Titanium Drill Bits vs Cobalt [All You Need to Know]

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Cobalt-vs-Titanium-Drill-Bits

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Using the right tools can make all the difference in elevating the quality of your work. But when it comes to drilling bits, it is easy to be overwhelmed and spoiled for choice.

Cobalt and titanium bits are two capable options for getting through the more rigid materials. While both are strong and durable, each has their unique strengths and weaknesses. 

This guide will help you understand what to look for in a suitable drill bit. We will also help you determine whether the cobalt or titanium option is the right choice for you.

Cobalt vs Titanium Drill Bits  

Set of various diameters of winning drills and a drill chuck wrench, close up, shallow depth of sharpness

The shape, size, and material of the drill bit are just a few factors that should be considered when searching for the right model to use for a particular project.

It is also crucial to understand whether the particular option is a viable choice for the material you are using it on. After all, different bits are designed to cut through specific materials with more ease than other choices. 

Using the wrong bit on a surface that it wasn’t intended for can lead to disastrous consequences. Not only do you run the risk of breaking the bit and potentially the drill, but it can also cause injury. Not to mention the sub-par result in the material, which is never a good feeling. 

Rather than experiment with different bit types and materials yourself, here are all the factors you need to know when assembling a set of drill bits for a project. 

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  1. Shape

Depending on how the drill bit is shaped, it will affect how it drills through different material surfaces. 

Beginning with the softer wood material, wood drill bits are designed to make clean holes without breaking or splitting the wood. They have a lower efficiency if used on more rigid materials other than wood. The types commonly used are brad point bits, auger bits, and paddle bits. Each of them is shaped to create a different recess in the wood.

Metal drill bits are, obviously, designed for metalwork. They are made from more robust materials and are also known as high-speed steel, or HSS, bits. This allows them to be able to drill through rigid metal without overheating. Being made of a more rigid material, they can be used on softer materials as well, such as wood, but you run the risk of splitting it. 

A multi-purpose drill bit is exceptionally diverse in the materials it can pierce cleanly. This versatility makes it a common choice for those who use their drill only occasionally on wood, ceramic, plastics, and even hard metals. On the other hand, it does not give as clean of a result that a specially designed drill bit will provide. 

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Masonry drill bits were designed for, you guessed it, masonry. As masonry is a more complex material to drill through, these bits are diamond-tipped to ensure a clean cut. A niche and specific type, they will ensure that the porcelain or masonry you are working with won’t break or crack when being drilled. 

Finally, special drill bits are one of the more uncommon types as they are designed for specific jobs only. These tasks, such as cutting through glass safely and cleanly, are not the usual tasks a drill would be used for; thus, you would require an advanced, specialized bit.

  1. Size

The sizing of the drill bit’s length and width will give you dramatically different results in the recesses made. Both the parameters are directly related to the depth and width of the hole you need to make.

For those who use their drill more regularly for particular tasks, buying a specially-sized model may be necessary. After all, drill sets do not always include a particular-sized bit you may need. 

However, if you are looking for a more simple drill bit or get only casual uses out of your drill, a drill bit set would be the way to go. Including a range of varying lengths and widths, it is sure to cater to any job you may have. This is a safe choice for typical households and simple DIY projects.

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  1. Material

Depending on what the drill bit is made out of, or if it has special coatings, the drilling performance will vary. The durability, strength, and heat resistance are three key factors that fluctuate depending on the material the bit is made out of. 

For example, the hardest drill bit made of tungsten carbide is ideal for more rigid surfaces, while low-carbon steel bits are usually used for softwood. Using a tougher bit on softer surfaces runs the risk of damaging the surface and potentially splitting it. Similarly, using units made from more delicate materials on hard surfaces can break them or, at the very least, make them blunt faster. 

Having drill bits made from more complex materials do tend to increase their life span compared to softer variants. But the actual durability depends on the maintenance and the specific workload it is used for.

Heat resistance is one of the most important factors when it comes to managing drill bits. The friction caused between the bit and the surface generates large amounts of heat that can damage the drill and the drilled material. Furthermore, the possibility of the bit slipping is another risk that a heat-resistant unit can mitigate.

Now, coatings are applied to drill bits to prevent the underlying material from overheating and increasing durability. This is usually done with materials that may have been expensive to otherwise make a solid drill bit out of completely. 

