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Drilling holes in sheet sterling?

Lube the drill bit with beeswax and re-lube if necessary. Make sure
the chuck is tight. Try using a small clamp to hold the sheet metal
down on the drill press bed. Don’t be scared. Hopefully these
suggestions will resolve your problem.



What a huge outpouring of advice on a small simple topic - most of
it good advice, some definitely not so good. Some dangerous, some
just useless.

1 - ignore macho heroes who tell you that cutting your fingers is a
routine cost of doing business. !!! You will need your fingers in
later life, so keep them safe.

2 - Ignore all those who recommend slow speed drilling at that size
hole. What counts is the speed of the cutting edges against the
surface of the work, not how many RPMs the drill is turning. A small
bit at high RPMs has same surface speed as larger bit at lower RPMs.

3 - Ignore all advice to use a series of drill bits to work up to
final size. There is absolutely NO reason to do this. You are
drilling a small hole in silver, a soft material. This is not a
difficult challenge for the bit or the drill press. To the extent
that there is any risk to self or work with each operation, why
increase the number of operations? Why wear out more tools? Why take
more time changing bits over and over?

4 - Ignore all advice to use a hand-held tool like a flex shaft or a
cutting bit other than a drill bit. Don’t use burs. A drill press
and a drill bit of the right size are designed to do one thing well

  • to drill accurate holes. So - there ya go!

The most dangerous moment in drilling a hole, especially soft
material like silver, is when the bit is just about to emerge out of
the bottom side of the work. Here is what is happening. As the bit
approaches the breakout point, the remaining metal to be cut
through, the metal at the bottom of the hole, becomes thinner and
thinner, thus easily caught, bent, and pulled upwards by the cutting
edges of the bit. This sudden upward grab is what causes most
"spinning" accidents. In the size you are working at there are not
large forces generated, but that moment does produce a sudden change
in forces so you can be caught by surprise - therefore, again, use a
mechanical hold-down, clamp, jig, whatever is needed to hold work
steady. Mechanical things cannot be surprised the way your fingers
can be surprised.

It should take literally a very few seconds to do each hole. Do not
slow down your pressure on the bit or become tentative as you
approach the breakout. Just get right through it in a business-like
way so as not to prolong the agony of suspense you are feeling. Your
hold-down jig will eliminate the suspense.

Lubricant is good, but not critical at this size and with this
material. Silver is soft - not a challenge to a drill bit - and it
is a shallow hole with lots of surface area in highly
heat-conductive material - so not much opportunity for heat to build
up during each operation.

Once again - Good luck. You will rapidly gain confidence as you
learn the few steps needed to do this quickly and safely.

Marty - a very “boring” guy (pun intended)

Ive been away, so only now have seen this thread.

8 holes in an hour? oh dear!! Along with hammering, and cutting,
making holes in metal is one of the most basic jobs.

It really is a shame that aspiring metal smiths aka jewellers? dont
get exposed to the basic engineering skills they do need to have.

Id like to come in here and say, IF you have lots of holes to make,
another way thats easier, and eliminates the risk of your hands
getting cut, is to punch them. with a roper whitney hand punch. Look
it up, holes with this can be as small a 1/16th in.

a bit of perspective now, in an earlier life, I was responsible for
an aircraft, known as the 40,000 thousand rivet model.

That means that there will have been 80,000 holes to be made. also
some of the joints had 3 layers of metal, around 25%, so that makes
a rough total of 100,000 holes to be made.

That excludes all the holes that had bolts through them.

So you might just wonder how they were all made.

most of them were drilled using air tools, on jigs, which had
hardened inserts to ensure alignment. When skinning the outside, the
frames and longerons acted as registers for the through holes.

then they were countersunk, prior to setting the rivets with an air
tool and a dolly held by another operative.

Bak to your problem, now I use both methods of hole making.

The RW punch has a titty on its punch face that you use to register
in the center punched detent on the metal.

this ensures real accuracy.

I hold/ clamp the bottom handle in the bench vice, my 3rd hand, use
it for almost everything, the rt hand holds the work and the l hand
operates the top lever.

faster than drilling and easy.


Drilling is easy. As long as your bits are nice and sharp, and you
lubricate them each time you drill, you can do many holes in a hour.
I’ve done so many holes, it only takes seconds for me to do a hole. I
do things assembly line with my bit in flex shaft chuck, everyone has
a divot for drill bit to go into, and I’ll wax the sheets so each
divot has some lubricate (mostly Bur Life, sometimes Lube Stick), and
I’ll just drill hole after hole. The main key is to have a divot for
bit to bit into, sharp bits and a lubricate. Joy

I agree with your advice. BtY I was trained as a aircraft mechanic
USNAVY and worked as a subcontractor refitting the Cobra helicopters
for combat in Vietnam Nam for the USArmy under another contractor.

Air drills and Whitney punches are great. Along with my flex shaft:-)