Unusual Uses for Broken & Dull Drill Bits





Introduction: Unusual Uses for Broken & Dull Drill Bits

About: -----------------------------------------------------------------15 year old, sick with a deadly disease called DIY-itis!-----------------------------------------------------------------Hi FTC! My I'bles con...



I break small drill bits quite often while making stuff. Buying one drill bit at a hardware store costs about as much as 10 cheap drill bits on eBay, so I'm not too worried about breaking them, and when they get dull, I stop using them.

Sharpening tools isn't something I'm very good at... It's something I am HORRIBLE at! However, I've been keeping them, since I knew one day I would need them for something. And I hope you have been too!

What to do with broken drill bits, you might ask? In this Instructable, I will show you 8+ unusual uses for drill bits, making you regret throwing away any of your broken and dull drill bits away!

Let's get started!


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Step 1: Tool Storage!

You might know that I hang tools on my tool board with rods that I salvage from CD ROMs. [See 9 More Unusual Tool Storage Methods - PART 2].

Why not use broken drill bits?

I drilled a hole, and hammered the drill bit (broken flutes side in) into my tool board, and now it can hold my wrench!

Step 2: Carving Tools for a Dremel Rotary Tool!

Technically, drill bits are pretty much the same as HSS end mills, burrs, or whatever type of grinding tool you want to name them.

In an emergency, that is.

Locked up in the chuck of my Dremel rotary tool, I have to say that I'm surprised at how well this works. I tested it on soft wood, but am wondering how long it can stay sharp. I think it'll work fine in wood and other soft materials such as plastic.

Step 3: Unknown Hardness of Steel? Don't Have a File?

I learned a while ago that you can use a file to know if something is hardened steel. Well, it's pretty much the same here.

Look for a broken (or not!) drill bit that is sharp/pointy. Try to scratch the material with it. If the drill bit slides right off, it means that it's hardened steel (or harder, etc...). If you feel that the material is a bit gummy, and the drill bit leaves a visible scratch, it means that the steel it's hardened, or that it just a softer metal than the drill bit.

The drill bit that's shown in the third picture is a carbide tipped masonry bit. It isn't dull or broken, but it is off centered, making it pretty much impossible to use. Carbide is harder than glass, so it can be used to score and break glass in an emergency, or if you just don't have a glass cutter.

Step 4: A DIY Ice Pick

I've been wanting to make a small ice pick for quite some time now. Before breaking my old one, I found it really useful to marking holes before drilling.

I clamped a broken drill bit that I thought was the right diameter and length in the chuck of my drill, and turned the drill on at low speed while trying to turn it into a conical tip on my drill powered bench grinder. Don't over heat it!

After about a minute, I thought it was sharp enough - I moved onto the handle: I found an old Beech dowel that I thought would make for handle that would be easy to grip. I drilled a hole into it, and pushed the drill bit inside, making sure that it was being held tightly. Tadaa!

This can be used for pretty much any material, as long as you re-sharpen it! :)

Step 5: A DIY Small Chisel for Precision Work

The chisel is pretty similar to the awl that I made in a previous step, but this time, I decided to use a bigger drill bit.

I held onto it with locking needlenose pliers with grinding it on my bench grinder, and once I thought the angle was sharp enough, I drilled and pushed it into the handle, just like the one that I made for the awl. To make it razor sharp, all I have to do is polish it on my Homemade Drill-Powered Knife Sharpener.

You could use this for woodturning, but I think it could have come in really handy when chiseling out a hex nut shaped hole for my Homemade Wooden Vise.

Step 6: Friction Drilling in Plastic?

This was just an experiment.

I found out that the shank of a small drill bit, when in my rotary tool, can drill holes in plastic pretty well. I was able to drill a hole pretty quickly, but it came out larger than the diameter of the drill bit.

I'm not sure exactly what this could be useful for - milling, maybe?

Step 7: Keep Using Them!?

Most of my really small drill bits chip at the cutting edge, making them useless. However, my bigger drill bits almost always break in half, meaning that the cutting edge can still be used.

I'm not sure why I never thought of doing this before thinking of ideas for this Instructable, but a broken drill bit like this one is really useful for drilling into steel. All of the holes that I drill into steel are pretty shallow, so instead of ruining a new bit, I can use a shorter, broken one. Also, the hole can turn out more accurate since there won't be any flex in the bit since it's shorter.

I think this is ideal for drilling shallow holes in hard materials - just make sure that the drill bit is centered in the drill chuck.

