The Best Forstner Bit Sets of 2021

Start with the right Forstner bits, and you can drill smooth-sided, flat-bottomed holes for a variety of DIY and carpentry tasks.

BobVila.com and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

The Best Forstner Bit Set Option

Photo: amazon.com

While ordinary drill bits are quite efficient, their cutting action can create ragged holes, particularly when working with larger sizes. You could use a spade bit, but they often vibrate or “chatter” and can be difficult to control.

Some techniques can overcome the problem, but the simple solution for making neat, precise holes is a Forstner drill bit. It has a central point called a spur that is designed for accurate positioning, sharp cutting teeth, and wings to clear waste. As a result, there is seldom the need to cut deep holes in several stages, as you do with standard twist drill bits.

A major advantage of a Forstner bit is that it’s made to drill flat bottom holes. Rather than drilling all the way through, a flat bottom hole has smooth sides, a small pilot point in the center, (and the name suggests) a flat bottom. These are great for dowel joints, or fitting catches in cabinet doors. Unlike a spade or twist drill bit, Forstner bits have no problem cutting at an angle and can drill partial or overlapping holes. The latter makes for fast material removal when cutting mortises, particularly when used in a drill press. Forstner bits are also popular with woodturners, allowing large, deep holes to be cut on a lathe.

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.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Freud FB-100 16-PC Diablo Forstner Drill Bit Set
  2. BEST BUDGET: INTOO Forstner Bit Set 8 pcs Wood Drill bit Set
  3. UPGRADE PICK: Freud 16 Pcs. Precision Shear Forstner Drill Bit Set
  4. BEST CONTRACTOR SET: PORTER-CABLE Forstner Bit Set, 14-Piece (PC1014)
  5. BEST SAWTOOTH SET: Steelex D3573 Forstner Bit Set with Hex Shank
  6. BEST METRIC SET: Meichoon Forstner Drill Bit Set 15-35mm 16 Pcs
  7. BEST FOR HAND DRILLS: Forstner Bit Set, Wood Drilling, w/Carbide Tipped 8 Piece Set
  8. BEST FOR HARDWOOD: IRWIN Marples Forstner Bit Set, 14-Piece (1966893)
  9. BEST VARIETY: 20Pcs Forstner Drill Bits, Rocaris Tungsten Steel
  10. HONORABLE MENTION: Forstner Bits Set, BASYNOL 5Pcs Forstner Drill bits Set
The Best Forstner Bit Set Option

Photo: amazon.com

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Forstner Bit Set

At first glance, all Forstner bits appear very similar. However, there are differences in the materials used, and the design of the cutting edges. While these dissimilarities may be seemingly minor, they can make a big difference to efficiency. When selecting the best Forstner bit set, pay attention to its size to ensure it’ll cover the range of tasks you need it for.

Tooth Type

The standard Forstner bit has two individual teeth on the perimeter. These teeth are located directly opposite each other and are designed to cleanly slice through wood fibers as they rotate. The width of this tooth varies—on some, it’s slender, while on others it might be as wide as ¼ the drill bit circumference. A longer edge increases cutting speed and a bar across the center pushes the waste out of the way as the bit rotates. A central spur, which is just a fraction of an inch longer than the teeth, allows for precise positioning.

Saw-tooth Forstner bits have a series of teeth that resemble a coarse saw blade. These are designed for more aggressive cutting and are particularly good for end grain. The Precision Shear design, which was introduced by Freud has a serrated edge with a steep interior angle that produces a very sharp edge, and rapid, chisel-like cutting action.

Material

The majority of Forstner drill bits are made of High Speed Steel (HSS). HSS drill bits are typically titanium-made drill bits and have a titanium oxide coating. They’re durable, resistant to corrosion, and can drill through wood and steel.

However, with frequent use, HSS bits tend to lose their edge quickly. The solution is to add tungsten carbide tips (often referred to as carbide, for short). These tips are then bonded onto the body of the bit, resulting in an edge that stays sharper for much longer. With a carbide tip, the bit will be capable of cutting materials like aluminum or tile.

