How to Drill Steel – Power Tools Guides

Drilling steel is a tricky thing to do when it is one-eighth of an inch thick or thicker.  You should know what type of steel you are going to drill a hole into.  Alloy steels are a mix of different types of metal that could make them hard, ductile or other characteristics desired for the steel.  There are also low, medium and high carbon steels. Gray and white cast irons, like those used for engine blocks, are the most difficult to drill.

Aluminum and other thin sheets of steel are quite easy to drill holes on.  Make sure you use an electric drill, with at least 650 watts of power.  The drill bit should be a steel drill bit, meaning, it is the type used for steel.  Drill bits used for wood or concrete can not do the job (see our guide to router bits).  Always make sure you are using the right power tools when working.

Procedure to drill steel:

Getting Prepared to Drill

Safety First! It is advisable to always wear a safety mask or goggles when drilling steel.

  • On the steel to be drilled, punch a small dent with a nail or ice-pick.  That will be the guide for the drill bit to center on when you start drilling.
  • Lay the steel on a flat surface, preferably on top of a one-inch or thicker wooden board.
  • Check or use the right size of drill bit and make sure it is tightened enough.
  • Get ready with the drill and test it first for speed. A slow speed for wood will take time to drill and generate too much heat for both drill bit and metal.
  • Next is to position the drill bit vertically on the dent you created. Lightly pressed on the steel, pull the trigger of the electric drill for just about a second or then release it.
  • Check if it did drill a little, right on the dent. If so, proceed to drill through the steel.

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Things to Note While Drilling

While drilling through the steel, the sound has a higher pitch.

Once the drill bit has gone through the steel it will have lower pitch.  That’s the time to let go of the trigger and pull out the drill during the last turns of the drill bit.

Make sure that while drilling, you keep steady on the vertical position and keep a steady desired pressure.

For thicker steel, it would be the same process but you will have to rest the drill, once in a while, to cool off.  A drill bit that gets too hot will require more effort drilling a hole.

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Smoking Drill?

When the drill work starts to emit smoke, it means to say there is already too much heat.  Some use water to cool the work while in progress while others use oil.  This can make drilling faster with really thick and hard steel.

One point of note, make sure that blades of the drill bit tip is sharp.  Dull drill bit tips can make the work agonizing.

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Using A Bench

Those who have home bench drill apparatus can do this a lot faster and easier.  Some electric hand drills have attachments to convert them into bench drills.  Electric hand drills, used in any position, should be pressed against the steel in the best perpendicular stance.  If you have to drill at a certain angle, maintain that position.  Changing the angle can break the drill bit.

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Withdrawing the Drill

In withdrawing the drill bit, flick the trigger intermittently while pulling out the drill bit.  This way, it also helps eject bits of steel drilled off the work.

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Finishing Off Your Drilled Area

Some ductile or soft metal can leave rough edges on the rims of the hole.  You should file them off to make the surface smooth, if necessary.

Main Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/katerha/

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