When it comes to DIY, it’s important that you have the right tools for the job. This goes double for when you’re using a drill! As you might imagine, drilling holes around your home without the knowledge or tools to do it properly can get messy pretty quickly.
You’ll need a drill to do even the most basic DIY jobs around the house, whether it’s putting up a shelf or installing a light fitting. Most cordless drills come with a few basic drill bits anyway, but for some DIY jobs, you might need something extra. A specialist drill bit can offer more power, more precision, and a cleaner hole depending on what you’re drilling.
Twist Drills (Wood, Metal, Masonry)
Twist bits are the most common kind of drill bit. Most standard drills will usually come with a few differently-sized twist drill bits. They’re easy to recognise thanks to their corkscrew-like groove. You use twist bits to drill holes in flat surfaces, but depending on the material you’re drilling (metal, wood, brickwork, etc) you’ll need a slightly different twist drill to get the job done right.
Steel Drill Bits – Best for Wood and Plastic
Steel bits are the softest, cheapest bits you can find. They’re good for drilling wood or plastic, and while they can be used to drill through harder materials like brick or metal, they will blunt quite quickly. Blunt bits can snag as they bore through materials, leading to ragged holes and splits. For drilling through these hard surfaces, you’ll probably want a harder drill bit to match.
High-Speed Steel (HSS) Bits – All-Round Drill Bits
HSS bits are a little tougher and can drill through harder materials quicker and without blunting. They’re made using special alloys which helps them resist temperatures of up to 500°C, which is especially useful when drilling harder metals!
Titanium Drill Bits – Best for Metals
Titanium bits look like twist bits, but they’re coated in a titanium alloy. They’re easily recognisable as they have a gold-coloured coating. The titanium makes the bit much harder and is slightly self-lubricating, which makes it perfect for drilling hard metals. However, you won’t really notice any benefit if you’re using titanium bits on wood and plastic.
Masonry Drill Bits – Best for Stone and Brickwork
Masonry bits look like larger twist drills with a slightly tighter corkscrew shape. You can identify them thanks to their wide arrow-shaped heads. They’re commonly used in hammer drills to grind masonry down as they cut through it. You can use them on brickwork, stone, breeze blocks, and other hard stone surfaces. You can use them on wood, although the hole will be ragged and it’ll probably take longer than a proper wood drill.
Sometimes, you’ll need to drill a bigger hole than a standard bit will allow. Perhaps you want to put a cable-tidy hole in the back of a desk, or maybe you need a hole big enough to feed a pipe through. There are many different drill bits which are specially designed to bore wide, circular holes in material, and there are a few differences between them all.
Wood Spade Drill Bits
Wood spade bits are also called paddle bits because of their wide, flat shape. They’re used for quickly boring out large, circular holes into wood. Unless you work in construction or are a fan of woodworking, you probably won’t have much use for these. If you do use one, remember to use a “sacrificial” piece of scrap wood underneath your workpiece. This is because spade bits cause splintering when they pierce all the way through a piece of wood.
Hole Saw Bits
Hole saw bits are similar to wood spade bits, but they have a few key differences. They’ll still cut rough circles in wood, but they can also handle other materials like plastic and metal, too. Unlike wood spade bits, hole saw bits cut through wood rather than gouge it out, so they’re a little bit neater. However, this also means they have to cut a hole right the way through a surface. If you only want to gouge out a small divot in a piece of wood without piercing through the other side, you’ll want to use a wood spade bit instead. You can easily identify a hole saw bit thanks to their distinctive serrated edge.
If you need to bore a precise hole, you’ll need a Forstner bit. These bits have a circular, flat cutting edge surrounding a short centre pilot point. These bits can cut holes at an angle and they can even bore overlapping holes. If you need clean holes bored with precision, this is the way to go!
Sanding drums are incredibly useful things to have around the house! They’re cylinders of sandpaper that let you use your cordless drill as a sort of portable belt sander. They let you precisely sand down wood, so they can be used to correct warping in water-damaged door frames, sand down splintered bannisters, and more.
