Metal vs Wood Drill Bit

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  March 18, 2022
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Whether you’re a metalworker or a woodworker, without the right drill bit, you won’t be able to get anything done, no matter how powerful your drill machine is. There are various types of drill bits available today, each designed to be suitable for specific materials and tasks. Among them, metal and wood drill bits are the most popular and they’re quite different from each other.
In a general sense, metal bits are designed for drilling metal and wood bits for wood. But the differences don’t end there. So, you must understand the dissimilarities between the two to figure out which one you’d be needing. For your convenience, we’re going to engage in an in-depth metal vs wood drill bit discussion to lay out all the differences between them. If you want to effortlessly drill holes into solid metal or even concrete, metal drill bits will be your best friend but for drilling softer materials without ruining them, go with wood drill bits.

What Are Metal Drill Bits?

Metal drill bits are designed to be powerful enough to cut through metal, commonly made of HSS, cobalt, titanium, and tungsten carbide. They can drill holes in metal objects with ease. It’s possible to use them for wood, but you may end up breaking or damaging the material because metal drill bits are a bit too rough for wood.

Types of Metal Drill Bits

We’re going to present the most common types of metal drill bits available on the market.

Center Bits

Designed for spot drilling, center bits come with non-flexing shanks that are incredibly sturdy and thick. They are suitable for high-speed drilling and are usually installed on lathe machines and drilling presses. You can effectively create highly accurate pilot holes using center bits.

Twist Drill Bits

A twist drill bit is an extremely popular cutting tool that’s easily recognized by its conical cutting tip and the helical flutes that produce the twist on the metal rod. This bit is strong enough to penetrate various materials like plastic, wood, concrete, steel, etc., making it exceptionally versatile.

Step Drill Bits

A step drill bit comes with a rather unique design, featuring a cone-shaped tip with multiple diameters. The size of the tip increases as it goes deeper down, allowing you to create multiple-sized holes or enlarge pre-existing holes. This drill bit is perfect for thin sheet metal but not as effective for more rigid materials.

What Are Wood Drill Bits?

Wood drill bits are designed specifically for drilling holes in wood. Unlike metal drill bits, they come with spurs placed right in the center that smoothly penetrate the wood and ensure the bit doesn’t wander while drilling. As a result, they are efficient at handling wooden materials without causing any damage.

Types of Wood Drill Bits

Here are the most frequently used wood drill bit types.

Lip & Spur Bits

This type of bit features a tiny spur on the tip, allowing it to penetrate wood seamlessly without missing the mark or slipping. In addition, it boasts a spiral design, and it’s ideal for drilling small holes accurately.

Spade Bits

If you want to bore large diameter holes, spade drill bits are the way to go. Their flat shape and wide-cutter design make them suitable for this kind of task.

Auger Bits

Next up, we’ve got the auger drill bit that boasts a spiral body along with a screw drill bit head. That allows it to pull the wood to the bit while drilling so that you don’t have to apply any extra pressure. You can rely on this one for boring deep holes in wooden objects.

Metal vs Wood Drill Bit: The Differences

Reading this far should provide you with a basic understanding of metal and wood drill bits. So, let’s dive deeper into the differences without any further ado.

● Appearance

Although different, both metal and wood drill bits look very identical. Therefore, it will be tough for a beginner to recognize them separately. As a result, if you are not careful enough, you may buy the wrong type and waste your money in the process. Well, if you look hard enough, it shouldn’t be that hard to tell them apart. Metal drill bits tend to overheat because of the intense friction, so they are often coated with cobalt, titanium, black oxide for protection. As a result, they usually have black, dark grey, copper, or gold color. Most of the wood drill bits, however, come with silver color as they need no coating.

● Design

The purpose of a metal drill bit, well, is to penetrate metal, so it usually comes with slightly angled tips to make the process easier. On the other hand, wood drill bits come with spurs and sharp tips to burrow into the wood without inflicting any damage.

● Purpose

Metal drill bits are primarily designed for metal, but their strength allows them to handle various materials. You can even use them for drilling holes into the wood, but you will have to be extra careful not to damage the material. Wood drill bits are, however, too soft for metal. They can’t penetrate the tough layers of metallic objects. But they are perfect for wood, as they are meant to be. You can smoothly burrow into wood using them with incomparable precision.

● Ease of Use

While both drill bits are pretty easy to use, you will have to apply more pressure when using metal drill bits simply because metal can be pretty tough. On the other hand, wood drill bits require much less force due to wood being softer and easier to penetrate.

Final Words

Any seasoned metalworker or woodworker understands the importance of using the right tool for the right job. Otherwise, you won’t be able to produce the best results despite being skilled. As such, you must pick the proper drill bit depending on what you’re doing. Also, be sure to check the durability of the bits before buying them. Our metal vs. wood drill bit debate should make the differences between the two types of drill bits much clearer. The appropriate combination of tools will make even the most demanding job feel much smoother.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.