Last updated: August 11, 2021

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HSS drill bits are drill bits made of high-speed steel, which are characterised by their performance and durability. The twist drills serve as an optimal tool for wood, plastic, glass, steel and metal drilling. The universal applicability makes HSS drill bits an irreplaceable tool for the home.

Our HSS drill test 2021 will help you find the right twist drill for you and your projects. We have compared the different HSS drill types for you and highlighted the respective advantages and disadvantages. The description of the most important features of the drills should help you to make the right decision when buying.




Summary

  • HSS drills are made of high-speed steel, this material is durable, heat-resistant and is characterised by its high cutting speed.
  • Basically, HSS drills are differentiated according to the area of application. Whether soft, normal-hard or hard materials, HSS drills can do almost everything.
  • HSS drills are known for their user-friendliness and can drill most materials easily and precisely.

The Best HSS Drill: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying an HSS drill bit

What is an HSS drill?

An HSS drill is a drill bit that is mainly suitable for drilling in metal, but also other materials. They are characterised by their high wear resistance, tempering resistance and heat resistance.

HSS, or High Speed Steel, translates into high-performance high-speed steel. As the name suggests, the hardened material achieves a high cutting speed. The above-average cutting speed allows you to easily drill a clean hole in resistant materials.

HSS Bohrer-1

HSS drills were designed for machining hard materials such as brass and plexiglass. Today, there are different types of HSS twist drills that can also be used to drill soft materials such as wood and plastic.
(Image source: unsplash.com / Blaz Erzetic)

HSS twist drills can be used in stationary drills as well as in hand drills or cordless screwdrivers.

If you're looking for an all-round drill for your home, an HSS twist drill is just what you need!

How much does an HSS drill cost?

The cost of an HSS drill and HSS drill sets, can vary greatly. As with most products, quality plays an important role in questions about price. Drill bits that have a special alloy or are additionally coated usually show a higher quality and are therefore more expensive. Furthermore, we can state that large HSS twist drills are more expensive than small ones.

Of course, the price of HSS twist drill sets also depends on the size of the set. For example, a set that contains 25 drills is usually cheaper than one that contains 70 pieces.

Drill bits/set price range
Single drill bits 0.10 - 10 €
Drill bit set (approx. 25 pieces) 10 - 70 €
Drill bit set (100 pieces or more) 11 - 300 €

It is worth asking the question about the right drill bits for you, because this way you can be sure that you are getting good value for money when you buy them. In addition, it is usually worth buying a drill bit set, as the drill bits are often cheaper when bundled together.

Buy HSS drill bits in a set or individually?

A drill bit set consists of several drill bits of the same type. Drill sets can contain over a hundred parts, which usually differ in diameter.

  • Don't you have a drill set yet, but plan to drill different holes in similar materials in the future? Then it is worthwhile for you to buy an HSS drill bit set, as this will save you time and money.
  • Do you already have a drill bit set and you are only missing a special size or the right type of drill bit for a certain material? Then it is worthwhile for you to buy a single drill. You can choose the drill according to your needs and order it on the internet or buy it in a shop.

Drill sets come in different sizes. If you want to buy an all-round HSS drill bit set for your home, we recommend a set with about 25 pieces in the common diameters (1 - 13 mm), so you can easily drill most holes.

HSS Bohrer-2

A set of drill bits made of high-speed steel, with the most commonly used sizes, is suitable for every home because of their universal applicability.
(Image source: unsplash.com / Russ Ward)

Which materials can I drill with HSS drills?

HSS drill bits are suitable for working with almost all materials. The powerful twist drills can easily drill through most materials.

We have illustrated below which HSS drills are suitable for which materials:

Material HSS-W (soft materials) HSS-N (normal hard materials) HSS-H (hard materials)
Steel U G G
Wood G G U
Soft metals G U U
Hard metals U G G
Soft plastics G U U
Hard plastics U G G
Plexiglas U U G

U = Unsuitable

G = Suitable

Using the wrong drill can damage both the drill and the material.

What alternatives are there to HSS drills?

Depending on the work you want to do with the drill, you should buy a suitable drill.

Substances for which the use of an HSS drill is not recommended are concrete, tiles and masonry.

