The Best Drill Bits for Hardened Steel – Top Picks!

The Best Drill Bits for Hardened Steel – Top Picks!

For the uninitiated, the term hardened steel may not worry you because you have bits in the house that are capable of getting through other metals. Unfortunately, if you use most of the bits you own that are useful for shaving away metal, you’ll probably either bend or break the bit. Even worse, you could destroy the project you’re working on.

When steel bits won’t do the job, a strong-heat resistant hardened steel bit will. What makes hardened steel tricky is the presence of titanium, iron, and stainless steel, which need to be heated up for the bit to penetrate through it. 

Since these already mentioned metals harden at a temperature as high as 1450-1500 degrees Fahrenheit, you’ll need something more durable. The good news is most bits used to penetrate hardened steel won’t come at a hefty price to your wallet.

If you’re looking for the most optimal bits made from cobalt, titanium (full comparison here), and other high-quality materials, we’ve got the ultimate list for you. Let’s look at the best drill bits for hardened steel that will get the job done in no time. 

Best Drill Bits for Hardened Steel Top Picks

1. Irwin Tools 3018002

When you need a bit that’s ideal for drilling through tough metals, including heavy-duty abrasive alloy metals, Irwins Tools 3018002 will do the trick. As one of the most respected American manufacturers of power tools, you’ll also have the peace of mind that these bits will be long lasting, durable, and portable. 

Irwin’s over 100 years of quality craftsmanship is noticeable as soon as you look at the package’s design, case, and bits inside. Thanks to its cobalt construct that’s capable of withstanding extreme heat and resists abrasion, the 30 pieces you’ll find in this set will drill almost any size hole necessary for your project.

The set comes with a removable bit cartridge, which makes it great for any work site. Its compact design will fit snugly in any pocket, and the rubber over-molded case protects the kit and the user from burns after use. Irwin Tools 3018002 includes 29 pieces with standard bit increments of 1/16 to ½ inch in 1/64-inch increments.

Apart from the compact packaging, you’ll find that the 4.5-pound weight, its reduced shank about ⅜”, and the 135-degree split point makes the case portable. If you need multiple bit sizes that will help you get through hard steel, you’ll be happy with the performance. 

IRWIN Drill Bit Set | Zoro.com
$110.99

Heavy Duty Web Construction For Strength & Durability. 5% Cobalt For Higher Heat & Abrasion Resistance. Sizes 1/16 inch -1/2 inch in 1/64 inch increments, 135 Degree Split Point To Minimize Walk.

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Pros:

  • Multiple bit sizes for a wide variety of projects
  • Comes in a compact storage case
  • Durable 5% cobalt casing used for heavy-duty tasks
  • Uses a rubber over-mold to protect case and user from burns

Cons:

  • Case could be awkward if the user can’t set it down on a surface

2. Irwin Industrial Tools 316015

I already mentioned how much praise Irwin Tools gets from their products, so you know that another set was bound to make it here. Irwin always delivers professional-grade accessories, whether it’s with their power tools, hand tools, or accessories. If you want the most value for your dollar, the Irwin Industrial Tools 316015 will impress.

The Irwin 316015 also requires little maintenance thanks to the cobalt M-42 metal the bits are made of and the durable cutting edges that never seem to dull. You also wouldn’t want them to not fit in your drill in general, but that won’t be an issue. These bits have shanks reduced above ⅜ inches, allowing them to use larger drill bits in a ⅜ inch chunk.

Bit tips come with a 135-degree split that initiates on contact that won’t require the user to use as much force to penetrate metal. Plus, you’re less likely to run into a hole you can’t drill because just about every bit size is accounted for in this 15 piece set. You’ll find drill bit sizes 1/16″ through ⅜” with similar sets available for different applications.

If you’re looking for a set of high-performance drill bits, the Irwin Tools 316015 is among the best of the best. Not only that but with its durable rubbed-sided case and its small weight of 11.2 ounces, you can fit this impressive set of bits almost anywhere in your backpack or home.

Irwin 316015 15 Piece Cobalt Drill Bits | HardwareWorld

135 degree split point bits prevents walking. Ideal for drilling stainless steel-steel alloys.

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Pros:

  • Useful for projects that require accurate drilling
  • Incredibly durable and high quality
  • 15 bit sizes usable with almost any project
  • Low price point makes them affordable

Cons:

  • While the casing is suitable, they could be better.

3. DEWALT DW1263

The trusty cobalt hardened steel bit makes a return with the DEWALT DW 1263 set, and it isn’t hard to see why. With the M-35 material making up the bits, you’ll see some heavy-duty drilling without the fear of the bit melting or stuttering. Thanks to its durability, the industrial-strength cobalt is a signature bit material used in most DEWALT bits.

