Different Nail Bits Explained

You are probably here because you recently started using an electric nail file. While it’s a convenient electronic tool, it’s good for you to be informed when using such an appliance. 

A nail bit is a tool you can use to shape artificial nails through a rotating motion. Usually, a user attaches a nail bit to an electronic handpiece with a motor and can perform various types of filing. 

However, there is more to such tools, and this nail bit grit guide will be looking at all relevant factors for you to consider:

What is a Nail Bit?

nail drill bits for natural nails

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It refers to a tool that features two sections that sit adjacent to each other. These are the shank and its head, with the former unit having a small cylindrical rod compared to the head. The traditional nail bit size averages between ⅛ or 3/32 inches in diameter. 

The ⅛ shanks are common in old drill models, while the 3/32 types are common in portable or table nail bits. The origins of nail bits relate to the traditional functions of drill bits, which are common in applications that involve wood or plastic materials. 

The first well-known drill bit to be used on the nails was a type that featured a cylindrical rod with a sanding surface attached to the main unit. With that, you should have all your e-file bits explained!

Nail Drilling Bit Materials

Below is a list of some of the materials that you are likely to come across in the common nail drilling bits:

Material #1. Mandrel Bits and Sanding Bats

nail drill bit grit guide

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Mandrel bits feature a specialized rubber or metal material, which has a cylindrical shape or structure. Such a unique design helps to make the sanding bands slip easily onto the mandrel tip. 

However, it’s impossible to reuse sanding bands, and even disinfection is impossible. Sanding bands are also available in various types, with most brands creating their products based on customers’ needs. 

The traditional sanding band is available in the form of fine, medium, and coarse surfaces. It works for surface work, gel removal, and basic pedicure procedures. 

Material #2. Gold/Silver Carbide Bits

which nail drill bit to use for cuticles

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There are various carbide bit types, with all of them featuring carbide metal structures for longevity. Each carbide nail drill bit features flute-like cuts that work well to shave off products with exceptional results. 

The flute cut size also impacts the grit size of the bit. The deeper and larger cuts tend to have a coarser grit level. However, the shallow cuts tend to have fine grit structures. 

However, unlike mandrel bits, nail product users can clean the carbide bits. Usually, carbine bits are common among nail technicians and people that want a drill bit to smoothen acrylic nails.

Material #3. Ceramic Bits 

Like gold or silver carbide bits, the ceramic coated types have longevity and a flute-like cut showing each unit’s grit level. You should also realize the ceramic nail drill bit pros and cons indicate ceramic bits are generally reliable.

They are also reusable and easy to disinfect after each nail product application process. Many people also like ceramic types as reliable nail drill bits for natural nails.

The ceramic bits also produce small amounts of heat, which makes them ideal for different nail product application processes.

What are the Common Shapes and Applications of Nail Drill Bits?

The traditional nail bit supports various sizes and shapes, making it ideal for different applications. Each nail drill bit can perform a different function, so the guide below should identify all the common types to consider:

Large and Small Bits 

We can find the bare bits in this category, which many nail professionals and technicians use for backfill cutting, and shortening procedures. 

However, it’s not often suitable for use on the cuticle area because of the damage it can cause. Users of the large and small bits must practice caution to avoid damaging the nails.

Cuticle and Sidewall Cleaner Bit 

So, you are wondering which nail drill bit to use for cuticles?

The cuticle cleaner is ideal for maintaining the cuticles, especially after applying products such as gel or acrylic nails. The role of this unit is to help prepare the cuticle area for a new product application. 

Since it is machine operated, this bit will provide high levels of efficiency in cleaning such a delicate section of the nails.

Cone Bit 

what drill bit to smooth acrylic nails

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The cone bit is applicable for various functions. Users mainly apply it for cleaning the sidewalls, cuticle area, and nails. While the cone bit is also applicable over the nail for shaping purposes, it requires a delicate approach to its usage.

Why? The reason is that its works the same way as the large bits, which can easily cause damage to the sidewalls and cuticles.

Tapered Barrel

These refer to bits that have almost the same shape as the cone bits but tend to be shorter and have a smaller top section. 

The most common application of these bits involves working on the nail bed and delicate nail sections, such as the sidewall. Again, like the other notable mentions in this list, it’s worth noting that using these tools requires an informed process. 

