Sharpening drill bits will now get easy!
It is natural to have your drill bits go blunt because you use them quite often. A dull drill bit is, irritating & can damage the material you are drilling. The time required to drill a hole will significantly increase with a rough finish.
But you don’t have to throw the dull bits right away. They are just like a pencil. When it’s blunt, you sharpen it. Stay tuned because, in this blog, I will share some tips and tricks that come in handy to sharpen your drill bits.
How to sharpen drill bits? You can sharpen your blunt drill bits by using different tools and gadgets available in the market. But this can be costly. The most cost-efficient ways are to do it by a bench grinder, or by files, or by using a Dremel. Of course, it depends on the size as well as the quality of the bit. If they are cheaper and small, go for a replacement. But it’s wise to sharpen expensive bits.
Although it is cost-efficient to sharpen a drill bit, it’s time-consuming as well. Don’t worry! I will mention the pros and cons of using each method in detail. You can use different techniques. Let us put some light on them.
Drill Bit’s Structure
Before I dive straight into bit-sharpening methods, I will explain the fundamentals of a drill bit. There are three essential parts in the bit’s body-point, body, and shank.
1. Drill Bit’s Point
The point consists of lips, also known as the edge, which is the part that does the actual cutting. It is the first part that comes in contact with the surface to be drilled.
You need to make sure that you sharpen both sides symmetrically. If one is sharpened more than the other one, it will create non-straight holes. The chisel edge connects the two lips.
2. Drill Bit’s Body
The body is subdivided into Flute, Land, Margin, and Web.
Flutes are the helical grooves on the body. They allow the cutting fluid to reach the cutting point and also provide an exit to the chips formed.
Land is the part of the body between flutes. It provides torsional strength to the drill bit.
Margin is a small raised section that prevents jamming and rubbing.
Web is the solid portion of the drill bit, simply the thickness measured between the flutes.
3. Drill Bit’s Shank
Shank is the portion by which the tool is held. The shank may be straight or tapered. Usually, we use chucks to grasp straight shanks, while we use a spindle for tapered ones.
Methods to Sharpen Drill Bits
You can use different methods to give a new life to your dull, lifeless drill bits, and here we have discussed a few of them.
1. Using a Bench Grinder to Sharpen your Drill Bits
A bench grinder is excellent for sharpening dull drill bits. I find it to be the easiest method among all of them. What it needs is you hold the drill bit to a certain angle and make sure the surface is in contact with the wheel. Then you can work freehand to get your desired result.
Easy as it may seem, it requires some practice beforehand. But you don’t need to be an expert to get the most professional results. Just practice handling, holding it at the correct angle, and knowing when to stop. That is all you should know.
How it works:
Step 1: Select between coarse and fine wheel
Many bench grinders have two grinding wheels, one coarse and the other fine. Your goal is to figure out what wheel to use. If the bit is severely damaged, go for the coarse wheel and then shift to the fine one later in the process. But if the bit needs a touch-up, use the fine wheel.
Step 2: Hold the drill bit firm & steady
Turn on your bench grinder. Remember to keep the drill bit steady, get a firm grip on it. Hold the cutting edge parallel to the wheel, and move it slowly, precisely, so it contacts the wheel. Do not move or rotate it. Keep it straight at a factory angle of 60 degrees. For precaution’s sake, wear safety goggles.
Step 3: Grind the tip of the drill bit, not the edge
Make sure you are only grinding the heel of the bit, where the tip meets the twisted shaft and not the edge. The ideal angle achieved would be steep, or else the bit won’t bore smoothly. Take into account that you should hold the bit against the wheel for no more than four to five seconds. Or it might end up wearing down the bit.
Different drill bits might need a different technique. Like a spade drill bit will need a different approach. The best way to avoid confusion is to compare your dull drill bit with a sharp one and try to achieve the same look and appearance.
Step 4: Keep your drill bit cold
After four to five seconds, take a short pause and dip the bit into ice-cold water. It helps to lower down the temperature of the metal. Failing to do so will make the bit too hot to hold. Besides, it also makes the metal wear down faster. Once it cools down, inspect the bit to see whether it has honed perfectly on the side or not. If satisfied, move on to the next step. Or else repeat.
Step 5: Change the sides of the drill bit
Now, flip the side, that is, turn the bit 180 degrees. Use the same procedure mentioned in the previous step for the opposite side. Note that both sides need to be on the same angle and width. People usually sharpen the bit little on each side and inspect it, flipping it 180 degrees after every few seconds of grinding to ensure equal sharpening.