Many DIY users will be fine to use HSS bits on their own. However, professionals or individuals who use these tools frequently may want to invest in a carbide Forstner drill bit set.

One or two manufacturers use High Carbon Steel (HCS). HCS is slightly softer than HSS, though the term “softer” has to be taken into context. These bits are still hard enough to drill into wood and wood-based materials. HCS bits won’t cut aluminum and other soft metals, or tile and masonry.

Bit Size & Number of Bits

A standard twist drill is fine for drilling holes of small diameters, so Forstner bits are not usually found below ¼-inch. Sometimes, the smallest bit in a set will be ½-inch. The largest is usually 2 to 2 ⅛-inch. Although larger Forstner bits are available, they’re usually sold individually as they’re bigger than most people need. Metric Forstner bit sets are also available. These can be very useful when fitting cabinet hinges, for example, as the hardware is often metric. Imperial bits can be close to the same size, but not close enough for a good fit.

Oftentimes, two sets will come with the same minimum of maximum sizes—one may contain eight bits, while the other has 10 or 12. The latter of the two sets will have a greater variety of sizes, thus increasing versatility. However, it’s important to consider quality. While large number of bits at a low cost might suit the DIY user, this set is unlikely to meet the standards of a professional.

Most Forstner bits have a round shank, though a few have a hex shank. While the latter does provide a stronger grip, it’s rare for round shanks to slip—especially if the chuck is tightened correctly.

Accessories

Forstner bit sets are usually supplied within a box or case, but the quality varies. For example, if the bits are improperly placed, the teeth may knock together and become damage. Some boxes display the bits upright, making it easy to select the one required.

Forstner bit extenders can increase shaft length, offering a potential hole depth of 8 inches. Extenders are particularly popular with woodworkers for boring out the center of vases, for example. Extenders come in different diameters and some will only fit ½-inch chucks, so compatibility should be checked beforehand.

Frequent users may want to consider purchasing a Forstner bit sharpening set, as well. Unlike sharpening standard twist drills, the job can’t be done with a bench grinder. Sets include flat and round files, plus a grinding burr suitable for a rotary tool. If the Forstner bits are carbide, the sharpening set will need to be diamond coated.

Our Top Picks

It’s now time to apply the information above to real-world examples. You will notice that some manufacturers appear more than once, and it’s true that a couple of leading brands always offer outstanding quality. However, there are also several budget-friendly options. Read on for recommendations on the best Forstner bit set for different applications.

Best Overall

The Best Forstner Bit Set Option: Freud FB-100 16-PC Diablo Forstner Drill Bit Set
Photo: amazon.com

The Diablo from Freud is recognized as one of the very best Forstner bit sets for drilling solid wood and composite materials like plywood, MDF, and particleboard. It comprises 16 pieces, ranging from ¼-inch to 2 ¼-inch bits, and comes with a protective wooden case that allows for quick and easy bit selection.

Although HSS 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. Consumers should exercise extreme caution when operating a power drill, as these bits are sharp and could potentially cut one’s finger.

While not cheap, these are a worthwhile investment for both serious DIY enthusiasts and professionals.

Product Specs 

  • Material: HSS
  • Range: 16 bits, from ¼-inch to 2 ¼-inch
  • Cutter Type: standard twin-tooth

Pros

  • excellent manufacturing quality
  • comprehensive range of sizes
  • durable case

Cons

  • pricey
  • not recommended for soft metals or masonry


Best Budget

The Best Forstner Bit Set Option: INTOO Forstner Bit Set 8 pcs Wood Drill bit Set
Photo: amazon.com

Not everyone needs an extensive collection of Forstner bits. For some people, a Forstner drill bit will be a little-used part of their tool kit. Nevertheless, when the occasion arises, the INTOO Forstner bit set offers an affordable solution when compared to the cost of hiring a tradesperson.

