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Selecting the right center drill is essential for precise machining. This article guides you through understanding different center drills, their specific uses, and practical selection advice to ensure optimal performance in your projects.

Key Takeaways

  • Center drills come in various types, such as high-speed steel, cobalt, and carbide, each with specific characteristics making them suitable for different materials and situations.
  • Choosing the correct size and angle for a center drill is crucial for optimal performance, with drill charts and sets providing guidance for appropriate selection based on application requirements.
  • Maximizing the effective use and longevity of center drills involves utilizing them properly, adhering to correct speeds and feeds, reducing drill wander, and maintaining the drills with regular care and appropriate coatings.

Understanding Center Drills: Function and Types

Center drills, commonly called center drills, as their name suggests, are primarily used to establish center holes—perfectly concentric holes along the axis of a rotating shaft, ensuring secure positioning between centers. These drills come in various types, including:

  • Type A: Based on the DIN 333-A standard. Type A forms a hole with a single 60 degree chamfer.
  • Type B: Based on the DIN 333-B standard. Type B forms a hole with 2 chamfers, a 60 degree and additionally a 120 degree at the start of the hole.
  • Type C: The short, small-diameter portion of the cutting edge is followed by a 60° tapered portion, and then a blade is attached to the third step in the form of a counterbored edge. The counterbored portion serves to protect the center hole in the same way as the chamfer of Type B.
  • Type R: Based on the DIN 333-R standard. Type R has a radius instead of a chamfer. This results in more holding accuracy because there is contact at only a single point. However, the load bearing capacity of the hole is less.

Each type is designed to create a center hole in workpieces.

Mastering the art of precision drilling begins with comprehending the various types of center drills—specifically high-speed steel, cobalt, and carbide center drills. Each type of center drill has specific characteristics and applications, making them ideal for certain situations and materials.

High-Speed Steel Center Drills

High-speed steel center drills, often referred to as center drills, are made from High-Speed Steel (HSS). They are renowned for their durability and ability to withstand high temperatures, making them suitable for a broad range of applications.

The use of high-speed steel drills offers several advantages:

  • Superior hardness and durability
  • Robustness and accuracy
  • Easy sharpening and reusability
  • Outperforming carbide drills in materials such as aluminum, especially for tasks like engraving and creating drilled holes.

Cobalt Center Drills

Cobalt center drills are known for:

Their enhanced strength allows them to operate at faster speeds compared to other types of center drills. Their thicker web design helps prevent breakage, making them particularly suitable for drilling harder steel and various grades of stainless steel.

Carbide Center Drills

Carbide center drills, on the other hand, are in a league of their own. Known for their exceptional durability and heat resistance, carbide center drills are designed for the precise drilling of holes in a wide range of materials. These drills exhibit superior strength, durability, and heat resistance, enabling them to operate at very high speeds, making them more efficient in demanding drilling tasks compared to high-speed steel and cobalt center drills. They are specifically utilized in a range of industries including construction, mining, agriculture, automotive, and machine shops.

Choosing the Right Center Drill Size and Angle

Having covered the major types of center drills, we should now focus on the impact of selecting the correct size and angle for different applications. The performance of a center drill is significantly influenced by its size and angle. A larger angle, such as 90°, is more suitable for drilling harder materials, whereas a smaller angle, such as 60°, is more suitable for drilling softer materials.

We will provide a comprehensive center drill chart to elucidate the relationship between various center drill sizes and their corresponding applications. Furthermore, a discussion on considering the included angle of a center drill is necessary because it dictates the size and shape of the hole it forms.

Center Drill Chart: Five Different Center Drill Sizes + Center Drill Set

To aid in the accurate selection of the appropriate drill size for specific applications, a center drill chart provides essential dimensions, including:

  • Body diameter
  • Drill diameter
  • Drill length
  • Overall length

These dimensions are provided in both inches and millimeters.

A typical center drill set includes the following sizes:

  • 00
  • 0
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Our selection of drill bits is available in five different sizes, catering to a wide range of drilling requirements and offering flexibility and versatility in your drilling tasks.

Included Center Drill Angle Considerations

The included angle of a center drill plays a crucial role in its operation. It determines the size and shape of the hole the drill creates. Various included angles are utilized for different applications, and the selection of angle is influenced by factors such as the material being drilled and the desired hole size.

Center drills are available in 60, 75, and 90 degree angles.

Using the incorrect included angle in center drilling can lead to inefficient drilling, damage to materials, or imprecise hole placement. Hence, it’s paramount to select the right angle for the specific machining task at hand.

Tips for Using Center Drills Effectively

With a clear understanding of the types, sizes of center drills, and the significance of their angles, we can now explore some practical tips for effective utilization of these tools. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Use a spot drill with an angle slightly larger than the drill’s included angle to achieve the best results during machining.
  2. Minimize drill wander to ensure accurate drilling.
  3. Enhance the longevity of center drills by using them properly and maintaining them regularly.

By following these tips, you can make the most out of your center drills and achieve optimal results in your machining projects.

We will delve into these strategies further, examining the variances between center drills, combined drills, and spot drills, techniques to avert drill wander, and methods to extend your tool’s lifespan.

Center Drill vs Spot Drill

spot drill vs center drill

While center drills and spot drills may appear similar, they serve different purposes. Spotting drills are shorter and stiffer, reducing flex, and they typically have fewer flutes. On the other hand, center drills, are used in high-precision scenarios, particularly for creating holes at the center of a piece of stock for lathe turning.

