Posted by John Rennie on

Creating your drill bit strategy

A builder’s world is full of ‘bits and pieces’. Walk into any hardware shop, and you’re faced with aisle upon aisle of different ‘bits’ that all have different functions. Hands up, all those who have settled down to a job only to discover that they have bought the wrong ‘bit’, which means you have to down tools and schlepp all the way back to the hardware store to find the right ‘bit’!

When it comes to drill bits, the choice is almost overwhelming. You’ve Jobber drills, BS drills, HSS drills, reduced shank drills, Cobalt drills, cobalt step drills, diamond core drills, masonry drill sets, tile and glass drills, carbide spot drills, and so on.

Then, you have all the different sizes, from 1 mm to 30 mm drill bits for metal, masonry, glass, plastic, tiles, brickwork, and stone.

We want to sort the ‘bits’ from the ‘pieces’ and give you a clear strategy when it comes to sourcing and purchasing your drill bits, whatever the job in hand.

How do I know what a good quality drill bit is?

Focus on two key areas – price and reputation. Talk to your builder mates. Everyone will have their favourite brands, but there will be one common opinion among the best – do not buy cheap for cheap’s sake. You cannot buy strong drill bits at cheap prices, no matter where they were manufactured.

The quality of your work both during and after the job will be judged on whether the tools that you used were up to the task. If you cut corners by ignoring the advice about buying the best drill bits for the sake of saving a few quid, you might end up costing yourself hundreds, if not thousands, in both potential work lost and having to go back in to repair shoddy results. It pays to ensure that you choose the best possible quality at the best possible price.

What are the key terms I should be looking for?

There are two key terms that you should take note of when sourcing different types of drill bits for different jobs – HSS and Cobalt.

HSS Drill Bits

HSS (High-Speed Steel) drill bits are strong, durable drill bits used traditionally in high-volume production drilling. As a professional tradesman working with softer materials such as aluminium, brass, mild steel, plastic, and hard and soft woods, you can be assured of good, long-lasting performance from HSS drill bits, providing you take care of them and keep them maintained – they can eventually become blunt and require sharpening.

However, if you are working with tougher, harder, more abrasive materials you need to up the ante and swap the HSS over to the more superior quality of cobalt drill bits.

Cobalt Drill Bits

Cobalt is the best drill bit to be used for hardened metals and steel. They are manufactured from steel combined with five to seven percent cobalt. Cobalt is an incredibly high melting point - 1495°c, which makes it resistant to high temperatures. This means that the cobalt drill bits are highly resistant to the temperatures generated when working with hard materials for long periods of time, maintaining high standards of performance.

Maximise your investment

As you begin to understand, recognise, and invest in a good quality, high-performing collection of drill bits for a wide range of different jobs, you will need to maintain them properly in order to maximise your initial investment in them.

There is no reason why your drill bits should not last you for several years, if not longer, providing you take care of them. Proper maintenance will not only lengthen their working life cycle but will also keep them reaching peak performance at all times.

Keep them sharpened

Even the strongest of HSS and cobalt drill bits will eventually start to blunt with use. Once this happens, they will stop giving you the results that you need. Using a cutting fluid may help to extend the performance cycle, but we recommend you establish a regular annual maintenance schedule in which you meticulously submit your drill bits for routine checking and sharpening to keep them in peak condition – much like you do your car or a boiler. Regular routine checks will prove more valuable than having to replace large parts of your drill bits collection in one go!

Organisation is key

Over the years, you can build up a vast collection of drill bits – often many hundreds. Keeping them stored and organised properly is instrumental in keeping them in peak condition, as well as saving you time and money in seeking out and locating the best bits for a particular job. Nothing is worse than going out and buying the same kind of drill bit several times when you just know that you have exactly what you need in the bottom of a drawer somewhere – you just cannot lay your hands on it!

There are plenty of expensive options for storage, but a quick Google search will actually highlight lots of creative ways in which individuals have arranged their own storage solutions, from magnetic strips to drilling storage slots in old bits of wood to lining drawers with Styrofoam. One tradesman was proud of his own solution using baby soda bottles.

One key thing to remember, store the drill bits with the sharp end facing down. This not only protects the cutting edge but also prevents your own fingers from getting cut when removing them for use.

Ultimately, there is no perfect way of storing – over time, you will devise and develop your own unique approach that suits your own personality. The importance behind this part of the strategy is a reminder that treating the drill bits with care, attention, and respect will significantly lengthen their longevity and performance levels and ensure that your return on investment in both the premium quality HSS drill bits, and the best quality cobalt drill bits will pay you back year after year.

Rennie Tool Company can guide you in selecting the best drill bits for your project if you are unsure. Contact us now for more information.

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  • A down to earth and comprehensive review on perhaps the most abused to in a handy mans shed. However if you want to move to a more ‘accurate’ task then the humble drill should be the best it can be.

    Thanks for taking the time to put this drill guide note together, I learnt a few things myself.


    Mike Freeman on

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