How To Drill Hardened Steel: 13 Steps To Drill Steel Like Pro(Updated)

Hardened steel is hard to make holes since its molecules are attached firmly to each other. This guide has information on how to drill hardened steel.

You will notice that the skills and methods used to make drills vary from when metal to another.

Besides, you need special tools to make drills on a hard metal such as steel. The metal has a brittle structure, unlike other metals with a flexible atomic structure.

It might be possible to make holes on hardened steel using an emery disk but not an angle grinder.

Also, you cannot make a hole in hardened steel using a normal driller since steel is more stringent than the material of the driller.

The metal has a brittle structure, unlike other metals with a flexible atomic structure.

What You Need – 

To drill the hole properly, you need to have the right tools and materials. You also need to protect your hands, eyes, and general body from harm.

You need good quality protective wear, Steel to drill through, Drill bits for steel, Heavy-duty cordless drills / corded drills, Water or Lubricating oil, Rasp, etc.

Safety Consideration

There are several safety precautions you should follow when making drills on hardened steel. They include:

Wearing safe cloth(optional)

Creating holes on metal, especially when using a drill bit might be dangerous if you don’t have protective attires.

Wear a thick apron that will protect your body while making the drills. However, avoid long garments that can entangle in the work area.

Furthermore, avoid carrying jewelry when working with a drill bit and keep your hair out of the way.

Wear goggles for eye protection

Wearing goggles for eye protection is very important While operating a drill bit. some sharp tiny pieces of metal might fly off the working space.

Sharp tiny pieces of metal might cause discomfort and eye issues if it gets into your eyes. Wearing goggles to protect your eyes is highly recommended.

Besides, choose goggles that are translucent to protect you against the harsh light beams from the working surface.

Wear ear protector(Optional)

You don’t have to harm your ears while trying to drill through metal surfaces. This task is often hard and might make more noise from the drill bit.

Wear hand Gloves

Hand gloves are very important when drilling. Wood or metal chips may be cut or blister on your hands.

Hand gloves give you the convenience of holding the drill while drilling.

Wearing a mask(Optional)

Metals produce some poisonous gases when heated; hence you need to take more caution.

Wear a costume that will cover your nose, thus protecting you against dangerous gases from the metal surface.

Steps on how to Drill hard steel –

Drilling through hardened steel is pretty simple. Simply follow the steps below to receive information on how to drill holes in hard steel.

Step 1 — Identify the steel you want to drill through

Before you begin searching for the tools to perform the task, you need first to choose the steel you want to drill.

After identifying the metal, ensure you set it aside from other working tools to avoid confusion.

Furthermore, ensure that the metal is in good condition before initiating the next step.

Step 2 — Use clamps to tighten the steel to the working surface

The steel should be firm and tight on your working table before drawing the cutting mark.

You can use metallic or plastic clamps to hold the metal. This step might only apply to lightweight pieces.

You don’t need to tighten the more massive parts since they are steadier on the working surface.

Also, in case you are drilling on a painted structure, ensure you put stir sticks between the clamp and the hardened steel to avoid scratches.

Caution —
Clamps prevent accidents, so make sure everything is stiff before drilling hard steel.

Step 3 — Decide what type of bits for hardened steel

The kind of drill bit you choose will determine the output of hardened steel. If you want to drill more holes in steel, you need a sharp bit.

However, you can use a standard speed bit in case you want to make a few drills on the metal.

Furthermore, you should have a drill bit that is half the diameter of the hole you want to make.

Also, you can use it with a drill press in case you are working with large, hardened steel.

Also, Read — Best Drill Bit For Drilling Hardened Steel In 2021 – Reviews & Guide

 3-IN-ONE Multi-Purpose Oil

Step 4 — Lubricate oil on the drill bit

Lubricate oil to reduce the friction between the drill bit and the hardened piece of steel. Oil of 30 weight oil is enough for lubricating the metal.

