Nothing beats a Forstner bit when drilling a precise, clean hole on your wood piece. Whether cutting an overlapping hole or at an angle, the Forstner bit is the one to go.
Now, many people ask me can Forstner bits be used with a hand drill. Some folks think it can only be used with a drill press. But you can absolutely use a Forstner bit with a portable drill.
To make a clean hole, align the outer edge of the Forstner bit evenly with the wood. You’ll get the best results when drilling at a slower speed.
However, using a Forstner bit with a hand drill can be tricky as it tends to slip away from the center. There is a simple solution for that.
Take a scrap wood, and drill a hole with this bit the size you need. Clamp the scrap wood over your workpiece and it’ll prevent the bit from drifting.
Also, remember to lift it from time to time when drilling with a Forstner bit. That way wood dust and chips won’t gather in the hole. Plus, the bit won’t end up overheated which can lead to quick damage.
What is a Forstner Bit?
Forstner bit is a unique type of drill bit designed to drill into softer materials. It’s named after Benjamin Forstner who wanted to create a new drill bit that can make accurate, cleanest holes in the wood.
This bit is superior to standard drill bits as it can create neat, flat-bottomed holes in wood and softer materials. And versatile, because it can effectively bore holes on the edge or at an angle of a workpiece. It’s shaped like an upside-down letter T, with the shaft on the top and the boring part on the bottom.
To learn about how the Forstner bit works, let’s look at how to use it with a hand drill.
How To Use a Forstner Bit with A Hand Drill
Using a Forstner bit with a handheld drill means you’ll have to be extra careful while drilling. You have to align the drill perpendicular to the drilling material. So, make sure the edge of the Forstner bit is even with the wood during the initial rotations of the drill.
Step 1: Clamp Scrap Lumber onto Backing
Cut a piece of scrap lumber and clamp it to your workpiece as wood backing. This is so the sacrificial surface will act as a backer board and you’ll get the cleanest hole with minimized tear-out.
Step 2: Mark Center and Align Drill
Next, use chalk or a pencil to mark the center point of your hole. Now, align the center of the drill’s Forstner bit with the center of the mark. Make sure the bit’s outer edge is evenly in contact with the wood surface at the same time. Otherwise, the hole will be uneven.
Step 3: Start Drilling
Once the drill is properly positioned, it’s time to start making your hole. Hold the drill steady and begin drilling at a slow speed. Keep going till you’ve got the bit’s outer edge curved into the wood.
Step 4: Finish Making the Hole
While drilling a hole, keep increasing the drill’s speed and bore through the wood. After reaching the depth you desire, release the trigger and pull the drill out of the hole carefully. Thus, you’ve effectively finished creating your hole.
How to Make a Simple Jig and Its Use
Forstner bits tend to slip on the surface of the material you’re working with. To prevent this, you can make a simple jig from plywood.
As mentioned earlier, to minimize tear-out, clamp a piece of scrap wood to the wood surface and drill all the way through. Using the same technique, clamp this jig on top of your drilling location. Thus, it’ll prevent the bit from slipping or wandering away, making a perfectly clean hole.
Let’s look at how you can make a simple jig:
- First, find a suitable piece of scrap lumber.
- Next, clamp it in place with another piece of scrap lumber beneath it.
- Now, position the drill perpendicular to the work surface and carefully drill all the way through.
- Loosen the clamps and you have your simple Forstner bit jig.
- To use it, simply clamp the jig onto the wood surface and use it to guide the bit through your required cut.
How To Use a Forstner Bit in A Drill Press
Using a Forstner bit in a drill press isn’t much different from using it with a hand drill. Moreover, it’s a lot easier and you need minimal effort to drill a precise hole using a drill press.
Step 1: Position Workpiece and Attach Bit
First, clamp your workpiece with scrap wood and securely position it on the drill press’s work surface. This will prevent the tear-out or slipping of the workpiece. Now, with the wood in place, attach the bit to the drill press. Adjust the height of the press and the bit so you can achieve the desired depth.
Step 2: Align and Start Drilling
Once the bit is attached and secured, mark the center of the hole on the workpiece. Align it with the center of the Forstner bit. Turn on the drill press and slowly start to press into your wood. Increase the speed slowly and apply more pressure via the arm of the drill press.
Step 3: Complete Hole
As you get closer to your desired cutting depth, start to slow down the drill press speed. Keep the Forstner bit spinning and carefully extract the bit from the hole. That way the hole will have a cleaner vertical edge.
What Is a Forstner Bit Used For
It can be used in versatile ways for woodworking tasks. Compared to standard twist bits, spade bits, or hole saws, the Forstner bit does the work better with a cleaner, smoother hole.
The advantage of using Forstner bits over other types is that you’ll have more control and options available.
- Forstner bit drills a precise, clean-edged flat-bottomed hole.
