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15 Steps To Drill Into Metal: A Complete & Easy Guide

Being an enthusiast at managing small home maintenance chores requires you to know how to drill into metal. Guiding your drill bit on metal is not challenging, but only if you know the proper steps and tips before choosing your drill machine and bits.

Want to make a perfect and clean hole in metal without facing any hassle? This article is all for you.

Step 1: Select The Right Drill Bit

Most of the time, we forget the basic steps before drilling into metal. By focusing on the small details, you can quickly drill into metals. The most important thing that you have to know first is to understand which drill bit is for metal? Not every drill bit is sufficient for metal. For drilling through metal, you have to choose heavy-duty drill bits. Different metal drill bits are based on metal, i.e., heavy metals or light metals.

Types of Drill Bits

Typically, there are about two drill bits that can be used for metals, including titanium drill bits and cobalt drill bits. 

These drill bits dissipate heat and hold high resistance to abrasions. Thus, these are considered the best drill bits to drill through metal.

Generally, people get confused while choosing drill bits for metal. You can quickly tell if a drill bit is for metal by checking the degree angle. Bits that are designed for metal are different from the ones for wood.

These bits hold flutes that can make tappers to 118 and 135-degree angles. These bits are slightly different but do an excellent job for metal drilling.

drill into metal

Gold drill bits are also used for drilling into metal. These drill bits are known as gold drill bits because they hold golden color and are more durable.

One important thing is that you can use metal drill bits for drilling into woods, fiberglass, or PVC., but the results won’t be so good due to the way these bits are made. These drill bits are designed for drilling through hard metals.

Step 2: Select The Right Drill Machine

Done with choosing the right drill bits to drill into metal? The next important step is to find a suitable drill machine that could be parallel for drilling holes into metal. Maybe the same in physical appearance, but drill machines for metal are slightly different from wood and fiberglass.

Drilling through metal is different compared to drilling through the soft material. Different types of drill bits are required to drill a hole in metal. For effectively understanding how to drill into metals, make sure to go for a suitable drill machine.

Ideal Drill Machine For Metal

Ideally, the Black & Decker KR554RE 550-Watt 13mm Drill machine is the best choice to drill into metal. It effectively drills a perfect size of the hole into hard metal and concrete. The important thing about this machine is that it holds a reverse function feature for screwing applications.

Drilling into metal is not as easy as drilling through a wall. Drill bits for metals are expensive and require a complete beforehand knowledge that if a drill can go through metal or not.

Cordless Drill For Metal

You can also drill through metal using a hand drill machine. High power drill machines are ideal to drill into metals, but if you’re an expert dealing with a drilling machine, you can also go for a cordless drill.

You can drill through metal with 12V. Primarily, it works perfectly for drilling a hole through metal. To drill into metal, power is a necessity. For cordless drill machines, voltage is the power. Thus, higher voltage is equal to more power and easy to drill into hard metals.

Handpress Drill

You can also use a hand press drill for drilling through complex substances, including metal, wood, and plastic. You can use different drill bits according to the size or diameter of the hole you want to drill. But you can only use a drill press for the workpiece clamped on a table in a fixed position.

Step 3: Go Safe With Drilling into Metal

For whatever type of drilling you’re going to perform, it is essential to take extra care of your wellbeing. While drilling through metal, you have to be extra careful about your sensitive and exposed body organs, i.e., eyes.

Personal Safety Equipments

While drilling into metal, you have to protect yourself from the tiny shavings produced during drilling. These shavings are sharp and can cause severe hazards to your eyes and particularly to your eyes.

Make sure to have a pair of safety gloves and goggles to protect your hands and eyes. You can use general safety goggles for your eyes and leather gloves for your hands. Don’t compromise on your safety before going to drill into metals.

My favorite list of safety gear. You may not need all of them.

1. Dewalt Safety Glasses
2. Latex Double Coated work gloves
3. 3M professional Dust Respirator
4. Dewalt Industrial Grade Ear Protection
5. 3M Hard Hat
6. Caterpillar Steel Toe Industrial Boot
7. First Aid Kit
8. Fall Protection Kit

Step 4: Secure the work piece properly

You can quickly drill into metal safely by following the complete safety protocol. Before drilling through metal, make sure it is secured in its place. It is essential to secure your workpiece, so you can drill on the exact spot where you want to.

You can use clamps or vices to secure your metal workpiece before drilling. Make sure you are not using your hand to hold the metal or your workpiece by hand. You can experience severe hand damage or injury if you try to stop the rotation of the chuck or spindle using your hand.