Besides, you can consider spraying water on the composition of metal to supplement the oil. This trick helps to yield extraordinary performance.

Note —
Oil lubricates the drill bits and keeps their temperature down, which protects the drill bit from being damaged.

Step 5 — Mark where you want the hole using a pencil

This step is very critical when it comes to drilling any piece of metal. You need to mark carefully where you wish to drill the steel using a pencil and a ruler.

Besides, you should consider the diameter of the drill bit when making the mark. Also, use a permanent fount pen in case the pencil is not visible on the steel.

Remember to mark correctly the spot you need to drill to avoid many inconveniences.

Step 6 — Hold the drill perpendicular to the hardened steel

Holding the drill in the right direction is more significant than you may think. Ensure you place the drill right on the tip of the mark you made.

Also, hold the drill bit in a straight way to avoid making crooked drills.

Step 7 — Use appropriate pressure

Before drilling, familiarize yourself with the drill bit’s settings. Using low RPM and little pressure will let a bit smoothly go through the material.

YouTube Video Credit: Andrew Lord

Step 8 — Drill slowly

One of the best ways to drill hardened steel is to use a slow speed. Starting at a slower speed will enhance your control over the task.

Furthermore, extreme speed may result in the ruin of hardened steel or the drill bit itself.

You need to control the speed of the drill to get accurate results. Furthermore, make sure to pause between operations to cool down the steel.

However, you can use high speed if you are working on a larger piece of steel. Otherwise, use a medium speed throughout the operation.

Note  —
High speeds create high temperatures that cause the drill bits to dull.

Step 9 — Start with a small hole

The reason why you need to use a slower speed at the initial rate is to make a small hole.

You don’t need to make the drill complete at once. It is a process with several series of steps that you should follow consecutively.  

A small hole will attract your attention to the task; hence there are high chances for making a quality smooth hole.

Step 10 — Pause when you are close to the other side of the drill

Hold the drill firmly yet comfortably in your hand. If you notice breaking the drill, interrupt the bit for additional power.

After a short while, hold the drill and push the trigger on the bit in short intervals until it goes to the other side.

Let the drill stay in the same position before removing it.

Step 11 — Drill through the hardened steel using a more significant drill bit

Repeat the stage with a drill bit of larger diameter for more efficiency. Place the drill bit to the original mark and drill while lubricating the metal.

In case you see smoke while drilling, pause the process so that the metal can cool.

Step 12 — Remove excess lubricant

Use a soft piece of cloth to wipe away shrapnel and excess lubricant from drilling. Before you finish cleaning the steel, make sure it is free from dirt.

Caution —
Ensure you don’t wipe the metal residual with bare hands since it contains some sharp elements that may cut you. And the drilled bit may remain hot.

Step 13 — Use a rasp to smoothen the hole

You can use a medium or a heavy metal rap to file the surface of the hardened steel. Ensure that the surface of the steel is clean from sharp edges.  

Work gently to prevent harming the metal. The above steps are crucial, and you should not skip any of them.

What drill bit to use for hardened steel?

Sometimes the science of drilling might be too complicated without the right tools. You need to figure out what are the best drill bits for hardened steel.

Not all drill bits can indeed make holes on hardened steel. The first tool you need to consider for the task is the cobalt drill bit set series.

Also, When looking for an appropriate drill bit to drill through hardened steel, the Dewalt series might be the perfect tool for the job.

These two varieties are affordable and are better known for power and reliability.


Apart from wearing protective garments, you need to take extra caution when dealing with hardened steel. 

Ensure that the clamp is strong enough to hold the piece of steel for more stability.

Your knowledge of how to drill hardened steel is clear. Making holes in the metal may be tough with the wrong tools.

If you want good results, you should use the following drill bits. Also, as a novice, expect to make a few blunders when drilling, but that’s how you learn.

In case you feel the task is too much for you, remember to call a professional to guide you through the above steps.

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