How to Drill through Stainless Steel?
Looking to work on a DIY project and you need to drill a few holes on stainless steel? It can be a bit daunting at first we understand. If this is your first attempt then welcome and we’re glad to share bits of our knowledge to help you out.
Knowing your materials both the tool and the stainless steel is key to make things easier. If you’re a seasoned mechanic then this should be a good review to polish up those skills.
This is a step by step guide on how to drill through stainless steel. Let’s get to it!
Know your drill bits
Knowing your drill bit is key to be effective at drilling on any material including stainless steel.
High-Speed Steel (HSS)
HSS or what is known as High-Speed Steel is quite a popular material that is good for drilling soft steels, wood, and also plastic. It is an economical solution for a variety of maintenance drilling applications.
Cobalt or HSCO is considered as an upgrade from traditional HSS because it is infused with 5-8% Cobalt that is blended into the base material. This makes it a great option for drilling harder steel and most especially stainless steel grades.
Carb or Carbide is probably the hardest and most brittle of all drill bit materials. It is mostly utilized for various production drilling where high-quality equipment and tool-holder is utilized. It is not suited for hand drills or drill presses. Carbide drill bits are designed for demanding and also the hardest materials.
Black Oxide drill bits,on the other hand, are madefrom heating High-speed steel to 950 degrees Fahrenheit. This yields a black oxide finish that can resist rust and also corrosion. It also reduces friction between a bit and the material, and this in turn speeds up any drilling process.
Titanium Nitride (TiN)
TiN or Titanium Nitrideis one of the hardest ceramic material there is and that property protects the steel bit for long performance life. The drill bit features regular 118 degrees tips for drilling inmetal, plastic, wood, and a variety of other materials.
Understanding stainless steel
There has been a bit of confusion that stainless steel is quite a hard material and that to drill a hole into it you need to set your drill to its highest speed setting or maybe you need to use the toughest drill bit to do so. Well, it turns out, that is not entirely the case. So what is stainless steel and how do we deal with it?
Stainless steel is aniron alloy with a 10.5% Chromium minimum. Chromium creates a thin layer of oxide on the steel surface that is known as the passive layer. This passive layer prevents further corrosion of its surface. As the amount of Chromium increases, it gives an increased corrosion resistance too.
Stainless steel may also contain varying amounts ofSilicon, Carbon, and Manganese. Other elements added to it are Nickel and also Molybdenum which enhancesits formability and much-needed corrosion resistance. More about how to handle stainless steel on our main section next!
How to drill through stainless steel ?
We’ve come to the meat of our discussion this is where we talk about step by step on how to drill through stainless steel.
Caution: It only takes one tiny metal fragment to cause a serious eye injury, so proper eye protection when drilling metal is an absolute must. For the best protection, choose safety glasses that wrap around the sides of your face.
Drill bits will not stay in place if you don’t make a dimple at first when you start drilling. So, measure and mark where you want the hole and use a hammer and a center punch to make a dimple. This technique keeps the drill bit in place.
A misconception is that you need expensive and higher grade drill bits to do the job for stainless steel but no, your standard HSS drill bit should be more than enough.
Lubricate! Utilize a cutting fluid or multipurpose oil tolubricateyour drill bit and reduce friction as well as heat buildup. This naturally will make drilling easier and as a bonus will make your bits last even longer.
Start small when you need a bigger hole.Twist bits come in sizes of up to an inch in diameter, but the best results are achieved when starting with a quarter-inch hole. Drill successively larger holes for metal until you get the size you want.
After successfully drilling a hole in your stainless steel material, it’s always a good idea to take care of any sharp edges left behind. You can cheaply accomplish this by using a twist bit that is slightly larger in diameter than the drill bit you just used. Then gently just hand-twist it on top of the hole. This should smooth out all the edges of the hole and you can grind away any burrs left.
Again, it’s always a misconception that since stainless steel is hard then you need to drill at high-speed. But in reality, the faster the bit spins then the hotter it can get. Stainless steel is soft at its initial state but when it gets hotter is also gets harder, get the picture?
Stainless steel requires low speed to effectively drill a hole to it.
Lastly, you can use a drill press. Sure, a handheld will do the job but a drill press will yield better accurate results. Drill presses are built with metalworking in consideration, so it is perfect for the job.
Other things to remember:
- Clamps will prevent stitches due to mishaps. Never ever hold the metal you are working on in one hand and at the same time drill with it with the other.
- Hole saws will cut bigger holes, it will get the job done cleanly and quickly.
- Make a wood sandwich for clean and precise holes when working with thin sheet metal.
And that’s how to drill through stainless steel! We hope you enjoyed our mini-guide and get that project started or going. Remember, always observe safety practices and most of all — have fun!