How to Sharpen Drill Bits with a File

Sharpening a drill bit is a common task for a home handyman. Drilling with blunt bits can end up the project, causing damage to the material. A sharp and pointed drill bit will make the job faster and easier. Among a range of sharpeners and power tools, applying files is a budget-friendly and user-friendly process.

If you are experiencing annoying shrieking noises or having a hard time drilling through, then it’s time to sharpen your drill bits. Though you can do so using many power tools, knowing how to sharpen drill bits with a file can save you money and reduce the risk of damaging screw bits.

In this guide, we will discuss how to sharpen drill bits by hand with a file briefly so you can get a clear idea. Besides, we cover this article with some crucial to help complete the sharpening process safely and accurately and keep the sharpness longer. 

Steps to Sharpen Drill Bits with a file

During the sharpening process, you will be fairly close to the risky device. Thus, it is necessary to follow the safety guidelines before starting the process. Wear safety glasses to keep the flying metal away from your eyes. But don’t wear gloves as they can be caught in the sharpening tool and put you into trouble. Despite that, you will need:

Tools for Sharpening Drill Bits

  • A dull drill bit
  • A file
  • A rag
  • Some clamp

Know your drill bit

Before starting the process, examine your drill bit carefully. Having good knowledge of the drill bit structure will help you be cautious about which part is critical and what type of activity is harmful to the bit and finally ensure a successful operation.

Typically, a drill bit is made of three parts, including lips, land, and chisel. The lip area of the drill bit is used to drill holes which are also known as the edge. Make sure you are sharpening this part symmetrically. Otherwise, you will discover non-straight holes from the next drilling if you put unbalanced pressure on a different part.

Then comes the land that supports a sharper edge to drill through. While drilling, the operator should maintain an angle to ensure a certain space between the sharpener and the land. But maintaining many angles enhances the change of chipping at the corner.

The chisel is the last part of the drill bit where there’s nothing to do. This part usually spreads wood or metal shaft on the lip. Most DIY workers prefer smaller chisels.

Clean the drill bit

There may be some grime or dirt over the used drill bit. Firstly, clean the dust carefully from the drill bit. You can apply a rag to wash off the dust. If the debris is hard to remove, then use a wet rag.

Grip the drill bit

Now place the drill bit over the table and firmly grip it with some clamp. You can firmly hold the drill bit with your hand while sharpening, but this might feel a bit uncomfortable. Thus, the clamp table method is more preferable.

Set the file

Take the desired file for sharpening the drill bit. Hold the one side of the file making a 60-degree angle with the tip of the drill bit since it is the correct angle to sharpen drill bits. User, an auger file for a point bit and use a mill file if it is a spade drill bit.

Start sharpening

Now run the file against the lip of the drill bit about six to eight times. Apply the same force on every lip. Besides, apply curvy way motion to run the file against the surface of the drill bit.

Pro suggestion

While sharpening, it is vital to keep away from metal burrs and blind edges. Drawing files across the sharp area’s underside will keep your skin from drill bit burrs and help prevent any accidents.

Plus, some handymen use water after completing the process. Though one or two drops of machine oil are more preferable for rubbing the drill bits and remaining safe from metal particles. Moreover, if you don’t know how to sharpen Dewalt drill bits, you can follow the process.

Test out The Results

Once completing the filling process, it’s time to check whether the drill bit is sharpened or not. You can use a piece of wood to check the result quickly and easily. 

All you have to do is hold the drill bit against the wood piece and turn it in a clockwise motion using your hand. 

If you find it making a hole without applying much pressure, then congratulations! You have perfectly sharpened the drill bit. 

Another effective way to check the sharpness of the drill bit is by chucking it inside the drill. Put the drill bit into the drill chuck and make a hole in a wood piece. Apply enough pressure to drill for two inches. After pulling out the drill bit, if you notice chips flying, then you have successfully sharpened the drill bit.

Use Diamond Files for Sharpening

Though some classic elbow grease is a great alternative to the battery power sharpening process, a diamond file is an expert-recommended for sharpening wood-boring bits with a pilot screw. You can apply the typical sharpening method on pilot screw drill bits whether the diamond file method is the safest and most dedicated way. It may be a slower process, but this manual sharpening method will save the bit and prevent damage.

Moreover, you can apply diamond files on any type of drill bit for sharpening to maximize its glory at a cheaper cost. 

Why should you use a file to sharpen a drill bit?

Unlike other methods to sharpen drill bits, the file method doesn’t require any AC or battery power, which makes it straightforward to apply. All you will need is some elbow grease. Moreover, using the diamond file you can make the process budget-friendly and quicker, especially when it won’t cause an electricity bill.

