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Are Drill Bits Universal? Complete Guide

When you have to perform a DIY project in your kitchen to install a new key holder on a wall, it is high time you seek your drilling machine and the drill bits. Are drill bits universal, is a quiz you come up with at such a moment when you only have purchased wood bits for previous work. Will it cause damage to your brick walls? Let’s clarify your question.

Drill bits are the tools used in a drill machine for making holes in various surfaces like wood, concrete, metal, brick, tile, plywood, and porcelain, and they are usually made up of high-speed steel (HSS). Other than that, there are cobalt steel-mix made, solid carbide-molded, carbon-steel produced, and drill bits with steel and carbide-coated tips. The appropriate drill bit for your job is based on the nature of the surface that you are going to proceed with. 

Are Drill Bits Universal?

Generally, we know that iron nails are the perfect match for wood, and steel is for works on a concrete wall. Is there such division in drill bits used in drill machines too? We will solve your doubt in this article. Keep scrolling down!

You will often end up in a problem when you have a project on a completely different surface than you actually bought the drill bit for. For instance, think of the hesitation that someone can face whether to use a carbon steel drill bit that he purchased for a previous wood pantry project to drill a hole in his brick wall for fixing indoor wall art or not. 

Are drill bits universal is a quiz that presents answers depending on three factors. Those are as follows.

  1. Hole size of the drill.
  2. The diameter of the shank end. 
  3. The surfaces that can be drilled with the drill bit.

Drill bits consist of a tip, body, and shank. The cutting edge of the drill bit is also known as the lip. The body part contains the spirals with lands and flutes. Shank is the part that connects to the drill machine. Therefore, the measurement is the fact directly bound with the fitting of a core bit to the boring machine. 

Accordingly, there are many sizes manufactured in drill bits, and also the shapes also have a variety. Let’s check the size factor first.

  • The drill sets in the market are described with their diameter as the size. If you are purchasing a set, there may be sizes from 1/16 inches (1.5875 mm) to ¼ (around 6.35 mm) inches. 
  • The most common core bit sizes are 3/8 inches (nearly 9.53 mm) and ½ inches (around 12.7 mm)
  • There are also larger bits with a diameter of 5/16 (nearly 7.98 mm) inches and 7/16 (11.125) inches. 

All the drills do not fit with every drill size. If you want to fix a drill bit to a drilling machine with 3/8 inches hole, the drill bit must have a diameter less than that of the drill machine. 

Drill bits are different as per their manufactured material too. As we discussed earlier, those are five types. Given below are the types and the surfaces where it can be used to.

  1. High-speed steel (HSS) – soft steel, wood, and plastic
  2. Cobalt and steel mixed- ferrous contained metals such as cast iron, carbon steel, and alloy steel. (Iron as a primary component)
  3. Solid carbide- nonferrous metals like aluminum, tin, nickel, and copper. 
  4. Carbon and steel mixed- The cheapest among the other four types. Used in softwood, certain types of plastic, etc. 
  5. Steel-made with carbide-coated tips- With extra strength from the carbide application, these drill bits are used in boring tiles, brick walls, etc.

Hence, every drill bit is universal, becomes a false statement. This means that you cannot use the same drill bit for every drilling machine. But you also have a relief story! When you buy a drilling machine of a certain brand, you do not need to purchase drilling bits of the same brand if you are upgrading your drill bit collection. Any brand with the appropriate size would work in the same drilling machine. 

Even though this is the nature of normal drill bits, there is also a set of core bits known as universal drill bits. The specialty in this category is that these drill bits can be used on distinct surfaces.

Pros and Cons of Using Universal Drill Bits

  • The ability to use different drilling machines, presenting the capability to drill any surface without damaging the surface material or the drill bit and not needing to replace when in a project of unique materials, can be noticed as the advantages of universal drill bits.
  • Among the disadvantages, there are features like regularly needed cleanings, spending more than the others, and the necessity of sharpening for a proper function.

What are the Shapes of Drill Bits?

Twist bit/fluted bit, spade bit, hole saw, and step bit are the categories based on the shape of the drill bits.

Boring a ceramic plate, a wooden plank, and a stone are all three different instances where different types of drills are needed. These instances need different drill bits.

  • A twist drill bit made up of high-speed steel is used for wood. 
  • Steel drill bits can also be used to make holes in wood. These are the cheapest options available in the market. But steel bits cannot be used in masonry because those could be dulled easily and quickly.
  • You will need masonry drill bits to drill holes in a brick or concrete wall. But you must avoid using wood or metal drill bits here. 
  • Auger bits, Forstner bits, and brad point bits complete the space of a drill bit that can be used to make holes in both hardwood and softwood.


Typical drill bits are often not universal. But there is a universally used type in drill bits. In this article, we have discussed the differences and instances where various drill bits are used. 

Please make sure to use the right drill bit for your drilling works, as a non-suitable one would damage both the surface and the drill bit.

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