Forstner drill bits might not be one of the essentials for most woodworkers but if you’re looking into doing advanced workings and joinery they should definitely be a consideration. We found the PORTER-CABLE PC1014 to be the best forstner drill bit out there. These sometimes fragile, often misunderstood bits allow you to drill a flat bottomed hole quickly and easily and the cost is high, but if you’re trying to find the best set it can take some work. We’ve done the groundwork for you, so let’s get to the bits.
That said, for a novice this is a high quality set which will last for some time, you’ll just have to make sure you keep up on the maintenance.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Forstner Drill Bits
|PORTER-CABLE PC1014||14||Serrated||Check Price|
|Steelex D3573||16||Serrated||Check Price|
|Grizzly H7694 Master Forstner Bit||31||Serrated||Check Price|
|Freud FB-107||7||Knife||Check Price|
|Freud Precision Shear Serrated||16||Wavy||Check Price|
1. Best Overall
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
These bits from Porter-Cable come in a 14 piece set and are great for those who need to get some clean holes done. They’re on the lower end of the scale as far as materials go, but they’re cheap enough to be great for a novice and should stand up to quite a few holes before you need to upgrade.
You’ll have common sizes from ¼” to 2” if you opt for these which is pretty good for most hobbyists and the serrated bit heads allow you to make fairly short work of the holes you need done.
Of course, at this price you’re also going to have some learning to do. A quality set of diamond files is a sound investment to make up for the price difference since they have a tendency to dull quickly which means they’re pretty high maintenance.
- Serrated heads
- 14 pieces
- Good storage case
- Doubles of the smallest size
- High maintenance
- Prone to clogging
2. Best For Clean Holes
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
If you’re looking to make clean through holes, then you might be tempted to pick up the budget priced Steelex D3573 set. They’re not the most high-quality bits on the market, but for the causal hobbyist it’s a pretty hard deal to match.
These serrated tooth bits have a clean, saw-like edge which makes them great for holes if you’re going straight down although you’ll have some trouble if you’re planning to use them for jigging.
Unlike many sets you can find all 16 pieces are different sizes, giving you a wide range of different holes you can produce. The larger bits also come with a hex shaft which will hold them tighter in your press.
The sizes in this kit range from ¼” to 2 1/8” so you should be able to get just about anything you need done.
The main issue is that they don’t leave quite as smooth of a flat bottomed hole as some of the higher end bits but if you’re looking for holes all the way through for your projects you’re in good hands.
This is a great, varied kit for those who are planning on home DIY or arts and crafts projects.
- Wide range of sizes
- Hex shaft on larger bits
- Great serrations
- Tilting wooden box
- Easy to hone
- Inferior steel
- Tendency to leave rough holes
3. Ideal Blend of Quality and Price
Grizzly H7694 Master Forstner Bit
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
This is the biggest set on our list, and it sure is a doozy. Coming in with 31 pieces you can rest assured it has a huge range of sizes.
The serrated bits are super sharp right out of the box as well, and all of them come with hex shafts to allow you to tighten down and press the torque out of your drill press as much as possible.
Like most budget priced Forstner bits you’ll probably want to give them a good once over when you bring them out of the box, but they’re sharp enough for you to get started immediately.
The coolest thing about this set, however, is the fact that it goes from ¼” to 2 1/8” in 1/16” increments so you won’t be left out in the cold if you need a slight different hole.
The main complaint about these is that most of the time they tend to be a couple thousandths of an inch off, which is fine for hobbyists but probably won’t do if you’re building custom furniture at a high level.
That said, this is the ideal blend of quality and price for the novice and probably offers the best value for the money out of any of the sets that we’ve seen.
- Great quality to price ratio
- Huge variety of bits
- Convenient wooden case
- Serrated bits
- Hex shafts on all bits
- Slightly off in size
- High maintenance
4. Best For Smaller Projects
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
For some tools, there is a brand which sets itself apart from the competition and makes only the best. For Forstner bits the name you will always hear recommended for professionals is Freud and this 7 piece kit is no exception.
Apart from being wonderfully balanced and dead-on in size, these bits are knife edged which is ideal for those who need to make angles when they’re drilling.
This set comes with bits from ¼” to 1” in 1/8” increments and is sure to find a valued place in your shop if you can choke down the price.
While they’re billed as being by Freud, and they are made by them, this bit set is actually part of their budget line of tools which is called Diablo. Essentially, that’s why the cost is so low but they’re still high quality and made with Freud’s proprietary steel.
For smaller projects for the professional woodworker, this Forstner bit set offers an impressive value for the cost but the high price might drive off novices.
- Ultra-high grade steel
- Knife edged bits
- Good for angles
- Super sharp
- Extremely stable
- Diablo line of Freud’s tools
- No hex shaft
5. For the Professional or Serious DIYer
Freud 16 Pcs. Precision Shear Serrated Edge
Reviewed by: Max Perzon
This is the best set on our list without a doubt, but Freud’s top of the line bits are expensive. This sixteen piece set comes with sizes ranging from ¼” to 2 1/8”.