However, a drill bit with a pilot screw should be sharpened differently since using a diamond needle file can be more practical. The hand filing method may cause extra time for sharpening twisted bits compared to using a power tool. In this case, you should know How to sharpen drill bits with a grinder to sharpen the twist bit quickly. Sharpening the drill bit with the file will reduce the risk of screw damage. 

So knowing how to sharpen drill bits with a file is beneficial as it will help you prepare the drill bit for your project anytime. 

Drill Point Angle Chart for Different Metals

While harder materials demand a larger point angle, you should maintain a sharper angle for softer materials.

Metals MaterialPoint angleHelix angleLip relief orClearance angle
Aluminum90 to 135 deg32 to 4812 to 26 deg
Plastics and Wood60 to 90 deg0 to 2012 to 26 deg
Cast iron90 to 118 deg24 to 327 to 20 deg
Mild steel118 to 135 deg24 to 327 to 24 deg
Stainless steel118 to 135 deg24 to 327 to 24 deg
Plastics and Wood60 to 90 deg0 to 2012 to 26 deg
Brass and Bronze90 to 118 deg0 to 2012 to 26 deg

How to sharpen drill bits with a Dremel 

Dremels are a handy tool in any DIY worker’s toolbox. You can use this tool for not only drilling and grinding but also as a sharpener. Wear protective goggles before starting sharpening your dull drill bit to keep your eyes safe from metal. 

Now clamp down the drill bit tightly using a bench of the vise and slowly scrape away the debris from the bits’ leading edge using the Dremel. Continue grinding until you find the sharp cutting point on both sides of the drill bit.

To check the sharpness, drill hole into wood or a stud. If you feel it is easier to drill and find a smooth hole, then you are done. Conversely, finding any squealing, wobbling, or jagged edges means you have to repeat the process to round up the edges.

How to keep the drill bits sharper for long time

Firstly, during drilling into metal, always use fluid to keep the drill bit calm and lubricated. Overheating leads the drill bit to lose its hardness and sharpness. You can use some engine oil like CRC, WD40 spray, or saliva as an alternative. Besides, don’t drill constantly, take a rest and let the drill bit cool down. Following the way, you will enjoy a sharper drill a bit longer. Lastly, using a light spray of WD40 will help you keep the drill bit from corrosion eventually. 

Smart Tips for Keeping Drill Bits Sharp 

The main intention of sharpening a drill bit is to ensure an easier and smoother home improvement project. So why not take note of some effective tips to make the sharpening process safer and better? The most crucial tip is to wear protective gear, especially for protecting the eye from flying particles.

Another thing to care about is don’t over sharpen the drill bit. Doing so will make the drill bit unusable and may cause some cost for buying a new one. It is better if you sharpen the drill bit often. Besides, ensure a well-angled cutting edge of the bit that remains perpendicular to the shanks. An uneven bit is not good for having a smooth hole.

FAQs on How to Sharpen Drill Bits with a File

What is the best angle to sharpen a drill bit?

A point angle between 118 to 120 degrees is considered for a DIY enthusiast. The fact is a fairly sharp drill bit is better than a dull drill bit. Besides, you should maintain an angle of 55 degrees between the chisel edge and the main cutting edge.

Can twist drills be sharpened with a file?

You can use the hand-filling method to sharpen a twist drill bit. But it’s a time-consuming process compared to using powerful. The benefit you will have is it will reduce the possibility of damaging the screw.

What is the best drill sharpener?

Some of the Best Drill Bit Sharpeners of 2021 are
Tormek DBS-22 Sharpening Jig
Drill Doctor 500X
Work Sharp Knife and Tool Sharpener
Tormek T-8 Water Cooled Precision Sharpening System
Drill Doctor 750X Drill Bit Sharpener

Keep in mind while sharpening drill bits

Once you know how to sharpen drill bits with a file, you always ensure a sharp drill bit for your next project. The process we have explained above is straightforward and doesn’t cost much money and accessories. Since you can apply it without any power tool anywhere, why not make the drilling smooth and effortless using a sharp drill bit?

More importantly, use the right drill bit for a certain project with the correct speed for the job and don’t drill consistently to enjoy a safer and better project.

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Sam Morgan is a general contractor based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He does home renovations, extensions, landscaping maintenance, and general handyman jobs for homeowners. He is also the part-time content writer at Machine Handyman and a lifelong tools enthusiast. Sam loves hand tools, power tools, machinery, and DIY gadgets of all shapes and sizes! He is always researching the different types of home improvement tools that will get the best results. This site will cover products like power drills, air compressors, saws, nail guns, screw guns, grinders, cutting tools, and many more.

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