On the first look at the package, you’ll notice how neatly contained the bits are in this heavy-duty case made from ABS material. ABS is capable of withstanding rough environments found on the worksite, which will come in handy for any tradesman. Inside the case is an assortment of bits, 14 in total that range from 1/16 inches to ⅜ inches.

You’ll find that the pilot point tip design is excellent for fast cutting through hard metals and are fantastic at reducing walking during start-up or while drilling on metal pipes. Unfortunately, the design of the bits could lead to premature dulling. Still, anyone looking to make quick work of a hardened steel project won’t leave disappointed.

Apart from the durable casings, the cobalt in the bits delivers optimum life and durability in most metals. If they do happen to dull before one year, you can take advantage of the manufacturer warranty, so you won’t have to spend money on sharpening.

DEWALT DW1263 14-Piece Cobalt Pilot Point Drill Bit Set | Amazon
$29.79

Maximum speed and life in stainless steel and other hard metals. Pilot Point tip starts on contact for clean, accurate holes and reduces lock-up on breakthrough.

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05/19/2021 10:55 pm GMT

Pros:

  • 14 bits with a wide range of sizes
  • Heavy-duty casing for storage
  • High-grade drilling performance

Cons:

  • Bits can dull fasters than other bit sets on the list

4. DEWALT DW1354

Although this bit set doesn’t use cobalt, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the performance that the DEWALT DW1354 offers up with its titanium coating. With the highest strength to weight ratio of any natural metal known to man, titanium will cut through non-ferrous metals like butter. Truly, titanium will handle any hardened steel project expertly.

The pilot point tip starts on contact to make these bits more durable, which virtually eliminates walking, and the tapered web reduces breaking. Although the case itself isn’t the most durable and made from plastic, it actually helps with the portability. The thinness of the case and the small weight of 1.02 pounds makes it ideal for transporting.

Within the small case is 14 bits ranging from ⅙ inch to ½ inch, which is suitable for most projects. What DEWALT saves on the case shows in the low cost for this bit set, as you’re unlikely to pay more than $40 for these premium tools. Just try not to drop the case on the hard pavement because it’s unlikely to survive the trip.

If you’re looking for a durable bit set at a low cost, the DEWALT DW1354 is the perfect option for you. With the delivered precision cutting that its titanium drill bits provide, you’ll be able to cut through hardened steel easily without the fear of dulling.

DEWALT DW1354 Drill Bit Set | HardwareWorld
$16.83

Heavy duty Titanium Pilot Point bits life span is twice as long as black oxide bits. Patented pilot point tip starts on contact and eliminates walking.

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Pros:

  • Pilot point eliminates walking
  • Versatile drill pieces for multiple projects
  • High-quality construction on all bits

Cons:

  • Case is made of plastic and breaks easily

5. Irwin Industrial Tools 63221

Irwin is back at it again with a high-quality hardened steel bit set that doesn’t skimp on the details. The heavy-duty spiral flute design helps with faster chip ejection, making the job cleaner and faster. You won’t have metal chips flying at your face if you use Irwin Industrial Tools 63221, making for a safer drilling experience.

What makes this Irwin bit set stand out from the rest is its super abrasive resistance against heartened steel. The M-42 5% cobalt high-speed steel casings really work its way through tough metals with little effort. On top of that, the 135-degree split point significantly reduces feed pressure, which penetrates metal quickly without work hardening. 

These bits have shorter cutting lips to reduce torque for drilling in high-tensile-strength materials like steel. Although this set is a bit pricey, this is due to the wide variety of bits and the case itself. This 21-piece set is nestled nicely in a metal case that is small enough to fit anywhere and durable enough to survive falls on a job site.

You’ll get nothing less than a top-performing bit set from Irwin, and you can guarantee that this bit set will provide enough torque to work with almost any project. No hardened steel surface is a match for the Irwin Industrial Tools 63221!

IRWIN 63221 Drill Bit Set | Zoro.com

Drill bits are made of M-42 5% cobalt high-speed steel for super abrasive resistance in tough metals. 135° split point reduces feed pressure for easy penetration without work hardening.

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Pros:

  • Robust metal casing great for storage
  • Affordable compared to other bits in a similar quality
  • Spiral flute design cuts through metal quickly
  • Durable and reliable performance

Cons:

  • Would do better with a titanium casing

6. DEWALT DWA1240 

If you’re tired of breaking your drill bits on the worksite, you’ll find that the DEWALT DWA1240 is the answer to your prayers. This handy bit set is designed to offer the user maximum speed and control over the drill because there is virtually zero bit walking on metal surfaces. You’ll find that very few hardened steel bit sets offer this many user-friendly options.

