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Drilling titanium

Hello all,

a friend of a friend is a nurse who somewhere obtained some
titanium screws, likes them so much she wants a pair of earrings
made from them and wondered if I could drill through them for
her. I worked with Niobium years ago and don’t remember it being
incredibly difficult to cut or drill, yet she said a fellow she
knew tried to drill them with a “titanium” drill and it didn’t
work. I don’t know exactly what he tried though. Any advice?



The best drill bits for Titainum are regular high speed steel

bits. Do not use carbide or any of the coated (titanium nitride)
bits. The plain high speed steel bits are sharper than the
others, you should use brand new bits and use a lanolin based
lubricant like Westlube You should use low speed as titainum is
a very poor conductor of heat so the heat from the drilling will
be concentrated arround the bit which will cause it to overheat
and ruin the drill bit. Take it slow use new bits (have several
available) and use lots of lubricant.


James Binnion Metal Arts
2916 Chapman St
Oakland, CA 94601

There are some rules of drilling metals that you might need to
adhere to. Whereas with relatively soft metals like silver,
copper and gold we get away with a lot and holes are fairly easy
to do. With tough metals like steels and titanium, you’ll need to
think about whether the centre-punch mark is adequate, or whether
a pilot hole is required, before you attempt to drill the final
sized hole. You are at least using a centre-punch mark, aren’t

I suggest a super-sharp highspeed steel drill bit, cutting
fluid, and use:

slower speed
more downward pressure

Watch the action closely (wear some protective eyewear). Two
little curly coils of metal should come up from the point of the
drill bit indicating that it’s cutting properly. If not then
stop! If you carry on you will heat up the drill bit and anneal
it. And still not drill a hole. At best you’ll wear away an
indentation at the expense of the drill bit.

Resharpen the drill bit, or use a new one. I’m sure you’ll do
it. A drill press will help keep the bit upright while you apply

B r i a n =A0 A d a m R u t h B a i r d J e w e l l e r y ph/fx +64 9 817 6816 NEW ZEALAND

Orchid Digest Post:
Re: Drilling titaniumFrom: Vicki Embrey

I have drilled titanium sheet–about 22 ga. I don’t know how
thick your screws are. I used my regular drill bits. I used
cutting oil and went really slow as the titanium heats up rather
quickly. It certainly takes longer than drilling sterling, but
it worked just fine.

From: “Dodge, Steven M.”

The drill was probably a high speed steel (M2) drill coated with
titanium nitride (TiN). This is a standard surface coating that
reduces wear on the drill. In most applications it is overrated.

The best advice I can give is to have a secure set-up, center
punch the location you want to drill ( to prevent the drill
from walking), drill the hole using a slow to moderate RPM and
feed the drill slowly. Try to prevent the drill from "dwelling"
as this will work harden the surface being drilled. Replace or
sharpen drill at the first indication of wearing. Don’t forget
to use plenty of oil.

Good Luck! Steve D.

Hi Karen, as far as I know, there’s no great mystery about
working with Ti. I first started using it about 20 years ago and
I guess ignorance must have been bliss, because I hammered and
rolled it into shapes, drilled it, saw pierced it, and even set
diamonds and sapphires into it - bezels, claws and beads.

Sure, it was hard and had a characteristic of gripping the saw
blade or binding up the drill if I went too quickly at it, but it
wasn’t as impossible to use as some people insisted on telling
me. I’ve repoussed it, inlaid gold into it, inlaid it into gold,
woven it, twisted it into fancy wire twists (it’s quite beautiful
when it’s spiralling deep blue around yellow gold), and engraved
it by machine and hand, then worked up some interesting effects
with layering my cutting and colouring.

One of the nicest things about it was the pleasure it gave my
children when I’d sprinkle its lemel through my oxy-torch flame.

I botched a few pieces but I learnt just as much from those as I
did my successes. About drilling, I’d suggest that you go slowly
and use light oil lubrication. Holding the little screws and
getting the drill started might be the harder part of the
operation. Best wishes, Rex from Oz