How to Drill into Metals: The Right Way to Go About it

How To Drill Into Metals The Right Way To Go About It

Drilling into metals is not a routine repair activity. Instead, it is a specialized job which requires the use of appropriate drill and drill bits. If you are looking for tips on how to drill into metals, this post is for you.

How to drill into metals is a common question which frustrates most people.

Since metal is harder than most other surfaces, people often assume that the job requires the use of a powerful drill and specialized drill bits.

Although the surface is hard, drilling into metals is possible using a regular cordless drill. However, it requires the use of specialized drill bits which ensure that you get your desired result without damaging the drill and its components.

In this guide on how to drill into metals, we provide tips for the right kind of drill bits required for this job. We also provide a step by step guide on how to drill into metals.

Since different metals have varying levels of hardness, this guide will help you deal with all sorts of metals including softer metals such as copper and aluminum and harder metals such as stainless steel.

Using these steps, you will learn that working with metals is not significantly different from working with other surfaces, and is no way more complicated than any other drilling job. The tips highlighted in their article will surely help you get your drilling job done properly and more effectively.

How to Drill into Metals – The Right Drill

Drilling Into Metal with a Cordless Drills

It is important to note that drilling through metals is not very different from other surfaces.

In fact, it is much simpler; however, it requires the use of specific techniques and the use of much fewer supplies. When getting started with drilling into metals, you can choose any type of drill.

Most people assume that drilling through metals requires the use of a high power, industrial grade drill or a drill press. In reality, you can get the job done through any type of drill, including a cordless drill.

A cordless drill will provide you the advantage of portability. Using a cordless drill, you can drill anywhere without worrying about the availability of a socket.

It also provides adjustable speeds which will help you get a more accurate hole in your piece of metal. So for getting started with your drilling job in metals, all you need is a charged cordless drill.

How to Drill into Metals – The Right Drill Bits

Metal Drill

Drilling into a hard surface requires the use of specialized drill bits.

Regular drill bits are not designed to cut through metals. Therefore, they can easily wear away. So you need hard bits which can drill through metals without being damaged.

When choosing the right drill bit for drilling through metals, you need to be careful about the design and the material. Most standard drill bits used for drilling through metals are twisted. They are also called twist bits.

Always choose twist bits which have no protruding center. Instead they have two relatively flat cutting edges. Using a twist bit with a pointed center is recommended for drilling through wood. On a metallic surface, the pointed center can easily get damaged.

The next decision is about choosing the right material for drill bits.

You can classify the twisted bits into four categories. In order of price from cheapest to most expensive, the categories of drill bits are High-Speed Steel (HSS), Black Oxide, Cobalt Steel, and Titanium.

If you plan to drill fewer small holes, you can go for the cheapest HSS drill bit. They can get your drilling job done right but need to be replaced more often.

But if you plan to drill a lot of holes, want to work with harder surfaces such as stainless steel, or you simply want a drill bit which you can use for a longer period of time, you need to invest in titanium drill bit.

A titanium drill bit is more expensive, but is considered a worthy investment for all types of metallic drilling. Black oxide and cobalt steel are only slightly better than HSS in quality, but can cost almost double. Thus it is recommended that you go for titanium drill bit as it will help you in the long run.

Another drill bit which is great for drilling into metals is a step bit. Unlike the twisted drill bits recommended for drilling in metals, it is a cone shaped drill bit which can drill a variety of holes. This is typically used by professionals or people who need to drill holes of different sizes.

If you intend to drill very large holes in metal which are up to several inches in diameter, you can use a hole saw.

It is a cylindrical shaped drill bit which is ideal for soft or thin metals. A specialized hole saw is also available for drilling into harder metals such as stainless steel.

A hole saw can be easily used with a cordless drill as well. Thus you can drill holes into metals of varied diameters just by investing in the right type of drill bit.  

How to Drill into Metals Using a Cordless Drill – A Step by Step Guide

Once you have a cordless drill and the right drill bits, you are ready to get started with your drilling job. Here is a step by step guide on how to drill into metals using a cordless drill:

Step 1 – Safety First!

Metal Shaving

Unlike wood, drilling through metals does not produce sawdust. Instead it produces tiny but sharp metallic shavings.

This can be a hazard to your skin and to the eyes. Thus, it is extremely important to have the right safety gear before you start the drilling job. It is a good idea to wear safety goggles and heavy leather gloves when drilling into metals.

Another important safety rule is to clamp your work. Oftentimes, the twisted drill bits can grab the metal. If the drill bit stops in the middle, the drill’s spinning force transfers to the work piece. Therefore it is recommended that you clamp your work piece properly.

Step 2 – Make a Sacrificial Sandwich

Drilling Sandwitch

Place a scrap flat piece of wood under and above the metallic piece you are drilling into. When you start drilling, you first go through the flat wooden sheet before drilling into the metal.

When drilling into thin metallic sheets, it is important to clamp the sheet over a wooden sheet. This sacrificial sandwich will help you make a clean hole. 

Step 3 – Make a Pilot Hole

Pilot hole for drilling

Dealing with drill bits can be tricky if you are drilling through a metallic surface.

Drill bits can wander off track as soon as you start drilling so it is a good idea to make a pilot hole or dimple in the metal before you start the job. Using a nail and a hammer, you can make a small depression in the metal.

Once you start the drilling job, this tiny depression will help you keep your drill bit on track and you will end up with a clean hole straight through the metal.

Step 4 – Lubricate

Drilling through metals create a lot of friction. This friction generates heat. The heat generated in the process not only damages your drill bits, but can also damage the metal you are drilling into.

To reduce the chances of damage due to friction and heat, it is a good idea to add a few drops of oil to the metal before you start drilling.

You can use motor oil (the one you put in your car) or the 3-in-1 household oil. If you need to drill a larger hole, you can add the oil again as well. This lubrication will help reduce the friction and resulting heat.

Step 5 – Go Slowly

Special care needs to be taken when drilling into metals. You need to keep the speed and pressure low. For most drills, you should work at about half the speed.

A cordless drill provides you the advantage of working at lower speeds. Also, you need to keep the pressure moderate.

The trigger on the cordless drill also helps you maintain adequate pressure required for effective drilling through metals.

Step 6 – Stop if You Notice Smoke

Smoke from Drilling Metal

Smoke is an indication that you are drilling too fast, which is producing too much heat. As soon as you notice smoke, you should stop drilling immediately.

Allow your drill bits to cool down, add some oil, and then start again. Make sure your speed is lower this time.

Step 7 – Clean up the Hole

Hole Cleanup

Once the drilling job is done, you might notice rough edges.

To get the cleanest drill, you need to clean the hole. You can do this by simply inserting the bit in the hole manually and removing the extra metal shavings. 

End Note

Drilling into metals is a technical task, but surely not an impossible one. Using a cordless drill, the right type of drill bits, and following the protocol, you can easily drill a clean hole through any metal.

Whether you are dealing with softer metals like aluminum, or hard metals such as stainless steel, you can manage to drill a clean hole by clamping your metal and going slow and low on pressure.

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