For example, if you want to hang a cupboard in the bathroom and it is tiled, you should get a tile drill. The sharp cutting edges and the arrow shape of the tile drill prevent the surface of the tile from being scratched or damaged.

We list more special drills for you here:

  • Carbide drill
  • Drill bits made of CV steel
  • Stone and concrete drills
  • Wood drill bits
  • Tile drill bits
  • Special shapes

It is not necessary to use a special type of drill for every substance. However, if you want to work very precisely and take care of your drill, it can be helpful to look into the special drill.

Decision section: Which HSS drills are available and which is the right one for you?

If you want to buy an HSS drill, there are three alternatives to choose from:

  • HSS-W (soft materials)
  • HSS-N (normal hard materials)
  • HSS-H (hard materials)

The various HSS twist drills differ mainly in the angles of their tips, their spiral angles and their coatings. Which drill you choose should depend on the material you want to work with.

In the following we show the most important characteristics of the drill bits.

What distinguishes HSS-W twist drills and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

An HSS twist drill type W is suitable for soft materials. Materials that can be drilled well with this drill bit include: Aluminium, copper, soft plastics and wood.

HSS-W drills have a comparatively large helix angle. The side rake angle is usually between 35 and 40 degrees. This plays a significant role in how chips are formed and how they are removed. Aluminium and copper, for example, are long-chipping metals that can be machined well with type W twist drills.

Drill bits for soft materials usually have a smaller point angle. These are often around 118 degrees. If the drill bit has a smaller point angle, the cutting length increases. This avoids too much pressure on the material during drilling. At the same time, more contact pressure is needed.

Advantages
  • Chips can be removed well
  • materials are not damaged
Disadvantages
  • The drill can break quickly if used on the wrong material
  • short cutting length leads to poor drill guidance

What are HSS-N drill bits and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

An HSS drill bit type N is suitable for normal hard materials. Non-ferrous metals, structural steels, cast iron and plastics can be machined with the twist drills.

Type N drills have a side rake angle of approx. 16 - 30 degrees. This is considered the standard angle and ensures good chip removal for materials with a normal hardness.

The tip of an HSS-N drill usually has an angle of 118 to 130 degrees, depending on the manufacturer and the use. The point angle ensures that the twist drill can centre itself in the substance.

Advantages
  • Very good all-round properties
  • Good drill guidance and clean drill holes
Disadvantages
  • Soft materials can tear out during drilling
  • drill can be damaged when drilling in the hard materials

How can HSS-H drills be identified and what are their advantages and disadvantages?

HSS-H drills are twist drills designed for use in hard and brittle materials. In addition to steel and non-ferrous metals, hard plastics, Plexiglas and laminates can be drilled with type H drills.

The side flute angle on drills for hard materials is only 10 to 19 degrees. This means that the spiral of HSS-H drills is elongated.

The point angle for type H drills is between 135 and 145 degrees. This angle ensures a short cutting length at the drill head.

Advantages
  • Good drill guidance due to shorter cutting length
  • High wear resistance
Disadvantages
  • Chips cannot be removed well
  • Soft materials can be damaged quickly.

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate HSS drills

In the following, we will show you which features you can use to decide between the many possible HSS drills.

The criteria you can use to compare HSS drills with each other include:

In order to find the most suitable drill for your project based on these characteristics, you should be clear about the materials you want to work with and the drilling you want to do.

The production of HSS-R and HSS-G drills

HSS drills are manufactured in two different ways. The way they are made brings out the differences in how the drill is used. In the following we show the contrasts.

HSS Drill Manufacturing Properties
HSS-Roll Rolled This drill is heated during manufacturing and shaped by a roller The drill is light, elastic and thus very durable. The manufacturing method has the disadvantage that roll-rolled drills have poorer concentricity and are not as precise.
HSS-ground The spiral on this drill is created by milling the metal rod The end product has a high precision when drilling, but breaks off more easily.

While roll-rolled drills are more often used for hand drills, ground drills are more commonly used in stationary drills.

Alloys and coatings for HSS drills

Different compositions and coatings of HSS drills affect the respective properties of a drill.

