Introduction: Unusual Uses for Broken & Dull Drill Bits

Picture of Unusual Uses for Broken & Dull Drill Bits

MY 100TH INSTRUCTABLE!

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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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(Watch the YouTube video: LINK FOR MOBILE VIEWERS!)

(The video includes tips that aren't in the I'ble, vice-versa)

Step 1: Tool Storage!

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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?

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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?

Picture of 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!?

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of ​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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Comments

sabu.dawdy (author)2017-09-28

amazing work.

Yonatan24 (author)sabu.dawdy2017-09-28

Thank you! :)

yrralguthrie (author)2017-07-16

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.

johnny3h (author)yrralguthrie2017-09-15

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.

Yonatan24 (author)johnny3h2017-09-15

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!

Yonatan24 (author)yrralguthrie2017-07-16

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.

Saero (author)2017-08-10

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 :) )

KenGw (author)2017-07-29

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

Yonatan24 (author)KenGw2017-07-31

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

throbscottle (author)2017-07-19

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!)

SimonLithedreamer (author)2017-07-19

I like the idea of step 1- as a high class nail.

Which is more resistant to higher temperatures - HSS!

wizard31 (author)2017-07-17

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. :)

Yonatan24 (author)wizard312017-07-19

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

aebe (author)2017-07-16

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

Yonatan24 (author)aebe2017-07-19

There are a ton of ways for holding pieces down in the drill press - Pinterest!

NikyN2 (author)2017-07-17

in my experience, the smaller the bit, the higher the chance for it to break.

so if you're using a small bit to drill a pilot hole (i.e. when you want to make a BIG hole, but the large bit will take forever), don't get the smallest bit - get the one that's a bit larger. you'll be enlarging the hole later anyway, and a single mm can make the difference between "broken in 5 seconds" and "HSS on stone-ridden masonry with a percussion drill, yet not broken" (... that was me the other day when I didn't bother to buy some masonry bits.... yet the 4mm HSS bit endured the hard work - though the tip was totally blunt by the end)

also, in my experience, the "just reuse it" (when it's broken in half) doesn't really work too well. tbh, I've never had a long one broken (... how do you even break a 6mm+ HSS bit?!), and the smaller ones are too short for a standard drill (maybe they work better for a handheld multitool like a dremel or whatever)

PS: that said, I too need to buy drill bits.

NikyN2 (author)NikyN22017-07-17

where's the edit button?! (yep I'm pretty new here)

had to say: to all those saying "just use a drill press" - how do you even drill a hole on a wall with that? huh? or on say, a PC case? a mounted table?

the right tool for the job, yeah. the answer is not *always* "just use a drill press". ;)

that said, the "don't try to drill the hole with the drill off" (as in, don't use too damn much pressure) also helps. both the bit and the actual drill.

Yonatan24 (author)NikyN22017-07-19

I would guess that the only way to break a big drill bit is if you drill into something that's too hard, like a screw in wood, and the drill bit snaps in half. I think I've done something like that before...

Fj29a (author)2017-07-17

If you're drilling a hole in a wall you'll use a masonry bit. I've been drilling holes in every imaginable material for over 60 years, but have never broken even the smallest masonry bit (yet).

Small HSS bits break. It's a fact of life no matter how careful you are it still happens sometimes.

Anyone who hasn't broken a drill bit hasn't drilled anything.

Yonatan24 (author)Fj29a2017-07-19

Nope. Only mostly in wood and metal, but sometimes in plastic, too.

Yonatan24 (author)2017-07-09

100th Instructable!

It took me 23 months, AKA 102 weeks, AKA 713 days, AKA over 17000 hours :)

BeachsideHank (author)Yonatan242017-07-09

And during that time you have shed, on average, 17.25 pounds of dead skin cells. ☺

Skin cells are no big deal, what a person needs to watch out for are those brain cells that are dying off!!!

Yeah, that makes me regret some of the "recreational" pleasures I indulged in back in the '60's. ☺

dhallsten1 (author)BeachsideHank2017-07-16

great reply ! ! !

Yonatan24 (author)BeachsideHank2017-07-09

https://www.google.com/search?q=how+many+pounds+of...

So 0.056 grams per hour

X 17000

Almost a kilogram.

https://www.acs.org/content/acs/en/pressroom/newsr...

