Drills In The Woodshop
There are so many different types of tools for woodworking and to someone new to the hobby, it can be a bit daunting. The world of drill bits is no exception. There are so many types and brands that it can be hard to decide. Over the years I’ve learned what drill bits are essential in my shop. Here are the ones that I use most often and why.
First a few words on quality. Drill bits are being made with many different steels. Without getting too far into the weeds, the two most commonly available are high-carbon steel (HCS) and high-speed steel (HSS). For all my woodworking needs I almost always go with HSS bits because they stay sharper longer and are generally better made. I usually go with HCS for any projects around the house because I’m more likely to subject those bits to more wear and tear. The HCS are usually less expensive or more likely to be on sale, so I often buy replacements once they get dull.
There are three main styles of bits that I use in my shop:
Brad point bits get the most use in my shop. They are precisely ground and have points in the right places to make a woodworker’s life easier. There is a fine point ground in the center which makes it easy to locate a small prick mark on the wood. I try to make the smallest mark possible, so the bit doesn’t have a chance to wander. There are also cutting lips on the outside of the bit that score a clean line on the entrance and exit surfaces. These lips are the biggest difference between Brad point and twist bits. Twist bits are great for metal, but they can make a big mess on the surfaces of wood.
Forstner bits are the answer if you want a hole with clean sides and a flat bottom. Though they can be used in a hand power drill, I prefer to use them in a drill press. Oftentimes, I am performing a milling operation with these bits like in the case of drilling out a mortise. When used in a drill press (in conjunction with a fence) it’s easy to drill overlapping holes to remove much of the waste. All that’s left is to pare the side with a chisel to clean things up and voilà...you have a mortise! You can also drill angled holes with a Forstner provided the piece is sufficiently clamped to the drill press table.
Disc & Plug Cutters - I’ve talked a lot about making holes but what if the goal is to fill a hole? Sometimes it’s nice to hide a screw or nail under the surface and that’s where a plug cutter can come in quite handy. I choose a plug cutter diameter that matches the size of countersink hole I make so that the plug glues in easily and with no gaps. You can try to match the plug to the type of wood you are using or you can choose a contrasting wood to add some visual interest.
When you need to make a hole in woodworking it normally needs to be accurate and clean, so don’t waste your money on cheap bits that may burn or let you down. As my father used to say: “When you buy quality tools, you only cry once”.