Working with any power tool requires the proper knowledge to promote safe and practical use. From daily fix-ups to large-scale projects, power tools are essential for efficient work. Even though they can be convenient, power tools can be dangerous if misused. Not only is proper knowledge required to operate them safely, but so is maintenance. That is why keeping your tools in excellent shape is crucial for safe usage. Beyond ensuring that your power tool experience is safe, we also want to avoid issues like inefficiency, costly accidents, and scrapping pieces. The edges of the drill bit are designed specifically for cutting and will become worn and decrease your efficiency levels after extensive use. Dull drill bits can result in unclean cuts and overheating. In the case of tougher materials like metal, a dull drill bit may fail to cut into the material entirely. Sharpening drill bits is an important step in maintaining your tools to be sure they are running efficiently and productively.

The Anatomy Of A Drill Bit

Before learning how to maintain your drill bits, it’s essential to understand how one is composed. Typically, a drill bit has two surfaces used for cutting. These surfaces, which can vary from 60 degrees (for plastics) up to 135 degrees (for aluminum and steels) – the most common point angle being 118 degrees, are commonly referred to as the “cutting edges.” As you can see in the image below, each angled surface is cut at a slightly narrower angle, making another plane in the drill bit – creating the cutting edge. Behind that edge is the relief area (typically cut at a ~12-degree relief). This part of the bit allows for efficient drilling by reducing friction levels. Looking at the bit, we can see the groove, also known as the flute, that wraps around and down the piece. The groove allows scrap material to move away from the cutting surface of the bit. If the bit is sharp, the result is a true, cylindrical hole in the selected material.


Fig. 1: The parts of a drill bit.


Manual Maintenance

Now that you are familiar with the anatomy of a drill bit, you can begin the actual task of sharpening bits. A grinder wheel is an efficient, simple way to sharpen drill bits. Beginning with the cutting edge, we place it horizontally against the wheel. Turning the bit clockwise allows for the area behind the cutting edge to be ground down. It is essential to make sure that the cutting edge is the furthest from the drill. Making sure that the piece is centered and even is crucial for your bit to be cut effectively.

Careful grinding is critical for your drill. Pictured below, the left bit is an example of improper grinding. This piece will not be able to function as efficiently as the one on the right.


Machine Sharpening – Drill Doctor

When it comes to sharpening pieces, Leading Edge Industrial’s personal favorite is the Drill Doctor. This efficient machine will sharpen your dull bits in a matter of seconds. The Drill Doctor machine replicates the same type of motion for filing the drill as factories do when they initially make the piece. The machine has become incredibly popular since its introduction in 1973 with over 4 million sharpening tools sold!

Welcome Efficiency

As you find yourself perfecting your drill bit sharpening skills, you’ll recognize the benefits immediately. Not only will you save money by continuing to use the same bit instead of purchasing replacements, but you will also find yourself relishing the following benefits: 


  1. Time Efficiency – Properly sharpened and maintained bits tend to operate more efficiently which results in faster processing of materials. Your drill bit will be able to get more work done in less time. 


  1. Heat Reduction – When a drill bit is dull, users tend to apply more pressure to compensate for the reduced effectiveness of the bit. This causes the drill bit to overheat, promoting further dulling. By ensuring your drill bits are properly sharpened, you will prevent this issue as well and reduce the risk of damaging your drill.  When a tool overheats, it can form microcracks and break down. Simple maintenance can save a great deal of money over the life of the tool. 


  1. Clean Cuts – Using a freshly sharpened drill bit means cylindrical cuts that are clean and true to the drill bit’s size and fit. This helps promote a clean surface finish and precision among your projects.


  1. Secured Safety – Working with dull equipment means applying more pressure or force to get the same results as those of a well-maintained tool. Increasing the pressure on the tool also increases the risk of the tool failing or slipping which may result in an injury. Sharpening your drill bits is an easy way to reduce unnecessary risk.

A Little Goes A Long Way 

A clean-cut job can be incredibly satisfying. Whether it is through manual efforts or the handy help of a Drill Doctor, you will no longer have to deal with the frustrations of dull drill bits. In fact, with your current inventory of pieces, you may have enough to last you for a lifetime of projects. A couple of minutes and twists of the wrist will have you headed to an efficient, cost-saving, and safe project in no time!


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