Step 6: Test the drill bit on a scrap piece of wood
It’s time to test your achievement. Hold the honed bit perpendicular to a block of scrap wood and begin twisting by hand. A well-sharpened drill bit would start the beginnings of a hole when slight pressure is applied. If this doesn’t happen, you have to repeat the grinding process. Aim for that 60-degree slope on the point and equal widths on either side. You might have to return to the wheel several times, but you know, in the end, it pays off. It is a part of your learning curve.
Step 7: Ready to drill again
You’ve reached step 7 after a lot of hard work, so a tiny congratulations on that. Now you only have to insert the bit into your drilling machine and get ready to drill. It should bite the wood right away, with little pressure.
Perks of Using a Bench Grinder to Sharpen Drill Bits:
You may call it effortless sharpening when you use a bench grinder to sharpen your drill bits. Why? Firstly because it is easy and takes lesser time to set up. Not just that, it yields fast results. It fixes your broken bits and not only your bits. You can use it to sharpen other tools as well. Lastly, you wouldn’t have to worry about getting a new grinder after a few months of usage. They last forever!
2. Using a File to Sharpen Drill Bits:
People don’t usually prefer files to sharpen their bits when they have a grinder. But bench grinder is not available to everyone, every time! Sharpening bits with a file do not require any electric power. You only need to spare some physical energy. Files are way cheaper than any other tool out there, but it takes a lot more time, which shouldn’t matter since it provides the highest precision.
We recommend diamond files to sharpen your dull drill bits or any other tools. Why? Because they allow cutting in both directions, unlike the regular files, which cut only on the push stroke. Besides, diamond is the hardest metal on Earth. Hence, they are a great choice to be used as a cutting agent. You need to know what bits are you sharpening. Use an auger file for an augur bit, spade bit, or a brad-point bit. You can also use a mill file to sharpen your spade bit.
How Does it Work?
Here is a guide on how to sharpen your dull bits with a file:
Step 1: Clean your drill bit before sharpening it
Before grabbing your file and starting rubbing it against your bit, you need to clean your bit. Use a damp piece of cloth to wipe away any debris, dust, and grime. It makes the whole process easier for you. The cleaner, the better!
Position your bit. You may hold the bit in your hand with a firm grip. Or clamp it against your table. Whatever way you find easy. Mind that the bit shouldn’t move, or your efforts might go in vain.
Next comes the most important step. Position your file at a 60-degree angle against the bit. Draw the file 6 to 8 times across one of the blades/ lips. Repeat the same for the other one.
I always suggest that you run the file underneath the sharped area. It helps to get rid of the metal burrs.
This one is not a required step, just an additional one. Rub the drill bits with two drops of oil to get rid of the metal. You may use water for the same.
And Most Importantly:
How can we forget to test our skills? You guessed it right! You need to know if you have sharpened the bit perfectly or not. Read the article further to make out if your bit is sharp or not.
Perks of Using a File to Sharpen Drill Bits:
Diamond files or any other file available are always there to help you out. They are the easiest to use besides giving precise results. They can sharpen every type of drill bit. Not just that, but they sharpen every other tool that requires a bit of touch-up. They are easy to transport, and on top of that, they last forever!
3. Using a Dremel to Sharpen Drill Bits:
Eeh, this is that one tool that needs you to put on a face shield. Your eyes aren’t as calloused as Mr. Burn’s heart. It spins fast and requires a precise sight. Jokes apart, Dremel is an essential tool for your toolbox. Think of it as a mini grinder. Besides sharpening your dull bit, it is also used for drilling and grinding.
How to sharpen your bits with a Dremel?
Here is how you sharpen your bit with a Dremel:
Place your Dremel firmly on the table so that it doesn’t move while you work.
Install the drill bit guide to the Dremel motor unit. Get the bit holder out of your sharpening station guide and place your bit into it. Push the V block downward in resistance to the holder, push your bit gently upwards and turn it till you get your matching angle.
Switch on the Dremel and place the holder on the firm sharpening block. You would be holding the block and bit together.
Once you have a smooth and sharp cutting point, flip the bit 180 degrees and repeat the same with the other side.
To test whether the bit is sharp, drill a hole. If there are any jagged edges or squeaks, you have to head back to the Dremel to round up the edges.