The underlying portion of a coated bit is made from a comparatively less costly material, commonly HSS. And the resulting coated part will have the advantages of the expensive material in its heat resistance, toughness, and durability. 

Cobalt Drill Bits

Cobalt drill bits are not entirely made from cobalt but have steel mixed into the composition as well. Because of this, it is classified as an HSS type of drill bit. 

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  1. Composition

The cobalt drill bit has a dull gold sheen that makes it stand out in a drill bit set. It is composed of high-speed steel (HSS) with a mixture of cobalt in it. Both work well in making an efficient combination that ensures ease in cutting through the hardest of materials with a smooth recess created.

Different concentrations of cobalt are available, either five or eight percent, with higher concentrations of cobalt increasing the heat resistance of the bit. 

The five percent (M35 grade cobalt drill bit set) and eight percent (M42 grade drill bit set) lend different qualities and performances. While the M35 is sufficient for most materials, it is not as heat-resistant as the M42 variant, which allows for higher drilling speeds. 

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On the other hand, having more cobalt in the bit does make it more brittle and susceptible to breaking. The M42 bits are also tougher in comparison to the M35.

When it comes to the cobalt drill bit’s heat resistance, it can withstand up to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. The robust cobalt bit is able to cope with the friction of hard surfaces without breaking or damaging the material or the drill. 

Now, a mixed composition with no coating makes these bits fall on the expensive side; however, they make up for it in their value for the price. 

  1. User Experience

Cobalt drill bits are tough and durable, designed to be ideal for breaking through stainless steel or even cast iron.

With more uses of any drill bit, there is inevitable wear and tear, resulting in the dulling of the edges. This eventual blunting of the drill bit makes drilling increasingly tedious with more use over time on surfaces that it should not struggle with. 

In the case of the cobalt drill bits, there is the option to sharpen them as this dulling occurs. As there is no coating on the surface of the bit, it is possible to sharpen the dull edges with no loss in quality in the result. 

By sharpening the edges as the bit breaks down, the cobalt bit is able to last for long periods of time before needing to be replaced. This longevity adds to the bit’s value – as a tough investment that can be used for any hardened alloys and stainless steel. 

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  1. Cost

As is evident with any tool at a steep price, the high price tag seems to encourage a cautious approach to be taken when using it. Of course, sharpening the bit is still an option to prolong its lifespan. However, there is still the risk of having it break while using it. To replace the bit is not a cheap ordeal to go through. 

On the one hand, you can use the cobalt drill bit extensively with confidence in its durability. And on the other hand, you have a high price to pay if it breaks during use.  

Additionally, if using a cobalt drill bit, then it makes sense to have a quality sharpening tool in your possession. Being able to sharpen and essentially repurpose a blunt drill bit to almost new is a benefit that you should take advantage of. Using a sub-par sharpening tool will not restore the cobalt bit to its previous performance.

Despite this risk, it is minimal enough to be a confident recommendation for its investment value. Long-lasting, reusable, and versatile in its usage, the cobalt drill bit is an excellent addition to any drill set.

Pros
  • Has durable build, which increases tool life
  • Ability to sharpen increases lifespan of the bit
  • Able to efficiently and smoothly cut through hard materials
  • Responds well to heat; able to withstand higher temperatures from drilling
Cons
  • Brittle and susceptible to breaking
  • The costly price tag makes replacing them an ordeal

Titanium Drill Bits

Contrary to its name, the titanium drill bit is not entirely composed of titanium. It is a coated type of drill bit with a high-speed steel bit at its core, also known as a HSS bit. 

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  1. Composition

There are several variations in the type of titanium coating applied to the core HSS. One is the TiN (titanium nitrate) variant which is a standard, basic titanium drill bit. Other varieties include the TiCN (titanium carbo-nitride) and TiAlN (titanium aluminum nitride) coated bits.

The titanium carbo-nitride (TiCN) variant is an ideal choice when it comes to adhesive and abrasive material due to its toughness. Meanwhile, the titanium aluminum nitride (TiAlN) bit will increase the life of the standard TiN bit by four to five times. All three options are tough and durable, vastly superior to standard drill bits. 