Bit sizes range from ¼-inch to 1 ⅜-inch. The ⅜-inch shank is suitable for many portable drills and drill presses. This bit set brings professional finishing standards to DIY tasks.

Although the quality of the plastic case could be improved (it’s prone to cracking) it’s a minor flaw when compared to the value this Forstner bit set provides.

Product Specs 

  • Material: HSS
  • Range: 8 bits, from ¼-inch to 1 ⅜-inch
  • Cutter Type: saw-tooth

Pros

  • suitable for drill presses and hand drills
  • hex shaft for improved chuck grip
  • good value

Cons

  • not for precision woodworking
  • not recommended for hardwoods
  • poor case


Upgrade Pick

The Best Forstner Bit Set Option: Freud 16 Pcs. Precision Shear Forstner Drill Bit Set
Photo: amazon.com

At first glance, it’s difficult 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 each bit and prevents it from wandering, which is a fault in some cheap Forstner bits. The sharp, serrated edge is designed to slice through material like a chisel, providing rapid cutting and waste clearance, resulting in a very smooth finish. These bits are equally effective when drilling hard and softwoods, composite boards, and laminates.

The 16-piece set comes in sizes from ¼-inch to 2 ⅛-inch bits and the quality is such that they will most likely appeal to fine furniture makers and other woodworking professionals.

Product Specs 

  • Material: Freud’s formula of tungsten carbide with titanium
  • Range: 16 bits, from ¼-inch to 2 ⅛-inch
  • Cutter Type: serrated

Pros

  • probably the cleanest cutting Forstner bits available
  • high-quality, precision manufacture
  • comprehensive range of sizes
  • high-quality case

Cons

  • pricey


Best Contractor Set

The Best Forstner Bit Set Option: PORTER-CABLE Forstner Bit Set, 14-Piece (PC1014)
Photo: amazon.com

Contractors and tradespeople who are regularly employed on new builds or remodeling projects need tools that combine high performance with great value. This Porter-Cable Forstner bit set meets those demands and more.

The 14-piece bit set has diameters from ¼-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 focuses on fast material removal (because time really is money for a professional) and maintains a good quality finished cut. The reduced shank means they’re 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 job site.

Product Specs 

  • Material: HSS
  • Range: 14 bits, from ¼-inch to 2 inches
  • Cutter Type: Porter Cable’s “open tooth” design for rapid material removal

Pros

  • fast drilling of softwoods/construction lumber
  • short shanks for working with hand drills in confined areas
  • competitive price

Cons

  • not recommended for fine woodworking
  • not recommended for soft metals or masonry


Best Sawtooth Set

The Best Forstner Bit Set Option: Steelex D3573 Forstner Bit Set with Hex Shank
Photo: amazon.com

The sawtooth pattern of the cutting edges on these 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. Their 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 ¼-inch to 2 ⅛-inch. The bits come in a wooden box equipped with a clever tilt-out mechanism which presents them ready for use.

Product Specs 

  • Material: HCS
  • Range: 16 bits, from ¼-inch to 2 ⅛-inch
  • Cutter Type: saw-tooth

Pros

  • rapid cutting, particularly in softwoods/construction lumber
  • hex shank for improved chuck grip
  • good value
  • useful, tilt-out case

Cons

  • for wood or wood-based products only
  • occasional issues with quality control


Best Metric Set

The Best Forstner Bit Set Option: Meichoon Forstner Drill Bit Set 15-35mm 16 Pcs
Photo: amazon.com

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, but it’s also affordable. The edge design is basic, which makes these competent but not high-performance tools.

Product Specs 

  • Material: tungsten carbide
  • Range: 16 bits, from 15mm to 35mm
  • Cutter Type: standard twin-tooth

Pros

  • comprehensive range of metric bits
  • great value.