Safety Bit 

These refer to bits suitable for handling the delicate structures of the nail. If you are one of those people that have struggled with weak cuticles or sidewalls, then this product is ideal for your needs. Safety bits have a rounded top and are available in different sizes or shapes. They also work well for performing in fill cuticle functions.

Mandrel Bit 

Even though these types typically feature metal or rubber, they are only applicable when using sanding bands when shaping the nails. 

However, most brands recommend that users should “NOT” sand their nails excessively. 

Why? The reason is that excessive sanding leads to significant damage to the structure of the nail plate.

Flame Bit 

These are the nail bit types that people commonly use to remove the collection of cuticles on the nail and to remove any remaining debris. 

These bits get their name from being able to perform a stellar job cleaning the nails and for hygiene purposes. You can even get brands to create customized types to ensure the best results. 

Ball Shape Bit 

As the name suggests, this bit features a ball structure that removes the hard skin sections around the nail. It can also work well to remove loose cuticles around the nails.

Maintenance Bits

Each maintenance or backfill bit works well to replace the white tip powder products when redoing the smile line on nails. 

Guide for Choosing the Best Drill Bit

ceramic nail drill bit pros and cons

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Are you looking to purchase a drill bit soon for your nail care needs? Well, this guide provides information for choosing the best drill bit for your needs. 

With an informed approach, this process will become easy, and here are some of the things we recommend for you:

Shank Sizes

Usually, the average size of traditional file averages at ⅛ inches and might not be compatible with a professional electrical file. 

However, expect the metric size for the professional electric file types to average at about 3/32”. We recommend you look at this youtube video on how to change the bit on a nail drill for more information.


A drill bit’s grit level is also crucial; you should find it simple to determine its average size. However, evaluate the number of abrasive partials in each square inch because its a convenient way of determining such a metric . A good example would be that large partials on coarse bits tend to have a small grit level.

Bit Quality

Once you have identified the above metrics focus on the quality your preferred drill bit can provide. 

Even though it seems convenient to invest in lower-quality bits, they tend to be costly to use and might not be suitable for delicate nails. Plus, drill bits have a life span, so you may need a replacement after a few weeks. 


How to Clean and Store Nail Drill Bits?

carbide nail drill bits

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While nail drill bits are helpful resources for cleaning the nails, you must also ensure you clean and store them correctly. Below is the in-depth guide for cleaning and maintaining your drill bits:

  1. Start by cleaning your drill bits in a hot and salt water bowl and scrubbing with a brush until it frees all the debris. 
  2. Soak the metal sections of your drill in some disinfectant for a few minutes. Be careful with this process so that you don’t cause damage to the other sections of the drill bit. 
  3. Set your nail drill bits in a cool and dry area for storage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Are the Different Nail Drill Bits Used For?

The different nail bits are applicable for maintaining the nails, especially after using products such as acrylics. There are various drill bits, each with a unique and specific user application.

What Do the Colors on Nail Drill Bits Mean?

The colors on drill bits usually indicate various aspects and functionalities. The yellow color is X fine, red is fine, green refers to coarse, black is extra coarse, and blue is medium. Usually, most drill brands use these color codes to indicate specific functions of drill bits.

What Are All the Different Types of Drill Bits?

There are various types of drill bits, with the most common types including the mandrel, flame, safety, and cone bits. Each drill bit performs a specific user function and can provide particular nail care results.

Which Nail Drill Bits Are Best?

There are different types of drill bit brands and types that are best for nail care applications. The best type depends on your preferences, the nail care result you need, and various other factors. 

What Drill Bit Is Best for Removing Gel Polish?

The Tungsten Coarse Dust a Side Nail Drill Bit is the best recommendation based on our research. It features a right-hand side with a sharper pattern for convenient removal. It also features a left-hand side with a smoother pattern for safe gel polish removal.

What Nail Drill Bit Do You Use to Remove Acrylic?

The most common nail drill bit features the types made using carbine materials. It means that these drills provide longevity and can work exceptionally well on different surfaces. However, they are challenging to use and are common among nail technicians.

Drill bits are gamechangers when it comes to making nail care conveneint, especially if you tend to use products such as gel tips regularly. However, ensure you learn more about drill bits, and choosing the right type for your needs.

Katharyn Riedel

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