My drill is garbage

Could one of you suggest a good drill set up that can get through 16
gauge metal? Even if its just using my flex shaft. I bought a pricy
Proxxon miny drill that cried and whined as I tried to get it through
metal this thick, and I resorted to using my $80 chinese drill that
manages to make holes 5x large than the drill bit - precision
equipment that one - any way, I’m at my wits ends with my current



I’m thinking maybe the drill is not the problem but rather the drill
bit/lubrication/speed factors. If you haven’t checked yet, make sure
your drill bit is sharp. If you’re not sure, get a new one.

Make a small punch mark at the point you want the hole so the bit
has something to catch at first. Hold or, even better, anchor your
workpiece down to avoid it sliding out of position or turning with
the force of the bit.

Use a light oil at the point of contact between drill and metal. And
keep the speed really slow. As the drill starts to cut you can speed
it some, but not much. Let the drill bit do the cutting at its own
speed. Don’t try to hurry it up with more force.

When cutting properly you should see little curls of metal spinning
up out of the resulting hole. And you should hear no noise other than
the purr of the drill motor.

And wear safety glasses.

Les Brown

L.F.Brown Goldwork
17 2nd St. East, Ste. 101
Kalispell, MT 59901

The smaller the hole the faster the drill should spin, but this
isn’t always doesn’t work other than in theory. You didn’t give the
hole dia or drill size. So this is a general description.

First the metal being drilled should have every location that will
be drilled center punched with a well defined mark.

Your drills should be sharp I’m refering to twist drills, you didn’t
mention what style of drill you are using.

If the hole dia. is under 1/16" and the number of holes is not large
use a spin drill that you twist with the fingers. and some form of
lubrication. light oil or bees wax, or commercial cutting fuild if
you have it.

If you are using the drill press the item should be securely clamp
or held down to the surface of the drill table so it doesn’t wobble
wiggle or move. Or worst case get caught by the bit when it starts
to breaks thru the metal and ripped from the hand holding it and
start spinning around. Very bad cuts, broken fingers ect can result.

Have you thought about a punch and die set like this;

Items: 91510-0VGA, 44060-7VGA

the deep throat punch set has a bench mount that you can buy.

If the hole is a large dia size you might want to try a punch and
die set or just a hand punch with a untemepered masonite board as
the surface you cut thru the metal too. It will keep the punch

harbor freight has any number of punches and sets they have three
pages of punches.

The last thing with using a drill press and small dia drills is use
a gentle downward pressure on the quill wheel when drilling the
metal also lube, lube, and wear your saftey glasses.

all the usual disclaimers apply a satisfied customer

glen, been there and done that and broke more drills than I woulkd want
to count!

..... a pricy Proxxon miny drill that cried and whined as I
tried to get it through..... metal 

Sounds more like a “bit” problem rather than a drill problem.

– Is it the bit screaming or the drill?
– What size are the bits?
– How new are the bits?
– Are you using any coolant or lube?
– Regarding 5x hole, is the bit bent or dull
– Do you sharpen your own bits if yes how?

RLW (Ronald L. Wade)

Hi Elkka,

Your problem may be one of technique or the quality of drill bits
you’re using.

Generally, when drill small diameter holes, it helps to mark each
spot that’ll be drilled with the sharp point of a scribe. This keeps
the drill bit from wandering when the hole is 1st started. It’s also
a good idea to use some type of lubricant on the end of the drill
bit. The next things to consider is the speed the bit is rotating &
the amount of downward pressure on the bit. Too much speed & downward
pressure cause the bit to overheat & loose its cutting edge. I
regularly drill .020" holes 1/2" deep in brass using a small Proxxon
drill press.


Sorry about your frustration. When I don’t have a proper tool I will
resort to a nail to lightly tap the metal to be drilled, I find a
starting point to be neccessary. Sharp bits are paramount, lubricant
will help keep the heat down, no need to put more stress on the bit
than neccessary after all. I often start with a smaller bit then
move through to larger ones. It allows more control and you’ll be
less likely to get your 5x the size of the bit affect you’ve noticed.
Slow and sure should get the job done, even if you are simply working
on a surface large enough to support your hands and eldow and are
guiding a flex shaft manually (elbow on the table, looking much like
a drill press of your own flesh. For my own studio I’ve been looking
at a simply drill press at the local hardware store, not too pleased
with the one I have for my flexshaft, but I’ve made many a hole for
rivetting without the benefit of such tools, and for truly large
holes I resort to a disc cutter or drilled hole to feed a saw blade
through and go through the arduous process of trying to cut a perfect

I don’t know if any of the above will be of help, but if it is I am
glad, if its not I’m certain someone else can jump in should you
provide a clearer picture as to what you wish to accomplish.

K. David Woolley
Fredericton, NB
Diversiform Metal Art & Jewellery


Your problems probably stem from the drill bits/cutting tools you
are using. In my experience the tool spinning the bit is of little
importance, I have drill spinners ranging from an exotic Dumore mini
drill press to chinese bargain iron to home made spindles. The
quality of drilling is determined by the drill bit, buy the bast even
if it means you can only afford to drill one size hole today.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

If you’ve got one of the Harbor Freight drill presses, it’s pretty
simple to install an accurate chuck… they work just fine with that
one alteration. Enco or any machine tool supplier ought to have one
to fit for about $30.


