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How to make a brad point bit from a twist bit?

How to make a brad point bit from a twist bit

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A brad point bit that has successfully been created from a twist bit In some woodworking and furniture making circles, grinding your own brad point bit is seen as a desirable skill that shows off your qualities as a craftsman. It may also become a necessity if looking for brad point drills in unusual sizes (e.g. 13/64″), as these may be difficult or impossible to find.
Two brad point bits with different sizes of brad point Being able to create your own brad point bits allows you to control the length of the brad point in the centre of the bit, as well as the shape of the spurs. It also provides a way to guarantee that you will always have a brad point bit in the size that you need, even if you can’t find one to buy.
Image showing the tools required for the two different methods of grinding a brad point bit from a twist bit There are two different methods that make this possible, one of which uses a rotary cutting tool and drill press, while the other uses a specially customised wheel on a bench grinder.
Image illustrating the idea of a computer centred brad point The most important thing to remember for both methods is that the tip of the brad point bit has to be dead centre for the bit to drill with any accuracy. If it is not, the bit will drill a wider hole than its diameter, as it will spin off centre as soon as the brad point engages with the wood.

Method 1

An example of a drill press, which is the ideal driver for a brad point bit This method involves using a drill press to rotate your twist bit while grinding it with a rotary cutting tool. The cutting tool should have a fibre reinforced cut-off wheel attachment (which is normally attached to a rotary cutting tool to cut through metal rather than grinding or polishing it). Using a drill press and clamping the rotary tool into place makes it easy to keep everything correctly aligned.
A twist bit secured in a drill press chuck so that it can be ground into a brad point bit by use of a rotary cutting tool

Step 1 – Secure bit

Secure your twist bit firmly in the chuck of your drill press.

A rotary tool that has been clamped onto a drill press table in a vice so that it is securely in place for the process of grinding a brad point bit from a twist bit

Step 2 – Set up rotary tool

Your rotary tool needs to be fixed to your drill press table using a clamp. You will be using a cut-off wheel attachment, which will need to be able to spin freely for the duration of this task. Clamping your rotary tool into place, as well as using a drill press to secure your bit, guarantees accuracy.

A DIYer aligning a rotary cutting tool so that it will cut just off the centre of a twist bit, which will be turning in a drill press chuck during the process of grinding a twist bit into a brad point bit Check that your drill bit and rotary tool are correctly aligned with each other. The cut off wheel should be rigged to contact the bit just off centre, so that a brad point can be created.
Cutting a brad point on a twist bit with a rotary cutting tool

Step 3 – Grind brad point

Activate your rotary tool and your drill press. Carefully lower the drill bit so that it makes contact with the cut off wheel, which will begin to carve out a brad point. Once you are happy with the length of your brad point, deactivate the drill press and the rotary tool.

A recently ground brad point, extending past the tips of the spurs on the outside edges of the bit Your brad point does not have to be a specific length, as long as it sticks out beyond the cutting edge of the spurs. Longer brad points allow for drilling at an angle with more precision, but this is not often necessary.
DIYer marking out an area on the tip of a brad point bit that will be ground down with a rotary tool in order to create a back rake and correctly shape the spur

Step 4 – Shape spurs

To correctly shape the spurs of your brad point bit, you will need to grind a slope behind the tip of each one. This is known as a “back rake”.

Remove your bit from the drill press and colour in the top around the blunt brad point with a black marker. This will make it easier to see which part of the bit you have ground.

Grinding a back rake on the spurs of a brad point bit with a rotary cutting tool Remove your rotary tool from the clamp and grind the edges behind each spur by hand so that they slope gently backwards, at an angle of around 10 to 20 degrees. Stand with the bit facing you, and grind the spur on the right hand side, starting from the lower edge and coming to a point at the top.
A brad point bit ground with a smooth back rake behind each of its spurs Once you are done, the black mark you have made will have disappeared. Check your work by looking at the bit side on. The spur should have a smooth slope to it.
Image of Wonkee looking up information on how to sharpen a brad point bit on the Wonkee Donkee website

Step 5 – Sharpen brad point

You will now need to sharpen the brad point on your bit. If you choose to continue using your rotary cutting tool and drill press for this part of the process you will not be able to clamp your rotary cutting tool, as you will need to hold it at an angle.

For a step by step guide, see: How to sharpen a brad point bit

Method 2

An example of a bench grinder This method involves grinding the tip of your twist bit into a new shape using a bench grinder.

For a step-by-step guide on customising a grinding wheel for this task, see: How to customise a grinding wheel to sharpen a brad point bit

Image of a twist bit that has been selected to be ground into a brad point bit

Step 1 – Choose drill bit

Select the twist bit you would like to grind to a brad point. As more of your bit will be in contact with the grinding wheel at a time than it would be for the first method, high speed steel bits will work best for this process. This is because they are more resistant to heat than tool steel and less likely to lose temper through overheating.

Image illustrating the idea of a computer centred brad point

Step 2 – Set up a jig

It’s important to be accurate when creating a brad point bit, as the brad itself must be perfectly centred. If it’s not, you will not be able to drill holes of an accurate size.

A DIYer starting to grind into their twist bit, with the first point of contact just off centre on the bit's tip Your twist bit will need to contact the grinding wheel slightly to one side of its centre. You will need to be able to remove the bit and replace it on the tool rest (the metal shelf in front of the wheel) on exactly the same line multiple times.
Items required to make a jig on your tool rest: a piece of wood and a clamp To make sure this is possible, clamp a piece of wood with a straight edge onto the tool rest so that you can use it to rest your bit against. This will help you to relocate it in the same place each time you need to move it.
A piece of wood with a straight edge clamped onto the tool guide of a bench grinder, creating a jig that allows the twist bit to be turned and remain on centre during the brad point grinding process

Step 3 – Grind spurs

Place the twist bit on the tool rest. Using the wooden jig as a guide, slowly push it towards the grinding wheel until it comes into contact with the angled groove. The wheel will begin to cut into the tip of the bit and form it into a brad point shape. The side of the wheel will shape the edge of the brad point.

Reminder to turn the brad point bit 180 degrees regularly to grind the other spur. This prevents the bit from overheating. Remove the bit from the wheel and spin it 180 degrees on a regular basis to grind the opposite side. This will prevent your bit from overheating and keep your grind even.
Image illustrating the W-shape of a brad point bit Your bit will take on a W shape.
Two brad point bits with different sizes of brad point You can decide how long you would like the brad point in the centre to be. If you are planning on drilling angled holes, you may find a longer brad to be advantageous. Usually, though, you should stop grinding when the point is sticking out just beyond the end of the spurs.
Diagram showing which material needs to be removed to finish grinding your brad point bit

Step 4 – Complete shaping

Your newly ground brad point bit is almost complete, but there will still be sections of web that will need to be ground down. If you follow the line of one of the flutes that starts from the point of either spur, you should see that there is extra material that still needs to be removed. This will be connected to the brad point in the middle of the bit.

Brad point bit spurs being ground on a purpose built grinding wheel These should be carefully ground down on your grinding wheel so that there is a smooth, flowing line down from the tip of your spurs. You will find that removing this material also sharpens your brad point, which will be in contact with the outside of the wheel while you grind.
A warning to DIYers to remind them that they need to be careful not to push the spur they're not grinding into the wheel by mistake As you grind, one of the spurs that you have created will be on the far side of the drill bit and obscured from view at times. Take extra care to make sure this does not come into contact with the grinder, or you will ruin its shape and have to start again.

Wonkee Donkee Tools