Which drill bits do I use?

A nail drill bit is simply a nail file that is used to shape artificial nails using a rotating motion. They are attached to an electrically-motorized hand piece to perform different filing tasks to save a nail technician’s time and hand-filing efforts.

Sanding Bands

The Mandrel bit is typically made of metal or rubber. You can slip the mandrel top into the sanding band and you're good to go. Sanding bands cannot be disinfected. That is one of the reasons why sanding bands are one-use-only paper bits, so you have to change a sanding band after every client. The sanding bands are commonly used for surface work, removing gels, and pedicures. They come in various grits: coarse, medium and fine. 

Fine sanding band: is used to gently roughen up the natural nail surface to create a good bond between acrylics and natural nails.

Medium sanding band: is used to clean up the excess around the cuticles, under the nails or around the tips after acrylic application.

Coarse sanding band: is used to trim or shorten long acrylic nails during fill-ins or new full sets.


sanding band nail drill bits

Drum or barrel metal drill bits

These look like a mandrel with abrasive elements built-in. they are called differently mainly for the high-quality materials that they are made of, stainless steel, high alloy steel, carbide, tungsten carbide, diamond, ceramic just to name a few. Some are coated in gold finish.


drum nail drill bits

Like the sanding bands, metal nail drill bits usually have three basic different levels of coarseness.

Fine metal drill bits: is used mainly for smooth out the top of artificial nails. They can also be used to clean or smooth out the powder along cuticle curves.

Medium metal drill bits: is used to smooth out lumpy spots accidentally formed by acrylics, dipping powder or gel.

Coarse metal drill bits: it is very sharp so it must not be used on natural nails. Coarse metal drill bits are used to remove gel topcoat, thin down hard gels or acrylic powder on natural nails to speed up the removal process.

The edge at the tip of the coarse meta drill bit is also very sharp so it is often used to fix acrylic nail cracks.

All drum or barrel type drill bits can have a variation in which their edges at the tips are rounded off to remove the sharpness. These types of drill bits are safer to work around skin and cuticles.

Cone or Pointy Drill Bits

These types of drill bits are primarily used to clean out or remove excess acrylics or gel which deposited under the nails during their application.

cone drill bits

They can have a cone shape, pointy tip or rounded tips. They are very useful tools to remove excess under the nails because of their relatively smaller or thinner.

Drill bits for specific applications

Drill bits to remove gel polishes: the medium metal drill bit with a rounded edge is very efficient in removing the gel top coat before gel polish is soaked off or wrapped.

Which nail drill bit is best for acrylics: mandrel with three sanding band types.

Nail drill bits for dipping powder nails: mandrel with 3 types of sanding bands

Drill bits for pink and white acrylics: in addition to drill bits for doing acrylics, pink and white acrylics also have two additional drill bits. They are called two-week fill-in or four-week fill-in drill bits. As the names suggest, they are for fill-ins after two or four weeks.

How to tell if a drill bit is bad

The drill bits are bad when the shank and its head are out of line. If you can feel any vibration travel from the drill bit to the nail drill and also to the fingernail being worked on, the drill bit is no longer balanced and should be discarded.

One good practice is always remove the drill bit after use. After being cleaned, they should be store in an appropriate container to prevent accidental drops

How to clean nail drill bits

  1. If metal or ceramic nail drill bits have dried or cured gel polish, hard gel, glue or acrylics stuck on them, soaking in acetone will dissolve these nail chemicals and can be cleaned and disinfected next.
  2. Any metal utensils or equipment can be brushed clean with water and soap then sanitised with alcohol or 10% bleach solution or soaked in disinfecting solution or using an UV disinfecting light cabinet.

After you have mastered the mandrel drill bits and become more experienced you will find it easier to pick out the right drill bits for each purpose. Each nail technician develops their own way of working and have their own preferences so there are no one size fits all. Happy drilling!

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