Cons

  • not recommended for soft metals or masonry
  • shank sizes vary; some bits will not fit ⅜-inch drills
  • case not included


Best for Hand Drills

The Best Forstner Bit Set Option: Forstner Bit Set, Wood Drilling, w/Carbide Tipped 8 Piece Set

Photo: amazon.com

While Forstner bits are primarily intended for use in drill presses, they’re frequently used in hand drills as well. When drilling holes for trunking or cabling, for example, Forstner bits cut cleanly and easily. By contrast, a spade bit often judders, making it difficult to control. Forstner bits produce less tear-out, too.

The eight-piece Kowood Fostner bit set ranges from ¼-inch to 1 ⅜-inch and has tungsten carbide tips for durability. The three smallest diameter drills use an interesting combination of a Forstner-style tip with a twist drill body, which helps clear waste and prevents them from overheating in deep holes.

While larger bits might be required for some tasks, the sizes offered in this kit will be adequate for most DIY purposes. The larger bits may also cause a problem for some hand drills or drill drivers, which may not have the torque to drive larger diameter bits.

Product Specs 

  • Material: tungsten carbide
  • Range: 8 pieces, from ¼-inch to 1 ⅜-inch.
  • Cutter Type: Standard twin-tooth, with some twist drill bodies

Pros

  • bits designed to suit most hand drills
  • slender tooth profile cuts cleanly
  • durable

Cons

  • modest range of sizes
  • not always sharpened properly


Best for Hardwood

The Best Forstner Bit Set Option: IRWIN Marples Forstner Bit Set, 14-Piece (1966893)
Photo: amazon.com

This IRWIN Marples Forstner Bit Set includes well-made, accurate tools and (as a whole) is competitively priced.

Sizes range from ¼-inch to 2 ⅛-inch bits, offering versatility. The ⅜-inch shank means they’ll fit a wide choice of consumer and professional power 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—providing faster cutting when needed.

The plastic case has limited durability and the manufacturing quality is occasionally inconsistent, but this bit set is a good alternative for the DIY woodworker who wants something more than a budget Forstner bit set.

Product Specs 

  • Material: HCS
  • Range: 14 bits, from ¼-inch to 2 ⅛-inch.
  • Cutter Type: saw-tooth

Pros

  • rapid cutting of hardwood, softwood, and ply
  • precision manufacture for accurate holes
  • competitively priced

Cons

  • wood and wood-based products only
  • not recommended for fine woodworking


Best Variety

The Best Forstner Bit Set Option: 20Pcs Forstner Drill Bits, Rocaris Tungsten Steel

Photo: amazon.com

In our opinion, the Rocaris Forstner drill bit set is aimed very much at DIY remodelers and contractors or people who want fast-cutting drill bits for job site use, at a minimum cost. There are 20 pieces in the set, ranging from 14mm to 50mm. These bits produce a reasonably smooth finish but are not designed for precision cutting, so the minor differences between metric and imperial are unlikely to be a problem.

The price is almost unbelievably low, but there are reasons for that. Although this set is advertised as “tungsten steel” we believe the bits are HSS. There is no box, which is disappointing but can be easily remedied. Some of the shafts are not perfectly straight, which results in holes that aren’t exactly the right size. However, this will be of little concern to those who buy these Forstner bits for high productivity in hard-working environments.

Product Specs 

  • Material: HSS
  • Range: 20 bits, from 14mm to 50mm
  • Cutter Type: standard twin-tooth

Pros

  • wide range of sizes
  • very low price

Cons

  • recommended for softwoods only
  • modest-quality
  • case not included


Honorable Mention

The Best Forstner Bit Set Option:Forstner Bits Set, BASYNOL 5Pcs Forstner Drill bits Set

Photo: amazon.com

While large collections of budget Forstner bits can sometimes be tempting, many users will never need the majority of those drills. Quality might also be a concern. The Basynol set is ideal for those who want well-made tools that might only be used occasionally, for the woodworker just starting out, or for those who need a particular metric size for cutting hinge holes, for example.

