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Drill sharpeners

All the same? Things to avoid?

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Mark Gould 117/02/2020 18:51:04
185 forum posts
110 photos


I have a lot to learn and it will be some time before even my questions make it out of the Beginners section, let alone my answers.

So with this question: my father and I have a lot of drills. Some he has had for 50 years and I don’t want to replace them. I can take them to be sharpened but this in a pain in the ar$e. I have therefore been looking at a drill sharpener. Not the Drill Doctor ones but one step up from there. As with Chinese lathes etc. they come in a variety of packages and colours but are essentially the same machine. They have a lid on the front which contains a set of ER20 collets.

Can anyone tell me if this is a wise buy? Or is the Drill Doctor just as good? I looked on youtube and I must admit the DD didn’t exactly inspire me with confidence.

Thanks again all,


Edited By Mark Gould 1 on 17/02/2020 18:51:34

David Noble17/02/2020 19:13:26
137 forum posts
5 photos

Hello Mark, I'm a believer in 'the only way to learn is to have a go' With this in mind, I would suggest that you don't buy a drill sharpener but take the time to learn how to sharpen them freehand. I have never used a drill sharpener and have managed to drill lots of holes, some of them quite accurately!

Hope this helps. David

Henry Brown17/02/2020 19:17:11
149 forum posts
27 photos

There is a very extensive test of the Sealey one on here if you search...

Mick B117/02/2020 19:23:29
1435 forum posts
77 photos

If you can spare the time to put in the practice, study the angles given in various drawings of drill points, and think about creating those in a bench grinder.

I don't remember exactly how long it took me, but I think I spent about a day or maybe two in 1975 learning to grind drills offhand, and I've never really taken drill sharpeners seriously since. It's not magic, it's just a matter of understanding the intersection of curved surfaces with time and practice. A sharp eye, maybe a lip angle gauge if you need one, and a good steel rule are enough for equalising the angle and length of cutting lips, and if the swarf curls back the same down both flutes you know you're pretty close.

Put the work in, and a blunt - or even damaged - drill will never be much of an obstacle again.

Ah, I see David N's been saying the same...

Edited By Mick B1 on 17/02/2020 19:24:20

Mark Gould 117/02/2020 20:03:56
185 forum posts
110 photos

Now thats encouragement! I will give it a go. I have a decent bench grinder with good stones so any failings are squarely on me


JohnF17/02/2020 20:11:26
931 forum posts
126 photos

Mark, you don't give any indication the size range of your drills but I agree with David and Mick above its not rocket science and you can learn with a little practice to sharpen drills very effectively on and off hand grinder. If you are close enough to me - nothing on your profile ! - I would be happy to assist - I am in NW Lancashire.

I do have a machine recently re-furbished to sharpen small drills I now find difficult due to ageing eyesight ! However I used such a machine when in industry for small drills, it will handle down to No 60 or 0.5mm and up to 1/4" Look at Christen in my albums to see the machine.

Also if you put "Drill sharpen" in the forum search there is a plethora of posts -- note sharpen not sharpener, sharpening !


John Baron17/02/2020 20:11:37
169 forum posts
62 photos

Hi Mark, Guys,

If as you say, you have a decent bench grinder, then make up some simple jigs to help you with the angles. Which is what I used to do, until I made the four facet drill grinder by John Moran at "" !

Andrew Tinsley17/02/2020 20:13:02
987 forum posts

The best cheap drill sharpener I have used is a nasty plastic thing called a Plasplugs sharpener. Don't know if they are still available, but with a little care they can produce much better results than most people can achieve offhand. There are some people that can get very good results by offhand grinding. My late father was one such, but I have NOT inherited that particular skill!


Martin Thomson17/02/2020 20:33:19
9 forum posts

I grind drills in four ways:

Most common would be using my drill doctor drill grinder. I bought one a few years ago on offer for about £30 and actually it works so well, if the drill fits I grind it that way. The only downside is it doesn't do a split point grind. It wins because it's sooo easy. There are a lot of drill doctor clones now, like the one from sealey, which are probablt fine as well.

