192 – Carbide-Tipped Brad Point Bits

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If you’re like me, you probably learned about drill bits the hard way. I started out using a basic set of standard twist bits. As I learned more about the craft and communicated with other woodworkers, I became aware of the superior brad point bit with it’s sharp center point and sweet cutting spurs.

Twist Drill Bit

Twist Drill Bit

I quickly ran out and purchased the first set of brad point bits I could find and for a short while, I was in woodworker’s nirvana: clean, crisp holes with no tearout! But unfortunately, even brad point bits will eventually dull and overheat. It didn’t help that I was being excessively frugal by purchasing the cheapest sets I could find. Further exacerbating the issue was my frequent use of dense exotic hardwoods.

Eventually I got to the point that I was ready to buy a really good set of bits that wouldn’t need to be replaced any time soon. After buying several sets of bits, I already spent quite a bit more than I would have if I purchased the higher quality bits to begin with. Grrr! This this leads me to the reason for posting this video in the first place. Like me, many of you are ready to final plunk down the cash to get a set of bits that will last a good long time and stand up to years of abuse.

The Carbide-Tipped Brad Point Bit

carbide-tipped-brad-point-bitsEnter the carbide-tipped brad point bit! I recently purchased this particular set from Lee Valley and I couldn’t be happier with the results! I think I’m in love! In regards to their durability, here’s an excerpt from Lee Valley’s sales page that explains the value of carbide-tipped bits and their relationship to High Speed Steel:

“High Speed Steel (HSS) drills stay sharp up to 10 times longer than carbon steel models; carbide outlasts HSS by another 10:1. These are the drills of choice for production work where you need a bit that can take continuous use.”

Of course, most of us aren’t doing production work. But if a bit can survive for a reasonable amount of time in a production environment, imagine how long it will last in a one-person wood shop! The bits aren’t cheap, ranging from $15-$25 each, but if you think about how much you’ve spend on crappy bit sets over the years, you can see how you are likely to save money in the long run.


I put these bits to the test on the recent Dogon Platform Bed project. I had to drill numerous holes into Bubinga end grain for the bed rail hardware. The bits performed flawlessly and showed no evidence of overheating. In fact, once I wiped the dust off I couldn’t even tell they had been used. So I am hoping this bit set will be with me for a good long time.

So if you’re one of the folks who emailed me asking for my recommendation on brad point bits, here it is. If you have recommendations for another manufacturer of good quality carbide-tipped brad point bits, please feel free to leave it in the comments section.

Categories: Tools, Whisper Minis


  1. Dennis January 29, 2013

    The drill bits gets too warm because you when run your drill at too many rpm.
    Even if wood is softer than metal then the friction will warm the drill bit,
    slow down the machine and the drills will last for a very long time..
    To further reduce heat build its important to clear chips often, as wood is soft and tends to pack around the drill where as long threaded metal chips will coil out. Or depending on the way the drill has been cut, it will chip the metal.

    It is also possible to buy full carbide drills from companies like sandvik. These drills are also extremely sharp.



    • Bob Waxler January 29, 2013


      I think that Mark was promoting the bits both because e likes them AND to help cover the costs of providing his site.

      Sandvik has a very elaborate site for the industries that they service, not hobbyists like most of Marks followers. I found the site about as foreign to me as Intel’s is to most of my clients (I do Computer Consulting). They may have great products, but don’t market or sell them to people of our level.


        One correction. As stated in the video I have no monetary motivation here. This was solely to promote a set of bits I think represent a good investment. Lee Valley doesn’t even have an affiliate program, sadly.

  2. Mike Candella January 29, 2013

    Beware……. Aviod the “Rockler 25 Piece HSS Brad Point Bit Set” Item No. 68895
    Four of the first five bits tried were crooked. Went back and read the reviews on this set and guess what………I was not the first purchaser of crooked brad point bits. Emailed Rockler Customer Serevice about their quality three weeks ago and still no response.
    Read the reviews before you spend your money!

    • Randy Reece July 4, 2013

      I bought the same set and also found several bits were crooked as hell! Useless!!

  3. Baruch January 30, 2013

    I for one normally don’t use a lot of exotic hardwoods, but the economics of the carbide-tipped bits can be a game changer. Compare the average live of both types of bits and the cost of each and do some simple math. It may be worth buying 3 or 4 less expensive bits of the sizes frequently used vs. buying the carbide-tipped bit–provided you don’t run across any “crooked” bits. They’ll rip you off every time.

  4. Jonathan Baty January 30, 2013

    Come on guys… If you have watched any of Mark’s videos, you know he has a passion to help the woodworking hobbyist like myself. He is not out to sell you some crap so he can make a ton of money. I truly believe he wants to share his knowledge to the community so we all can become better woodworkers. Even if he is selling bits, buy the bits, help a great teacher and shut your mouth!

  5. Scott January 30, 2013

    Marc, thanks for the info I’m always looking for good quality tools.
    Have a great day!

  6. Woodscreamer January 30, 2013

    I like the review and the information Marc presented. In my case I may buy 3-4 bits of the sizes I rely heavily on. I can get by with the cheaper/lower grade for less used sizes. I haven’t done anything with exotic woods but maple is pushing the limits of my tools.

  7. A while back I bought a 28 bit set from LeeValley
    They perform very nicely. Haven’t used any specific size enough to rate their life expectancy. I love having the small increments. It is amazing how often I reach for a x/64th size to make a hole “just a tad smaller/larger” than a nominal size.

    Recently, Tools For Working Wood began carrying American-made bits that look like similar design and packaging. Possible they are the same manufacturer.

    Might look into the carbide tipped bits if I find need for specific size in high volume use. Even if the economics do not merit the extra cost, there is value to me in having a tool that remains sharp, rather than replacing often (usually well after I should).
    Thanks for the quick review.

  8. Mad Hungarian January 31, 2013

    Ah, great timing. I was just thinking about looking for a new brad-point set. I currently just have a few old Craftsman brad-point bits (and one 13mm bit i used for drilling holes for my router-bit storage).

    Does anyone have any thoughts on the larger brad-point sizes? I see that Lee Valley sells HSS brad bits up to 1″, but do people use other types like forstner or whatnot for larger than 1/2″?

  9. steve February 1, 2013

    I bought a drill doctor, keeps all my crappy bits sharp

  10. Tom February 3, 2013

    I usually don’t have a problem with dulling my bits, since I made it clear that they are only used for wood. The smaller sizes seem to bend or get out of round before they are dulled. I wonder if the carbide tips have a harder shaft?

  11. joel February 15, 2013

    Hello Mark, this is my first comment on your awsome website.
    If you’re really doing a lot of end grain drilling on hardwood I would recommand you these bits (http://www.leevalley.com/US/Wo.....&ap=1) made by Colt,a german compagny. Lee valley doesn’t have all the diameters that are available but I do own three of these and they are excellent. Colt does also make forstner bits that are amazing.
    Have a nice day.

  12. sjeff70 July 9, 2013

    They must be good, they’ve been on back order for at least a month that I know of. They are supposed to be back in stock July 15, 2013.

    Did some shopping around myself after watching this video. A set like this wasn’t as easy to find as I thought. Thanks Mark. I’ve been using the crap bits Dewalt puts out with Home Repot and Lowes.

  13. Kevmeister October 15, 2014

    If I am not mistaken, the Lee Valley TCT bits look remarkably like those made by Colt Tools in Germany, from their 1075 series.

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