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What are brad point bits made of?

Shop for Brad Point Bits

Image of the brad point on a brad point bit about to engage with a wooden workpiece As brad point bits are primarily used for boring wood, they can be made from materials that are slightly less resilient than bits that are designed for regular use with metal. In most cases, brad point bits will be made from one of the types of steel described below.
A brad point bit being used to drill a hole in thin sheet metal However, while brad point bits made for sturdier materials are still made of steel in most cases, they are tipped with harder materials, such as carbide. While it is possible for brad point bits to be made entirely from carbide, such tools are both rare and expensive.
Diagram showing the brad point, spurs and lips of a brad point bit, which are the constituent parts of its tip

What is the tip?

The tip of the drill bit is at the opposite end to the shank. In this case, the tip refers to the brad point, spurs and lips of the bit.

Image of Wonkee looking up information on materials on the Wonkee Donkee website For more in-depth descriptions of each of the following materials, see: What are drill bits made of?

Tool steel

Tool steel is the most common material used in the manufacture of brad point bits Tool steel is the most commonly used material for brad point drill bits, as it is hard enough to bore through wood and stay sharp after multiple uses. Tool steel brad point bits are not suitable for use with materials other than wood.

Chrome-vanadium steel

Image showing the chemical make-up of chrome vanadium steel, a material used in the manufacture of brad point bits Chrome-vanadium steel is a strong variety of steel that is sometimes referred to by the chemical symbols for chromium and vanadium, Cr-V.
Image showing the molecular structure of steel being reinforced by chromium and vanadium particles Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon. When chromium and vanadium are added to that mixture, they react with the carbon to form carbides that reinforce the molecular structure of the material, making it much stronger and more resilient.
Diagram showing a chromium layer on top of the tool steel core of a chromium vanadium steel brad point bit Additionally, a chromium layer forms during the production process, giving the metal an appealing, corrosion-resistant, shiny finish.
A replica knife made from chromium vanadium steel, alongside a brad point bit The strength and aesthetic quality of chrome-vanadium steel makes it the metal of choice for replica historical swords, as well as more durable and long-lasting brad point bits.

High speed steel

A brad point drill bit made from high speed steel Specifically designed to resist friction-generated heat, high speed steel is more resistant than tool steel to a loss of temper through excessive pressure or drilling through extremely hard wood species, such as lignum vitae.

Tungsten carbide

A ring made out of tungsten carbide, a durable material that is often used in the construction of brad point bits Tungsten carbide, often referred to simply as ‘carbide’, is an extremely hard metal that is often used for the tips of drill bits designed to bore through metal. In some industrial settings, such as drilling through aircraft bodies, it can be used to make entire bits.

It is also quite often used for making cheaper alternatives to silver rings due to its hardness and resistance to wear.

Polycrystalline diamond

Close up of polycrystalline diamond, an artificially grown form of diamond that can be used to coat drill bits and increase their resilience and abrasiveness Otherwise known as heterodiamond or boron carbonitride, polycrystalline diamond (PCD) is one of the hardest known materials.
Image showing that PCD tips are impervious to heat. As well as being hard enough to cut through high speed steel, it is resistant to heat, making it the ideal material for a drill tip designed to bore through resilient materials. Most PCD coatings are sintered to a steel bit (attached by a sudden burst of extreme heat). Coatings applied this way are almost completely resistant to the amount of heat you could generate through drilling in home DIY.
A brad point bit being used to drill holes through a composite material similar to Kevlar Carbide brad point bits tipped with polycrystalline diamond are used for drilling through Kevlar-reinforced carbon fibre composites.