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Wondering why carbide drill bits are trusted by professionals for the toughest drilling jobs?

These bits are engineered for precision and endurance, cutting through hard materials like metal, glass, and concrete with remarkable ease. Selecting the appropriate carbide drill bit, however, is essential to achieving the best results and extending tool life.

Our comprehensive guide provides the insight you need to choose and use carbide drill bits effectively, no matter the project’s demands.

Key Takeaways

  • Carbide drill bits are preferred over hardened steel bits due to their superior strength and heat dissipation, enabling them to drill through tough materials like concrete, brick, metal, and glass without losing sharpness.
  • The selection of the right carbide drill bit involves various factors such as the material being drilled, flute design, point angles, lengths, and coatings, necessitating consultation with suppliers and testing for specific projects.
  • Proper use and maintenance of carbide drill bits, including correct feed rate and drilling speed, as well as handling and storage, are essential to prevent damage, maintain efficiency, and prolong the bits’ lifespan, especially since they are more brittle compared to other types.

Understanding Carbide Drill Bits

Carbide drill bit with a polished finish and copper-colored tip.

Carbide drill bits are no ordinary bits. Composed of a mixture of tungsten and carbon, they boast superior strength compared to other common materials such as High-Speed Steel (HSS). Their extreme hardness translates to a high rate of heat dissipation, allowing for extended maintenance of a sharp cutting edge. Not just that, these power-packed bits are designed to rapidly punch and crush hard materials, enabling them to cut through the toughest substances such as:

  • Stainless Steel
  • Titanium
  • Tool Steel and Hardened Steels
  • Nickel Alloys

that would otherwise damage standard drill bits.

In a nutshell, carbide drill bits are your go-to option when dealing with tough materials. They are strong, resistant to heat, and maintain their sharpness for a longer duration, providing you with a drilling experience like no other.

High-Speed Steel vs. Carbide Drill Bits

When it comes to high-speed steel (HSS) drill bits, they have their place in the drilling world. However, with the advent of carbide drill bits, the game has changed. In most CNC machines, carbide drill bits have replaced hardened steel bits, becoming the first choice except under specific circumstances. Their suitability for drilling through materials such as high-alloy carbon steels, nickel-based materials, and titanium sets them apart.

However, not all carbide drill bits are created equal. For instance, titanium aluminum nitride coated carbide drill bits are not recommended for drilling aluminum, indicating a limitation in their application. Thus, while carbide drill bits have multiple advantages, it’s crucial to choose the right type for your specific project.

Choosing the Right Carbide Drill Bit for Your Project

carbide drill bits selection diagram with labels for point angle, coolant channels, and coatings, perfect for precision drilling.

Choosing the right carbide drill bit is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. It involves considering the material and specific drilling requirements, including:

  • The material being drilled
  • Flute design
  • Point angles
  • Lengths
  • Coatings

For instance, replaceable carbide drill bits offer cost-effectiveness as worn-out tips can be replaced without discarding the entire bit. Contrastingly, solid carbide drill bits provide a lower cost per hole drilled due to their durability and performance in series production.

The selection of carbide grade plays a substantial role in optimizing cutting characteristics without sacrificing structural strength. Different types like solid or replaceable drill bits cater to varying levels of machining accuracy. For different metal types, including bronze and other metals, specific drill geometries and coatings are recommended to enhance drilling performance. To ensure the appropriate carbide drill bit is selected for different drilling requirements, consulting with a cutting tool supplier and conducting testing of various bits is beneficial.

Drilling Aluminum and Plastic

Drilling aluminum and plastic with carbide drill bit

Aluminum and plastic present unique challenges due to their softer nature. A carbide drill bit that maintains sharpness without causing excessive heat or material deformation is helpful. Parabolic flute drill bits are more effective for these materials as they facilitate better chip extraction. Plus, polished, bright bits are ideal as they remain sharp and can be re-sharpened when they become dull.

Furthermore, the point angle of the drill bit makes a difference. For softer materials like aluminum, drill bits with a 118-degree point angle provide an optimal cutting angle for precision drilling. Thus, when drilling aluminum and plastic, sharpness, chip extraction, and the right point angle become key considerations.

Drilling Bronze and Other Non-Ferrous Metals

Close-up image of a carbide drill bit drilling into a brass piece, with brass shavings wrapped around the bit.

When it comes to metals, carbide drill bits are the preferred choice due to their exceptional hardness and ability to maintain cutting performance in challenging conditions. Their superior performance in drilling bronze and other non-ferrous metals is due to their exceptional hardness and heat resistance.

But there’s more to it. Coatings such as titanium carbonitride or aluminum titanium nitride on carbide bits can further enhance performance and extend tool life when drilling metals. However, it is important to choose the right type of coated bit for the metal in question to avoid rapid wear and potential damage to the workpiece.

