How to Sharpen Drill Bits with a File (6 Steps)

In this article, we’ll follow a step-by-step guide on sharpening drill bits with a file.

It’s time to sharpen your drill bits if you have difficulties drilling or hear screeching noises. But you might not have access to a bench grinder. So, what’s the solution? During many projects I’ve worked on as a handyman, I overcame similar situations using a file. Today, I’ll give you some valuable insights based on my learning.

In general, to sharpen a drill bit with a file:

  • Clean the dull drill bit.
  • Wear suitable safety gear.
  • Clamp the drill bit onto a table.
  • Choose a suitable file matching the drill bit’s size.
  • Start sharpening the drill bit.
  • Test the drill bit.

Go through the step-by-step guide below for more details.

A Few Things to Know About Drill Bits

Before starting the sharpening process, you should know a few things about drill bits. Understanding the drill bit structure will help during this demonstration.

A drill bit is made from three different parts: land, lips, and chisel.

Important: I’m only explaining the parts related to this guide. All these three parts are located at the bottom of the drill bit body.

The Land

The land provides support for drilling operations. It doesn’t cut; instead, it provides clearance and stabilizes the drill in the hole.

The Lip

cutting lips
Video | MECH 4 mechs

The lip, also known as an edge, is the area used to drill holes.

The lips are the main part of the drilling operation. As you can see, a drill bit usually has two even lips, and these two should have the same length and angle. Sharpen the drill bit lips symmetrically. Otherwise, you’ll end up with non-straight holes after drilling.

The Chisel

A close up look of a chisel edge
Video | MECH 4 mechs

The last important part is the chisel.

As you can see from the above image, the chisel is the center line between the lips. Like the land, the chisel doesn’t cut; it penetrates and displaces the workpiece materials.

6 Easy Steps for Sharpening Drill Bits with a File


For this drill bit sharpening process, you’ll need the following things:

Step 1: Clean the Drill Bit

A close up look of a person's hand showing the drill bit's tip
Video | MECH 4 mechs

A frequently used drill bit might have grime or dirt on it.

Clean off any dust on the drill bit. Take a rag and wash off the grime and dust. If not removed, dust or grime might significantly impact the drilling and sharpening processes.

Step 2: Wear Safety Gear

A safety goggle on the table

Wearing safety goggles and gloves is necessary while sharpening and drilling. Wear them before starting.

Step 3: Clamp the Drill Bit to a Table

Use a table with proper lighting for this step

You should be able to see the drill bit clearly while sharpening it. Place the drill bit on the table and clamp it tightly. It should be stable on the table. Your effort will be wasted if the drill bit begins to rock back and forth while sharpening.

Quick Tip: If you have a table vice in your home, use it for this process, as it will be much easier than clamps.

Step 4: Choose a Suitable File

Depending on the type of drill bit, you might have to change the file type.

For instance, for a point bit, you’ll need an auger file; for a spade drill bit, you’ll need a mill file. If you aren’t familiar with these two types of files, here is a simple explanation:

Difference Between the Auger File and Mill File

Auger files are mostly used for sharpening auger bits and point bits. This metal file comes with teeth on one side. You can use these teeth for metal finishing and sharpening.

Mill files are very similar to hand files and have one safe edge. You can use this file for filling and finishing work. Also, this is a handy tool for sharpening a spade drill bit.

Step 5: Sharpen the Drill Bit

Take the file and run it against the drill bit’s lips.

Do this at least six to eight times. The file should make a 60-degree angle with the drill bit’s tip.

Apply an equal force to every lip. Also, apply the pressure in a curvy way on the surface of the drill bit. Here are some tips that could be helpful during this process:

  • During the sharpening process, avoid metal burrs and blind edges.
  • Use some machine oil for the sharpening process.
  • Remember to hold the file with both of your hands.

Step 6: Test the Drill Bit

After successfully sharpening the drill bit, it is time to test it.

Take the drill and connect the drill bit to it. Plug in the drill and find a suitable object for test drilling. Now, start drilling.

If you complete the sharpening process correctly, you’ll experience the difference firsthand. The drill bit will drill through the object more quickly and sharply than before.

Why Use a File for Sharpening a Drill Bit?

For some, using a file is the only way to sharpen a drill bit without a bench grinder.

Even though there are other alternatives, they won’t give you the same quality finish.

The Best Choice – Diamond File

A diamond file is the best alternative for battery-powered drill bit sharpening.

Most experts recommend diamond files for wood-boring bits. The diamond file process is a little slower compared to a bench grinder. However, it is the safest method out there. Apart from that, here are some benefits of using a diamond file to sharpen a drill bit:

  • You don’t need any AC or battery power.
  • It’s easier to use.
  • Using a file is a budget-friendly process.
  • Some use the hand filing technique to sharpen the drill bit. However, it is a time-consuming process compared to using a diamond file.
  • You can use diamond files for any drill bit.


Website Resources:

Video References:

MECH 4 mechs

Ultimate Handyman

Last Best Tool

How helpful was this article?

Were Sorry This Was Not Helpful!

Let us improve this post!

Please Tell Us How We Can Improve This Article.

About Sam Orlovsky

AvatarCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

| Reach Me

Leave a Comment