to consider multiple factors before beginning your metal drilling project. These include:
- The type of metal to be drilled
- Size and depth of the hole
- Speed and accuracy
We’ve discussed some of these factors above, but let’s dive deeper into the size and depth of the hole and speed and accuracy.
In general, shorter drill bits are more accurate, and you should choose the shortest one appropriate for the job.
Titanium nitride drill bits generally run faster than the other materials mentioned here, so that’s another consideration to keep in mind.
It’s also important to factor in the angle with which the drill bits are designed, as this will impact both speed and accuracy.
Best Drill Bit Brands for Metal Drilling
There are several great brands out there, but the ones we’ve included in this article are most highly recommended. Those are: Cleveland Twist, Chicago Latrobe, Cle-Line, Viking Drill and Tool, and Triumph Twist Drill.
What’s the difference between HSS and cobalt drill bits?
HSS drill bits are used primarily for lighter metals, while cobalt drill bits are tougher and built for harder metals.
How do I sharpen drill bits for metal?
You can sharpen drill bits for metal with a bench grinder or belt sander. These will serve as the sharpeners.
Can I use drill bits for metal or other materials?
Yes, absolutely. They are designed expressly for these materials, which run the gamut from various metals to wood, ceramic, plastic, and more.
What is the best-sized drill bit for a 5/16” bolt?
The best drill bit size for a 5/16” bolt is a 17/64” drill bit. It’s vital to ensure you use the correct drill bit size for the best results.
How long do drill bits for metal typically last?
The answer varies according to the material. HSS drill bits, for instance, can drill between 150 and 450 holes before they significantly dull, while cobalt bits can drill between 1,000 and 2,000 holes. Depending on how often you use them, drill bits for metal can last from a few months to several years.