Stainless steel is all around, and it is only a matter of time before it makes its appearance in a project. An alloy, with at least 10.5 percent chromium and available in several grades, stainless steel is popular because of its low maintenance, high sheen, and resistance to stains and rust. However, the durability that makes stainless steel so popular also makes it difficult to drill into with standard drill bits.
Drill bits built to work on softer material, like wood, won’t do the trick against stainless steel. Luckily, manufacturers purpose-design special drill bits capable of puncturing even the hardest grade of stainless steel. Manufacturers use more than one method to create these ultrahard drill bits, and they each have advantages and disadvantages. This guide explores the different qualities of these specific kinds of drill bits and reviews some of the best drill bits for stainless steel available today.
- BEST OVERALL: IRWIN Drill Bit Set, M35 Cobalt Steel, 29-Piece
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Neiko 10193A Titanium Step Drill Bit Set
- BEST UPGRADE: 230 Pieces Titanium Twist Drill Bit Set
- MOST DURABLE: Hymnorq Metric M35 Cobalt Steel
- BEST FOR HOBBYISTS: Bosch CO14B 14 Pc. Cobalt M42 Drill Bit Set
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Drill Bits for Stainless Steel
Not all drill bits achieve results in the same way. To identify the best drill bits for stainless steel, learning about characteristics like material, coating, frequency of use, and drill bit number is critical. Read on to learn the factors to consider as you search for the best drill bits for your projects that involve stainless steel.
Stainless steel is an extremely hard material. Low-carbon steel bits, like those used to drill into wood, do not perform when applied to stainless steel. Therefore, a drill bit for use with stainless steel needs to actually be harder than the steel itself. One way that manufacturers achieve this hardness is by infusing materials that facilitate penetration and protect against overheating.
Carbide is one such material found in drill bits for stainless steel. Titanium and tungsten carbide are nearly as hard as diamond, making them ideal for penetrating steel. These
carbide-infused drill bits are one strong option when drilling into stainless steel.
Infusing drill bits with cobalt is another way that manufacturers achieve ultrahard drill bits. High-speed steel, also known as HSS, is the most common drill bit for metal applications. Cobalt bits are an extension of HSS bits. They incorporate an element with between 5 percent and 8 percent cobalt that makes the drill bit harder than a typical HSS bit and thus suitable for precision drilling in stainless steel and other hard materials.
Many manufacturers complement construction materials like drill bits with metal coatings. These coatings promote penetration and protection of the drill bit. Black oxide coatings reduce friction and heat—a significant consideration when drilling metals. Black oxide also protects against corrosion and water, keeping the drill bits functional for a longer period of time.
Titanium Nitride (TiN) protects high-speed drill bits. Distinctive for their golden color, TiN-coated drill bits are ideal for high-speed drills. The coating provides the ancillary benefit of being ultradurable, making them an excellent value for consumers who intend high-frequency use.
Titanium Carbonitride (TiCN) is likely the most durable metal coating available. TiCN bits are blue-gray in color. Their coating makes them incredibly resistant to wear and capable of enduring high-speed and high-frequency use.
Drill Bit Number
Because of its hardness, stainless steel is an unforgiving construction medium. Usually, there is only one chance to achieve the perfect drill hole. Another crucial consideration when purchasing drill bits for stainless steel is the drill bit number or size.
Drill bit numbers are related to wire gauge size. The larger the bit number, the smaller the diameter of the resulting hole. For example, a number 80 drill bit creates a hole with a diameter of 0.0135 inch. As the diameter grows larger, the bit number grows smaller. For example, a number 1 drill bit has a diameter of 0.2280 inch.
Considering the size of the holes you need to drill in your stainless steel is essential to choosing the best drill bits for your stainless steel job.
High-speed metal drilling creates excessive friction and heat. The extra stress placed on standard drill bits tends to wear them out quickly. Individuals who intend to drill stainless steel frequently should be sure to buy bits designed with longevity in mind.