They come out of the box sharp and stay that way for a good amount of time due to Freud’s focus on the quality of their steel. They feature a wavy edge design that gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to lack of overheating and being able to still make angled holes.
As long as you treat these well they’re sure to grace your shop with amazingly accurate, precise holes for a long time.
For the professional or serious DIYer who’s beginning their journey into advanced woodworking, this is the perfect set. Novices may want to go with something a bit cheaper however.
- Razor sharp
- Wavy edged design
- Ultra-high quality steel
- 16 piece set
- Professional quality
- No included box
Using Forstner Bits
Using Forstner drill bits is a trying process, the kind of thing which leaves even seasoned woodworkers with a bit of a sense of awe. There are other bits that do comparable things, however few of them will work as precisely as a Forstner.
Essentially, they drill a flat bottomed hole with their distinctive design but their design is such that they can also be ruined quite quickly by an amateur. Let’s compare them to a couple of different tools which can be used for comparable purposes.
Forstner vs. Spade
Spades do much the same thing as a Forstner, creating a hole with a flat bottom except for the leading edge of the brad. The brad is the pointy thing at the end of the bit. While they can be used for similar purposes there’s a pretty clear difference in the quality of the hole.
A spade is much quicker, rougher, and more aggressive while a Forstner is a much more precise tool. Think of it like comparing a sawzall to a table saw. The latter can do the same job, but the table saw will do it in a much more precise, controlled, and clean manner.
Forstner vs. Hole Saw
Hole saws are generally much faster, if you’re running conduit through a 2×4 in framing or something they’re probably the better choice. They’re also easier to use with a hand held drill since they don’t need such a low speed.
On the other hand Forstner bits deliver a clean hole with a greatly reduced chance of tear out or other “mess” that a hole saw leaves behind. They’re worth the price for any kind of specialized holes you need.
So, When Do I Use a Forstner?
You’ll want to use a Forstner bit when precision and cleanliness of the cut outweighs the need for expediency. For dowel joinery there’s simply no better tool, but there is one fairly major caveat:
Forstner bits are not meant to be used with a hand held drill, instead you need a drill press with a precise speed control. If you get things going too fast you can damage the bit, sometimes irreparably.
You can use them with a steady hand and a normal drill, but it’ll be hard on the bit, your workpiece, and the drill since most of them aren’t meant to be used at low speeds. The bits also have a tendency to “skitter”, or move around the surface of the workpiece. Only use them with a hand held drill if you absolutely have to.
In all cases when you use one you need to make sure they don’t get too hot. If the bit is blued, then you just messed things up and you’re going to be looking into buying a new one and that can get pricey in a hurry.
What to Look For in a Forstner Bit
There’s really only a few things to look at with these tools. Most people who are manufacturing them know what they’re doing, these aren’t bits which are usually churned out in cheap metals meant for light DIY use since they’re so specialized.
You’ll want to know which sizes you’re planning on using. These bits can cost a lot and if you’re looking to maximize the amount of work you’ll be able to get out of them then there’s a good chance that you already have a project in mind.
While you can purchase them singly for an individual project most people will want to buy a set of them to save money and time when a future job inevitably calls for a different sizing.
Any Forstner bit worth its price will come in one of two different high grade steels. The metal is really most of the cost of the bit, once you get past the advanced machining process.
High speed steel(HSS) is the cheaper material. It will stand up to a bit more punishment than many tool steels and should be considered the bare minimum “acceptable” steel for a Forstner bit to be made out of. It’ll also cost a good bit less than the other acceptable material.
Carbide based steels are superior in their ability to hold an edge and in durability. They also cost a lot more, but if you want a super long lasting bit these are the ones to go with.
Forstners come with a few types of edging which can make a big difference in how you end up using them.
Knife edge bits cut the fastest but are prone to overheating. They have a single raised knife edge and an interruption on the rim. They’re mostly made for bits which are 1” or smaller, since the surface area will result in less friction and a smaller chance of overheating.
Wavy edges have small serrations and a little better heat dissipation. They don’t cut quite as quickly but the way the edge is made has less constant contact with the edges. They also don’t make holes as cleanly at angles, so keep that in mind.
Sawtooth bits can handle higher speeds but have some serious disadvantages. Simply put, they don’t function very well at angles and will induce a bunch of tearout. If you’re going into the wood at 90° however they’re almost ideal.
Which bit is the most advantageous for your project mostly depends on what you plan on doing and your budget. If you’re doing big pieces of joinery then wavy or sawtooth bits made of carbide steel are your best bet, but for smaller, precise projects a knife edge made of HSS should be sufficient. Don’t cheap out on your Forstners and they’ll treat you well.