Use Proper Drill Press Tools

Different clamps and drill press vice are commonly available to secure the metal piece. These drill press tools are used as work-holding devices and are designed to support different metal shapes, i.e., round stock, flat stock, and flat.

Clamping the workpiece is essential because the drill could not wander off and couldn’t cause damage to the drill machine operator or the whole workpiece. Make sure you have clamp straps, as possible as parallel to the base point.

Suitable Clamp For Metal Drilling

Different types of clamp straps can be used for various kinds of drillings. While completely understanding how to drill into metal, choose the clamp straps that work well with your workpiece.

Sheet metal clamps are ideal for working with a metal piece or metal sheets. These clamps offer a wider surface area at the clamp jaw to make them perfect for securing metal sheets.

Most effective and cheap clamps include the following;

  1. Strong hand drill press clamp.
  2. Build pro toggel clamp.
  3. Center it drill jig.
  4. Sheet metal clamp.

Step 5: Use A Center Punch

Sometimes people experience wandering of the drill bit while drilling into metal. This can cause problems and obstacles in drilling a right hole on metal. A center punch or nail set is used to avoid this wandering off of a drill bit.

You can easily guide your drill by making a small dent on the metal where you want to drill a hole with the help of a center punch. Use a small nail, press it on the position where you want to create a hole, use a hammer to make a dent.

Make A Dimple on Metal

It is not necessary to have a center punch while drilling into metal only if you’re experienced in using the drill machines ideally. Generally, using a center punch is considered a good professional practice to demonstrate how to drill into metal.

You can create a dimpled hole into the metal to measure and mark the exact point where you want to drill.

Center punch acts as a small indicator to guide you to the exact position to drill a hole. Pro-tip is, be wise and get your drill bit in the same position before making an actual hole on your workpiece.

Step 6: Use A Sacrificial Board

Want to drill a clean hole into metal? Make sure you do it in proper ways. While using different clamps and vice to hold the workpiece in the same position, you still need a sacrificial board to drill a clean hole.

The sacrificial board is a type of flat piece of wood that you can place on your metal workpiece before drilling a hole. You can either place your sacrificial board on or under the metal piece. The purpose of using a sacrificial board is to ensure that the hole will not be messed up by the drill bit.

Make A Wood Sandwich

The best way to drill a neat hole in your metal workpiece is to use a wood sandwich. You can use two flat pieces of wood, one for the upper side and one for the underside. Fit your metal sheet between the two wood pieces and clamp it on your workbench.

This will also help keep the metal sheet flat and prevent the drill bit from wandering off to create a clean and compact hole. The drill bit will bore a concise hole on the metal sheet without making any extra hassle.

Step 7: Make A Pilot Hole

Have not much experience with how to drill into metal? It could be tricky to deal with drill bits because metallic surfaces are generally slippery, unlike woody surfaces; creating a pilot hole on the metal surface before drilling an actual hole could be very helpful.

Drilling into metal requires making a pilot hole. You need to create a dimple or pilot hole for sheet metal screws unless the metal screws are self-tapping. To make the whole process of how to drill into metal, you need to create a pilot hole before drilling an actual hole.

Need Of Pilot Hole

To drill a hole into metal, the most significant effort is to prevent the slip of your drill bits from the exact point on metal. You may or may not need to make a pilot hole. It depends on the type of metal you want to drill in.

You can make a small pilot hole if you’re using a hand drill machine and require a good size hole in your metal workpiece. If you’re using a cordless drill machine and need a small hole, you can skip the pilot hole and go directly for drilling the actual hole.

The Lo-Drive & Tri-Rounded recommended pilot hole size in Inch Screw diameter. The size of the hole also depends on the thickness of the metal sheet. For 4-40 Screw Size-TPI, recommended hole diameter is 0.0960” with a drill bit size of #41.

Step 8: Making Right Size of Hole

Want to drill a custom-sized hole in metal? Make sure to start with a small size of the hole. Starting from small to the correct size has always been a good tip in drilling procedures. In that way, you can easily understand the size of the hole.

Along with the size of the hole, you also need to pay extra attention to the speed of the drill bit. Metal requires a different range of speed depending on the drill machine you are using.

Right Size Of Hole For Metal

Drilling the right size of the hole depends on several facts. Primarily, two things matter while drilling a hole into metal, including the diameter of the hole and depth of the hole. It depends on the type of metal and the drill machine you’re using.

The size of the hole diameter should also complement the bit size number. For hard metal, the drill bit requires a low speed of drilling. Make sure to drill a hole right at the dimple or pilot hole.

Step 9: Don’t Forget to Lubricate

For every type of drilling, lubrication is the most crucial part. Metals are hard in nature and require extra force and power. To drill into metal, you have to use a decent amount of lubrication. You also have to follow a patron while lubricating and drilling.