And I probably sneezed a lot

Which probably made a lot of wind

Which cooled down and hardened the elbow grease, making it harder to work.

Good enough? :)

Fj29a (author)2017-07-17

Drill press. Light pressure and a spot of oil.

No drill press! Use a smaller drill for smaller bits, clamp everything firm light pressure plus oil plus keep drill as vertical as you can. Don't wobble or you'll break another drill bit.

Kevanf1 (author)2017-07-16

Try not to press down so hard on the bit while you are drilling and make sure you use a drop of oil (paraffin or kerosene for aluminium or brass) to lube the cutting edges. You might not break so many bits this way :) Too much pressure means the bit is more liable to be bent while drilling causing the bit to suddenly snap :( Just let the tool do its job itself.

efoster6 (author)2017-07-16

the blunt end of a drill is made of softer material than the cutting end it is made this way so the the jaws of your chuck can bite in to it if it was hard all the way along the drill the jaws would not be able to grip and the drill would just spin in the chuck grips

Yonatan24 (author)efoster62017-07-16

Makes sense. The shank isn't as hard as the cutting edge, but isn't soft.

efoster6 (author)Yonatan242017-07-16

it's about the hardness of mild steel and is welded a couple of millimetres above the groove you can find where it starts by using a hacksaw and trying to cut it

GOOD WORK, EVER THERE ARE MORE USES FOR THOSE BROKEN DRILL BITS... I HAVE MADE YOUR IDEAS AND OTHERS MORE ... EXCELLENT FOR EVERYONE... COOL!!!!

Thanks, please do post any of your other ideas here too!

rsgrillo (author)2017-07-16

I weld them back together with my V-block made from angle and flat bars. Clamp each half and with a couple touches of the mig welder...voila. You can also extend bits this way. The edge of a small belt sander is great for narrowing the tip of any bit. Even the cheap ones can be sharpened like the good ones and more aggressive, too...

Yonatan24 (author)rsgrillo2017-07-16

I don't have a welder, but that sounds like an awesome idea if you can get them aligned perfectly back together!

gm280 (author)2017-07-10

Buy yourself a drill doctor and you will be amazed how well you can resharpen dull drill bits as well as broken bits again. It is worth the coat and time resharpening them again. JMHO

albertson.chris (author)gm2802017-07-16

You can do better work by hand using a bench rider. TO sharpen a dull bit you only need to remove a tiny, bit of metal. To put a new tip on a broken bit, copy the angles on a new bit.

That said, it is hardly worth it for tiny drill bits as they are cheap in bulk. But for larger ones that are dull, yes it is worth the 40 seconds of your time to sharpen them

itsmescotty (author)gm2802017-07-16

I've been grinding drill bits since high school (a long time ago) and about 10 years ago I said enough and got a drill doctor and spent a couple hours going thru my need to sharpen (but later) drawer and sharpened bits. Was real proud of myself for a job well fine UNTIL I used them. Took the drill doctor back and resharpened the bits by hand. Only thing better is a CnC machine.

Yonatan24 (author)gm2802017-07-11

I've heard that they aren't even that good, and not for small bits. With the 50-$150 price tag, and the cost of replacement wheels... Not worth it.

It's not like I dull so many drill bits to make it worth it, though.

$100 = about a 1000 2mm drill bits!

marlene.cheladyn (author)2017-07-16

Try not to press to hard with your drill. A softer touch may take longer but your drillbit may not break.

But drilling holes is so boring! (this overused pun is not intended)

ooohlaa (author)2017-07-16

beautifully done video, thanx i am always irritated by how quickly masonry and stone and glass drill bits I use for artsy stuff get dull; i buy at harbor freight with coupons

Yonatan24 (author)ooohlaa2017-07-16

Thank you!

You get what you pay for :)

Suraj Grewal (author)2017-07-16

My dad used to make knives( if given a forge) or center punches out of them

tzny (author)2017-07-10

I have several broken 1/8 inch bits that I use as temporary pins when drilling (1/8 in) holes for knife handles.

Yonatan24 (author)tzny2017-07-10

I buy many 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, and 3.5mm drill bits on eBay. They're pretty cheap, last quite long, and break normally before they get dull. At least the smaller ones do.

And now after re-reading your comment I actually understand what you meant. Another idea could be, perhaps, when assembling large panels or something like that to drill holes and hold them in place with drill bits, until you can drive in the screws. I don't know.

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