How to Sharpen Drill Bits

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If you are doing some drilling, you need the right tools, and this means a good power drill and the right drill bits for the job. It’s not like you need anything expensive, but it needs to be functional.

If you’re trying to drill something and notice that your drill bit won’t penetrate the surface, at least not without applying a lot of force, your drill bit is likely dull. A dull drill bit doesn’t warrant purchasing a new set.

Instead, you can always sharpen your drill bits, which is not all that difficult, but you will need the right tools and process. Following the steps and tips in this article, you shouldn’t have to buy new drill bits for a long time. Read on to learn more on how to sharpen drill bits.

Why Do Drill Bits Get Dull?

Before we talk about how to sharpen your drill bit, let’s discuss how it got dull or chipped in the first place. First, drill bits don’t last forever. It will become dull if you’ve been regularly using the same drill. This is normal wear and tear.

However, a drill bit designed only for wood on metal or masonry will get dull with just a single use. You always need to use the right drill bit for the material. An impact or hammer drill can also cause drill bits to dull quickly due to the blunt force applied to the tip.

How to Sharpen Drill Bits – Step by Step

Right now, we will go through a step-by-step tutorial on how to sharpen drill bits, starting with the tools and items you will need for the job.

Getting Started

First, get your dull drill bit and a bench grinder or a belt sander, with a bench grinder being the better choice. For safety, wear adequate eye protection when performing this task, as there is a risk of metal shards flying toward you.

However, never wear gloves when doing this. It might seem like a good idea to wear protective gloves, but they can get caught in the bench grinder or sander.

Then, familiarize yourself with a drill bit’s anatomy. There are more than three parts, but in terms of fast bit sharpening, there are only 3 parts to be familiar with. These include the lip, the land, and the chisel.

The lip is the part that does the cutting. Both lips should be symmetrical for even drilling if you have a standard twist drill bit. When sharpening the drill bit, don’t let one lip get bigger or smaller than the other.

Next is the land or landing, the area of the drill bit under the lip that provides support and stability to the lip while it is cutting. When sharpening the landing, ensure that it has an angle that allows for good clearance between what is being drilled and the lip; however, the angle shouldn’t be so steep that it takes support away from the lip.

Then, there’s the chisel, the line that creates an intersection between the landings where they meet the main shank of the drill. The most important thing is that the chisel is kept relatively small.

Prepare Your Drill Bit and Sharpening Tool

We can’t get to sharpening the drill bit with your grinder just yet, because first, you must file away any burrs present on the shank of the drill bit. This is because you will hold the shank when you sharpen a drill bit.

If things get out of control and you lose your grip, any burrs present could cut your fingers. Use a metal file to ensure that the shank is smooth and that no sharp bits are poking out.

Next, get your sharpening tool ready. While a belt sander will sharpen drill bits, that belt isn’t quite as hard or abrasive as the wheel on a bench grinder, so we recommend using a bench grinder.

Whatever tool you use, ensure the guard is in the correct position. Any guards should be at least 1/8” away from the wheel or belt. If you lose grip on the bit and it gets pulled in, the space between the wheel or belt and the guard will be large enough so that the bit does not get stuck.

Practice Holding the Drill Bit Properly

One of the most important to properly hold the drill bit. Make sure you hold the drill bit securely in both hands, with your dominant hand closer to the sharpening tool, whether your bench grinder or belt sander.

Never try to sharpen a drill with it still secured in the drill. Instead, when holding your drill bit, hold it so that the landing sits against the belt or grinding wheel at a 60° angle. When holding the drill bit at this angle, ensure that the drill bit’s tip is facing downwards.

Moreover, when you move the drill bit to sharpen the various parts, the only hand that should move is your left hand or the hand holding the backside of the drill bit. Your dominant hand, holding the bit closer to the drilling side, should not move. This hand is for stabilization purposes.

How to Sharpen Drill Bits

Sharpen Your Drill Bit

The only thing left is to sharpen the drill bit. Get your grinder or sander started and up to full speed, and using the position and technique in Step 3, press it against the sanding belt or grinding disc.

Start by cutting the landing; raise your left or rear hand and apply pressure against the belt or disc. Remember to cut the landing to the specifications stated in Step 1.

Then, continue by shaping the drill bit’s chisel section. To do this, move your left or rear hand toward the right, and create the angle needed for the chisel. This won’t happen quickly, so if you get the angle wrong, no worries because you have space to work with. The chisel should have a 45° angle from the lip of the drill bit.

Next, you will shape the landing. To do this, roll or rotate the drill bit counterclockwise to make that landing rounded, which will help support the lip of the drill bit.

Combine all three movements, the cutting, shaping, and rotating, into one movement, which will produce a good cut on the face of the drill bit. You must repeat this step a few times while rotating the drill bit 180°. Remember, you must also sharpen the other lip, so don’t forget to get the other side.

The trick is ensuring that both sides of the lip are symmetrical. It may take a few dozen passes to get both sides the same. This is normal, and no one gets it right the first or even the tenth pass. This process requires patience and precision.

Tricks to Make This Process Easier

  • Always have cool water on hand when sharpening a drill bit. If the drill bit gets too hot to handle, dip it in the cool water to cool it down.
  • If your drill bit gets too hot and too often, even to the point of changing color, it is a sign to slow down. Moreover, if the bit gets too hot, you may damage and weaken it.
  • You probably won’t be able to sharpen a cobalt chromium split drill bit by hand.

Conclusion

You should now know how to sharpen drill bits, especially the three main components.

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