Drilling Steel

Steel is a common material in many drilling projects. However, drilling steel with carbide drill bits requires a setup that minimizes wobble or runout, as carbide is brittle and can easily snap under such conditions. For hardened steel, the use of a solid carbide spade bit is a viable approach.

Practical measures can be taken for effective drilling even in the absence of sophisticated equipment. For instance, you can:

  • Securely clamp the steel
  • Use firm, steady pressure while drilling
  • Create spiral shavings to indicate the correct amount of pressure being applied to the carbide drill bit

For successful drilling, the setup must be as rigid as possible, including the toolholder or drill chuck, especially when drilling steel around 60Rc hardness.

A technique used by knife makers, such as using a piece of steel rod heated to red hot, can ease the drilling process by softening the spot where the hole will be drilled.

Drilling Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a popular choice for a wide range of projects due to its durability and aesthetic appeal. However, drilling this material requires specialized drill bits like solid carbide ones due to stainless steel’s susceptibility to work hardening and poor heat conduction. Coatings on drill bits such as titanium nitride or black oxide can enhance resistance to wear and reduce heat buildup for optimal drilling in stainless steel.

A point angle of 135 degrees on a drill bit is effective for drilling stainless steel, as it requires less force and minimizes slipping. Additionally, helical flute designs on drill bits enable better chip evacuation and minimize heat in stainless steel drilling, leading to longer bit life and improved performance. For deep drilling, drill bits with through-coolant capability are recommended to prevent overheating and potential damage to the bit. Using lubrication while drilling is crucial to mitigate heat and friction, thus prolonging the drill bit’s life and ensuring smoother drilling.

To drill a hole properly, follow these steps:

  1. Start with a smaller drill bit size and progressively increase to prevent overheating and breakage.
  2. Secure the material properly before drilling.
  3. Use the correct drilling speed, with slower speeds for larger bits and faster speeds for smaller ones.
  4. Apply consistent pressure to avoid excessive heat or bit damage.

By following these steps, you can ensure a successful drilling process.

Drilling Tough Materials Like Titanium and Nickel Alloys

Tough materials like titanium and nickel alloys require a special approach. Cobalt drill bits with a high percentage of cobalt blend, such as M42 which contains an 8% cobalt blend, are recommended for such materials due to their greater hardness and ability to handle higher drilling speeds. Using a proper lubricant, such as cutting oil, when drilling into such metals is crucial to keep the cutting edge cooler and prevent the bits from dulling quickly.

There are specific recommendations for drilling nickel alloys. Some of these recommendations include:

  • Using heavy lubricants and very rich mixtures of chemical solutions to ensure efficient machining
  • Applying cutting fluids under high pressure to maintain the effectiveness of the drill bit and prevent overheating
  • Having a wooden block underneath the metal being drilled to allow for a clean exit of the drill bit and preserve its sharpness

Following these recommendations will help ensure successful drilling of these tough alloys.

When drilling tough materials, it is essential to use sharp tools with positive rake angles to cut the metal efficiently and to prevent excessive work hardening. For machining nickel alloys, a rigid setup with sturdy machinery and using stub drills is recommended. To prevent work hardening at the bottom of the hole, consistent feed rates should be used, and the drill should not be allowed to dwell.

When drilling tough materials, follow these guidelines:

  1. Use sharp tools with positive rake angles.
  2. Use a rigid setup with sturdy machinery.
  3. Use stub drills.
  4. Use consistent feed rates to prevent work hardening at the bottom of the hole.
  5. Do not allow the drill to dwell.

Using cold-drawn stress-relieved material is preferable, with hot-rolled being less desirable and annealed being the least preferred.

Nickel alloys can be categorized into different groups based on their composition, and each group requires specific machining practices for optimal results. Using cutting fluids during the drilling process can enhance lubricity and anti-weld properties, with sulfurized mineral oil often being an effective choice.

Proper Use and Maintenance of Carbide Drill Bits

Proper handling of carbide drill bits is crucial due to their more brittle nature compared to other types. When using these bits, the correct setting of speed and torque, steady moderate pressure application, and allowing the bit to cool down are vital to prevent damage and ensure optimal performance.

The use of carbide drills with reinforced cutting edge designs can increase tool life and stability, reduce drilling noise, and improve hole quality. The appropriate clamping method, such as a precision collet chuck, is crucial for the accuracy and longevity of carbide drills.

Regular cleaning of carbide drill bits is necessary, involving shaking off debris, wiping with a cloth or brush, and cleaning the flutes and cutting edges with a toothpick or needle. Inspection of drill bits for signs of wear and tear is important for preemptive maintenance and safety. Proper storage of carbide drill bits in protective environments is key to preventing damage from moisture or corrosion.

