drilling metal

Materials and Equipment


Tip: it is best to drill your holes before sawing out your pieces. This keeps you from having to try to hold on to small pieces of sharp-edged metal while drilling.
  1. Select the desired size of high-speed twist drill, and check to see that the cutting lips are sharp by rubbing your finger across the tip. If matching a drill to a specific wire size, use a drill and wire guage to more accurately measure both items. Although there are many types of drill bits, and several sizing systems to choose from, for our purposes, we'll be using numbered, high-speed twist drills.

  2. Loosen the table clamp at the back of the drill press and lower it all the way to the base. Insert the shank of the bit into the Jacob's chuck as far as it will go, and use the chuck key to finger-tighten all three holes.

  3. Accurately mark the center of the circle you wish to drill, and use a center punch or scribe to make an indentation in the metal's surface. This mark will hold the tip of the drill bit and keep it from "walking".

  4. To reduce friction, lubricate the bit with a drop of 3-in-1 oil or rub it with beeswax. Excessive friction keeps the bit from cutting cleanly, creates a buildup of heat that may damage the bit or cause you to loose control of your work-piece.

  5. Place a piece of scrap wood on the drill press table set your metal on top of the wood, and raise the table until the tip of the bit is within 1/4 inch of your work-piece. Then, tighten the table clamp.


  7. If the piece is large enough, squeeze the piece to the table of the drill press using your hand like a clamp--your thumb under the table and your fingers on top of the metal.

    If the piece is too small to safely hold with your hand, superglue or tape it to a piece of scrap wood to secure it and hold the wood instead.

  8. Align the center punch with the tip of the bit, and start the drill press. If using the DuMore press, use a slow speed, and turning the feed knob to raise the workpiece, lightly touch the metal to the tip of the bit. If the tip moves to follow the center punch, your piece is not lined up correctly. Lower the workpiece, adjust the alignment, and check again.

  9. Once the piece is aligned correctly, tighten your grip on the workpiece, increase the speed of the drill press to about half speed, and turn the feed knob to bring the workpiece in contact with the bit. Apply light pressure and gradually increase pressure until the bit begins to bite into the metal. Release the pressure and disengage the bit. This allows the bit to clear the hole of the metals shavings and allows lubricant to run back into the hole. Repeat this procedure until the bit cuts all the way through the metal.

    Let the bit do the work. It should cut fairly effortlessly through the metal. If you are bearing down or feeling it grinding, stop and troubleshootÑdoes it need more lubrication? Has the metal deformed and cupped the end of the bit? Is the drill bit you are using too big?

  10. If drilling a large hole and stepping up, repeat steps 1-9 with a slightly larger drill bit.

  11. If finished, remove the drill bit from the chuck using the chuck key, and replace it in the proper hole of the drill index. Clean up your shavings using a bench brush and dustpan.

  12. Any burrs around the hole should be removed using a file and sandpaper, or by twisting the tip of a larger bit in the hole.