Second most common would be just grinding by hand. About 45 years ago my dad taught me how to grind a drill bit. Maybe 30 minutes of 'like this' no, left a bit, right a bit, straighter, bit higher on the wheel, etc, etc. You can't beat hands on training from someone that knew what they were doing. That was followed by being handed a big box of blunt drills, and a lot of practice. Hand ground drills are rarely perfect but with enough practice are good enough for most purposes, and it takes seconds.

Third would be a proper split point grind which I do with my own custom grinding setup which is a hybrid from eccentric engineering's plans and Harrold Hall's book. TBH, it is such a faff to setup I rarely bother. As a result I have about 20 5mm drills that get a proper split point grind. I generally start all larger drills at 5mm and work my way through the box full until they're all blunt. Then I setup and grind them all at once.

Finally, very small drills get shaped by hand with a stone. I can put a split point on small drills by hand in a couple of minutes. It is simply a matter of filing two flats that meet at the center at about 15 degrees, then another two a little further out and rotated slightly, at about 5 degrees. Again, it's just a matter of practice.

Mark Gould 117/02/2020 21:09:37
185 forum posts
110 photos


I am in the Netherlands so that won't work but many thanks for the offer. I have just been looking on youtube (where I learn most things these days) and will tackle a drill or two next week when I have some time. The range of the drills I want to keep is probably from 8mm up to 12mm.

I'll look at the site, thanks John Baron and the others who have chimed in. Much appreciated.


peak417/02/2020 21:57:32
1044 forum posts
98 photos
Posted by Mark Gould 1 on 17/02/2020 21:09:37

........................... The range of the drills I want to keep is probably from 8mm up to 12mm.

I'll look at the site, thanks John Baron and the others who have chimed in. Much appreciated.


.Mark, 8-12mm are in the fairly easy range to sharpen, not too fiddly and not needing a large specialist grinder.

Here's a post I put up a while ago, which also provides a link to the Sealey posting.

If I need a quick sharpen I often use the Sealey as it's on the shelf ready to go with no setup time.
My preferred jig is the Reliance, but when the length of a Morse drill gets too short, one can't pre-set the correct overhang as the morse taper interferes with the jig.
The genuine Picador works well, though less so with morse drills as the tapered end doesn't sit well in that end of the jig.
I've a modified Picador lookalike, which, rather than having a grove to locate the dead end of the drill, has an adjustable height centre point, that way there's nothing to interfere with the tapered end.
My plan is to make a better engineered adjustable centre height end for the genuine Picador, then I should have the best of both worlds for short taper ended drills.

I also have a genuine Potts, but really can't get the hang of the correct shape for the detent.



Edited By peak4 on 17/02/2020 22:00:56

Clive Foster17/02/2020 22:11:02
2031 forum posts
73 photos


I presume you were thinking in terms of something like this :-- **LINK** . Fairly expensive but Cutwel are suppliers to the professional engineering trade so I'd expect that their version works properly and that they can provide support.

Looks like "same" thing is £100 or so cheaper direct from China but what the relative quality is like I don't know. Various other badges too at a range of prices.

Personally I prefer the type of sharpener that works out in the open so if things don't go to plan I can see what's going on and, hopefully figure out whats wrong. I rather like the looks of the Kaindl BSG20/2 **LINK** but suspect its quite costly.

If a four facet grind will do then the Tormek dbs22 **LINK** looks as if it should do the deed.

Agree with Andrew that the nasty little plastic device in the original PlasPlugs multi-sharp set up works unreasonably well. I have a feeling that their current version is different and not so good. Its been copied by several makers. Some got the geometry wrong and don't work. Probably by being too cheap.

The Scheppach version a bit more expensive than most but looks quite well made and has the advantage of handing drills up to 10 mm diameter **LINK** . The original Plasplugs device and most of the clones only go up to 5 mm.

When it comes to the inexpensive end of the market the great thing about the PlasPlugs and derivatives is that they have a built in jig to set protrusion correctly and a flip over drill holder pretty much ensuring the drill will be ground centrally. The inexpensive Picador, General, Spiralux et al swing across the side of the wheel jigs work very well indeed when set correctly. However no setting jigs are supplied, also the drill has to be removed from the holder and flipped over to do the second edge, so getting things right can be something of an art. It doesn't help that many imported copies are made with incorrect geometry so they can never work.

