What's new
What's new

How to drill a large hole in steel without a mill

TTalma

Aluminum
Joined
Aug 12, 2008
Location
FairPort, NY
I need to drill 14, 1-1/4" holes in 1/4" steel. I do primarily wood working and only have access to wood working tools.

I do have a good drill press. The minimum speed is 540 rpm (according to the tag). This seems to fast for a hole saw on steel. I'm thinking I would overheat whatever I was using.

Is there a bit or hole saw I can buy that would do the job. I doubt I will ever do this again so I don't want to break the bank doing this either!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
 

Mtndew

Diamond
Joined
Jun 7, 2012
Location
Michigan
Does your drill press have the HP to push a hole saw through steel?
A local machine shop should be able to knock those out for you at little cost if your drill press can't do it.
540 rpm is a bit much, I'd go 1/2 that speed or less, but that's not an option.
If you had a carbide tipped hole saw then the speed should be ok,using plenty of coolant or WD-40 whatever you have on hand.
 

AJ H

Hot Rolled
Joined
Feb 5, 2019
I need to drill 14, 1-1/4" holes in 1/4" steel. I do primarily wood working and only have access to wood working tools.

I do have a good drill press. The minimum speed is 540 rpm (according to the tag). This seems to fast for a hole saw on steel. I'm thinking I would overheat whatever I was using.

Is there a bit or hole saw I can buy that would do the job. I doubt I will ever do this again so I don't want to break the bank doing this either!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


540rmps is high for any bit that size, but you can make do. It's not ideal but I did a lot as a kid in the farm shop with a drill press and hole saws. Most importantly to keep it cool you need to use cutting oil. The stuff at the hardware store for pipe threading is fine. One hole saw should last you 14 holes if you keep it lubed.
 

rat_stomper

Plastic
Joined
Mar 7, 2017
The RPM is pretty high, but manageable; worst case a hand drill in low will work with what I'm linking to.

Check these out McMaster-Carr, I've had great luck with them...you'll also need the correct arbor.
 

DDoug

Diamond
Joined
Oct 18, 2005
Location
NW Pa
I need to drill 14, 1-1/4" holes in 1/4" steel. I do primarily wood working and only have access to wood working tools.

I do have a good drill press. The minimum speed is 540 rpm (according to the tag). This seems to fast for a hole saw on steel. I'm thinking I would overheat whatever I was using.

Is there a bit or hole saw I can buy that would do the job. I doubt I will ever do this again so I don't want to break the bank doing this either!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Gonna need some more information on this job.
 

memphisjed

Stainless
Joined
Jan 21, 2019
Location
Memphis
1 1/4 is not that big... hole saws are dirt cheap and pretty good for doing just what you are looking at. Keep dumping coolant or at least soapy water at those rpm - still not outrages for that size - and you will be fine. having an extra saw or two is cheap insurance. Home depot even stocks them without the holder. Just replace the blade part.
hougan/roto broach would be slightly better option, for the number of holes the cost is not justified.
 

Mcgyver

Diamond
Joined
Aug 5, 2005
Location
Toronto
it is to fast (rpm=4 x CS / dia) but you might get away with it with a HSS cutter. Exceeding the ideal cutting speed shortens tool life but they'll still work (to a point). It would bit a bit gnarly trying to do 14

You could buy a carbide annular cutter....maybe worth it for 14 over burning a bunch of hole saws. (which are great for wood, generally a misery in steel imo) if your drill press is solid enough for it that should work, but I'm thinking don't try it in a light duty machine

Easiest might be to drop by a fab shop....they'll probably use a mag drill with an annular cutter. easy peasy
 

crossthread

Titanium
Joined
Aug 5, 2004
Location
Richmond,VA,USA
I too have done this in a farm type shop in my early days. What I did was build a dam out of modeling clay about 1/2" high around where you are cutting and fill it with cutting oil (I used kerosene because it was what we had around the shop). That should keep the hole saw cool enough to keep from burning up at that speed. Go slow on the feed. I mean real slow. Find a comfortable chair and really take your time and I think you can get this done with what you have.
 

thermite

Diamond
I need to drill 14, 1-1/4" holes in 1/4" steel. I do primarily wood working and only have access to wood working tools.

