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

In this article, you’ll learn an easy step-by-step guide on sharpening drill bits with a file.

It is 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 is 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 I have learned.

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

  • Tools: A file, a rug, few clamps.
  • Clean the dull drill bit.
  • Wear suitable safety gear.
  • Clamp the drill bit onto the table.
  • Choose a suitable file.
  • Start sharpening the drill bit.
  • Test the drill bit.

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

A Few Things to Know About Drill Bits

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

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

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

cutting lips
Video | MECH 4 mechs

The lip, also known as the edge, is the area you use to drill holes. They 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 land provides support for drilling operations. It doesn’t cut; instead, it provides clearance and stabilizes the drill in the hole.

chisel edge
Video | MECH 4 mechs

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

6 Easy Steps on How to Sharpen Drill Bits with a File

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


  • A dull drill bit
  • A file
  • Few clamps
  • A rag
  • A table vice(optional)
  • Safety goggles
  • Safety gloves

Step 1 – Clean the Drill Bit

cleaning the drill bit tip
Video | MECH 4 mechs

The drill bit used for this demonstration might often have grime or dirt. So, remember to clean off any dust from the drill bit. Take a rag and wash off the grime and dust. Any dust or grime might impact the drilling and sharpening processes significantly.

Step 2 – Wear the Safety Gear

safety goggles on the table

Wearing safety goggles and gloves is necessary during the sharpening and drilling task. So, make sure to wear them before starting.

Step 3 – Clamp the Drill Bit to the Table

Then, find a table that has proper lighting.

You should be able to see the drill bit clearly while sharpening the drill bit. Now place the drill bit on the table and clamp it tightly. The drill bit should be stable at 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 at your home, use it for this process. It is much easier than using 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, and 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.

Remember to 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 can 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.

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 for this, 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. For instance, most experts recommend diamond files for wood-boring bits. The diamond file process is a little slow 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.
  • Very easy to use
  • Using a file is a budget-friendly process. (1)
  • Some use the hand filing technique to sharpen the drill bit. But it is a time-consuming process compared to using the diamond file.
  • You can use diamond files for any drill bit. (2)

Take a look at some of our related articles below.

(1) budget-friendly –
(2) diamond –

Video References

MECH 4 mechs

Ultimate Handyman

Last Best Tool

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About Sam Orlovsky

b1d87d2ee85af3e51479df87928bdc88?s=90&d=mm&r=gCertifications: 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.

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