Anyone who really uses a drill is bound to end up dulling their drill bits, especially if they ever have to drill into harder materials such as metals. You can probably drill in softwoods for years without any problem, but any serious craftsman is not going to limit themselves to working in softwoods.
For most of us, a dull drill bit entails a trip to the hardware store for a new one. All too often this ends up being a special trip because we don’t realize we need it until we’re already in the middle of a project. Having the capability of sharpening your own drill bits at home doesn’t eliminate the interruption, but it can certainly make it so you lose less time taking care of the problem. At the low end of the scale, you can actually sharpen drill bits freehand, using a bench grinder or honing stone. However, you’re not likely to get a very accurately ground bit that way. I remember trying to sharpen 1/2 inch bits on a handheld grinder for an emergency repair and it was a joke.
Some bench grinders have a groove on the tool rest, intended for use in sharpening drill bits. While this can work, it takes an extremely light touch, as well as a good bit of luck to make it work out. The biggest problem in trying to sharpen a drill bit this way is trying to make the point come out in the center of the bit. It’s all too easy to end up offset to one side or another. That’s why it’s worth investing in an actual drill bit sharpener. Being made specifically for the purpose, they will give you the best possible grind, often as good as what you would find on a factory ground drill bit. In other words, used properly, these tools can make your drill bits as good as new.
How much you spend on a drill bit sharpener depends on how many drill bits you go though. Ultimately, these tools pay for themselves by saving you on buying new bits. However, you would have to resharpen a lot of bits to pay for some of the more expensive units.
There are two basic categories of drill bit sharpeners; self-powered which have a motor to drive their own grind wheel and those that depend on working with a separate grinder. We have an assortment of the two types here. While all of these tools do essentially the same thing, there are some differences which may make your decision for you. Depending on your personal needs, you want to pick one that will do what you need.
The first thing to look at is the drill bit sizes the sharpener can be used for. Generally speaking, the more expensive the sharpener, the larger the bits it can be used for (however all of them will sharpen small bits). If you use large bits frequently, this is an important consideration. The second thing to look at is the types of grinds the sharpener can put on the bit. Some can only do one while others provide different types and point angles.
One thing to remember with any drill bit sharpener is the very act of sharpening a bit will remove its coating. If you’re accustomed to buying drill bits with exotic coatings electroplated onto them to make them last longer, you won’t have that coating on the re-sharpened bit. However, the fact your bit needs sharpening essentially dictates the coating is no longer there anyway.
This professional grade sharpener from Darex is actually the smallest of their units. If you go through a lot of drill bits, you might want to consider this model, as it has more power than any of the others on this list. Read Full Review
Darex makes a number of commercial shop drill bit sharpeners and this one is actually their smallest unit. I've included it here, despite the high cost of this unit, mostly because of the high quality. If you do a lot of metalworking or other work where you’re going to need to sharpen a lot of drill bits, this unit is well worth your attention. It will handle drill bits from 1/8 to 3/4 of an inch, providing points from 118 degrees to 140 degrees. They give you two different point styles, the standard conic point or a split point for those that use split point drills.
At 25 pounds, this machine is definitely heavy duty, meaning you’re not going to drag its 4.5 amp motor down when trying to grind larger bits. An optional vacuum system helps eliminate grit so you can keep a clean work area. If you have a professional grade workshop at home, this one might not be out of your reach.
Drill doctor is the brand most people look to when looking for a home drill bit sharpener. This is their top of the line model, with a capacity up to 3/4 of an inch. A special push-to-stop design ensures that you don't over split the point. Read Full Review
Drill doctor has just about taken over the market for home drill bit sharpeners. While not as heavy duty as the Darex, this is Drill Doctor’s largest unit. It can handle drill bits ranging from 3/32 up to 3/4 of an inch and can also be used for sharpening split point drill bits and masonry bits. Broken bits are no problem either, as you can re-point them and keep on drilling.
A push to stop design on the drill point splitting port makes sure you can’t over split the bit point, an important feature for those who don’t sharpen all the time. Its angle range is just a smidgen larger than the Darex, allowing you to sharpen your drill points anywhere from 115 degrees up to 140 degrees. An optional accessory allows you to sharpen reverse twist (left-handed twist) drill bits as well.
This is a rather unique sharpener from Drill Doctor. Unlike the other models we're looking at, this one will work for sharpening spade bits as well. As far as I know, it's the only one on the market specifically designed for both spade bits and regular twist drills. Read Full Review
This sharpener is unique in that it has a separate wheel and guide for sharpening spade bits, used for boring out holes in wood. It can sharpen the pointed pilot spade bits or the threaded pilot ones with equal ease. With the way it operates, I don’t think there would be any problem sharpening bits that have cutter points on the ends of the blade either, although you would have to be careful not to grind the point off.
The spade bit portion has a maximum capacity of 1-1/2 inches, and the regular drill bit part a maximum capacity of a 1/2 inch as well as still able to sharpen masonry bits on the standard bit part of the machine as well. It doesn’t seem to have the capacity for split point drills, having given that up to be able to handle the spade bits. If you use a lot of spade bits, you know how rough a beating they take so this could be the sharpener for you.
This professional grade machine from Grizzly is designed to provide extreme accuracy. The drill bits are held in collets, so that they can be precisely sharpened. Read Full Review
Grizzly’s professional bit sharpening machine uses collets for the drill size. It comes with 11 collets in the most popular sizes from 1/8 of an inch through 1/2 inch, which is the maximum size for this machine. Onboard storage keeps the collets organized and right with the machine. A manual machine, the H8203 sharpens bits in a three-step, error-proof process. This sharpener handles both cobalt and carbide bits, as easily as high speed steel ones, with the optional tungsten grinding wheel. Operation is smooth, with surprisingly low vibration.
If you're looking for a less costly way of sharpening your drill bits, take a look at this jig from Grizzly. You mount it on your workbench, alongside your bench grinder. That saves the cost of the motor and wheels, allowing for a very inexpensive sharpening tool. Read Full Review
Grizzly’s professional bit sharpening machine uses collets for the drill size. It comes with 11 collets in the most popular sizes from 1/8 inch through 1/2 inch, which is the maximum size for this machine. Onboard storage keeps the collets organized and right with the machine. A manual machine, it sharpens the bits in an error proof, three step process. This sharpener can handle both cobalt and carbide bits, as easily as high speed steel ones, with the optional tungsten grinding wheel. Operation is smooth, with surprisingly low vibration.