Basic Metal Drilling | Popular Woodworking Magazine
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While working on my pegboard cabinet and trying to integrate into it most of my frequently used tools I noticed that one of them, a Woodriver spokeshave, didn’t have a hanging hole. Hanging holes are quite a common feature on many tools, and are part and parcel of all the Stanley and Record cast iron spokeshaves that I own. Since I resort to the Woodriver tool quite often, I decided to drill one of its handles and find a companion hook for it on the pegboard. 

Drilling steel, cast iron, or brass is something that every woodworker needs to do. Most of us know how to do it correctly but just in case, here are a few tips and guidelines. 

  1. If you need to drill a wide hole, and you don’t have or can not use a drill press, try to drill successively. Begin with a narrow hole and when you finished drilling through, replace the “hole initiator” with a wider drill. This technique, of incremental progression, is very practical when using a drill press too, but I find it indispensable when drilling hard metals freehanded. 
  2. Before you start drilling, indent the hole’s center with a center punch to direct the drill and prevent it from wandering around at the beginning of the drilling process.

    Pressing the black Automatic Center Punch against the workpiece will release a powerful internal spring that will drive the punch’s point to create a dimple on the surface. The blue center punch on the other hand needs to be hit by a hammer to create the dimple.

  3. When drilling metals use slower speed than what you would have used if drilling the same diameter in wood. Drilling fast will burn your drill bit and may destroy its tip. So shift the gears in your hand drill (or your cordless drill) to low speed/high torque. When using a drill press make sure to reduce the speed setting accordingly. 
  4. For safety and efficiency clamp your work before drilling it. While you may be able to drill narrow holes by holding the workpiece in one hand and drilling with the other, this will be impossible to orchestrate safely when drilling wide holes. 
  5. Use oil to lubricate the drilling. Whatever you have around should work fine, WD40, 3-in-1, and even cooking oil (if this is the only oil you have) will help in alleviating friction and carrying heat away. Remember, a drilling lubricant or better off a cutting fluid is especially important when facing hard metals such as steel.

    Before I begins drilling I put a drop of oil over the dimple that the center punch made.

    The bottle in this picture contains all purpose synthetic oil.

  6. Chamfer or countersink the rim of the hole to make it look better and to prevent the sharp corners from catching onto pieces of clothing, scratching wooden surfaces, etc. I typically use a HSS Three-flutes countersink when working with metal. I should note that countersinks  are made to a few industrial angle standards, where the most common ones are 82 and 90 degrees. If the hole is meant for a wood screw or a flat head bolt I make sure to form and try a “mockup” countersunk hole first. Since I have both 82 and 90 degrees countersinks I want to make sure that I will use the right one, so I experiment on a compatible piece (scrap that is made from the same metal) to decide which countersink to use. In most cases a screw made for the North American market will need a 82 degrees countersink.

    My drilling and countersigning is completed and the reformed spokeshave is ready for his new home.

 

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