Carbide drill bits should be replaced when signs of wear such as dull or chipped edges, blunted flutes, or decreased efficiency become evident. While carbide-tipped tools can continue cutting even with cracks, solid carbide tools may shatter, indicating the importance of understanding the limitations and durability of different carbide bit types.

Due to their brittleness, carbide drill bits must be used in fixed machines and cannot be used in handheld drills.

Feed Rate and Drilling Speed

Feed rate and drilling speed are critical factors when using carbide drill bits. Given how expensive carbide drill bits can be, it’s worth investing in the most effective feeds and speeds solutions available.  Get a good Feeds and Speeds Calculator, like our G-Wizard Software:

G-Wizard is equipped out of the box to deal with carbide drill bits, and it will even figure feeds and speeds for through coolant drills.

Carbide drill bits have several advantages:

  • They can sustain high machining temperatures, allowing more aggressive machining and reduced cycle times.
  • They are more durable and have a longer lifespan compared to other types of drill bits.
  • They can be used on a wide range of materials, including metal, wood, and plastic.

However, it’s important to avoid pushing carbide drill bits to their feed and speed limits to prevent breakage, as dealing with broken bits can be very time-consuming.

Changing and Removing Carbide Drill Bits

Changing and removing carbide drill bits is a straightforward process, but it’s important to follow certain safety measures. Before changing or removing a bit, ensure the drill’s power is turned off and the bit has cooled down to prevent burns. Change the bits when they become dull or damaged, as indicated by changed drilling sounds or decreased performance.

To remove a bit, loosen the chuck using a chuck key or the drill’s chuck release, then carefully extract the bit from the chuck. When inserting a new bit, ensure it is centered in the chuck and securely tightened to prevent the bit from wobbling or coming loose during operation.

Enhancing Your Drilling Experience with Carbide Drill Bits

Carbide drill bits can significantly enhance your drilling experience. Their ability to maintain their cutting edge much longer than hardened steel drill bits leads to fewer interruptions for maintenance and replacement.

Furthermore, using lower feed rates and drilling speeds with carbide drill bits results in reduced noise and fewer tool changes, thus enhancing operational productivity.

Adding Carbide Drill Bits to Your Tool Cart

Close-up of a carbide drill bit with a brazed carbide tip.

Brazed Carbide Tip Drill by Sumitomo…

Adding carbide drill bits to your tool cart doesn’t have to break the bank. Drill bits with steel shanks and brazed carbide tips offer a more economical alternative to full carbide drills, maintaining quality for a lower cost. Indexable drill bits with precision-ground carbide inserts are another cost-effective substitute for full carbide drills for larger diameters.

Indexable drill with carbide inserts.

Thus, upgrading to carbide drill bits doesn’t necessarily mean a premium price tag.

Providing Support and Training for Carbide Drill Bit Users

Proper training is crucial for new users of carbide drill bits to ensure safety and achieve precise results. Incorrect use can lead to tool damage, workpiece waste, or personal injury. Quality training programs can help drill bit users understand the correct applications and limitations of carbide drill bits.

Many manufacturers provide training workshops for proper usage of their carbide drill bit products. Comprehensive user manuals and instructional materials are often available with the purchase of carbide drill bits. After-purchase support, such as customer service hotlines or online forums, can assist users with any questions or issues that arise.

Continuous learning through updated material and ongoing practice is essential for mastering carbide drill bit usage.


In conclusion, carbide drill bits offer unmatched strength, heat dissipation, and extended sharpness for precision drilling. Their versatility, combined with the right selection based on the specific material and drilling requirements, can significantly enhance your drilling experience. With correct handling, usage, and maintenance, you can ensure optimal performance and longevity of these bits. So, the next time you embark on a precision drilling project, remember – the right tool can make all the difference, and carbide drill bits could just be that difference.

Frequently Asked Questions

Carbide drill bits are harder and provide better heat dissipation, making them suitable for drilling through tough materials like high-alloy carbon steels, nickel-based materials, and titanium.

Consider the material to be drilled, specific drilling requirements, and properties of the bit such as material, flute design, point angles, lengths, and coatings when choosing a carbide drill bit.  Consulting a cutting tool supplier and conducting testing of various drill bits can also be beneficial.

To maintain your carbide drill bits, handle them carefully and use the right speed and feed settings.  Apply steady moderate pressure, allow the bits to cool down after use, and regularly clean and inspect them for signs of wear and tear.  Store the bits in a protective environment to prevent moisture or corrosion damage.

Consider using steel shank bits with brazed carbide tips or indexable drill bits with precision-ground carbide inserts.  They offer a more economical alternative to full carbide drills while maintaining quality for a lower cost.


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