Creating holes is simple…as long as you have the right tools. With so many types of boring implements on the market, which ones should you have in your shop? This list takes care of almost every single boring operation I need to do.
A full set of bits, from 1/16″ up to 1/2″ diameter, aren’t truly great for much, but they are pretty good for so many tasks. I added a couple of 1/32″ bits for use in marquetry, and have had to buy a few more 1/16″ and 1/8″ bits as a few have broken over the years.
Though it nearly broke the bank, I purchased a full set of Brad point bits. The pain of the sale has worn off, and now only enjoyment in using them remains. Because of their lipped tips they cut clean holes. If you can only afford a few, go for the standard sizes – 1/8″, 3/16″, 1/4″, 5/16″ and 3/8″ diameter. Whether drilling dowel holes or boring holes for hardware, these bits will do a nice job. It’s a good idea to have a few metric Brad point bits for dealing with specialty hardware. I use my 5 mm and 10 mm bits often.
A set of spade bits from about 1/2″ to 1-1/2″ diameter comes in really handy for many shop and home improvement jobs. High-end spade bits cut cleaner, but aren’t necessarily required.
For installing door handles, or boring large holes, a hole saw is fairly quick and easy. Small sets are fairly common, and you can purchase others as needed.
Forstner bits are tough to beat when drilling flat-bottomed holes. Again, a medium-sized set is your most cost effective way to purchase these bits, but you may be able to get by with a few of the main sizes. I seldom need anything other than 1/16″ increments, and generally use bits in 1/8″ increments, starting at 1/4″.
There are times when a really deep hole is needed. I almost always need these types of holes to be small – in the range of 1/8″ or 3/16″ diameter. I don’t use them often, but when I do there’s nothing else that will do the job. Bits around 12″ long are fairly easy to find in most hardware and big-box stores.
If you’ve ever used store-bought dowels, you’ve realized they are never the exact size they say they are. In this case, and many others, an adjustable bit will allow you to finetune the diameter of a hole to end up with exactly what you want.
If there was only one drill bit I could have, it would be a tapered counter-sink bit. If you need to install screws into furniture, jigs, cabinetry or many other things, this type of bit will make life easy. As an added bonus, if you set the collar to bore a deeper hole, you can later plug the hole to cover the screw head. Cheap ones are okay for occasional use, but the best counter-sink bits work wonderfully. These types of bits are available according to the screw size you’re using – #6, #8 and #10 are the most common.
Now that you have a counter-sink bit, you’ll need a special cutter to make plugs that fit nicely. The best plug-cutters taper the sides of the plug slightly so a tight fit is ensured. I mainly use 3/8″ plugs, but it’s nice to have options for 1/4″ and 1/2″ plugs too. A drill press is mandatory when using plug-cutters.
I’ll admit that I don’t enjoy using them, but when needed, they work wonders. When doing some home improvement projects there are times when fixing something to concrete is necessary and all other bits are useless. You can use a regular drill, but a hammer drill is far quicker and easier, especially if boring large or deep holes.
Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.