How to Drill Through Metal

The safest way to drill holes through metal is by using a drill press, the equipment is known to cut holes through metal more accurately when compared to the standard hand drill. But what about the concept of drilling the pilot holes first and then the large holes. Pilot holes are usually used in situations where precision tolerance is necessary.

For the above, a reamer is usually used, but first, the operator will have to drill a pilot hole which is usually small in size, followed by the reamer at a slow but constant speed.

How to drill a hole through metal using a hand drill

Before drilling a hole through metal, you must have all the equipments in place, including the appropriate safety clothes. You will need a clamp that you will use to secure the piece of metal, an electric drill, a rotary hammer, or a hammer drill. You will also need a lubricant and a center punch that you will use to create an impression, which will act as a guide.

1. Identify on the metal, where you want to drill

Once you have identified the spot on the metal sheet that you want to cut a hole, take your center punch and hammer it on the spot. This will create an impression that will guide your drill bit when you start drilling. Besides, the created impression is sure to keep your drill bit on track as it can very easily wander to the other areas of the metal.

2. Apply lubricant

The next step is to apply a lubricant to the impression that you want to drill through. The lubricating oil helps to reduce friction and heat buildup and which in the long run makes drilling way easier and ensures that the bit lasts longer. Important to note is that not all types of metals use lubricant, for example, aluminum brass and cast iron, don’t necessarily need a lubricant.

3. Begin drilling

First, ensure that you have protection for your eyes, position the drill on the impression, apply some little pressure and begin drilling. Once you manage to get through the piece of metal, stop the drill, brush off the shavings and take the metal out of the clamp.

Drilling through metal, using the press drill

If you are planning to use the drill table, you must first ensure that it is cleared of other miscellaneous tools and materials. The drill bits must be sharp and the chucks in good working condition, check the speed setting and the drill type that you will use with metal. Mount the drill to the full depth, and center it into the chuck.

Adjust the feed stroke and use a clearance block, to minimize the chances of the drill bit hitting the table. When using the bit, ensure that you feed it slowly into the workpiece, more especially if you are drilling a deep hole. The operator should also ensure to draw the drill bit occasionally as he drills, to get rid of the shavings, the drill press should also be left clean after use.


  1. Mark the spot to be drilled – For precision, you will locate the hole and draw two cross lines, and with a center punch, you will make an impression to aid the drill bit.
  2. Find the correct size drill bit – Drill bits used with the drill press are not any different from the ones used with the common hand drill. You must, however, select the proper drill bit that will produce the size that you want.
  3. Find a suitable cutting fluid, such as soluble oils, semi-synthetic fluid, straight oils, or synthetic fluids.
  4. The next step is to secure the workpiece on the table. Securing the piece of metal minimizes unprecedented accidents and ensures that you achieve the perfect hole.
  5. Select the right RPM (Rotations per Minute) – the RPM must relate to the size of the material, it must complement the size of the drill bit and the depth of the hole that is to be drilled.
  6. And as you run the operation, be sure to use an interruption feed, also known as peck drilling.

The above breaks up chips that are being produced. Individuals who wish to drill holes that are larger than 3/8” in diameter must first drill a pilot hole, the holes will then be enlarged up to ¼”. When finished ensure to clean the drill press and the work areas.

Important tips to observe when drilling through metal

  • When planning to drill through metal, you can use a titanium drill bit that does not require you to use a lubricant. To identify one, check its surface and you will notice that it has a golden color finish; the drills are considered the best because they are tough and hard.
  • When drilling through hard metals such as steel, be sure to use the slowest possible speed, also if you will be using the large drill bits, the rotations per minute should be reduced.
  • The standard metal drill bits can be used on soft materials the likes of aluminum and copper. If you are working with hard types of metal then you should use titanium carbide, cobalt, or chrome vanadium.
  • For your drill bits to last longer, use lubrication because it helps to reduce friction and heat buildup. If you are looking to work on bigger projects that require bigger holes to be drilled then you will have to use a hole saw.
  • When working with metal always ensure to drill slowly, because if you drill faster, then the drill will become hot faster and will dull the drill quickly.


When it comes to drilling through metals, there are a few fundamentals to be considered such as the type and size of metal being drilled. And the type of drill bit to be used, lubricating the drilling spot is important because it helps preserve the drill bit and prevent it from becoming dull.


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Arthur Allen has been using all sorts of power tools for the last 27 years, gaining a lot of experience on how they work, how to determine what makes a power good, and becoming an expert on the subject through many years of real world trial and error. Not only is Arthur and expert in tools, but various building jobs as well.