How To Drill Hard Steel Video

19 responses

  1. Ronald Patterson
    September 17, 2014

    Cobalt is more expensive then a good H.S.S bit. For drilling steel like you did it will do a fine job. If you were going into something like stainless you could opt for cobalt although H.S.S. Bit would also work with the right feed and speed. Always remember not to force the drill bit. Let it do the work while applying light pressure. If you are drilling a large hole you should start out with a smaller bit and then use John Gibbs method to finish up.

  2. Lawrence Fitzgerald
    September 17, 2014

    I use a product called Hawg Wash with my rotobroach drill and it does an outstanding job of keeping the drill bit cool!

  3. Frank
    September 17, 2014

    Thanks Tim, I learn something every week.


  4. kentuckylady717
    September 17, 2014

    Sounds like good advice Tim.....I wonder how many really know this ! Passing his on to my son-in-law and his friend who does a lot of building, etc......will let you know if either of them knew this....
    Well since I know totally nothing about drilling.......I really can't comment except to say, should this come up, I will know it and can express it 🙂
    But I do want to say that is a GREAT tool bag.....would make a great Christmas present or Birthday present to someone......will pass this info around too......have a great day.....

  5. kentuckylady717
    September 17, 2014

    We could use an EDIT button on here.....meant to say this instead of his.....

  6. Doug
    September 17, 2014

    knew all this but admit when I get working, some times I forget to do what i have learned in the heat of the action.

  7. Al Lightle
    September 17, 2014


    Good tip on using the oil, as well as John's emory cloth tip. Thanks!

  8. W5EJK
    September 17, 2014

    Hey Tim,
    The tip from Mr Gibbs is one of the best I have seen in a long time. Thanks much for sharing it. I have struggled with this problem many times, and the solution is so simple.

  9. Bob
    September 17, 2014

    Good job. Use a center punch to accurately place the hole.

  10. Terry Miller
    September 17, 2014

    I forget that drilling steel, even lighter duty tin duct work requires a different bit than wood. Keeping a set of cobalt bits just for steel would be a great solution. Thanks for the great tip.

  11. Stan PHILLIPPI
    September 17, 2014

    Thanks for the tips on drilling thru steel. Will definitely use oil the next time I am drilling.

  12. Spockmcoy
    September 17, 2014

    In addition to starting with oil, I have a block of bees wax near my drills, when the bit begins to heat, I dab the warm bit on the wax and some melts to the bit, then I continue drilling. It also lubes/cools the bit.

  13. Alan
    September 17, 2014

    I knew about the oil and lower speeds. But the emery cloth idea is new, and Great!

  14. Steven Warshauer
    September 17, 2014

    In the past I haven't had a need to 'enlarge' a hole but will keep the emery cloth tip in mind if the situation arises. Good video!

  15. Robert Tingler
    September 23, 2014

    A few thoughts gained from about 60 years of learning from others:
    1. Drill a small pilot hole if drilling a 3/8" or larger hole in steel. Look at the tip of the larger bit to see how wide the very tip is. Make the pilot hole larger than the tip.
    2. Don't bother with using multiple bits to step up to the larger bit. The tip of the larger bit is not doing any of the cutting. The leading edges on the beveled part of the bit do all the cutting. Your pilot hole is relieving the larger bit's tip from trying to cut through the beginning of the hole. It is also possible to chip the cutting edge of a large bit when it enters too large of a pilot hole. An exception is if your drill or press does not have the power to efficiently get through the metal, drilling a series of larger holes can overcome this lack of power.
    3. Use sharp drill bits or you will be frustrated by not cutting into the metal while the bit starts turning colors, which means it needs to not only be resharpened, but retempered.
    4. If your drill speed is slow, you probably don't need oil or dipping in water to finish the hole, but doing so is easy to do. Fast drill speeds are ok for up to 1/4". Stainless steel is a special issue: drill speed must be much slower because heat builds up quickly and is retained by the metal. This is where lubrication to reduce heat is important and several passes of drilling in thick material is necessary.
    5. The larger bits (1/2" or more), if properly sharpened, will cast off pieces of metal, some of which may be long curled pieces. These can be dangerous if eye protection is not used AND can be dangerous if wearing gloves and a piece of metal is spinning on the bit while grabbing your glove.
    6. Smaller and sometimes larger pieces of metal being drilled in a drill press can be forcefully spun around if the bit gets stuck in the piece being drilled. Use a vise or clamp to prevent this.

    • Tim Carter
      September 23, 2014

      Great great tips Bob!

  16. Jim Duprey
    October 19, 2014

    Typical spiral, or 'twist', drills tend to GRAB onto very thin materials which can either spin the item being drilled, or violently pull the drill into the item; either of which can become dangerous.

    The 'stepped drill bit." is inexpensive, handy, and can be much safer for thin sheet metal such as found for gutters, siding, heating vents. It is a stacked series of circular shapes resulting in a cone, and has only one or two notches running straight down the full length of the cutter cone.

    1) The straight flute avoids the pulling actions and gives constant torque that only gradually increases as each successive 'step' of the cone enters the material.
    2) Nearly all are a good grade of tool steel which endures much use in cutting typical metals found in DIY jobs. Many also have a golden-colored TiN coating that lessens the need for oil or coolant.
    3) There are numerous variants of step diameters, step depth, tool steel and coating, and prices (such as multi-bit kits), so it pays to shop around and find what fits your personal needs.

    1) The cutter edge tip shape may not be suited to harder material, such as steel sheet metal. Thin items will bend if forced. This type of drill works best at enlarging an existing or 'starter' hole. Small diameter twist drills can produce the 'starter' hole, but can easily break or encounter the troubles mentioned earlier. I recommend using a special drill bit known as a 'lathe center drill' or 'lathe countersink bit' to make a 'starter' hole when none previously exists in a thin material.

    2) Step depth needs to exceed material thickness for the desired diameter of hole, so the tool is a special-purpose-purchase rather than universal use.

    3) Diameter selection is limited. A drill with longer depth steps often has fewer diameter choices, while shorter depth steps may have more finer graduations of diameter increments.

    4) ALWAYS be sure what is being drilled and BEHIND the material. The bit length travel fot the step diameter desired may send the tip to a depth which contacts something behind or inside. Be especially careful about electrical, plumbing, or 'punch-through' into items beyond the material.

  17. Jon Harris
    November 19, 2014

    These are some awesome tips! Man, I just got rid of some emory cloth! I held on to for a few years and never found a use for it, until now. Haha looks like I'll be picking up some more soon. That's how it goes, though. Thanks for all of the good suggestions!

  18. Mike Walters
    April 18, 2016

    Any advice on drilling vertically UP into a thick steel lintel?
    I need to fit blinds upwards, and the plasterboard is "only" glued to the lintel.....but it feels like my drill bits are just spinning on the steel!

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