Perks of Using a Dremel to Sharpen Drill Bits:
Dremel yields fatter results and is very easy to use. You can make adjustments to the angles that you want. This tool can sharpen bits that are ⅜inches to 7/64inches in size.
How do I Know That my Drill Bit is Sharp Enough?
The answer to this question is quite simple. It is a simple formula that helps you to determine whether your drill bit is sharp or not? And if it is doing the job perfectly or not?
Once you think the bit is sharp enough, try drilling a hole with it. Make sure you are using a wooden slab. When you make the hole, remove the drill from the chuck and place it vertically in the hole. It should not pass through the hole with ease. It should stay upright, having no space to move through the hole. If that is so, congratulations, you have done the job! If not, try again. Don’t lose your determination. Remember, you always have to wait to achieve something good in life.
If you sharpen your bit accurately, you will notice that it takes a lot less time to drill the same hole as when you were doing before. It wouldn’t create a plume of smoke or high shrieking squeaks. A lot of debris falling while drilling is also signaling that your bits are sharp. You would feel resistance as it drills through, but the bit won’t heat up and dull further.
Why do I Need to Sharpen my Drill Bits?
Answering this question might sometimes get tricky, especially when you are determined to buy new ones. Think of it this way. You purchased a brand new pencil, and after writing with it for a few minutes, the tip goes blunt. What will you do then? Sharpen it or throw it away?
I believe you have made the correct choice. Although pencils are cheaper than drill bits, you still chose to sharpen them. Why? Because you knew that you could use the pencil again once you hone it. The same is the case with drill bits. They are reusable. If they don’t work as efficiently as before, this doesn’t mean you will dispose of them. You can sharpen it and ta-da! They work better than before!
Besides saving your money, which is the biggest perks of sharpening, it saves your time too. Why spend double-time to drill through when you can do it in a few minutes with sharp bits? Using blunt bits also makes to prone to getting hurt. When somebody questions which one is dangerous of the two, a sharp knife or a dull bit? Experience says it is the latter. You can either chose to pay the hospital bills or to spend money one time buying some quality bits and a good tool for sharpening them.
How to Keep Your Drill Bits Sharp?
Once you have taken the pain to sharpen your bits, you want to know how to maintain them properly. It would extend the life of drill bits besides protecting you from unwanted damage.
- First off, you need to make sure you are using the correct bit for the purpose. Using spur point drill bit to drill a hole in brick wood sounds like the worst idea ever. Make sure you exactly know what bits you use for what purpose.
- Another most important tip to remember is the frequent blowing away of the debris. I call it “Drill it & Blow it” All you need to do is pause after a few minutes of drilling, pull out the bit and blow away the debris or the flakes of wood. It might sound like doing too much, but it helps to extend the bit’s life. It prevents the material from getting pack into the flutes of the bit and eventually from getting hot. The hotter it gets, the faster it wears away.
- Remember the stop-and-cool method? Well, don’t forget. Keep a jug of cold water nearby and after a few minutes of drilling, dip in the drill for a few seconds. It helps to prevent the bit from overheating.
- Keep your bits clean. Use a spare cloth to wipe off every bit of debris once you get away with drilling. Other than this, store your bits in a clean and dry environment since moisture helps the bit to rust. For a better experience, put the bits back into the plastic sleeve you bought them in rather than just tossing it in with other tools. It helps prevent scratches and unnecessary friction with other objects.
- Lastly, keep a spare set of drill bits just in case the bits go dull, so you don’t have to wait till you sharpen them again.
1. Is it safe to use a bench grinder?
It is certainly safe to use a bench grinder. Little precaution is required. Make sure you keep your hands a few inches away from the wheel. Do not use anything to stop the wheel quickly, except for turning off the power supply. Make sure you position your bench grinder nicely over a tabletop so that it doesn’t stumble over.
2. How do I hold the bit in an accurate position?
You don’t have to worry about it if you have practiced enough. But you might like to know that there are jigs available in the market that help you sharpen your bits with the highest precision. You can set an optimal point for each bit and ta-da! In no time, you have your broken and worn-out bits restored to a perfect shape. They help in holding the bits in an accurate position.
3. Does it help when I sharpen the bit a little more?
People are usually mistaken when they think that running a file more on their bits is good. Sorry to pop your bubble, but this is an unnecessary step that weakens the bit and reduces its active life. So, this isn’t efficient at all!