- It produces the minimum amount of tear-out.
- It’s great for angled holes or overlapping guide holes.
- It’s the only choice for clean, larger-sized holes and bores.
- It has a minimum blowout and a self-cleaning design.
What to Look for in the Best Forstner Bits
If you don’t know what to look for, most Forstner bits would look pretty similar to you. But there are differences in the size and number of bits, materials used, tooth types, etc. These differences may not seem major; however, these play a big role in efficiently doing the job.
When choosing the best Forstner bit set, you should consider the following factors:
The best Forstner drill bit sets are made of High-Speed Steel (HSS) or High Carbon Steel (HCS). The HSS drill bits are titanium-made, durable, and corrosion-resistant and can drill through wood and steel. However, with frequent use, they tend to lose their edge fast. With carbide tips, the edge stays sharper for longer.
That’s why for DIY users, HSS bits will do the job adequately. But for professionals, investing in Forstner bits with carbide tips would be smarter.
And try to avoid the bargain drill sets, as they won’t function well or last long. Instead, you should go for the middle price range, where you’ll get quality drill bits at a reasonable price.
Size and Number of Bits
Another thing to consider is the size of drill bits. Generally, you need bits for a variety of tasks so make sure these can cover most types of work.
In a Forstner bit set, the smallest bit is usually ½ inch and the largest is 2 to 2 ⅛ inches. Larger bits are sold individually as most people don’t need these regularly.
Sets contain different amounts of bits, it could be 8, 10, or 12. The more bits in a set, the greater the variety of sizes. But a large number of bits at lower price results in lower quality as well.
Standard Forstner bits have two individual teeth which are located directly opposite each other. While the saw-tooth Forstner bits have a series of teeth that look like a saw blade. These bits are designed for maximum edge and more aggressive cutting.
On the other hand, most Forstner bits have a round shank while some others have a hex shank. Compared to the round shank, the hex shank provides a stronger grip.
Where Can You Buy the Best Forstner Bits
If you’re thinking, where can I buy Forstner bits, it’s not much of an issue. As they’re pretty common nowadays, you can find them in your local hardware store. Or you can search online. Besides, Amazon sells Forstner bits and you can simply choose from different manufacturers in a variety of sizes.
If you’re concerned about the cost, then look for good deals going on. Bulk buying will also save you money, but you should be careful about the quality. Getting a set is better than buying single bits.
However, buying a pack of 50 bits will be a waste of money if they’re of low quality. Rather get a small pack of 10/12 bits with higher quality which will serve you better.
Drawbacks and Precautions While using Forstner bits
Even with having lots of advantages, these bits aren’t free of drawbacks. Excessive speed or too much force can ruin the bits. Also, the wood might get burned due to the heat generated by the bit. Another thing is that these types of bits cost more than twist bits.
However, if you use Forstner bits with precaution you’ll be able to make the most of it. Here are some tips on using Forstner bits like a pro:
- Keep the Forstner bits sharp.
- Regularly replace the bit to prevent excessive tearing of the workpiece.
- Add an auxiliary handle to the handheld drill to hold it steady while drilling.
- Rotate two or three bits in and out to prevent them from becoming heated.
FAQs About Forstner Bits
Can you use a Forstner bit in a router?
It’s not safe to use a Forstner bit in a router. The high speed of the router can easily and quickly damage the wood. And these tend to blow apart when used at high speed so you can get injured while working.
Can I use a Forstner bit on plastic?
You can use it on plastic without any issue. Sharp Forstner bit with carbide tips can make a neat hole on plastic. Make sure to set the drill at a low speed.
Can you use a Forstner bit on aluminum?
Yes, it can be used to cut a hole in aluminum. You need to do it using a drill press and at its slowest speed. However, frequently using Forstner bits to cut metal will damage your bit fast. Also, get good-quality, expensive ones, because cheap bits won’t be able to do the job.
What speed to use a Forstner bit?
|Diameter (in)||Speed (rpm)|
|Softwood (Pine)||Hardwood (Hard Marple)|
|1/4 – 3/8||2400||700|
|1/2 – 5/8||2400||500|
|3/4 – 1||1500||500|
|1 1/8 – 1 1/4||1000||250|
|1 3/8 – 2||500||250|
Can Forstner bits be used with a hammer drill or impact driver?
Yes, the bits can be used with a hammer drill or impact driver. However, in a hammer drill, the Forstner bit won’t make as clean a hole. An impact drive can be used but it may need a chuck adapter to work.
Can Forstner bits be used on metal, stone, or tile?
Both HSS and HSC bits are capable of drilling aluminum, copper, or brass. Carbide bits can cut through stone or time. However, this way they wear off much more quickly. Better to check before use, as some Forstner bits can only be used for wood and wood-based composites.