How to Sharpen Drill Bits with a File All by Yourself!

How to Sharpen Drill Bits with a File

Recently have you noticed that your power tool’s drill bits are not really cutting the way they used to? Also, there might be a few bits that are so poor that they can’t even deal with softwoods or metals anymore.

And even if they do, there’s a plume of smoke messing up your entire space. The high shrieking squeaks are also coming along like a buy-one-get-one offer. How do you deal with that?

Now, most of you will think about buying a new drill bit box. However, using a simple technique you might be able to sharpen the drill bits. What technique? Well, I’m about to discuss.

How to Sharpen Drill Bits with a File: Transformation of Dull, Lifeless Drill Bit

When I talk about sharpening, people start assuming it’s on how to sharpen drill bits with grinder. But a grinder is not available to everyone.

So, I wanted to keep the sharpening tool as basic as possible. And that’s why I wanted to cover a sharpening technique using the minimal or a-little-upgraded file.

Yes, you can use this absolutely easy-going thing to transform the old, broken, chipped and useless drill bit into a killing hole blaster tool once again.

But Before That!

While doing the sharpening process, you’ll be quite near to risky and cut-prone devices. So, if you don’t wish to lose your skin, make sure to follow proper safety guidelines.

Don’t use gloves for this process. Yes, you heard me right. Sometimes the thing gets caught into a sharpening device. And you are surely going to get into trouble.

So be mindful about the right posture and positioning while sharpening. Of course, you can wear safety glasses since they are far from the reach of these risky devices. And also, you need these glasses to keep the flying metal pieces away from your precious eyes.

Knowing Bit Better

Before jumping into whole process, you must have a good idea about the drill bit’s body. Focusing on which part is essential and what type of engagement is harmful while sharpening is a matter that you need to deal with by learning about the drill bit’s structure. So here we go!

Basically, a drill bit comes with three parts- lips, land, and chisel. The actual cutting is done by the lip area of a drill bit. You can also call them the edge that creates holes while drilling. When you work on a certain material, the lip is first to make a contact.

While sharpening lips, make sure it is done symmetrically. If you favor one part more than other while sharping lips, it’s surely going to make non-straight holes the next drilling.

After lips, comes the part that supports sharper edge while cutting. It’s called land. Basically, users have to maintain an angle so that the lip and material have a certain space. However, with too much angle, chances of chipping at the corner increases.

Finally comes chisel part which is the last portion of a drill bit. No, it’s not the regular chisel we usually talk about. There’s no cutting action with this part. This segment just smears metal shafts or wood on the lip. Usually, people prefer smaller chisels for this one reason.

Basic Method:

  • There is bound to be some dirt or grime over the drill bit. Your first job is to dust it away and clean thoroughly. Use a clean rag and gently wipe off any dirt or grime. You can use a wet one in case the debris is hard to go away.
  • It’s time to firmly grip the drill bit. Use some clamp and put the drill bit over a table to attach it. You can use your hands for firmly holding it. However, this might be a little bit uncomfortable while sharpening. So, I prefer using the clamp-table method.
  • Now take the file you chose for this task. You need to hold it on one side making a 60-degree angle with the drill bit’s lip. There are two lips usually. You should use a mill file for a spade drill bit. For a brad-point bit, use the auger file.
  • It’s time to run the file against drill bit’s lip. Do this for almost six to eight times. You need to run file in same manner for the other lip as well. Make sure you use curvy direction motion for running the file against drill bit’s surface.
  • While sharpening it is very important to get rid of blind edges and metal burrs too. So, you need to simply work on the sharped area’s underside and draw file across it. This will ensure that the drill bit burrs never touch your skin or cause any accidents.
  • Some people use water after filing the drill bit. However, you can use one or two drops of machine oil for rubbing the drill bits. This will help to get rid of metal particles.

Test Out The Results

After filing process, you need to test whether the drill bits are sharp now to stop. A very quick and easy way is by using a scrap wood piece.

Simply hold bit against the piece and turn using your hand with a clockwise motion. Does it easily make a hole without much-applied pressure? Then the drill bit is perfectly sharpened and you did filing properly.

Another sure way to find put about bit’s sharpness is by chucking it inside drill. Use the drill to make a hole inside a piece of wood.

You should just apply enough force for making a bite with the bit. Also, drill for one or two inches. Then pull bit out and a notice of it sends the chips flying.

If yes, then congratulation. The sharpening process with a file went well and you can use this method whenever there’s a need.

Use Diamond Files for Sharpening!

Using some old-fashioned elbow grease, you can simply ditch the AC or battery power sharpening technique. All you want is a good quality diamond file. This is more than required if you are using wood-boring bits with a pilot screw. These are not okay with any sharpening method normally.

So, to sharpen pilot screw drill bits the safest and most dedicated way is using a diamond needle file. Yes, some people refer to hand filing being a slower process of sharpening. However, if this saves the bit and ignores damages, why not go with a slower but safer method?

Moreover, the diamond files are great for any kind of drill bit sharpening. Adding to this glory, the file is relatively inexpensive as well. When you don’t have contact with your usual power tools or maybe the electricity is not available, these are great for saving time effortlessly.


The very common mistake here is sweeping away too much towards back. This will lead to nicking the opposite. Make sure you only focus on sharpening the cutting edge of a drill bit.

Sometimes even the newest drill bits are not completely clean. And so, we feel like the drill bits were not working properly where actually it just needs a little bit of filing.

Don’t think if you file more, then the drill bits will be better sharp. This is an unnecessary step that might actually weaken the drill bit’s quality. It’ll probably wear out before the actual expiry.


That was all about how to sharpen drill bits with a file. The next time you face a chipped and dull bit, don’t get overwhelmed and try out the information.

It’s never a good idea to work with a dull lifeless drill bit. Trust me, your projects deserve better and you need to understand that for becoming a worthy professional someday.

I’ve seen many novices not really caring about these small things because it tends to consume time. But the amount of work and time you’ll be implementing with a dull drill bit is more than what it would have been with a sharped one. Also, there’s no satisfying result.

So, for the goodwill of your learning, working and convenience, know this method of filing. And you’ll actually begin to see the change after working with properly sharpened drill bits. Good Luck!

About Sam Maxi

Hi, this is Sam Maxi. I love talking about woodwork tools and my reviews are mostly based on the experience I have from my work. Apart from reviewing, I am a huge fan of surfing. Also, I love watching horror genre movies.

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