Grinding Stone Bits
Many boring bits leave a rough or jagged hole in the surface you’re working on. If the material is an unusual shape, a sanding drum might be a bit awkward to use. That’s where grinding stones come in – they’re small, rough stones that come in a variety of shapes to help you grind, deburr, and buff rough surfaces. They’re a bit more versatile than sanding drums, but also usually a bit finer, so they’re better for smoothing out small, trick spots than wide, flat surface.
Countersink Drill Bits
Countersink bits look a bit like arrows from the side – they have a fluted, cone-shaped tip. You can use countersink bits if you’re doing anything that requires flat-head screws. They bore a cone-shaped recess in wood which allows the screw to fit snugly into the hole without jutting out. This makes whatever you’re working on look better, but it also results in a stronger attachment.
Brush bits are very simple, but they come in many varieties. They’re essentially small, circular brushes that fit onto the end of your drill. Soft brushes are used for buffing and polishing metal surfaces, whereas wire brushes tend to be used for clearing debris out of holes and pipework. Some fine wire brushes are similar to iron wool scourers, and can also be used for scuffing or finishing varnished wood. Make sure you check what your brush is made of before you use it as some aren’t suitable for use on certain materials. For example, if you’re working with stainless steel, you’ll want to make sure you have a stainless steel wire brush – other types of steel can contaminate stainless steel.
CRV Screwdriver Bits
Screwdriver bits do exactly what it says on the tin. If you’ve ever struggled to put together some flat-pack furniture, you’ll probably know how important it is to have the right size screwdriver bits to hand! While all screws do essentially the same thing, there are many different types. Each type of screw has a different slot on the head, which means they all need different screwdriver bits.
Most screwdriver bits are made from a chromium-vanadium steel alloy, so you might see them called CRV screwdriver bits. Don’t worry about this, though – it’s the shape of the bit you should be looking out for. Here’s how you can identify what screw you’re looking at so you know which screwdriver you need.
Slot screws have a single slot that goes from one side of the head to the other. They’re very common and are often found in flat pack furniture. You’ll need a slot screwdriver to fit them; slot screwdriver bits have a flat, blade-like design that looks like the end of a chisel.
Some screws come with two slots which make a cross shape. You can use a regular slot screwdriver bit here, or you can use a crosshead screwdriver bit for extra purchase.
Phillips screws are the most common kind you’ll find. They have a small cross on the head which doesn’t quite span the diameter of the screw. As you might expect, you’ll need the correct-size Phillips bit for one of these. Phillips bits have a pointed tip and a slight taper which helps it dig into the screw head.
Pozi screws look a lot like Phillips screws, except for an extra small set of grooves that flare out from the centre of the main cross shape. A PoziDriv screwdriver bit has a blunt tip and parallel flanks, so it’ll fit snugly into the slot.
You can usually use Phillips and PoziDriv interchangeably, although we don’t recommend it. Doing so increases the risk of your drill camming out (slipping out of the slot), which can damage the screw, the screwdriver bit, and it can even cause injury.
Square screws are easy enough to recognise – they have a square socket on top of the screw head. Look for a square screwdriver bit to fit them. You’ll usually only find them in electrical fittings or on construction sites. The square design means you’ll almost never cam out when using one provided you have the right size bit.
Star head screws (also called Torx screws) have a six-pointed star-shaped slot that’s very easy to recognise. You’ll most often find them in electrical appliances. Use a star screwdriver bit (you might see them called Torx bits, too) for best results.
Socket bits are half drill bit, half socket. They can either be used as an extended hex shank for a screwdriver bit, or they can be used as a ratchet to tighten nuts and bolts. They’re quite easy to identify, as they’re cylindrical with a (usually) hexagonal socket at the end.
You can find most of the above (and more, including a metal ruler, a bandoleer, and a set of gauges) with the MYLEK 118-piece drill bit kit. You never know when you’ll need some specialist drill bits, so being prepared could save you a lot of headaches!