All Nail Drill Bits Explained

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When I first wanted to know more about what nail drill bits to use, I was admittedly overwhelmed. Knowing your drill bits is important.

You can choose from a variety—but if you don’t know what you are doing you may end up destroying the nails or possibly even hurting your client.  

acrylic nail brush

In this post, we will go over some of the beginner bits you will need, from those that are meant to work on natural nails to those that will help you refine and finish acrylic nails.

So, without further ado, read on so I can explain.

Let’s Start at The Beginning With Nail Drill Bits

Wanting to know everything there is about a topic is tempting, but if you are new to the art of acrylic nails, it’s best to start off slowly and with the basics. The first step is to identify the types of nail drill bits and their uses.

Depending on where you are starting will directly affect which bit you need to start off with. Let’s assume that your current client is coming to you with clean, currently non-acrylic, or in other terms, natural nails. In this case, a natural nail bit should be your first choice.

What are the different nail bits used for

Great question!

This is one of the most asked questions when starting out because drill bits have a wide variety of sizes, shapes, materials, and grits which are designed for their specific uses and purposes. 

Owning high-quality nail drill bits can do a lot more than just shaving the layers of nails off from your clients. The right bits will make the job easier for you and will save you much time when working on your client.

The list below shows the different nail bits with their corresponding uses.

Natural Nail Bit

This bit is to help you prepare the nails; its purpose is to help take the shine off of the nail, to remove the dead cuticle, and to smooth the cuticle area. It is made from a synthetic rubberized soft bit.

Prepper Bit

A slim piece that is tapered with a flat top, this nail drill bit can also be used on the natural nail. Just as the name suggests, it is used to prep the nail and smooth the edges.

Mandrel Bit and Sanding Bands

The next step requires working with acrylic nails which are placed over the natural nail.

As described by Nails Magazine, sanding bands or arbor bands, are barrel-shaped bands that slip over the mandrel bit. You will want to make sure you have a new band for each person as they cannot be disinfected.

These bands are used to smooth down the acyclic nails or even remove the nails. They come in fine, medium, and/or coarse.

With the fine sanding bands, the acrylic nail will come off slower but the end result will be smoother. For the more coarse bands, the bands will help file the nail to come off quicker but the end result will be rougher.

The medium will have an in-between result.

Keep in mind that these are cheaper than carbide nail drill bits, so, if you are a beginner I highly recommend using these first until you’re more experienced.

Small and Large Barrel

As described in Nails Magazine, these bits are used for surface work, shortening of the nails, and also for backfill cutting.

Carbide Nail Drill Bits

Wellness Products describes these bits as a great tool for more advanced users; they are gold or silver coated. They are used to cut and shape acrylic nails; they are not to be used on natural nails. These also come in extra-fine, fine, medium, coarse, and extra coarse.

An extra coarse grit is best used for removing the acrylic and gel overlays and can also shorten the nail. Coarse grit is safe to use on sidewall filling and also shaping both the fingernails and the toenails.

Medium grit is a great all-purpose bit and is used to shorten acrylic nails, cut in new smile lines, and can reshape the entire surface.

Fine grit is best used to refine the entire surface and shape of the acrylic or gel nail. In the case where there is some unwanted leftover acrylic, it can help remove it.

Fine grit is also useful in “cutting in” the smile line of shorter acrylic or gel nails.

As most carbide nail drill bits are square at the tip, their purpose is to refine the surface of the nail. A tapered version will help you get deeper into the corners and around the sides.

The typical size of these bits comes in 3/32.

Ceramic Bits

On our other article here, were we go more into depth about it we talk about the pressure from the drill bit creates friction and in turn causes heat to build up, and as a result, the client may feel some discomfort.

Due to the nature of the ceramic bit, they don’t heat up in the same manner as other bits. They are also long-lasting.

Much in the same way as the carbide nail drill bits, you can purchase them in flute-like cuts with several grids, from fine to coarse. They too can be cleaned and sterilized and therefore have multiple uses.

Diamond Bits

These bits can be derived from both natural or synthetic means and are the hardest bits available.

They are used to remove the built-up product by scratching it off, but they create more dust and friction compared to the previously mentioned bits, and therefore, more heat. They also won’t rust after being disinfected.

Pedicure Bit

A pedicure bit has a distinct purpose to remove any callus on the feet. As described by Nails Magazine, it is a larger bit, cone-shaped, and has strips of diamond material for cooling. This coating material on the top cylinder also makes it easier to get to difficult spots on the toenail.

Safety Bit

Similar to the regular carbide nail drill bit, the end is not square it is rounded to help eliminate injuring a nail.

As described by Nails Magazine, the small head allows the technician to get into the groove walls as well as the cuticle of the natural nail. This bit helps to prepare the artificial nail so that it will fit precisely over the natural nail.


UNC stands for “under the nail cleaner”, it is thin and tapered and allows access to under the acrylic nail. Nails Magazine describes how you can use this bit to gently bevel the undersides without clipping the fingertip. Some nail technicians use it to puncture holes in the acrylic nail to add rings and charms.


