How to Drill a Hole




About: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through understanding, and strives to inspire others to lear...

Drilling is one of the most common and most useful processes.

Step 1: Measure and Mark

Measure the location of the hole. If possible, mark exactly where the hole needs to be drilled.

Choose the drill size appropriate to the material being drilled and the tool being used. Use common sense. Trying to directly cut a 3/8 inch diameter hole in stainless steel with a hand drill is not the wisest idea. Start with small diameters and work up. If you?re not confident in your common sense, try a handbook such as Machinery's Handbook.

Use this chart to determine what size to drill for a bolt or screw.

Step 2: Center Punch

A center punch makes a small dent in the surface of the material that prevents the drill from wandering when it first contacts the surface.

Step 3: Set Up

Align and clamp the material in place. Clamps are always a good idea. As the drill pierces through the opposite side of the material, it can grab and spin the work piece. If you are holding the material by hand, injury can result. Be especially careful of this when using a hand drill. If the drill bit grabs, the entire tool can be ripped out of your hands.

Step 4: Drill

Put on safety glasses and ear protection as appropriate. Let someone else know you are using power tools, if working alone.

First, ensure that the drill is spinning the right direction and speed. If you wrap your right hand around the drill with your fingers pointing in the direction of rotation, your thumb should be pointing into the material to be drilled.

Alternatively, watch the flutes (the spiral grooves in the drill). When the drill is spinning, they should appear to be moving away from the material. In fact, the flutes? job is to remove cut chips out of the hole.

Again, use common sense or a handbook to determine the proper speed.

Plunge the spinning drill into the material. The drill should be cutting without requiring a tremendous amount of force along its axis. If the drill does not appear to be cutting ensure that the flutes are not clogged. In materials such as aluminum, you need to ?peck? at the material: plunge in to cut, and then pull out to remove chips. Clogging the drill while continuing to apply more and more force into the material is a sure way to break a drill bit.

For metals, cutting fluid can be helpful. Cutting fluid can be oil, water, detergent, or a mixture of those three. It helps to lubricate the sliding contact between the drill and the work piece, flush chips away from the interface, and to cool the drill.

Step 5: Clean Up the Hole

If the edges of the hole are not to your satisfaction, try a deburring tool to cut and smooth around the edge of the hole. Multiple types of deburring tools exist; the picture shows two hand tools with differently shaped cutting bits and a tool used in a drill.

Step 6: Clean Up

Vacuum or sweep up any mess, wipe off any cutting fluid, and put all tools away.



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    26 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I really appreciate having this site, to educate myself on how to use a drill, as i have never used one before. I want to have an understanding, and any insight into this could be dangerous procedure, if I dont take the right precautions.

    Today I have attempted to drill a hole in two places, so as to hang some curtains, however to no avail, the hole won't go deep enough. I was told to put it onto hammer, still unable to. Very frustrating as i wont to hang my curtains.

    Anybody to speak bad about this site, is not worth listening to no doubt a person with very little integrety, or none at all.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Some years earning my living as a cabinet maker taught me that drilling holes accurately is the most demanding process of all. I have toured furniture factories and you should see the complexity and sophistication of the capital equipment they have for this task.

    These instructions are great.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you for this post. I have noticed MANY ibles that are posted and the poster has attempted to drill a hole with disastrous results. Another good drill bit lubricant is a 50/50 mix of water pump lube and water. This was recommended by the metal shop instructor at the local Jr. College. As far a "PRO" bumpus, I'll forgive him because he may not realize that many here have great ideas but lack the proper knowledge of certain processes.

    Instructables are for showing off what you've made and telling others how to do it. What next? A tutorial on how to turn on a light? Or maybe how to operate a pencil?

    7 replies

    i'd say 50% of people out there drill incorrectly. Most don't use a center punch, even though they should. And most people don't even know what a deburring tool is. So it's not quite as simple as turning on a light.......d-bag

    I SERIOUSLY can't believe you just said that. you're directing your commemt at the founder of this site, don't you think he'd have some idea of the original purpose of this site?

    Actually, it's Instructables. Instructions, tutorials are instructions, this helps people with there instructable. It is suprising how many people do not know how to do things as simple as this to some. A student slashed his thumb on a drill press in tech a few weeks back. He was cutting metal, and would not use a vice. The drill was only on a slow setting, fortunatly for him. He almost cut to the bone.


    11 years ago on Step 4

    If using a hand drill, now is the right time to check that the drill is not on set on the "hammer drill" function (if one has such). That sound against a steel bicycle frame is especially nasty...

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I once had a new bit overheat before I realized that the last time I'd used that drill was to extract a screw. Now I always check the direction switch before I pull the trigger.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    I like this instructable. I have had problems using a drill for years and I've never had good advice. I've encountered some negative comments from people before that think drilling is simple. They have no sympathy for people that have problems with a drill. I have a low-end Sears variable speed drill and I've had problems drilling through wood, metal, and concrete. Let's start with the wood. I burn the wood. Am I applying too much pressure or using too high a speed? In fact, today I was trying to drill a 1/2" hole through a wooden rub rail on a boat. I started off with a smaller bit and worked out. I couldn't cut the wood with the 1/2" bit. The wood is treated with glue. When i tried to drill holes in a chrome bumper, I used special metal cutting bits and cutting oil. I couldn't penetrate the chrome. This might be a speed and pressure problem. For concrete, I couldn't penetrate more than 3/4" into my garage floor. I'm still looking for information on drilling. It's not so simple.

    1 reply

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    It sounds like your drill bits are dull. Try sharpening them, or getting a new set. Burning something is a pretty good indication that the bits are dull.


    11 years ago on Step 3

    If clamps are not available, one can use pliers for holding the object. They usually give better grip to metal than bare naked fingers or gloves do and also lower the danger of injury to the holding hand if the object slips and starts spinning.


    12 years ago

    I get a creeping feeling that you should be selling this video to industry at a profit...?