Step 8: The Impossible Puzzle - Drill Bit in a Block of Wood

In my last Instructable ( and video!), I showed how to make the puzzle that's shown above - Impossible Screw in a Block of Wood.

I received a few comments saying I should have cut the screw in half and glued it in. I already thought of that, and knew that since the puzzle is so small, it would be hard to insert and glue it - and drilling the hole would be literally impossible. It probably wouldn't have looked too good either.

I did want to make the puzzle, though, with a drill bit, like what AshleyF25 made, and posted on Seamster's Instructable: impossible nail in a wooden block.

I think if you make a bigger version of the puzzle, a drill bit can be cut in half and glued making it look really cool!

Step 9: ​DONE! | More Thoughts | Video!

See it in action, on Youtube!

Quite a few more possible ideas with broken drill bits:

  • Re-grind and sharpen them to be like new. But how?
  • Teeny tiny swords. Pennabilli made them from mild steel nails but you might be able to anneal a drill bit to make it soft enough... Or soften. Whatever that word is!
  • Grind the shaft of a big drill bit into a v-bit shape, and use it as a countersink. I was planning on doing this, but bought improvised countersinks on eBay :)
  • Partial fail: For deburring sheet metal. It kind of worked, but was more difficult than I thought.
  • Chamfer fingernails. It works, but no-one would do that!

Some more thoughts:

  • And please scroll down to the comments section below if you have any tips for not breaking drill bits! It's like sending me free money!
  • Have any of your own unusual uses for drill bits? Leave them in the comments below!


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    90 percent of small drill bits are broken because of poor technique. Primarily not drilling straight. With small bits do not hold the handle of the drill. Use one hand to hold close to the chuck and the other to push down straight in line with the drill bit. It's very easy to bend and then snap the bit if holding the handle. Drills are very poorly designed, with the handle offset like they are. In metal a major reason for broken bits is a stuck bit. Try using lubricant and a proper speed.

    On bits below 1/8 in, get a chuck for and use a dremel type tool.

    4 replies

    Excellent explanation; took me a few years to figure that out!!! And, with the tiny bits one does not need to "push down" at all, as the weight of the drill provides adequate force.

    It depends into what material you're drilling into and at what RPM you're drilling into. I don't think I've ever not put quite a bit of force onto a drill bit!

    Maybe that has something to do with broken tools and flying steel.

    Pretty much. But if I don't tighten the chuck all the way, if the drill bit catches in metal, it won't snap in half, it'll just slip in the chuck.

    1/8" drill bits in Dremels work great for hogging out plastic. I make litter boxes out of HUGE Sterilite/Rubbermaid tubs, and it is the fastest way to cut an opening in the side. I've also used it for precision work in custom ABS panels for cars, just use a light touch, and you can get very close to your cut line before finishing with a file.

    1 reply

    I would use my Dremel moe to drill hole, but setting up the step-down transformer for using a 110V Dremel in a 220V country every time is kinda annoying...

    Plus, I love drilling really slowly into plastic and seeing those curls climb up the drill bit!

    When drilling steel use LARD. A dab will stay there and when it melts it goes to the heat. Thats what the old wagon wheels used for lube. So for cooking , drilling its your thing. I put it in a can and a plastic cover with a hole cut in it and a solder brush to dab it on the drill and hole. Bacon grease will work , but its a waste of bacon grease. Always ware safety glasses when drilling , safety first.

    1 reply

    Interesting. So it's like wax or butter. But I don't have any. Thanks for the tip!

    I always wear safety glasses, steel as the tendency to snap and fly everywhere!

    Ummm... just ran into someone who simply keeps throwing any broken drill bits that appear in his hands... so I just have to stress the opetion...

    The broken drills can be reground and work as they did before breaking (besides being shorter, of course :) )

    I have fixed numerous fishing poles. Use epoxy and a drill bit.

    1 reply

    Wait... What part of the fishing pole broke?

    2 comments in one here:

    With broken larger bits, you can wrap a piece of sheet metal around the fluted part (I used a bit of old copper) then it will stay in place in the chuck much better! I have a broken 5mm bit I've been using for years that way!

    I used to drill holes in glass bottles when I was a kid. My Very Old Book said use a broken off piece of hardened silver steel rod, but I found broken off drill bits did the job just fine (yes, I used to break them on purpose for this!)

    Which is more resistant to higher temperatures - HSS!

    Just a quick note. Buy yourselves a set of stubby drillbits. Shorter bits don't stress or break as frequently and rarely do you need longer depth. :)

    1 reply

    That's step 7. Or even better, carbide twist bits!


    Use a drill press whenever you can , and clamp your workpiece down .