Also known as maintenance bits, there are three types to choose: the two-week, the four-week, and the inverted backfill.

The two-week bit, 1/4 of the standard drill bit size, will remove approximately two weeks worth of growth, while the four-week bit, 1/2 of the standard bit size, will remove four weeks worth of growth.

The inverted drill bit is angled so that it is larger on top and is used when the nail technician wants to cut and remove all of the product on the tip.

5-in-1 bit

The 5-in-1 nail drill bit will simplify your job and make it easier. The best part? You can use these for all of the different needs in one go without having to change out bits! Read more here.

What nail bits to use in order

When it comes to nail bits, there are a few different types that you can use in order to prepare your nails. 

What you want to use is either a small or large barrel. If you have short nails, you’ll want to use a nail bit that is curved and has a smaller diameter. This will allow you to get into the corners of your nails more easily.

If you have long nails, on the other hand, you’ll want to use a nail bit that is straight and has a larger diameter. This will help you file your nails down more evenly.

What nail bits to use in grinding and smoothing your nails

The milling cutter bit is the perfect tool for processing gel nails, acrylics and natural nails.

Diamond nail bits can also be used to grind or smoothen out any art you do on your nails.

What nail bits are used for gel removal and cuticle preparation

There are many different types of nail bits that can be used for gel removal and cuticle preparation. 

T-Rex Bit 

The teeth of this nail drill bit give strength and efficiency in removing gel polish, gel extensions, hard gel, and acrylic nails. Its top is rounded out which helps prevent cutting any part of the cuticles.

Violet Safety Bit 

This nail drill bit is also a good option for both left and right-handed persons. This is best for nail tech beginners as it has a smooth and large top that is protective against any cuts in the cuticle in case you go far. This violet safety bit is great for refining the cuticle area and removal of gel polish. It has a less damaging effect on natural nails too.

What bits to use to remove feet calluses

Here are a few bits you can use for feet calluses:

Diamond Pedicure Cone Bit

It is used to reduce cracks and calluses on heels, and gently remove rough skin from the foot. The fine cone is great for smoothing the top of nails and is perfect for filing.

Narrow Cone Bit

Whether made from titanium aluminum nitrate or other material, a narrow cone bit is designed to reach tighter places like the nails and corners. Sanding the edges properly is important to avoid nails being caught on socks, and to keep the nails trimmed longer properly. Doing this will prevent ingrown toenails as well.

How to Clean

If you want to clean your drill bits, we have this really detailed article about how to clean them here. But the best way how to clean nail bits is by mixing a water-detergent solution or acetone and letting the bits soak into it for around 10 minutes. Dry the drill bit and store it away.

Nail Drill Bit Color Code

Nail drill bit color coding is used to indicate the size of the bit. The most common system uses two colors- a primary color and a secondary color. The primary color is used to indicate the largest bit size, while the secondary color is used to indicate the next smallest bit size.

For example, a black drill bit with a yellow band around it would represent a 7/32″ drill bit. A white drill bit with a blue band around it would represent a 1/4″ drill bit. And so on.

Nail Drill Bit Grit Guide

This image should help you determine the best grit size for your machine. This chart has different numbers and colors that correspond to different levels of coarseness.

To use it, find the number on the chart that corresponds to the thickness of your nail. The lower the number on the chart, the more coarse (or rough) the nail drill bit will be. 

Nail Drill Bit Size Guide

A nail drill bit size guide is an amazingly helpful tool to have in your kit. 

The nail drill bit size is determined by the width of the shank, not its point, so you need to measure the width of the bottom. That way if you are working out what size would be best all you do is look at which column it falls under and that tells you what’s too big for your project or too small. 

Do all nail drill bits fit all drills

Any nail bit with a shank of 3/32 inches diameter only works with nail drills that accept that size. And ⅛ inches diameter nail bit shanks only work with nail drills of specifically the same size which is 18 inches.

It may be difficult for some who are new in the industry due to a wide array of shapes and sizes. This is why this guide is a must-read for beginners to better understand things about the nail drill bits, the particular uses and functions they cannot do.

Check it Out

One of the best ways to fully understand what bits are used for what is to see each of the drill bits explained. The following video is a short presentation that clearly explains some of the basic drill bits you may want for your collection.

Where to Find Your Bits

When starting with the basics, you don’t want to get too many pieces and not know what to do with them all. I suggest starting with a smaller set. You can find them all on Amazon! 

What to Remember

Learning all the different types of nail drill bits and their uses can take time. In fact, knowing specifically the work you want to complete will help you determine which bits you need to have in your collection.

For the beginner you may want to start with:

  • A natural nail bit
  • Mandrel bit with sanding bits
  • Carbide nail drill bits
  • Safety Bit
  • UNC bit
  • Backfiller bits

Your collection can increase from this selection if you choose to expand your practice with different materials, shapes, and techniques.

Remember that you can purchase any nail-bit sets on Amazon, but there is no rush to collect all the different bits out there until you have had some time to practice first and gain some experience.

If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you. If you found this article to be informative please share it with your friends.

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