Rotary Bit Vs. Button Bit

Rotary Bit Vs. Button Bit

Did you know that different types of drill bits fit a certain kind of material? Since some materials, such as rock and hardwood, are more durable and difficult to drill than other materials, certain drill bits fit the role just right. An example of these drill bits would be the rotary and button bits, which are two common drill bits used for general uses. 

So it begs the question: What’s the difference between button bits and rotary bits? You’re about to find out. Drilling is a broad topic, but we’ll narrow it down to two specific types of drills: the button bit and the rotary bit. If you’ve ever used one or both of these drill types, you may have noticed that each has its own pros and cons. In this article, we’ll explain what those are so that you can choose the right type of drill for your next project.


Diamond rotary bit
Photo credits (Rotary Bit – Diamond): InCountryValueOman

A rotary bit is a drill with 3-7 jets, called nozzles. It drills rock by breaking it apart through impact, abrasion, and crushing. You can use rotary bits in both hard rock and soft rock. In addition to drilling with a rotary drill, you can also use this bit to break up concrete or asphalt (like when you’re doing landscaping). 

Rotary drills also tend to be more efficient at getting through softer materials such as clay-like soils. This is because their rotating nozzles prevent friction between the material you cut versus pieces dropping off into surrounding spaces below.


There are a few reasons why rotary bits are more durable than button bits.

First, they’re made of more rigid materials. As their name implies, button bits have a “button” shape that wears down quickly as it bores through rock and soft soil. Rotary bits typically have nozzles that move up and down in relation to the rotation of the drill pipe. Which itself is attached to an electric motor. 

When drilling through harder rock, these nozzles rotate around the bit’s central axis. This allows them to maintain their cutting edges while also protecting them from damage caused by abrasive particles embedded in softer material like sand or mud. It’s similar to how you’d use a circular saw blade. If you were working with wood like pine or fir trees instead of metal pipes, your blade would quickly wear out its teeth over time. This is because these types of plants contain lots of tiny fibers that could damage them quite easily if allowed free access during operation. But if you used those same blades on concrete surfaces instead? Well, you get our point!


There are two significant disadvantages to rotary bits. First, they can be expensive. Second, they’re not as versatile in tight spaces because their rotating shafts need room to turn. Rotary bits also have difficulty working in hard rock and soft rock. This is because the bit tends to stick in high-friction materials like granite and limestone.

In clay or sandstone formations, you may find that the stationary portion of your drill will get stuck while trying to penetrate these types of soft rocks with even the best rotary drill head on it. This is a problem known as “pull back” or “reverse rotation” when using a standard corded drill.

Buttons are explicitly designed for drilling applications, even those with lots of friction and torque!


We all know that drilling various materials can be expensive and dangerous. The same can be said for drilling into concrete or asphalt. But thanks to the world of rotary bits, the job is more accessible and safer than ever before. In this quick guide, we’ll go over some of the most common rotary drill bits types and their best uses.

🛠️ Diamond

As mentioned, a rotary bit is a tool used to drill into various types of rock. It’s a standard piece of equipment for those who work in mining, construction, and other fields that require drilling holes into stone or Earth. Diamond rotary bits are often for drilling because they’re effective at cutting through tough, hard surfaces. These bits can be expensive. However, they cost more than traditional metal-cutting varieties.

🛠️ Reaming

You can use rotary reaming bits for a variety of purposes. They can ream holes, enlarge existing holes, create holes, create a surface, and create grooves or slots.

🛠️ PDC

A PDC rotary bit (also close as a “diamond core drill”) is a drill bit that makes use of diamonds to bore holes in hard rock, soft rock, and concrete. It does this by rotating and spinning the diamond-tipped blades in an up-and-down motion to produce a hole.

PDC rotary bits have a design specifically for drilling oil wells and mining operations. They’re also often present in construction jobs where they need to dig down deep into the Earth’s surface before making a turning motion so that they can start again at another location.

🛠️ Roller cone

The roller cone bit is a type of drill bit that is used to drill through hard rock. A roller cone on the tip helps to reduce wear and tear on the bit, making it last longer than other types of bits.