Grinding by hand is fine if you do enough to keep in practice. Its not too difficult to touch up a drill but keeping the point central over successive sharpenings is a whole n'other thing. Having got the drill sharpening gizmo for my Clarkson Tool and Cutter Grinder up and running I'm steadily working my way through my (mostly) ex-toolroom collection. I'm surprised how far out the hand sharpened ones are. They look OK and the sharp ones still cut well but the professional quality Clarkson device mercilessly exposes the errors.


Clive Foster17/02/2020 22:20:22
2031 forum posts
73 photos

Further to what Bill (peak4) says in the post above my previous one I've long felt that mating a version of the PlasPlugs / Scheppach et al flip over drill carrier and projection setting jig would properly sort the major issues with the simple swing across the side of the wheel sharpeners. Add a screw feed base to set cut and use a cup wheel for something even better.

Or mount it sideways, Kaindl style, and use the wheel periphery.


duncan webster18/02/2020 03:46:33
2425 forum posts
39 photos

Get hold of a bigish drill, say 20mm and with the grinder switched off get the feel of rolling the end of the drill against the wheel. Then scribe a line on your workrest to line the drill up against and give it a go. Nothing to lose.

Edited By duncan webster on 18/02/2020 03:46:50

Mark Gould 118/02/2020 06:48:40
185 forum posts
110 photos

Bill, I've seen a couple of the Picador attachments on Ebay recently. Perhaps worth a go. Thanks for the info. I will try free handing first.

Clive, yes similar to that first one you posted. A lot of variations on a common theme. That Kaindl looks nice too but is probably eye watering expensive. The Scheppach (sounds German but isn't) one looks to similar but them a lot cheaper. I have a Scheppach 1 inch belt sander which despite its price has done a lot of good work so far. Your Clarkson sounds like the business I will dream on!

Duncan, yes, thats the plan for the moment. Thanks, scribing a line is a good idea.


thaiguzzi18/02/2020 08:01:06
648 forum posts
131 photos

I get on well with the Picador Jig types. Clones can be made to work well with a bit of work.

IanT18/02/2020 08:44:38
1437 forum posts
141 photos

I was recently given a large number of good quality (mostly Dormer) drill bits - unfortunately nearly all of them have been sharpened "off-hand" and frankly are currently useless - at least for drilling their nominal size.

I use a Picador at the moment but four-facet seems the way to go on the larger sizes - still on the TUIT list though....



not done it yet18/02/2020 09:10:30
4164 forum posts
15 photos

I sharpen my drills off-hand. I don’t even expect them to be a precise size. Tiny ones are often dumped because they break - I don’t buy the cheapest tat - but all I expect of my large ones is that they cut fairly evenly from both flutes.

We learned from an early age how to ‘tickle up’ a drill using the the two foot (or more) water cooled foot operated grindstone on the farm.

Slow and not particularly aggressive but we knew when we got it right as we were only allowed to use the large hand operated breast-drill until the single speed black & Decker (600 rpm) came along. Nothing at all like precision work, for us, back then. It was the same with mowing machine knives - Dad’s resharpening lasted much longer than our first attempts.....

Mick B118/02/2020 09:18:56
1435 forum posts
77 photos
Posted by IanT on 18/02/2020 08:44:38:

I was recently given a large number of good quality (mostly Dormer) drill bits - unfortunately nearly all of them have been sharpened "off-hand" and frankly are currently useless - at least for drilling their nominal size.

I use a Picador at the moment but four-facet seems the way to go on the larger sizes - still on the TUIT list though....



I think you missed out a word, before or after "sharpened". The word is "badly".

BOB BLACKSHAW18/02/2020 09:27:33
270 forum posts
59 photos

In the late 70s the precision sheet metal company I worked for called for drills to be sharpened at various angles for different materials and the drill was checked by inspection on the shadow graph. I got quite good at doing them up to 1/4 inch, larger where done by the cutter grinder, I've lost the skill now but still grind my drills by hand with good results.


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