I have some drill bits that as far as I know have only been used in a hand-powered drill. They are at least 15 years old, maximum 40 years.

Can I use them in an electric/power drill? If the answer is "it depends", is there some way to tell? And if I get it wrong and something bad happens, will that bad thing be disastrous, or merely cause damage to the bit? (i.e. if the answer is that the bit might shatter and blow up the drill and I'm shrapneled with little pieces of metal, I won't try it...)

If this seems like an stupid question - my idea is that the metal might not be hard enough or something to stand up to the greater strain/pressure/speed/??, but I don't know if that is a thing.

The photo is of the ones I have at my house at the moment - there are more at my Mum's (they were Dad's) but they are the same general type. drill bits in question

  • Can you post a photo of these bits? Are they flat style wood bits, or "spiral" metal bits?
    – Johnny
    Jan 22, 2016 at 4:45
  • Do they have "HSS" stamped faintly on the plain end? Certainly OK for wood. Might benefit from sharpening on a grinder. Jan 22, 2016 at 9:50

2 Answers 2


As RedGrittyBrick mentioned, the bits should be stamped "HSS" on the blank bit of the drill where the chuck would grip it. The only other thing is if someone has reground it to cut another material (i.e., put a negative rake on the cutting face), but you would easily see this if it has been ground.

The age will not matter--I am a 60 year old toolmaker and I still use drills from when I was an apprentice.


If they are HSS quality bits they would still be usable. Try by first drilling into wood. Then use a drop of oil and try on an aluminum block.

Old bits are of great help with wood and plastics. Rarely would they break up and damage anything as long as you take care. Wear safety goggles.

By the way...as they cost a bomb in India, I regrind broken bits and temper them again for general workshop use. With care the bits in the picture would last you a lifetime. I still use an ancient HSS 1/8 that has stood by me over the last 30 years! Hope this helps....

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