Does anyone know how to cut a hollow rectangle out of a steel ruler? By that I mean cutting a small part out of the standard steel ruler while having the outside part still in tact. So a band saw is out the ballpark. Its for a home project and any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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    I would be very careful when drilling and/or filing to take care to not warp or bend your ruler, it might even make sense to sandwich it between to stiff, thin pieces of wood. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 12:32

7 Answers 7


Drill a round hole, and then square the sides with a file.

You might also get lucky by calling metal working shops in the area. If they have a punch of the right size, it would take only seconds for them to punch the hole for you.

A maker space might have the tools to help you here. Possibly a laser cutter.

  • For some reason the site won't let me upvote anything but thank you all for the help!
    – Joe
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 19:31
  • @JoeAngeles, now you will be able to upvote. Upvoting is a privilege one gets at 15 rep. Now you have 31, and thus will be able to. Also, you should consider accepting this answer if it solved everything. If another answer is correct to you, you should accept that. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 6:25
  • @longneck Will this work for a ruler that's labelled STAINLESS HARDENED? I understood that stainless steel is difficult to machine anyway, and hardened would seem to be even harder. Will a regular file and typical HSS bit cut it?
    – Paul Uszak
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 23:58

Depending on how small a square you want to cut out, you may be able to do it with a rotary tool (e.g.- a Dremmel) with a cut-off wheel.

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    I'd do this, and I'd drill holes at the corners beforehand to complete the cuts and create a nice (small) radius bend.
    – isherwood
    Commented Mar 21, 2016 at 19:40
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    I cut a biohazard symbol in the side of my case with many many cut-off wheels. For a smaller square you could grind down your cut-off wheels by grinding stone or really thick metal. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 18:14
  • You have a much steadier hand (and more patience) than I have. I would not recommend a handheld rotary tool for any job requiring high accuracy. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 19:31

For the serious metalworker there are square punches, but for the hobbyist one great tool is the nibbler. This is a handheld punch that removes about 1/8 by 1/4 inch of material per stroke. With practice you can make almost any size and shape hole you want in sheet metal. I know Klein Tools makes one, as one I have one. Others probably do so as well.


You can use a scroll saw to cut it out. A scroll saw is similar to a jigsaw because it has a short, removable blade. These kind of saws are designed for very smooth and fine cuts that other saws aren't capable of.

Drill a small hole in the center of where the hole will be that is big enough to receive a scroll saw blade with a little bit of extra space. Carefully cut out the section, and cut slightly inside of the line, giving enough of a margin for finishing. Use a small to medium sized metal file to smooth out the hole, and bring it to the final dimension.

Rotary tools would not do a great job on this because the diameter of the cutoff wheels are probably larger than the hole you want to make.

  • Are they made to cut steel?
    – JDługosz
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 3:38
  • They make special blades specifically for jewelers that will cut different types of metal including steel. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 12:58


Laser cutters are much more common nowadays and you may find a metal worker that can do it for you as it would take very little time at all to cut it out (~2-3s)

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    Remember that any project your wife asks for that can justify getting a new tool should be taken advantage of. "Honey, I need to get a new tool to finish that thing in the bathroom..." Laser? Cool.
    – JDługosz
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 13:31

Another option, if there's someone nearby, would be a water jet. They work just like laser cutting only they use high pressure water, and work well for steel.


if you have access to a well supplied maker space, a water jet cutter would suit you well.


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