Drilling Stainless Steel Sheet Properly

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drilling stainless steel sheet

Stainless steel can be found in various applications due to its durability, strength, and corrosion resistance; however, drilling holes in this material requires specific techniques.

Lubrication is essential to reduce heat, extend drill bit life and enhance performance. Be sure to use cutting oil specifically designed for stainless steel cutting applications as well as to add additional lubrication as required.

Choosing a Drill Bit

Stainless steel can be found in projects across industries, from plumbing and automotive to electrical and manufacturing. When drilling holes into stainless steel sheet, using the correct tool makes all the difference; standard drill bits designed to handle wood or softer materials won’t suffice – instead you will require something with a more robust geometry to deal with harder materials such as stainless steel.

HSS drill bits will work well with most grades of stainless steel, provided you select one with an optimal geometry. Diameter-to-length ratio and lip relief angle play an essential role in maintaining bit durability; too-small diameter will generate too much cutting surface area and heat, leading to premature tip burnout. When cutting metal such as stainless steel, lip relief angles must also support edge of bit to ensure cutting at an acceptable speed and minimize wasteful movement of bits across metals surfaces.

Coatings on bits also play an integral part of their performance, with black oxide being the most popular. But you might also consider switching up with something like titanium nitride or TiAIN coating for increased lubricity that could increase drilling speeds and decrease friction.

Helix angle should also be carefully considered. A correct helix angle will ensure that swarf moves freely away from an excavated hole and avoid blockages.

Utilizing the appropriate cutting fluid is equally essential to successful drilling on stainless steel applications. A coolant designed specifically for these projects will enhance lubrication, reduce heat generation, and facilitate chip removal more efficiently than its counterparts. Be sure to apply this fluid directly onto both your bit and workpiece before beginning drilling and monitor heat levels during operation.

As part of your workpiece preparation, it’s also essential that the workpiece be secured within a vise, to reduce movement during drilling. A great way to do this is creating a “sacrificial sandwich.” To do this, place a piece of wood between metal sheets, clamped in place with clamps. This will prevent your drill bit from grabbing onto either one and pulling hard enough to cause irreparable damage both to itself and its workpiece.


If you’re using a drill press to create holes in stainless, it is vital that the drill bit remains firmly attached to the workpiece – particularly when drilling deep holes – as metal can produce excessive heat that could potentially harm both your drill bit and workpiece.

Clamping your drilling bit securely to your workpiece is an effective way of keeping it centered in its target hole and ensures its alignment.

Securely attached chucks to spindles are also important, to prevent bits from accidentally grabbing workpieces and spinning them during operation. A loose chuck may lead to bad cuts, broken tools or even injury – something we hope never happens!

Erroneously applying too much pressure when drilling is another common misstep that leads to overheating of both bit and material, making cutting more challenging. Instead, only use moderate force when applying pressure; take breaks as necessary to allow both elements of drilling to cool off properly.

If you are uncertain whether you are applying enough pressure, one way of checking would be by watching how the chips come out of the hole. They should ideally be short and helical-shaped. If their shape differs, and darker chips appear instead, this may indicate an increase in cutting speed or need for more lubrication.

While many machinists know that carbide tools are an ideal choice for working with tough materials, not everyone opts to switch. According to industry experts like Dominski and other sources, switching can actually save money in the long run due to higher productivity and longer service lives.

Though stainless steel may seem challenging to work with, drilling it can actually be quite straightforward if you follow our tips above. Just remember to use sharp tools, reduce RPM and use sufficient lubrication and cooling measures; otherwise you could end up burning through bits faster than they can be loaded!

Marking the Position

Be it for commercial work or home projects, having the proper tools and technique can ensure a safe and productive fabrication experience. Selecting an appropriate drill bit for working with stainless steel is vital; taking measures such as clamping down and supporting your workpiece increases chances of success.

Fabricators often make the mistake of operating their drill at too high a speed when drilling stainless steel, which can damage both the steel and its drill bit. Instead, lower RPM settings and firm pressure should be applied when using your drill – and stop and start drilling regularly to cool off and lubricate it!

One of the most frequent mistakes when drilling stainless steel is failing to mark the positions of holes on the workpiece before beginning drilling. Not only could this increase your risk of an accident, but inaccurate holes could cause your workpiece to break or deform over time. To prevent this issue from arising, mark all holes on your workpiece with pencil before beginning. Make sure the marks indicate size of hole as well as where best to position the drill bit.

Machinists working with stainless steel must consider that this material hardens when heated, making it hard to determine the appropriate feeds and speeds during cutting processes. As a result, a solid carbide drill specifically designed for steel offers greater precision, longer tool life, and efficient chip evacuation.

When drilling thicker pieces of stainless steel, step-drilling may be preferable over straight drilling as this helps clear away debris, prevent excess heat buildup and ensure smooth transitioning through layers of work-hardened steel that form during cutting.

When drilling thinner pieces of stainless steel, it’s wise to sandwich it between two pieces of wood and clamp it before drilling. This prevents the metal from flexing or being damaged during drilling and helps create clean holes. Wear safety glasses and gloves since sparks from cutting may come flying off of it and cut you.

Using the Drill Bit

Drilling stainless steel requires more than simply inserting and firing a drill bit; as one of the more difficult metal groups to work with, there are certain key considerations you’ll want to keep in mind if you want your drilling operations to yield optimal results.

When working with stainless, it’s essential to avoid overheating both your bit and metal, due to its low thermal conductivity compared to other materials. As stainless has low thermal conductivity it does not disperse heat quickly enough which may cause build up at the cutting edge and lead to dull or broken bits if overheated. To minimize this risk make sure you use quality bits with consistent pressure applied.

As with any metal material, stainless can harden rapidly when subjected to friction during drilling operations – making smooth holes difficult. To mitigate this, it’s essential that when drilling stainless, use a lower RPM setting while monitoring its temperature as you progress from hole to hole.

Finalize this process by keeping the bit lubricated during each step. This will prevent it from overheating or damaging metal, as well as decreasing friction. When selecting cutting fluid specifically formulated for stainless steel cutting, ensure it includes additives to enhance lubrication and decrease heat generation.

With these tips in mind, you can confidently use your drill to cut through stainless steel sheet with ease. Simply be patient and follow each of the steps – doing this will result in cleaner holes every time! Good luck!

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