Titanium vs. Cobalt Drill Bits: What to Buy?
At a glance, you might think that all drill bits are the same, except for their girth and design. However, it’s important that you realize from the get-go that drill bits, though similar in appearance, are not made the same. If you’re planning on taking up a construction project that requires boring holes into tougher materials, than you’ll need a bit that is suited for the job.
When it comes to drill bits, product descriptions can be confusing and even misleading. That’s why you need to seek information regarding tools, their appropriate attachments, and what they can and cannot do. In this article, we’re going to address one common misconception regarding drill bits; namely cobalt and titanium drill bits. After reading this guide, hopefully you’ll be able to distinguish what each of them can do and which of them would benefit you in your next project.
What are Cobalt Bits?
Needless to say, the material used to make a drill bit plays a tremendous role in what the bit can do. Obviously, tougher bits are suited for tougher jobs, but depending on what you’re doing, you may not need the toughest bit on the block.
Cobalt drill bits are made of a blend of cobalt steel and a high amount of cobalt. The cobalt content actually improves the density and strength of the bit, making it able to withstand abrasion. Cobalt drill bits are also made to withstand heat, letting you work for longer with harder workpieces. Cobalt drill bits are commonly found in production drilling – e.g. repeated drilling applications.
Cobalt Bit Pros
If you need to drill through the roughest, toughest materials, then go with cobalt. They won’t wear down as quickly as other materials when dealing with cast iron, stainless steel, and even titanium. They’re also extremely heat resistant so boring through metals is a breeze and especially more so with the help of lubricants.
Another great benefit of cobalt drill bits is that cobalt is not used as an outer coating but rather as the main material to make the bit. This means you can extend the life of each cobalt bit by giving it a thorough sharpening. As you dig deeper into the bit, you’re not removing an outer cobalt layer but rather exposing more cobalt.
Cobalt Bit Cons
The main downside of cobalt drill bits is their price. They’re great for a ton of different jobs, making them the best general-purpose bit you could ever own. However, unless you have the funds or a constant revenue stream, then replacing these bits can be a pain in the wallet.
In order to get the most bang for your buck, you need to learn how to sharpen cobalt bits. There are several at-home sharpeners to choose from, so investing in one of these could actually help you prolong the life of each cobalt bit.
Another thing to consider is since cobalt bits are mainly used for heavy-duty drilling tasks, if your line of work involves drilling through materials like wood or drywall, then cobalt drill bits are definitely overkill. Stick to cheaper drill bits for wood and other soft materials.
What are Titanium Bits?
So titanium bits sound like they’d stronger than cobalt, but actually cobalt is denser than titanium. Furthermore, titanium drill bits shouldn’t actually be named “titanium drill bits” since, at its core, the bit is made from high-speed steel. The only titanium you’ll find in this bit is the outer layer made of titanium-nitride (TiN).
Titanium Bit Pros
What’s nice about titanium drill bits is their price tag, which is a breath of fresh air after shopping around for cobalt bits. These bits are great for drilling through wood and soft metals like aluminum and magnesium. You could even drill through plastic if you need the extra umph that titanium provides.
So earlier we talked about how titanium bits are actually HSS coated in TiN. Most people think that titanium makes for a sharper edge or more durable surface, but in fact, the TiN coating helps the bit in dealing with friction. Reduced friction translates into better heat management, thus extending the life of the bit significantly. Compared to regular HSS bits, you can get roughly six times as much use out of a single titanium bit.
Titanium Bit Cons
The main issue with titanium bits is even though they can last for quite some time, they’re only as good as their TiN coatings last. After the coating has worn off, you’re left with regular HSS, making sharpening the bit almost entirely useless.
HSS can work almost as well on soft materials like wood and plastic, but it produces a ton of heat which would wear it down even quicker. Basically, once the TiN coating is gone, you’ll never get the same heat management back, and there’s no way to safely reapply a TiN coating back onto the bit at home.
Relative to cobalt bits, titanium bits should be treated as a disposable piece. The good thing is that they aren’t expensive at all so replacing them won’t require taking out a mortgage on your home.
Furthermore, titanium won’t fare well against hard materials like cast iron or stainless steel. If you attempt to bore holes into these materials, you’ll end up stripping the TiN coating even quicker, thus ruining the bit entirely. Stick to drilling through wood, drywall, and plastic with titanium bits and leave the heavy-duty jobs to cobalt.
Cobalt vs. Titanium Drill Bits – Which to get?
After reading through this guide, you should be equipped with enough knowledge to decide whether your next project will benefit from cobalt or titanium drill bits.
If you have the funds and the patience to sharpen drill bits by yourself, we recommend going with cobalt drill bits. They’re more versatile since they’re tougher than HSS and titanium bits, and you can drill through super-dense materials. If you’re working exclusively with wood, aluminum, or plastic, then disposable titanium bits are the way to go.