It also provides greater control over how fast you drill into the ground. This is because of its ability to create an even pressure across its face as it cuts through different kinds of Earth or stones.

🛠️ Three cone

The three-cone bit is a particular type of rotary bit that you can use in hard and soft rock, oil and gas wells, coal mines, geothermal wells, and other applications. It has three cones with chisel points that make the cut. The first cone produces a pilot hole; the second creates an enlarged diameter; and the third cuts through to create an exit hole.

🛠️ Drill rig

Drill bits are used to drill holes or bore into hard materials. You can find these bits in a variety of industries. Such industries include mining, construction, oil and gas, water treatment, food processing, manufacturing, and woodworking. Drill rigs are constructed to drill through rock or similar materials using the rotary action of the bit as it spins within a rotating assembly called a “drill collar”. The most common method for drilling is percussion drilling. This is where a heavy weight drop onto the top of the bit causes it to penetrate into whatever material is being drilled.


Rotary bits are a worthy purchase, but you need to know what you’re getting into. If you don’t have the compatible tools to use the bits with, they can be a risky investment. However, if you have the right tools and know-how to use them properly, rotary bits are an excellent way to get your project done quickly and efficiently.

While many different rotary bits are available for purchase, most people prefer using carbide-tipped bits because of their excellent durability and low cost. Carbide-tipped bits can be used with hand-held and power drills and come in different sizes depending on the kind of project you’ll be working on.

Rotary bits are beneficial if you plan to use them exclusively for softer materials such as foam. They are more suitable for these materials though you may also use them in rock and concrete. However, other options are more suited for those materials than rotary bits.


Photo credits: Agg-Net

If you work in mining, you’re familiar with button bits. These drill bits are some of the most common tools used to break up material and extract valuable elements from deep within the Earth. Buttons bits have a single carbide button attached to a durable steel body, and they come in many different sizes and configurations. 

While they aren’t complex tools, it’s vital to ensure that any bit you use has a perfect fit on a high-quality tungsten rod. Also, make sure that you adequately maintain, and replace it as needed. This is because, even though it has a carbide button on top for added strength and durability, there are weak spots at its base where other parts come into play.

🔩 Mining tool

As I said above, a button bit is a drill bit used in mining with an attached carbide button. The carbide button helps break up rock and also minimizes wear on the bit by removing dust from it. This results in longer life for the drill bit.

Tungsten rods secure button bits to the end, which extend into a metal casing or shield surrounding them. This casing helps prevent debris from damaging your work area and also protects you against flying rocks if you’re drilling near other miners’ worksites or in an unstable area where rocks might fall down from above when there’s a distraction while drilling.

🔩 Parts of button bit

The purpose of the carbide button is to aid in breaking up rock and minimizing wear on the drill bit. A tungsten carbide disk, called a ‘carbide button,’ is attached to the end of your drill bit. As you push down into the ground with your foot pedal and pull back on your handle, it creates friction between this disk and whatever geological material you’re drilling into. This friction heats up both parts of your bit until they are hot enough to easily break apart any type of rock that comes into contact with them. And then cools down again before causing severe damage to either part.

🔩 Tungsten rod

Button bits are attached to the end of tungsten rods. Tungsten is a metal that drills holes in the rock, and it’s also very strong but can be brittle. Therefore, it’s essential to use a button bit when drilling with a tungsten rod so that if the tungsten rod breaks or shatters, you will not accidentally cut yourself with sharp shards of metal!


There are many different types of button bits with varying configurations of carbide and size variations.

🔩 Carbide buttons

Brazed-on carbide buttons are recommended for their superior wear resistance for general drilling. Button bit manufacturers typically offer a choice between high-speed steel (HSS) or cubic boron nitride (CBN) buttons.

🔩 Cutter geometry

The cutter geometry used on button bits has an impact on the performance of your drill rig in soft rock conditions and hard rock conditions. This can range from chisel tips with multiple flutes to shovel bits that have an extra deep gullet design, which keeps more material off the surface as the bit removes it. In terms of sharpness, round shank cutters tend to be sharper than square shank cutters due to how they’re ground; however, both styles can still perform well when properly maintained.