In this bit set, you’ll find 14 pieces made from industrial cobalt and specifically designed for hard metal drilling that ranges from 1/16 inch to ⅜ inch, which is optimal for almost any project. The M35 grade cobalt used to construct these bits keep them sharp for an extended period of time, and the split-tip and pilot point design cuts through any hardened steel you’ll find.

These cobalt bits are basically indestructible even after multiple projects and hours of hard work and are even capable of drilling into angle iron and I-beams. You’ll need to take extra care with the case because it’s made out of a flimsy plastic that could get crushed in your tradesman backpack or if dropped on a hard surface.

Without the right tool, drilling holes in a steel metal car door will be difficult, but the DEWALT DWA1240 eliminates the stress. With this bit set, you’ll be able to make necessary repairs on any hardened steel with quickness.

DEWALT DWA1240 Cobalt Drill Bit Set | HardwareWorld

Connectable accessory storage system to optimize storage space of drill bits for wood, metal or i-beams. The patented bit-bar design allows easy removal of drill bits and customizable placement.

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Pros:

  • Bits are durable and long-lasting
  • Pilot point tip offers no walking 
  • Multiple bit sizes with common inch variants

Cons:

  • Case is incredibly flimsy

7. Drill America DWD29J-CO-PC

Drill America’s DWD29J-CO-PC bit set reminds me of those all-in-one screwdrivers most of us used as kids because all of the bits are located in a circular case that shows the top of the bits only. Thanks to the quality indexing, you’ll always be able to find what you’re looking for thanks to its portability and handy belt attachment.

With 29 pieces ranging from ⅙ inch to ½ inch, you’ll have everything you need to drill through-hardened steel, especially since the cobalt coating provides extended tool life with little worry of dulling. The gold oxide finish helps lubricate the drill bit and provides wear resistance, while the 135-degree split point penetrates any hard material with ease with minimal chipping.

To top that off, these bits have a spiral flute design that’s ideal for easy removal of chips, while the longer length of the bit offers a more extended reach for drilling deeper holes. It’s pretty rare to find 29-inch length bits capable of penetrating into metal, making this one of the most versatile bit sets on the list.

Since 1927 Drill America has created some of the best power tools in the business, and their quality is found in this bit set. You won’t have to worry about heat build-up or increased friction while using the DWD29J-CO-PC.

Drill America DWD29J-CO-PC 29 Piece Cobalt Drill Bit Set | Zoro.com

Set of 29 jobber length drill bits includes inch sizes 1/16" to 1/2" in 1/64" increments. Cobalt steel provides extended tool life compared to high-speed steel drill bits when drilling hard materials. Gold oxide finish lubricates the drill bit and provides wear resistance.

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Pros:

  • Come with a circular case for easy indexing and storage
  • Incredibly durable and lightweight
  • Useful for drilling deep holes in hardened steel
  • Multiple size variants for convenience

Cons:

  • Case is made of a cheap plastic

8. HYCLAT HSS0501

Although HYCLAT may not be on the top of the list when we think about brand recognition, this bit set should have eyes on it because of the versatility and durability it offers. The HYCLAT HSS0501 is a 5pc step drill set that enables 50 sizes. Each step drill bit can drill several bore diameters and basically eliminates the need for multiple bit sets altogether.

Made of titanium high-speed steel coating, you can drill holes in basically many materials, including hardened steel. There are also double cutting blades & three-sided shanks that create an X-type opening for smoother cutting. The three-sided shanks also prevent hot metal from flying in your face, making the HSS0501 one of the safer options on this list.

The bits have a split point at 118 degrees, which prevents slipping at high speeds. You’re basically guaranteed a perfect cut every time. The bits are even made to be corrosion and rust-free, ensuring that you’ll use this bit set for years to come. The HYCLAT HSS0501 is impressive right out of the box.

On top of all those positives, the case comes with foam packaging for easy storage. The case itself looks really smart – but isn’t see-through. The only disadvantage is how fast these bits dull and how difficult it can be to sharpen them. Check out our full guide on drill bit sharpeners.

HYCLAT HSS0501 5pcs Titanium Step Drill Bit | Amazon
$21.89

5pcs step drill bits enable 50 sizes - each step drill bit can drill several bore diameters. It's can work as 50pcs twist drill bits. You don't have to replace drill bit constantly for different bore sizes.

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05/20/2021 03:53 am GMT

Pros:

  • Excellent for cutting any sheet metal
  • Easy to operate and use even for the uninitiated
  • Uses less waste in comparison to other high-speed drilling bits
  • Comes with a stylish aluminum case

Cons:

  • Dulls quickly and is difficult to sharpen

How to Pick the Best Drill Bits for Hardened Steel

Other materials, like wood or plastic, are very easy to drill through because they aren’t made of a substance that isn’t difficult for an average metal drill bit to penetrate. However, hardened steel and other hardened metals require only the toughest and strongest materials and bits. Without them, you won’t be able to make a dent.