There are five bits, ranging from 15mm to 35mm. The description says these bits are HCS though they’re not for use in soft metals or masonry, so we suspect carbide content is limited. HCS tools are perfectly good for hardwood, softwood, chipboard, and ply, so we don’t consider that a drawback.

BASYNOL also produces a variety of imperial size Forstner drill bits, but not in a set.

Product Specs

  • Material: carbide
  • Range: 5 bits, from 15mm to 35mm
  • Cutter Type: saw-tooth

Pros

  • high-quality manufacturer
  • rapid, accurate cutting
  • suitable for hand drills
  • competitively priced

Cons

  • modest range
  • wood and wood-based products only


Our Verdict

Our Best Overall pick, the Freud’s Diablo Forstner bit set, is a comprehensive, high-quality collection aimed at enthusiastic amateur and professional woodworkers. Fine furniture makers would buy the Precision Shear version. For everyone else, however, Freud’s Diablo cutters are an excellent choice. Our Best Budget pick, the INTOO Forstner bit set, provides the occasional user or general tradesperson with great value—particularly for drilling softwoods. The plastic box won’t last long, but it’s not difficult to find an alternative or to make a basic tray for the workshop.

How We Chose the Best Forstner Bit Sets

A lot of research goes into selecting products that’ll meet the needs of a variety of buyers. While it’s important to choose products that come from reputable sources, we don’t limit our picks to premium brands. Value-for-money is always a vital part of our thought process.

My own experience with Forstner bits is extensive. I was the owner of a woodshop for 11 years; I’ve also renovated two homes. I use Forstner bits for precision furniture-making as well as for punching holes through support beams in preparation for cabling. Some of the best Forstner bits cut like fine chisels, but sometimes speed is more desirable than great accuracy. Durability, edge retention, and price also play a part. In my opinion, the wide range of Forstner bit sets listed above provides a solution for (almost) every demand.

FAQs

While the first section of this article provides a comprehensive understanding of Forstner bit construction and use, and Our Top Picks section offers a selection of some of the best Forstner bit sets currently available, you may have some lingering questions. Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about Forstner bits.

Q: What are Forstner bits used for?

Forstner bits create clean, accurate holes—particularly those with a flat bottom, rather than one that goes all the way through the material. One common use is when fitting the type of hinge used for kitchen cabinet doors. They can also drill overlapping holes without deflecting, which allows for fast material removal when cutting mortises. Woodturners use them for boring out vases, making candle holders, etc.

Q: Is a Forstner bit better than a spade bit?

It depends on the kind of hole you want. Spade bits work faster, but the hole is often ragged. They’re often for construction, where pipework needs to go through softwood lumber for example. A Forstner bit is slower but leaves a clean finish. It can make flat-bottomed holes, which a spade bit cannot.

Q: Can Forstner bits be used with a hand drill, hammer drill, or impact driver?

Forstner bits can be used with a hand drill, hammer drill, and an impact driver, with provisos. Using a Forstner bit in a hammer drill won’t make as clean a hole and is likely to create considerable debris. An impact driver could be used, but it’s not an ideal tool for drilling—it might also need a chuck adapter. Some Forstner bits have a hex shank that could fit the impact driver chuck if the sizes are the same, but many are round.

Q: Can Forstner bits be used on metal, stone, or tile?

Strictly speaking, both HSS and carbide bits are capable of drilling aluminum, copper, or brass. However, they will wear much more quickly and cannot drill through steel. Carbide bits can cut stone or tile, though a diamond hole saw might be better. It’s a good idea to check though. Many manufacturers say their Forstner bits should only be used for wood and wood-based composites.

Q: How deep can you drill with a Forstner bit?

It depends on the length of the Forstner bit shaft. The only limit is the drill chuck coming into contact with the workpiece. If you need to bore deep holes, extension bars can be purchased, though it’s important to check size to make sure they are compatible. Up to eight inches may be possible.