🔩 Shank diameter

A larger shank diameter will provide better balance and make your drill run smoother compared to smaller diameters. However, this also means that you’ll need more torque at lower speeds. This is because there’s more resistance against rotation due to higher inertia. Your hammer will also have a harder time penetrating into stone if it doesn’t fit into tight spaces. So having too large of a diameter here could affect your ability to get through certain areas where there’s a limit in space.


A rotary bit is an excellent choice for drilling through soft, easily penetrable materials like wood, plastic, and foam. However, it’s not the best option when drilling through hard rock. In these cases, you’ll want to use a button bit instead. Button bits are more durable than rotary bits because they don’t have any moving parts inside them. The cutting action is from the pressure of the material while drilling it against the tip of the bit itself rather than turning against any internal rasping surfaces (like in a regular spade bit).

Button bits also have better thermal properties than spade bits. They can handle higher temperatures and last longer without becoming damaged or worn down over time due to excessive friction from drilling into hard rocks repeatedly throughout day-to-day usage conditions around your home, workplace, or any other location sites.


Button bits wear out over time. The best way to tell if your button bit needs a replacement is by checking the depth of your drill hole. If it isn’t going deep enough, it’s time for a new button bit. You can replace the button bits by turning the tungsten rod at an angle. This is to make the bit sits flush with the end of the rod and insert another button bit into place. If you want to learn more about how far apart these two pieces should fit together, just ask someone who knows what they’re talking about!

In addition to replacing your old button bits with shiny new ones every once in a while, we’d also recommend making sure that there aren’t any sharp edges on either part before installing them together again. This means taking some sandpaper or steel wool and rubbing down both sides until they’re smooth as silk.


Button bits are suitable for working with dense and durable materials such as rock, cement, and hardwood. However, you need to ensure that you have the proper safety equipment. And, of course, make sure you use it to prevent yourself from the risks of severe injury. We are confident you wouldn’t want to pelt your face by a barrage of cement bits while drilling.

However, as we noted above, button bits are generally more expensive than rotary bits, hurting your wallet a bit. Button bits are worth the purchase if you will use them for more durable materials exclusively. This is because they can do the job well as long as you drill it properly.

There are also alternatives that some people use, such as masonry and concrete drill bits that specialize in concrete and rocks. So if you already have these drill bits, button bits can be an alternative option, albeit a possibly more expensive one depending on the seller. 


If you’re looking to drill through rock, concrete, or other material that requires power, a button bit is a way to go. Button bits are more expensive than rotary bits, but they can handle larger pieces of material. Button bits are also significant for drilling into wood and metal because they have more teeth than a rotary bit (typically 7% more), which means they can create a cleaner hole and fewer splinters in the workpiece.

For materials like foam, rotary bits are a much more suitable choice due to their nozzles reducing the friction to the material it is drilling. They are also ideal for clay soil and certain types of wood. Though you should expect some debris from the material during the drilling process. They are also generally cheaper than button bits and you can use them for general purposes though they can’t fit some roles.

When using either type of bit, make sure to wear safety glasses and ear protection at all times, so you don’t end up with debris in your eyes or ears!


Drill bits offer a variety of uses, but there are also those with more specified roles and compatibility with certain materials. If you are having problems with finding the right option, you can always consult a handyman, a friend who’s well-versed with this kind of activity, or even just the clerks from the hardware store. Regardless, you should be able to determine which to use for what occasion. This is because the money you will spend on a drill bit that is bound to be broken because it is not compatible with your intended use cannot be taken back. 

So there you have it, the difference between rotary and button bits. Just remember: if you’re drilling a small hole to start up a water well, or even searching for gold, oil, or other valuable earth minerals, then you will want to use the hammer-like system of rotary drilling with either steel or carbide inserts. But if you need to drill larger holes (like in rock climbing!), then go ahead and use button bits.

Talking about rotary bits, check out our next blog to know if these bits are universal. Just click here!

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