Standard drill bits are versatile, but they have their limitations. While ordinary drill bits are quite efficient, their cutting action can create ragged holes, particularly when working with larger-sized bits. Additionally, the drill bits can heat up and may bind, leading to breakage. Because of their pointed shape, they create holes with a corresponding v-shape in the bottom.
You could use a spade bit, but they often vibrate or ‘chatter’ and can be difficult to control. The solution for neat, precise holes is a Forstner bit. It has a central point called a spur that’s designed for accurate positioning, plus wings and an outer rim to clear waste and help bore the hole. These bits allow users to make fast, clean holes for dowel joints, fitting catches in cabinet doors, and rapid mortice cutting. They also are capable of drilling holes at angles, and will cut partial circles in the edges of timber, which is a task no other drill bit can achieve.
Most Forstner bits are made from high-speed steel, which is sometimes called high carbon steel. Carbide-tipped versions are available and more durable, but they are more expensive. While available singly, Forstner bits are usually sold as boxed collections of eight or more. The best Forstner bit sets offer tremendous flexibility, great versatility, and excellent value.
Our Top Picks
All Forstner bits appear quite similar. However, there are important differences in the design of the cutting edges and overall manufacturing quality. It’s these features, plus their suitability for particular tasks that we’ve considered when selecting some of the best Forstner bit sets in each category.
The Diablo from Freud is recognized as among the very best Forstner bit sets for drilling solid wood and composite materials like plywood, MDF, and particleboard. It comprises 16 pieces, ranging from 1/4-inch to 2 1/4-inch bits, in a protective wooden case that allows for quick and easy bit selection.
Although the high-speed steel for overall construction is common, Diablo Forstner bits are machined with greater accuracy than many competitors. The central spur has a fine point to ensure precise initial positioning and honed cutting edges provide rapid material removal. They are so sharp that caution is required when handling these bits to avoid cutting fingers.
While not cheap, these are a worthwhile investment for both serious DIY enthusiasts and professionals.
Not everyone needs the extensive collection provided by many of the Forstner bit sets. For some people, a Forstner drill bit will be a little-used part of a tool kit. Nevertheless, when the occasion arises, the INTOO Forstner bits offer an affordable solution when compared to the cost of hiring a tradesperson.
Sizes range from 1/4-inch to 1 3/8-inch bits and the 3/8-inch shank is suitable for many portable drills and drill presses. The tool brings professional finishing standards to DIY tasks. The quality of the plastic case could be improved—it is prone to cracking—but it’s a minor flaw when compared to the value this Forstner bit set provides.
At first glance, there’s little to differentiate these tools from competitors, but Freud Precision Shear Forstner bits are forged—hammered into shape under high pressure with still molten metal. This makes them very hard, leading to superior edge retention and longer life.
The fine spur makes it easy to position the bit and prevents it from wandering, which is a fault in some cheap Forstner bits. The serrated edge is extremely sharp. It’s designed to slice through material much like a chisel, providing rapid cutting and waste clearance, and leaving a very smooth finish. They’re equally effective in hard and soft woods, composite boards, and laminates.
The 16-piece set comes in sizes from 1/4-inch to 2 1/8-inch bits and the quality is such that they will most likely appeal to fine furniture makers and other woodworking professionals.
Contractors and tradespeople who are regularly employed on new builds or remodeling projects need tools that combine high performance with great value. Meeting those demands makes this Porter-Cable Forstner bit set very popular.
The 14-piece bit set has diameters from 1/4-inch to 2 inches, providing the versatility required to undertake multiple tasks. For example, the bit range covers all standard cabinet hinge sizes. The unusual open tooth blade pattern is focused on fast material removal (because time really is money for a professional) and maintains a good quality finished cut. The reduced shank means they are designed to fit all pro-grade power drills.
The Porter-Cable Forstner bit set is competitively priced, and supplied in a rugged plastic case that can survive the inevitable knocks that occur on the jobsite.
The sawtooth pattern of the cutting edges on the Steelex Forstner bits is designed to deliver aggressive cutting in solid wood and composites. There is a danger that rapid material removal can result in poor finishes, but that’s not the case with these bits thanks to precision grinding of the surfaces. Performance is outstanding and few Forstner bits provide superior quality.
Their heavy-duty capabilities are reinforced by the use of hex shanks on the larger diameter bits. These are round on most competitor bits, but it’s possible for those to slip in a drill chuck when under high load. The six flats provide a solid grip to avoid that scenario.
Drill bit diameters range from 1/4-inch to 2 1/8-inch. The bits come in a smart wooden box with a clever tilt-out mechanism which presents them ready for use.
Although most tools and accessories in the United States are still manufactured in inches, there’s a definite increase in imported products that use the metric measurement system. This is particularly true of things like cabinet hinges and other woodworking fixtures and fittings. When using standard American bits, the fit may be poor.
Fortunately the Meichoon Forstner bit set not only provides a comprehensive collection of 16 different sizes—from 15 to 35 millimeters—it’s also affordable. The edge design is basic, which makes these competent but not high-performance tools.
The IRWIN Marples Forstner Bit Set includes well-made, accurate tools and the set as a whole is competitively priced.
Sizes range from 1/4-inch to 2 1/8-inch bits, offering versatility. The 3/8-inch shank means they’ll fit a wide choice of consumer and professional power drills and bench drills. The most interesting feature is the design of the teeth. Rather than following the same pattern, they become more aggressive as the sizes increase. This gives faster cutting when needed.
The plastic case has limited durability and manufacturing quality is occasionally inconsistent, but these are a good alternative for the DIY woodworker who wants something more than a budget Forstner bit set.