How hard can it be to drill a decent hole??


Old 12-28-05, 10:42 PM
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How hard can it be to drill a decent hole??

So I'm out in my shop, cutting, welding, things are going just fine. Then I have to drill a couple of 1/2" holes in 1/8" steel (an old bedframe actually). Try as I may, I can drill that hole for the life of me. I went to Home Depot, paid $13 for a metal bit and it didn't drill at all. Went back, returned the junk bit and bought the best (and most expensive) bit they carried. $18. The new bit drills great for the first little bit until the full width of the bit meets the metal, then it stops drilling. Grrrrrrrrrrr. Now, I must be missing something pretty basic somewhere, because drilling in steel is a pretty basic thing to do. Are there any specific brands of bits I should be looking for?? Is there something else I should be doing?? I know this sounds dumb, but I figure that's what these forums are for. Getting good answers to dumb questions. Thanks!
Old 12-29-05, 03:11 AM
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Bedframes are super hard. Try drilling a small pilot hole first. A drill press will help if you have one.
Old 12-29-05, 03:57 AM
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You are probably spinning the bit too fast.

Some things that work better for large diameter holes in metal:

Unibit (step bit)

Annular cutter
Old 12-29-05, 06:18 AM
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How hard to drill a hole?

Once I was having trouble drilling a hole in medium density particle board. I was using a battery powered drill nd the charge was pretty good. It was dusk and I was in an unlighted building, although there was quite a bit of glass on one wall. I did not notice for the longest time that the drill was in reverse. I would assume this is not the problem in this case, but it does happen and you feel pretty stupid when it does.
Old 12-29-05, 07:39 AM
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Being hardened steel, I would start with an 1/8" drill bit then a 1/4" then 3/8" and then the 1/2". Speed is important also. Go with a little slower speed. A little oil or Tap-Magic may also help. Good luck.
Old 12-29-05, 08:21 AM
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Thanks for all your comments! I am using a drill press, going at a slow speed, and using oil. Even stepping the drill bits. It must just be a size issue. I can drill holes up to 3/8" with no problem, but as soon as I step up to 1/2" it just stops drilling.
Old 12-29-05, 04:51 PM
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There is sometimes a problem when drilling harder steels and using pilot holes, the bit can be worn in the spot it contacts the metal.
This is why it is important to use incremental steps.
Look at the tip of the 1/2" bit to see if you can see wear at the 3/8" point.

You might want to get a complete set of bits that go from 3/8" to 1/2".
Also, plenty of oil and gentle on the pressure might help.
Old 12-29-05, 04:54 PM
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I use step bits for 90% of the drilling I do.
Old 12-30-05, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by scooter
..... but as soon as I step up to 1/2" it just stops drilling.

I'm sure you checked this since you seem to be doing it right. Is the drill press at the end of it's travel?

Be sure to let use know what you find.
Old 01-06-06, 10:53 PM
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Cutting oil - not motor oil - helps too.
Old 01-07-06, 03:47 PM
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Has anyone tried heating steel to drill?

I know when I made some "skis" for our snowblower the steel was very hard to drill and the oil helped a bit.
Old 01-07-06, 08:55 PM
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You need to be using a split point cobalt drill. For 1/2" diameter, you will want to turn it around 550 RPM.
If the material is tough, use oil on the drill. Cutting oil may be tough to find unless you know a machinist, but a good substitute is bacon grease.
you would be better off purchasing a quality drill from a machine tools supply house. MSCDIRECT has a full line of tools for metalworking, and their prices are reasonable.

search in:
Jobbers drills....
Split point...

There are 6 choices there.

One thing to remember, with a drill this size and material this thin, the drill will grab when it starts to break through. Make sure your part is securely clamped to the table. You can cut yourself 3 ways on a drill ...deep...and often.
One trick to use to stop a drill from grabbing in material (like thin flatstock, or brass) is to grind the hook out of the drill.
Take the drill on a bench grinder, and grind a small flat on the cutting edge.

Parts of a drill link
More drilling information

Last edited by Stevetra; 01-07-06 at 09:12 PM.
Old 01-07-06, 10:10 PM
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Bedframe is tricky stuff. It is quite hard. I don't recommend a step bit (Unibit) for it, whereas normally they would be nice for 1/8" thick, 1/2" holes.

It will eat drill bits, as you've seen. If you don't have too many to do, you can get away with low speed, lots of pressure and coolant and the drillpress.

But preheating it is really the way to go to save your bits.
Old 01-24-06, 03:17 AM
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I don't own a jumbo sized corded drill, so when I want to drill bedframe on site I rather a large hand-driven brace - because I can lean on that. Pressure is key. Ideally a smooth pair of ribbons curl out of the cut, more often little flakes, and if you're just making powder that's grinding not cutting; the bit will dull.
Old 01-29-06, 11:41 AM
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The best way to drill this Bed Frame Material is to heat the spot were you want to drill to a cherry red, (if you have a torch available,) let it cool down before you drill, then you wont have a problem.

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