Understanding these differences can help you make an informed choice based on the specific task at hand. For instance, if you require a conical tip for greater precision, a center drill would be the better option. On the other hand, a spot drill would be your go-to tool for precise and rigid hole spotting.

For much more on this topic, see our article on when to choose a spot drill vs a center drill.

Preventing Drill Wander

Drill wander is a common issue that can affect the accuracy and precision of your drilling operation. It describes the tendency of a drill to stray from its intended trajectory, leading to off-center or non-linear holes.

The choice of drill bit material can also significantly impact drill wander. For example, when drilling materials like stainless steel, which tends to harden and is prone to drill wander, using solid carbide drills that are more heat-resistant can help mitigate this issue.

Maximizing Tool Life

To maximize the lifespan of your center drills, several strategies can be employed:

  • Use the tools for their intended purposes
  • Conduct regular maintenance
  • Adhere to appropriate drill speeds—slower for metal and faster for wood
  • Ensure effective heat management and lubrication to prevent elevated drilling temperatures, tool material softening, and accelerated corrosion

By following these strategies, you can preserve the life of your center drills.

The speed at which a center drill rotates also significantly affects its lifespan. Inappropriate speed can lead to excessive heat and wear, reducing the tool’s lifespan. Therefore, it is essential to choose a speed that minimizes stress on the tool while maintaining optimal performance.

Center Drill Speeds and Feeds Calculator

A center drill speeds and feeds calculator can be of immense help in determining the optimal speed and feed rate for drilling with a center drill. This tool calculates the ideal speed and feed rate, considering various factors such as lubrication, workpiece stiffness, and drill depth. It’s an invaluable resource for ensuring your drilling operation is as efficient and effective as possible.

Our G-Wizard Feeds and Speeds Calculator calculates center drill feeds and speeds.  It looks like this:

Center Drill Depth Calculator Free

Besides the speeds and feeds calculator, a center drill depth calculator can also be a valuable tool. This calculator aids in determining the depth of a center drill, considering variables like the hole’s diameter and the intended depth to deliver accurate depth measurement to the user.

A free center drill depth calculator can be found in our G-Wizard Feeds and Speeds Calculator.  It looks like this:

Accessories and Add-Ons for Center Drills

Numerous accessories and add-ons are available to augment the functionality and efficiency of your center drills. These include:

  • Center drill inserts
  • Center drill sets

These accessories play a vital role in center drilling operations by ensuring stability and security for drill bits, crucial for achieving efficient and precise drilling.

Additionally, protective coatings offer several benefits to center drills, such as prolonging tool life, enhancing cutting performance, and improving wear, corrosion, and oxidation resistance. Available varieties of protective coatings for center drills include Bright Finish, Black Oxide, Black & Gold, TiN (Titanium Nitride), TiCN (Titanium Carbonitride), TiAlN (Titanium Aluminum Nitride), TiB2 (Titanium Diboride), CrN (Chromium Nitride), AlTiN (Aluminum Titanium Nitride), and DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon).

Protective Coatings

Center drills derive several benefits from protective coatings. Not only do they extend tool life and enhance cutting performance, but they also provide added resistance to wear, corrosion, and oxidation.

Different coatings offer varied benefits. Some examples include:

  • Titanium Nitride (TiN): enhances durability, heat resistance, and cutting speed
  • Titanium Carbonitride: offers enhanced performance in drilling and reaming of cast iron and abrasive materials
  • Diamond-Like Carbon coating: improves durability by creating a protective barrier
  • AlTiN: offers increased abrasive and heat resistance

Drilling Accessories

Drilling accessories such as center drill inserts, center drills and combination drill countersinks, and center spotting drill bits are essential to enhancing the performance of your combined drill. Using such accessories can lead to increased longevity, improved drilling speed, time and cost savings, and heightened accuracy.

For instance, spot drills reduce heat, thereby extending the lifespan of the cutting tool.

Purchasing Center Drills: Factors to Consider

Several key factors should be taken into account when purchasing center drills. These include the type of center drill, the drill’s quality and durability, and the weight and balance of the drill for comfortable use.

Price is another vital consideration. The drill’s performance, tool life, related machining processes, and the quality of parts it can produce should all be factored into the price.

Compatibility is also crucial, as it guarantees the efficient operation of the drill with associated hardware and its suitability for the specific application or material being drilled.


Having explored the world of center drills in depth, we’ve seen their versatility, the importance of choosing the right type, size, and angle, and the tools and strategies for maximizing their effectiveness. Whether you’re drilling through hard metal or softer materials, the right center drill can make all the difference in achieving precision and efficiency. With the help of speed and feed calculators and depth calculators, along with the right accessories and protective coatings, your drilling operations can reach new heights of productivity and precision.

Frequently Asked Questions


Basically, these are in order of tool life and wear resistance.  Carbide is best, followed by Cobalt, followed by high speed steel.

To maximize the lifespan of center drills, it's crucial to use the tools for their intended purposes, conduct regular maintenance, adhere to appropriate drill speeds and feeds, and effectively manage heat and lubrication.  Keep in mind that the most delicate part of a center drill is the tiny pilot tip.

These practices will ensure prolonged usability of the center drills.


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Recently updated on May 28th, 2024 at 09:33 am