I’m always whinging about something.
So the thing this blog is good for is that someone always has an answer.
And it shuts me straight up.
When I was moaning about drill bits in the marking knife post, we got plenty of suggestions for bits that you find overcome my problem.
You weren’t wrong.
We got together all the drill bits that we could from your input, and I put them to the test.
The Problem With Hand Powered Drills
My struggle here has always been with small drill bits.
Larger diameter bits, I’ve never had an issue with.
I find you can buy old augers for these, and then it’s all about being good at sharpening them.
With smaller diameter drill bits though, I tend to find you’re restricted to what’s at the shop.
For high speed cordless drills this isn’t too bad. You can often get away with a shoddy drill bit, and use the speed to whizz it through.
But the low speed in hand powered drills doesn’t give much help with this approach.
The Important Sizes
I don’t find you need a full set of bits, but there are certain diameters that I’ll use all the time.
6mm – 10mm. (1/4″ – 3/8″)
These are the sizes I’m always using for pegged joints and stuff like that.
And these commonly used bits also happen to fall on a boundary of ‘do I need to get the bit and brace out, or not’.
For the smaller of these sizes, I’d prefer to use an egg beater, but it’s always been a struggle to get drill bits that are clean cutting at low speeds.
That was until I went through your recommendations.
My Top Three Drill Bits For Hand Drills.
I tested a good handful of bits, but I’m just going to cover my favourites here.
These are the bits that I’ll be buying in the future, and have put an end to my hunt. Thank you.
A quick note – all of the drill bits were purchased by us for testing.
All bar one. The Star-M was provided by Matthew at Workshop Heaven.
Matthew read the post where I was whinging and he sent this one over free of charge. Don’t worry – it takes more than a drill bit to sway my opinion, but I wanted to be clear about that.
Alpen HSS Dowel Drill
– Size tested 6mm
– Price paid – £4.99
– 8mm bit price – £4.99
– More info
Of the 6mm bits tested, this one came out on top.
I found it gave a beautifully clean cut, and the exit hole was amongst the best of them.
This is definitely the bit that I’d jump to first to buy again.
It also offered the best price.
It didn’t bog the drill down, which is a particular problem that you can find with slow egg beaters.
What I really liked about the Alpen was that you had to apply quite a bit of force to get it to cut, but the force needed remained the same throughout.
It didn’t to that thing where when it bites it halts the drill.
Instead it needed consistant pressure to get it through, and I like that.
It gives you a lot of control, and doesn’t feed too fast.
Veritas / Lee Valley HSS Lipped Brad Point Bit.
– Size tested – 6mm
– Price paid – £5.95
– 8mm bit price – £8.74
– More info
This one again created a beautifully clean hole.
It was very similar to the Alpen, where it needed a little bit of force to get the initial bite.
The only negative here, is I did find that once it bit, it did do that bogging thing.
It wasn’t enough to a stop or stall the drill, but it was notable and I was becoming a bit weary of it.
The hole itself was great, and it certainly didn’t have that common issue where a drill bit can act as a screw and won’t drill the hole out.
Star – M Japanese 601 Precision drill bits.
(Provided by Workshop Heaven).
– Size tested – 8mm
– List price – £10.30
– 6mm bit price – £9.40
– More info
The bit sent to us was 8mm diameter – so larger than all others tested, which were 6mm.
Something that I immediately liked was the hex shank.
This is brilliant in two ways.
Hand drill chucks can be crap, and so the hex shank stops them from slipping, and the bit will never twist.
It also meant that I could get a larger diameter bit in my chuck.
6mm is pushing the capacity of this chuck, but with the hex shank, larger diameters fit perfectly.
It’s worth noting that the Alpen above is also available with a hex shank.
Of course turning an 8mm drill bit in an egg beater drill is not always fun.
Normally 4mm is approaching the max that you would want to turn.
But this is what shocked me the most with this bit.
Turning an 8mm bit in an egg beater drill – and it took such little effort.
It was a wonderfully clean cut, and gave great self-feeding control, which required light downwards pressure.
Now I don’t want to compare this bit directly with the others.
It could be possible that the clean cutting was down to its slightly larger diameter for example.
But it was very impressive.
And whilst I’m certainly not influenced by being sent this one for free, it really was a pleasant surprise.
There were two small negatives though.
Firstly it was the most expensive, (though we often get what we pay for.)
Secondly it was quite short. I felt that could be quite limiting.
Clean Cuts At Low Speed
This is certainly my small drill bit epidemic solved. Thank you.
As a summary, any of the above bits will do you proud.
At this price range the best value bit will be highly affected by any additional shipping costs, so local availability and whether or not your have other bits to add to your basket, will be the bigger factor.
Each of them will be more expensive than your run of the mill B&Q multi pack. But they’ll cut clean and they’ll last.
If you’ve ever had a go on a milling machine, or even a spiral bit in a router and you’ve plunged a hole. These felt that nice. That wonderful clean hole, but in a slow hand drill.
(I also tested them in a cordless drill and they were superb.)
I want to note that these aren’t long term tested. Time may tell a little more.
But each was high speed steel and will keep an edge many times longer than carbon steel.
They were also tested in a variety of hardwoods and softwoods.
In fact they’ve now mingled in to daily use.
I’ll be buying a few more sizes to make up a set for my general needs.
Then I’ll look after them.
I’ll probably reserve them for show face drilling, when I’m pegging joints etc.
People are often surprised to see me using my cordless drill in videos, but I’ve always found it the best option for this size of drill bit.
But now I’ve got no excuse.
Thanks again for your recommendations.