In addition to ultrahard materials and protective coatings, drill bit users who seek longevity should ensure the bit can be sharpened. While drill bits infused with carbide or cobalt keep their edge longer than a standard bit, investing in a set for life often means resharpening the dull drill bits over time.
Our Top Picks
The market is flooded with quality options for drilling stainless steel. Our top picks are based on their ability to effectively drill stainless steel, in addition to their durability, construction, and precision. Read on to discover some of the best drill bits for stainless steel to ensure they are the right fit for your next project.
This 29-piece professional-grade drill bit set from Irwin Tools covers an abundance of applications. The bit circumference spans 0.0625-inch to 0.5inch by increments of 0.0156 inch. The bits themselves are heat and abrasion-resistant, thanks to their industrial-grade, high-speed steel cobalt alloy construction. To aid penetration, these bits feature 135-degree split tip points. Besides making these bits suitable for ultrahard materials like steel, the quality construction materials ensure longevity.
A rubber-reinforced carrying case protects the drill bits from accidental drops and makes organization and transportation a snap. These drill bits work well on stainless steel and last a long time.
For the precision steelworker with budget considerations, Neiko packs a lot of punch into a 3-piece drill bit set.
The widening design of these drill bits means a steady hand can achieve precision holes in hardened metals like stainless steel between 0.125 inch and 0.75 inch by cycling through the bits. The 135-degree split point tip starts drilling at contact, reducing friction, pressure, and heat. These bits are constructed from high-speed steel with a titanium nitride coating that facilitates penetration and protection from heat and high-rotation operation.
This set from Hurricane boasts a whopping 230 drill bits. The bits are coated with titanium nitride for increased protection against heat and wear. In addition to stainless steel, they perform well on aluminum, zinc, wood, and other materials; the 135-degree split point tips facilitate penetration and decrease the force required to drill. The plastic storage box provides for convenient organization and storage of such a massive number of drill bits.
The set accommodates drilling holes in sizes from 0.0469 inch to 0.5 inch and includes several replacement pieces for each bit. The spiral flute clears shavings during drilling, and the split-point tip eases penetration and keeps the heat at lower levels. While this set is a solid choice for individuals who require a versatile drill bit set for home use, it is actually ideal for a more extensive shop setting with industrial needs.
These heavy-duty drill bits from Hymnorq guarantee precision drilling through superhard metals like stainless steel, cast iron, copper, aluminum, and more. Manufactured from M35 cobalt steel, they possess up to 12 times the typical lifespan of standard high-speed steel drill bits.
This 13-piece metric set covers holes between 1.5 millimeters to 6.5 millimeters in diameter. The 135-degree split-head and quick-cut points first self center and then penetrate with less pressure for reduced friction and heat. A plastic case maximizes efficiency and storage of this drill bit set. With proper maintenance and storage, these drill bits are likely to outlast even the most stubborn materials.
For the hobbyist who works with hardened materials—from stainless steel to cast iron to titanium and more—but doesn’t require a more extensive industrial set, this 14-piece drill bit set from Bosch offers functionality and performance.
Constructed from M42 high-speed steel and cobalt alloy, these drill bits, which span circumferences between 0.1719 inch to 0.5 inch, achieve high strength levels against hardened materials. The quality also ensures increased longevity, up to 10 times the life of standard drill bits, which is complemented by a convenient carrying and storage case. This set is compact with surface-hardened tips designed to penetrate stainless steel, and the quality construction ensures years of service to even the most fervent hobbyist.
FAQs About Your New Drill Bits for Stainless Steel
Do you still have some lingering inquiries about drill bits for stainless steel? Take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions to help you choose the best drill bits for your project.
How do I sharpen drill bits for stainless steel?
Take a look at our guide on sharpening drill bits for ideas.
How long do drill bits for stainless steel last?
Though drill bits for stainless steel pull heavier duty, they are also made of more durable materials. Regularly maintained and properly stored, these kinds of drill bits may last a lifetime.
How do I remove a broken drill bit from metal or steel?
This operation requires tapping or drilling into the center of the drill bit and removing it with a tap and die set.