In general, coatings help to increase the service life and performance of drills and refine the end product.

There are many different coatings and alloys of HSS drills. We list the most important ones below.

  • HSS-Co or HSSE-Co stands for a cobalt alloy of the drill. The HSS Cobalt drill is made of a special steel with a cobalt content of approximately 5 - 8 %. This material enables precise drilling and high durability. HSS-Co drills can have additional coatings.
  • A TiN coating onHSS drills, results in three to four times the tool life. This coating is universally used, and is particularly suitable for steel and cast iron. The titanium and nitrogen coating increases the application temperature of HSS drills up to 600 degrees Celsius.
  • The titanium aluminium nitride coating(TiAIN) is also universally applicable and enables a higher cutting speed when drilling. It is particularly useful for titanium alloys and stainless steel. The maximum application temperature is 800 degrees Celsius. The coating contributes to sustained drilling quality.

Which shank does the drill have

If you already own a drill or cordless screwdriver before buying a drill, you should pay attention to the shank when buying your drill. The shank of the drill bit is fixed in the drill.

HSS Bohrer-3

Most drills and cordless screwdrivers are equipped with a chuck. This means that drill bits with a round shank can easily be fastened in the machine.
(Image source: unsplash.com / eugen Str)

The cylindrical or round shank is the most commonly used shank in drill bits and fits in the ordinary drill and in any conventional cordless screwdriver.

There are the following shank systems:

  • Cylindrical shank or round shank drill bit
  • Hexagonal shank (suitable for any standard cordless drill)
  • Reduced shank
  • SDS-plus shank (with impact stop function)

Not every system can handle all shanks. The drill of your choice should therefore have the appropriate shank.

The length and diameter of the drill

The length and diameter of the drill you want to buy, as with the other variables, will depend on the holes you want to drill.

Drills come in many different diameters. Drills with a diameter of 1 to 13 mm are most commonly used in everyday life. The wider the HSS drill, the longer it is.

If you are wondering which is the right drill for you, compare your HSS drill with the screw or dowel. You will find the right diameter for your HSS drill on the packaging of the screw or dowel.

If you want to attach something very heavy to a wall, you will need very strong screws. It can happen that normal drill bits cannot penetrate deep enough into the wall, even though they meet the size of the screw or anchor. For this rare exception, you may need to buy an extra long version of a drill.

Facts worth knowing about HSS drills

The properties of the HSS drill make it a beginner-friendly tool. Still, there are some things you should watch out for when drilling. Here are our tips:

Pre-drill

To prevent the twist drill from slipping while drilling, it can be helpful to pre-drill.

When pre-drilling, you pre-drill a small hole with about 25% of the diameter of the final hole. Then you choose a drill bit that matches the desired diameter and drill the final hole.

We recommend pre-drilling from a diameter of 8 to 10 mm so that you have a good drill guide. This facilitates the success of an accurate hole.

Cutting speed of HSS drills

The cutting speed (Vc) of HSS drills is always given in metres per minute (m/min). The settings for the cutting speed are usually specified by the manufacturer. Information on this should therefore be available on your product packaging or from the manufacturer on the website.

The cutting speed depends on the drill diameter and the material you are cutting. As a rule, a higher cutting speed is used for softer materials.

The following guide values apply to the cutting speed of HSS drills:

material cutting speed (Vc)
steel 25 m/min
aluminium 35 m/min
cast iron 20 m/min
plastic 25 m/min
wood 35 m/min

The table only gives guide values. If you are in doubt, you should check the material and the cutting speed again.

The speed of HSS drills

The speed (rpm) settings for drilling always depend on the drill, the diameter of the drill, the material and the cutting speed. The diameter is the most important reference value. The smaller the drill bit, the higher the speed.

You can calculate the right speed for your drill with a simple formula.

The formula is: Speed = Cutting speed*1000/Pi*Diameter of the drill

Regrinding the drill

If the point angles of your HSS drill become blunt, you can regrind them at home. Below we show you a video that goes through step-by-step instructions for sharpening your twist drill.

Sharpening will help you improve the functionality of your product and get a better drilling result.

Image source: Hatipo?lu/ 123rf.com

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