The Importance of Drill Bit Maintenance

Creating accurate, precise holes in woods, metals, plastics, and other composite materials requires the use of drill bits. Due to the combination of speed, pressure, and torque that’s needed to bear down and penetrate these materials, drill bits are subject to quite a workout. This is why proper drill bit maintenance is recommended to ensure successful results.

Drill bits come in a variety of styles for use in different purposes and projects, including high-speed steel, carbide tipped, solid carbide, and diamond related.

Sharpening your drill bits will help prolong their lifespans and maintain their precise edges. They can be sharpened with a drill sharpener, a grindstone jig, or an oilstone. All of these sharpening items can be found at home improvement and hardware stores or they can be ordered and purchased online.

What happens when drill bits are not sharp enough? Tiny, fine drill bits can become dull with normal use, due to the hard metals they’re constantly drilling into on a regular basis. This can wear down the bit’s crucial cutting edges, making your drilling tasks more difficult and time-consuming. Dull bits can even cause accidents and mistakes—to your materials or even yourself! Maintaining the cutting surfaces on your bits (and all tools, for that matter) helps ensure clean, consistent cuts and fewer errors.

As you file down a drill bit’s relief area to sharpen it, maintain the angle. This is important to enable the bit to perform properly after sharpening. The cutting edges become honed and sharp by reducing a small amount of metal from each surface.

As you sharpen one side of the bit, maintain the angle then rotate the bit (in the holding device) and repeat on the opposite relief area plane. Do this until both sides are even.

Once complete, you’ll have a newly sharpened bit. This process takes a bit of practice, but it’s a technique worth learning, so you can maintain your tools and their performance. Investing time and attention is an important preventative against mistakes and shabby work.

—Holbren Precision Cutting Tools