How to drill holes in sheet metal

7 March 2016
 Categories: Industrial & Manufacturing, Blog


Working with sheet metal is a project that can be done by a lot of people in their own home without a lot of expertise. Sheet metal is a versatile resource that can be used to create a variety of useful and decorative objects. One of the most common procedures that you will have to perform on sheet metal is making holes in it. Bending and cutting sheet metal is something most people with a little bit of experience are aware of how to perform, but drilling holes can be trickier, as it's not as straightforward of a procedure. To guarantee the result of sheet metal drilling is as good as it can be, there are a few things you should know.

Make a dent

The first thing you need to do when making holes in sheet metal is to prepare it. You need to mark the centre of the future hole with a pen or marker that won't wear off when you're handling the sheet metal. After marking it, you should also create dents in the marks to give the drill bit somewhere to start, as this assures that the hole is appropriately positioned and minimises the risk of the drill going off to the side. The easiest way to do this is to use a ballpoint pen that you hammer into the metal with a small hammer, as this is unlikely to penetrate the sheet metal and because most people have a ballpoint pen lying around in their workshop.

Clamp it down

A safety precaution you should remember to put into practice, as it also makes the procedure easier as well as ensures quality of the drilling, is to hold the sheet metal down with clamps when you're working on it. Drilling sheet metal that isn't held down is dangerous, as the powers of the drill might cause the metal to spin uncontrollably even if you're trying to hold it. It can also cause the drill to go off to the side when the piece of metal is moving.

Do it step by step

If the hole you need to drill is large, remember you need to drill it step by step to make sure the sheet metal doesn't break. Start off with a small drill, and work yourself up until the hole is as large as you want it. The previous hole will work as a guide for the drill you're using, just as the ballpoint pen dent works as a guide for the first drill. There are also bits you can use that are shaped like cones and thus make the hole bigger step by step without you having to use many different drill bits.