I do have a good drill press. The minimum speed is 540 rpm (according to the tag). This seems to fast for a hole saw on steel. I'm thinking I would overheat whatever I was using.

Is there a bit or hole saw I can buy that would do the job. I doubt I will ever do this again so I don't want to break the bank doing this either!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Forget conventional helical twist-drills. Your material is too thin for the diameter.

Educate yourself first. It's all in here:

https://www.hougen.com/downloads/Hougen_Mag_Drill_&_Annular_Cutter_Guide.pdf

Hougen have competition. Some of it even competes!

Then see which mag drill you can rent, buy a cutter with the correct shank to suit it and go make holes.

The 7 HP drillpress I could use happens to mass 4,400 lbs.

Mag drill is your go-to ..if you insist on DIY make sure to expect to scrap one workpiece or buy a second hole-hawg .... if you happen to screw the pooch.

Hiring it done has lower risk, but if you work wood or any other material "decently", you should have skills, sensing, & reference points enough to respect feedback for getting this done without incident, too.

"In other news.." For your ZIP and Counties, there are several shops within an easy drive that can do this as a matter of routine. Even kitchen sink decks need holes often enough to justify stocking the annular cutters. Basic construction, nothing exotic, so does structural ironwork. It doesn't necessarily need waterjet or a full machine-shop. Even a woodworker who has a slower-turning drillpress ... or ANYBODY with a mag drill OR an Old Skewl "railroad drill" (chained-on, no magnets, and also used for water & gas utility pipelines) .. can do it.
 
Last edited:

Vecair

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 19, 2017
Location
Prescott
I drilled 200- 2" holes in 3/16 steel using my old drill press on slow and Hougen cutters, a bit of oil and never had a problem and used only one cutter.
 

mjk

Titanium
Joined
Oct 20, 2005
Location
Wilmington DE USA
For that qty of holes, use your drill press with the part clamped well to the table(with sacrificial wood underneath)
Name brand hole saw with pilot (buy a few)
Plenty of oil
With moderate pressure on the handle, jog your drill press at the lowest speed so that it doesn't reach the full 540 rpm
It will take some time but you'll get it done.

Or take it to a local shop that has the proper tooling
 

MwTech Inc

Titanium
Joined
Feb 6, 2005
Location
Fishersville VA
come down to the shop and I'll punch those in about 10 min....LOL

10 times better than a hole saw:willy_nilly:

Free.......

Seriously, hole saws do not cut nice holes, find a machine/fab shop with an ironworker, clean holes on size.
 

jsmith86z28

Plastic
Joined
May 24, 2021
I need to drill 14, 1-1/4" holes in 1/4" steel. I do primarily wood working and only have access to wood working tools.

I do have a good drill press. The minimum speed is 540 rpm (according to the tag). This seems to fast for a hole saw on steel. I'm thinking I would overheat whatever I was using.

Is there a bit or hole saw I can buy that would do the job. I doubt I will ever do this again so I don't want to break the bank doing this either!

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Hole saw or mag drill

Sent from my SM-A515U using Tapatalk
 

NRDock

Cast Iron
Joined
Jan 24, 2015
The hole saws I've used would stop cutting once the teeth are buried and the chips can't clear. Pre-drilling a smaller hole (1/4" min) inside and tangent to the large hole helps clear the chips and keeps the hole saw cutting.
 

john.k

Diamond
Joined
Dec 21, 2012
Location
Brisbane Qld Australia
I see some guys doing 1 1/2 to 2" holes in 1/4 plate nearly every day using a cheap oriental pillar drill and cheapest hole saws off the net......IMHO ,a much better option would be a RotaBroach mag base drill.....but ,no these guys are happy working in third world conditions.
 








 
Top