Metal drilling isn’t especially difficult, but it will go far more smoothly if you know the best techniques and procedures. Even though there’s no substitute for experience, a little knowledge beforehand will help you.
Following these five simple tips will prevent you from making avoidable mistakes and keep your project on the right track.
1. Use a Vise
If possible, use a vise to secure the metal you’re going to drill. If that’s not possible, you need to have some means of keeping the metal stable so that it won’t move, as you’ll need both hands to operate the drill properly.
2. Punch Holes First
You’ll achieve a much more accurate hole when metal drilling if you punch the hole first. This eliminates the possibility of the drill slipping on the metal, putting the hole in the wrong place. The punched hole doesn’t need to be large. It just needs to be big enough for the tip of the drill. This will act as a guide and will help ensure that you have a straight hole.
3. Control the Drill Speed
Much of the time you need to drill slowly, as this gives more control and allows you to hold the drill more steadily. Because it’s easy for metal surfaces to buckle, the control is important. As a general rule, you should never go faster than the middle speed when metal drilling. Going more slowly is also safer as the drill is less likely to slip and cause an injury.
4. Select the Right Drill Bits
Knowing the correct bits to use when metal drilling will make the job a great deal easier. For soft metals, you should ideally use a step drill bit or a cone drill bit for the best results. Both of these allow you to drill to different diameters; it all depends how deep you drill. Where you’re not using one of these types of drill bits, start with a thin bit and work up to larger ones to increase the hole's diameter.
High speed steel (HSS) drill bits are excellent for drilling metal. They’re coated with aluminum nitride so that they power their way through. Generally, these will be gold colored, so make sure you buy a real one, not a fake. The only warning is that you should not use these drill bits on aluminum. The coating can easily end up welded to the metal.
Cobalt and Carbide Bits
If the metal drilling involves heavier metals, try using a cobalt bit on the drill. This is stronger than HSS. With hard steel, go for a carbide bit, which is about the hardest bit of all.
5. Put Safety First
You should never drill metal without having proper safety equipment. Safety goggles, not glasses, are vital to stop small slivers of metal from entering your eyes; the glasses don’t offer adequate protection.
Gloves also help to protect your hands, although they’re not always compatible with the kind of fine control you need when metal drilling. Whenever possible, you should wear them.