You can drill for 10 seconds and then let the drill bit cool down and lubricate the hole. Again drills for 10 seconds and follows the complete process. If you don’t know about the type of metal, then cobalt drill bits are the best option.

Type Of Lubrication

You can use any oil to lubricate the hole before going to drill into metal. Different range oils are used to lubricate. Mostly, motor oils, machine oils, ATF, and WD-40 are common oils used for lubrication to drill into metal.

While using lubricating oil, make sure to use an oil that meets the standard guidelines. Because using a random oil can contaminate the hole. Don’t use oil that could be supper flammable or have a low flash temperature.

Step 10: Balancing Drilling Speed

Drilling speed is essential to drill a hole of your desired size. Usually, hard metal needs low drilling speed. Drill into the metal using small twist bits or significant twist bits. You can drill a hole into most metals for small twist bits at 3000 rpm.

For more significant twist bits, you can use a drilling speed of 350 to 1000 rpm to make a custom-sized hole. Steel and aluminum require different drilling speeds. Ideally, you can drill into steel using a speed between 700 to 1000 rpm and use up to 2000 rpm for aluminum.

Torque range also depends on the type of metal. You can drill a custom hole into hard metal using a slow drilling speed. With low rpm, the torque range is meant to be high, and with high rpm, the torque range is low.

Step 11: Don’t Touch Hot Drill Bits or Work Piece

Remember, your protection should always be the main priority. Drilling in any material works on the same principle. Friction produces when the drill bill cuts the edge and hole. This friction leads up to produce heat.

After drilling, the workpiece and drill bits both heat up. Don’t touch them both with bare hands and let it cool down for a bit. For drilling into steel, oil and water mix is generally used to prevent the workpiece from getting too hot.

Shavings produced as a result of drilling. You have to clean the hole properly to get a perfect hole. But make sure you don’t try to remove the shavings right after drilling. Drilling with an electric drill machine, you have to be careful while applying power.

If you put extra pressure or use a blunt drill bit, the drill can overheat or burn out. You can cool down the drill bits by dipping them in cold water for a few minutes.

Step 12: Final Touches to Deburr The Hole

After completing your drill into metal, you have to deburr the hole. The shavings and left burn out remain in the drilled hole. You have to clean it using deburr tool. Deburring the hole can be performed in different ways.

You can use a deburring tool or a larger drill bit to remove the shavings from the drilled hole. Use a larger drill bit than the hole and twist it for one or two rotations with your hand to deburr the hole.

Drill into metal

Professional handymen use different deburring tools for deburring the drilled hole manually. But if you are using a drill bit, make sure not to go deep to protect the workpiece.

Step 13: How Long Before You Change the Drill Bit

The selection of drill bits depends on the nature of the workpiece. The life of a drill bit depends on several factors, including the sharpness of the drill bit and the metal or workpiece material. On average, a drill bit can make between 150 to 250 holes before you have to change the drill bit.

Changing a drill bit can be easy, but you have to follow the complete method. Grab the chuck and loosen it a bit to remove the screw bit. Place the drill bit you want to use and tighten it in the drilling machine.

Step 14: When to Use Lathe Machine to Drill Into Metal

You can use a lathe machine to drill into metal by making a few adjustments. Use drill chuck attachment to adjust your desired drill bits. Usually, a lathe machine is not used for drilling. Mainly it is used for turning, reaming, knurling, and threading.

Lathe machines offer help in shaping the metal workpiece. You can remove unwanted metal from your workpiece and rotate the metal around the stationary cutting tool.

Step 15: Drilling Threads in Metal

Drilling into a metal can be performed easily by following the standard protocols. Once you successfully drilled a hole, next you have to perform tapping. Tapping is a process through which you can make threads in the hole so it can easily accommodate a screw.

You can tap threads in metal easily by using a cordless drill machine. Just make sure to follow the right steps to get the job done without any hassle. You can choose tap of your required lead size and fix it in your drill machine,

The important thing is the torque setting so make sure to set it at a number around three so you can easily stop the machine. Put the drill machine at low speed in forward gear so it could move in a clockwise direction. Apply tapping fluid on the hole and make sure that the drill goes right through the hole.

Without applying any pressure, slowly press the trigger and make threads. After a few threads, use the drill in reverse and come out again to use the drill in forward direction. You will successfully make threads in the metal. Make sure don’t go all the way through the hole or else tap will be jammed and may break

There are different types of screws available including self-tapping and self-drilling screws. The former one is designed for pre-drilled holes while the latter one is designed for wood or other soft materials.