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What are the different types of brad point bit?

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Image showing the difference between the two types of brad point bit intended for hardwood and softwood Brad point bits are made in two different types. Some are designed for hardwood and some are designed for softwood.

Why are there two different designs?

Oak, a type of tough hardwood Hardwood grain is tough, and needs to be cut by a sharp edge. Using a blunter softwood bit can cause heat to build up as the bit forces its way through the grain.
Illustration of tear out, which can be caused when a hardwood brad point bit is used on softwood.# However, softwood grain is more delicate and can sometimes be prone to tear out if too agressive a tool is used.

Hardwood brad point bits

A hardwood brad point bit, made with sharper spurs to shear through tough wood fibre The spurs on hardwood brad point bits are angled down towards the wood. The spurs end in sharp points, and they contact the surface of the wood immediately after the brad, slicing through the grain neatly and efficiently while generating the minimum of friction and heat.
Representations of plastic, fibreglass and thin sheet metal, which are some of the substances, other than wood, that DIYers can use brad point bits to drill through Hardwood bits are also used for non-wooden materials, as their sharper spurs are required for cutting through them successfully.

Softwood brad point bits

A softwood brad point bit, with rounded spurs to apply even pressure to softwood grain and prevent tear out The spurs on softwood brad point bits are much less aggressive, following the angle and contour of the lips rather than protruding too far forwards. Additionally, they are rounded off so that more of the spur can contact the wood in one go. This applies more even pressure to the sides of the hole to prevent the wood fibres from tearing.

What happens if you use the wrong bit?

A brad point bit fitted with a drill depth stop, ready for dowelling In most cases, you shouldn’t have too much of a problem using a hardwood bit on softwood, especially if you are drilling holes for dowels.
An illustration of tear out caused by a hardwood brad point bit in soft wood If there is a small amount of splintering around the opening of the drill hole, it should be easy to conceal when your joints are properly aligned and glued. There are also steps you can take to prevent tear out on the reverse side of the workpiece if you are drilling all the way through. For example, you can drill just far enough for the brad to emerge, before flipping it over and completing the hole from the other side.

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

Image illustrating the build up of heat due to friction from a clogged up brad point bit Using a softwood bit on hardwood can be more problematic, as you may find the grain may resist being cut by the drill bit. The resulting friction may lead to a build up of heat that could cause the bit to lose temper or the borehole to char.
Image warning that damage to the workpiece or to your drill bits through incorrect use can cost money Either one of these outcomes could end up costing you money.
Wonkee Donkee explains that standard brad point bits are designed for hardwood, so it's not generally possible to end up with a softwood bit without realising