I need to drill a 12 mm hole in a steel piece 5mm thick, but the whole piece doesn't fit on my drill press. Can this be done anyhow?

In my previous experience drilling holes this big with a hand drill was a pain that end up dulling my drill bits.

  • 12mm is only about 1/2. This should be no problem for a modern 18v drill, unless you're drilling stainless steel.
    – William S.
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 16:49

2 Answers 2


Use oil to cool the bit, if oil residue is not a problem. Use water if that will be a problem. Keeping the bit cool is crucial to long bit life. The larger the hole the slower the RPM are to be used to drill the hole. Slow enough it is easy to count the revolutions is a good reference for how slow. When using a drill press the RPM are usually slower, and oil or water should be used there too. If the surface is flat, and water is preferred, an easy way to keep water at the drill tip is put an ice cube beside the hole while it is being drilled. The heat will melt the ice and keep a supply of water while drilling.

Another thing I do that I feel helps the large hole get drilled is using a smaller bit to pilot a hole through the metal first. Watch the last part of the hole just before the drill goes all the way through, the flutes of the drill bit will grab hard into the hole and try to wrench the drill out of your hands. That may hurt....

  • Thanks, when I use the hand drill I also used oil (fine machine oil), but the speed on my bigger hand drill is trigger controlled, therefore it was hard to maintain it cool. But I liked the ice idea and will give it a try. Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 16:11
  • 2
    The other problem with hand drilling is that most people do not apply ENOUGH pressure - if the drill just sits and spins, all it does is heat and dull. It has to be cutting to work, and it needs pressure to cut. This is one reason the pilot hole helps - it makes room for the solid web of the drill bit which otherwise needs a great deal of pressure to move metal far enough for the flutes to take it away as a chip. Many (not all) trigger control variable speed drills have a dial on the trigger that you can adjust the maximum speed the trigger goes to.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 16:18

You mention a drill press as the tool you had. Most of them have some form of column that is a stout round pipe, so the table/stage can be unclamped and moved up/down and around. So swing the table out of the way and put your object on the base of the drill.

Downside, the base is unadjustable so if the quill doesn't reach down enough then block up the workpiece with dunnage/scrap wood. This can get sketchy, so use clamps and common sense to secure the workpiece.

If there's still not enough vertical space, you can also rotate the head/top of the drill press so it hangs sideways. My drill press is bolted to a stand that is 140 cm above the floor, so its possible to work "over the cliff"

12mm hole is not that large - whatever drill you use, try doing it with either a series of twist drills to work up to the size, perhaps step through 3/6/9/12 mm, or you can use a step drill which does the same in often 2mm increments.

If you're hand-drilling, you can use the CD trick to try and stay vertical, whereas the pillar drill makes going off-axis a lot harder.

  • 1
    Think OP has problem with width of piece. Most drill presses have a fixed distance from pipe to drill chuck.
    – crip659
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 12:24
  • @crip659 oh I see, on re-read that is clearer.
    – Criggie
    Commented Apr 28, 2021 at 19:59

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