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By having a coating of titanium on the drill bit, there is a firmer grip for it to break through the material. The titanium protection allows heat resistance to temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. It also keeps the bit from overheating, which could potentially damage your drill. 

Having a coating on top of the HSS core increases the longevity and strength of the bit over the standard drill bits.  

  1. User Experience

Using a coated drill tip comes with its own pros and cons. From a usability perspective, it is ideal for softer materials, such as soft metals such as steel, copper, and brass. Additionally, it is able to work smoothly on plastics and PVC as well as harder woods. 

Friction and heat are kept to a minimum when used on surfaces where regular drill bits would struggle. 

However, there is no option to sharpen the bit with wear and tear as it is just a coated one. To sharpen it would mean cutting away at the coating and exposing the HSS core underneath. 

As such, the lifespan of the aluminum drill bit is limited only to how long the coating lasts. When the outer layer is chipped away, it is recommended to use a fresh drill bit. As the aluminum coating is what lends this bit its heat resistance and durability, once the coating wears away, it will rapidly break down and become a standard HSS drill bit. 

Continuing to use the bit without the titanium coating can lead to injury, and it will be unable to produce the same level of work as when it had the coating. The reason for this sudden risk comes in the loss of the advantages the titanium coating brought. 

Heat resistance and a grip that digs into the materials’ surface smoothly are just two benefits that add safety to this bit over standard HSS ones. 

Furthermore, it can lead to injury by slipping on the surface or even destroy your drill. Worst case scenario is the possibility of personal injury. 

Thus, it is imperative to replace the titanium drill bit as and when the coating wears away. Of course, the bit is durable and will give you quite a number of uses before it begins chipping away.

  1. Cost

Aluminum-coated drill bits are priced higher than the standard drill bit set but are still a cheaper option than the cobalt drill bit. 

They are durable, but the need to replace them when the coating becomes chipped is a factor if this is an option you are considering. However, with high durability, as long as you are using them on the materials they are meant for, they should last you a considerable amount of time. 

Ensuring that the source of your titanium drill bits is genuine is extremely important to ensure you get the quality performance you expect. And as they only have a coating, it is easy to be duped and given bits with a cheap layer. Buying from verified and known brands is one assurance to get legit bits. 

Pros
  • Lower price point than cobalt drill bits
  • Strong and heat resistant titanium coating
  • Works well in handling softer materials
  • More durable than regular drill bits
Cons
  • Replacing the drill bit is necessary in case the coating chips
  • Not suitable for hard materials

Extending A Drill Bit’s Lifespan

There are a few measures you can take in order to get the most use out of your drill bits. The drill bits will be less susceptible to breaking and ensure a quality performance with every use by maintaining them over time.

  1. Proper Storage

Storing your drill bits in a dry place will prevent rust from forming on them. 

  1. Oiling

Applying machine oil after cleaning off any dust is another precaution against rust. It keeps the drill bit in ideal shape until its subsequent use. The oil will make sure the drill does not have any remaining debris on it. It will also maintain the it’s longevity over time.  

  1. Regular Cleaning

Cleaning the drill bit intermittently while you work will make for smoother cuts as well as prevent any scratching on the material or the drill bit itself. Simply wiping with a cloth along the bit is enough to keep dust off of it. 

  1. Speed Adjustment

Using an appropriate speed for the material you are working with is vital to keep as much stress off the bit as possible. Some materials may require faster speeds while others do not. The correct speed can prevent the bit from becoming blunt and minimize the risk of the drill slipping as well. 

  1. Lubricating

Lubricating the drill bit before using it on a surface is a good idea to keep the temperature down in order to preserve its life. As the friction between the bit and the material increases with drill speed, the high temperature can cause damage. So, do take caution and use a suitable lubricant for the material you are working with or risk damaging your project. 

Close up of a set of wood drills on a work table of a joiner in a workshop.

Conclusion

The cobalt drill bit is more robust and ideal for use on more challenging materials. With the ability to sharpen it combined with its durability, this is the longer-lasting option between the two. However, these are pretty expensive, so it will be an investment for you.

Alternatively, the titanium drill bits are cheaper and more suitable for softer materials. The coating will last for a substantial amount of use, but the lifespan of this bit is not as long as their cobalt counterparts. 

So, which drill bit is the superior choice between the two? Well, selecting one drill bit over the other would depend solely on the material you are working with.

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