As a rule, always look for a drill bit with a tapered point because they’ll be able to penetrate most hardened metals quickly without a significant mess. 

Besides that, there are other things to look for when shopping for a hardened steel drill bit. You want to make your life easier, so consider the material, drill point, flute design, and coating specifically before purchasing your own hardened steel bit set.

Drill Bit Materials

While some drill bits are better than others, the material for hardened steel must hit a certain threshold, or it won’t be able to perform well. You want to find something that works specifically with hard metal surfaces, which means the drill bit also has to be tougher than metal.

Carbide

Carbide is capable of working its way through-hardened steel, but there’s a reason it didn’t make this list. They are incredibly brittle and can snap and break easily, which will be frustrating if you have more than a few tasks to handle throughout the day. Only purchase these if you’re drilling through hardened steel recreationally and not as a profession.

High-Speed Steel

High-speed steel is beneficial for hardened steel because it’s made of similar material and can ravage through it. It’s more useful for wood, soft steel, and plastic, but it’s still a fantastic option if you’re looking for a low-priced, capable drill bit. 

Cobalt

You can’t get much better than cobalt as it’s a massive upgrade over high-speed steel. Most premium bits will use 5% cobalt as a base because it’s the optimal amount to use to penetrate most, if not all, hardened steel. Also useful for stainless steel.

Bit Design and Construction

Bit design and construction are of absolute importance when picking a bit because the design can determine the speed and performance of drilling. The construction itself can also determine whether or not metal bits will fly at your face.

Length

Short bits tend to be more accurate, but if you’re looking for a more extended bit to penetrate deeper into a hardened steel frame, you’ll need a drill with a longer base. Be careful when using a longer bit because they are more likely to break or lead to walking.

Angle

The standard angle for a drill point is 118 degrees; however, 135 degrees is better for hardened steel because it allows for faster drilling. You’ll want a bit that drills more rapidly through hardened metal, so drilling is more accurate.

Flute Design

Flute design helps to remove chips out of the ole and helps with how effective the drill bit can be. The standard type for most bits consists of a 30-degree angle, which is more than enough for hardened steel. Parabolic design types are better for plastic, so avoid those.

Coating

Coating favors the quality of the drill bit, which in turn helps with the performance. Titanium coating is standard for higher-quality hardened steel bits because they enable less friction and better chip flow. They’re also great for non-ferrous materials. 

FAQs

What can drill through-hardened steel?

To drill through-hardened steel, you need the proper bit and not necessarily the right drill, although that can help. Try and find a drill bit with a carbide, high-speed steel, or cobalt design with a titanium coating for optimal results. Having a short length, a 135-degree angle, and a fluted design will also increase your chances of drilling through hardened steel.

Is a cobalt or titanium drill bit better for hardened steel?

While titanium bits do last much longer than cobalt bits, they are often overly expensive. Cobalt bits are just as useful and specifically designed for drilling into abrasive materials like titanium, cast iron, and treated stainless steel. If you want the best of boat words, find a cobalt bit with a titanium coating as they’ll cut through anything.

Are cobalt drill bits worth the money?

If you need a cobalt drill bit to drill through-hardened steel, they are absolutely worth the money. Since cobalt drill bits are incredibly powerful and are capable of drilling through hardened steel with ease, you’ll thank yourself later for using them as they allow for accurate holes and more comfortable drilling methods. Plus, cobalt bits are often cost-effective.

Who makes the best-hardened steel bits?

The best overall bit sets are made by DEWALT and IRWIN because they provide outstanding durability and function for a fraction of the price. Both DEWALT and IRWIN also offer the best of the best when it comes to breaking hardened steel and drilling through it because they often use cobalt, a 135-degree angle bit, and a 30-degree flute design.

Conclusion

For the heavy-duty task of drilling through-hardened steel, you’ll need a heavy-duty bit design to pierce through these materials cleanly and effectively. It can become difficult choosing between the wide variety of bits available on the market, especially when the more common bit designs and materials won’t be up to the task.

However, these 8 best drill bits for hardened steel are sure to do the trick. Now, you’ll have an easier time deciding and shopping for the best bits that suit your needs so you can spend less time browsing and more time doing. 

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Katrina Dent

Katrina is a passionate home DIYer, who loves finding new tools to add to her collection. She is a jack of all trades, and loves to write about multiple topics. One of her favorites is to write about is power tools and woodworking tools. A published writer and author, Katrina can always be found at a coffee shop with her laptop.

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