The Perfect Guide on How to Sharpen Drill Bits

by Raymond Archambault

A DIY woodworking enthusiast or wise worker understands the value of keeping tools in tiptop condition, including drill bits. A dull drill bit renders your tool useless. After all, it is the component that gets the job done effectively.

Metal, brick, and wood take their toll on the small drill bit. With that said, if you want sharp drill bits, then this step-by-step guide is your holy grail for a better drilling experience.

Steps on How to Sharpen Drill Bits

When the drill becomes dull, don’t press it harder against the material. Besides damaging the bits, you’re susceptible to sustaining injuries. Sharpening bits is relatively straightforward but requires frequent practice for perfection.

Remember to wear safety goggles before you begin, and don’t wear gloves as they might get snagged on the grinding wheel and take your hand along with them. To get started on the process, follow the steps below.

Examine the Dull Bit

Various bits don’t wear out the same way. By assessing them, you’ll know how much of the metal you must remove to maintain a sharp edge and determine whether you require a fine or coarse grinding wheel.

Choose your Tool of Choice

Sharpening tools are pricey, and you might not have a boatload of options to choose from. Nevertheless, they’ll get the job done if you follow instructions. If you must choose among various tools, factor in the type of drill bit, grinding wheel (fine or coarse), and ease of use.

Position the Bit Correctly

Use your dominant hand to hold the drill bit at a 60-degree angle on the grinding wheel. As you do so, be careful not to put your hands too near to the grinding wheel as they might get sliced.

Slice the Landing

Lift your left hand slightly while still applying slight pressure against the wheel for up to 5 seconds. Keep in mind that the endgame is to avoid wearing out the drill bit but rather to grind the dull surface.

Slice the Chisel

To create a chiselled angle, shift your hand to the right at a 45-degree angle from the lip.

Prepare the Landing

Move the drill bit counterclockwise for a rounded landing that will offer increased support for the lip.

Spin the Drill Bit

Move the bit at a 180-degree angle and repeat the last 3 steps. Doing so means you’ll sharpen the other lip as well.

Repeat

For the best results, repeat the steps a few more times. If the lips of your drill bit are asymmetrical, continue spinning the sides to make sure you don’t favour one over the other. Upon achieving this symmetry your drill will be good as new.

Five Effective Ways to Sharpen Drill Bits

Now that you know how to sharpen drill bits, you might be curious about your options regarding the methods you can implement. Let’s discuss a few popular ones.

An Angle Grinder

Although it’s a hassle-free way to sharpen a drill bit, you might require a jig to make the process easier. To get started:

  • Drill a straight hole through a piece of scrap wood as per the bit’s point angle. For example, if you have a 140-degree point angle, make a 60-degree line on the wood and start drilling holes
  • Once you connect the bit to the jig, put it on the bench and hold the bit as you apply pressure on the hole
  • Use your free hand to pick the angle grinder 
  • As the drill bit tip is parallel to the cutting surface, switch it on
  • Apply pressure against the bit for a sharper land and flip it over at a 180-degree angle to sharpen both sides
  • Remove your drill bit from the jig and push it against the bench vice to sharpen the reliefs.
person drilling metal bar

Source: Unsplash

Diamond Files

Contrary to other sharpening tools, diamond files aren’t electrically powered and come in handy when sharpening drill bits with a pilot screw. A diamond needle is one of the most effective ways to sharpen drill bits without the likelihood of damaging them. Typically, hand filing takes longer than a standard power sharpening tool.

Nevertheless, using a diamond file ensures the fragile bit on the pilot screw remains intact. The best part is that sharpening drill bits using a diamond file is a walk in the park. Furthermore, it’s pocket-friendly and comes in handy when you don’t have your power tools within an arm’s reach.

A Bench Grinder

One of the quickest ways to sharpen drill bits is using a bench grinder. If you’re like most DIY enthusiasts, there’s a chance you have one in your toolbox. Once you wear protective gear, you can begin sharpening. The best part is that the sharpening stone rarely wears out with mild to moderate use.

Most grinders usually have two sharpening wheels, whereby one is fine, and the other is coarse. The course counterpart does most of the hard work before switching to the fine wheel for a few final touches. Courtesy of the cold water on the side of the grinder, you can maintain the structural integrity of the drill bit by dipping it in the water countless times until it cools.

Nevertheless, freehand sharpening might require a few attempts to get the hang of it. Therefore, don’t expect to acquire the same precision as with particular sharpening tools. Additionally, your hands being overly close to a grinding stone spinning rapidly evokes fear in a multitude of people. It’s a risk only a few are willing to take.

A Drill Bit Sharpener

It’s one of the most accurate tools to sharpen your drill bit. While a drill bit sharpener is pricey, it delivers precise sharpening. It’s worth noting that the tool doesn’t allow you to dip the drill bit in water to cool, which means it becomes overly hot and may lose its structural integrity, particularly when sharpening hastily.

Moreover, the sharpener is solely designed with drill bits in mind. If you want to sharpen scissors and knives, consider investing in a combination unit. As seen with most commercial sharpening tools, a drill bit sharpener is a fine grinding stone. While it’s a lifesaver in maintaining a smooth edge, it’s slow in eliminating metals. Therefore, it takes longer to sharpen overly dull drill bits.

A Drill-Powered Sharpener

It’s one of the most affordable ways to sharpen drill bits. A drill-powered sharpener costs considerably less than using a drill bit sharpener, and the outcome is just as excellent. Setting it up is a breeze, and its portability allows you to use it each time you’re far from your workbench.

Cooling the bit while sharpening will deliver a cutting edge that maintains sharpness for longer. You have free rein to wet the drill bit using a spray bottle or dip in the water. A drill-powered sharpener will allow you to maintain a smooth end on the bit courtesy of the fine grinding stone. Nevertheless, it’ll take longer to grind through well-worn bits.

To Wrap Up

Drill bits will inevitably become chipped, dull, or broken after a while, after which it’ll be nearly impossible to drill into the softest materials. Fortunately, you can breathe new life into worn-out bits rather than purchasing a new one each time. Now that you know how to sharpen drill bits, you don’t need to waste money on pricey replacements.

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