What metal are you using?



You left out, perhaps, the most important element in drilling and
that is that you have to use high speed steel drill bits if you want
to get any significant use out of the drill bit. Plain tool steel
bits are next to worthless when drilling other metals. They become
dull after just one use.

Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.

Could one of you suggest a good drill set up that can get through
16 gauge metal? Even if its just using my flex shaft 

Are you having trouble getting through the metal, or in keeping the
holes precisely aligned? I used to have some trouble drilling through
heavier metal when I began to work with jewelry. The drill would sit
there and spin, but nothing was happening. I would put in a new
drill, it would work ok for a bit, then the same issues would begin
again. I was actually burnishing my holes, instead of drilling them
out. The drills would get hot because I was trying to push them
through the metal, not allowing the drill to do its work. Then the
drill would lose its temper (get too hot, turn dark blue,and get
softer), become dull, and just polish out the inside of the hole.
Here are some things that worked for me. First, make a small dimple
with a graver or a punch on the spot where you intend to put the
hole. Use smaller drills to make the initial pilot hole, then proceed
to enlarge it with bigger drills. Use drills that are sharp, and
plenty of lubricant. I like the general kind used for sawing, but
beeswax works just as well. Go slowly, and lift the drill in and out
of the hole a bit as you work to clear the dust and curls out of the
piece as you work. This helps to keep the drill cool, and keeps the
excess stuff out of your way, and not jamming up that drill bit. Be
sure that your drills are straight, and the equipment you use runs
true, so you don’t make holes 5x bigger than your drill!

Hope this helps!
Melissa Veres, engraver

Need to know which proxxon product that you had problems with. Looks
like you were trying to cross the ocean on a Barge.

Proxxon makes 3 Rotary Hand pieces and 2 Drill presses

  1. 50/E 12 Volt 20,000 rpm low torque (wax work, railroad and aero

  2. FBS 110v 1/8 hp Dremel type (wood working, non ferrous work)

  3. IB/E 110v Professional aluminum body ( jewelers, Opticians model)

  4. TBM115 Bench Drill Press

  5. FF 230 Mill/Drill Press.

If I could be of any help in getting you a replacement I will give
it my best effort.

Kenneth Singh

Melissa Veres’ instructions on how to drill heavier gauge metals
were right on the mark. Anyone who has ever taught beginners should
post it in a prominent place or give a copy to each student. It will
save piles of broken drills, wrecked projects and wasted metal.

To Karen:

I’m drilling copper and silver

To Kenneth Singh:

The little bugger is a Proxxon TBM115 Bench Drill Press. I appreciate
your offer to help me replace it, that is very gracious of you. It
won’t be necessary though, just from reading all the replies to my
initial post I can see the problem was in my technique. After doing
things the proper way I was able to get the chinese cheapo drill to
behave almost like it cost $95.25 instead of $80. As for the Proxxon I
think it’s just too small for the type of work I’m trying to do so
I’ll just save it for wax - or put it on Ebay.

Thanks all.

One more question: How do you resharpen a drill bit?

One more question: How do you resharpen a drill bit? 

In answer to your last question “how do you resharpen a drill bit”.
If it is under .050" you throw it away and buy the best quality
replacement that you can afford.


drill doctor; they come in several sizes and prices.

One more question: How do you resharpen a drill bit? 

It is possible to freehand grind drill bits but unless you do it a
lot it is hard to keep the necessary skill level. Buy a Drill Doctor
at the hardware store or big box store.


James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


I haven’t entered into this thread, because you’ve (all) had plenty
of fine, accurate advise. Your question of how to sharpen, though. Try
this link:

It has more than you’ll want, but look under reconditioning. There
are jigs that will help regrinding, but with a good eye and a steady
hand, you can do a good job. Use a good bench grinder or wheel that is
true, don’t let it get hot, even a little (unless it’s high-speed
steel). For tiny bits, I use a little diamond wheel on the flex
shaft, but you can use a separating disk, it’s just pretty coarse -
it will only get SO sharp. One of the most important things is getting
the tip in the center. I turn the bit and look at the flat half
facing me. If it looks like more than 1/2, and then I turn the bit to
the other face, and it ALSO looks like more than 1/2, it’s centered.

One more question: How do you resharpen a drill bit? In answer to
your last question "how do you resharpen a drill bit." If it is
under .050" you throw it away and buy the best quality replacement
that you can afford. 

Or you look at tip 48 in 101 Bench Tips for Jewelers. There you can
learn how to sharpen a drill bit, down to half a millimeter or 0.20"
yourself. It is pretty simple if you know how, and you save money.
Drill bits will last for years, if you resharpen them.


Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts, Inc.
760 Market Street
Suite 900
San Francisco
California 94102
tel: 415-391-4179
fax: 415-391-7570


One more question: How do you resharpen a drill bit? 

Sam gave you the best advice as far as sharpening drill bits. If
it’s less than.050" in diameter, throw the old one away & replace it
with a new one made of high speed steel. These small diameter bits
are usually less than $1 each in the US. If the material your
drilling & your time are worth anything, you can’t afford to sharpen
small bits.

Sharpening drill bits free hand takes a certain amount of skill
that’s acquired through experience. Unless you need to sharpen bits
on a daily basis, don’t even try. There’s a machine called “The Drill
Doctor” available for sharpening larger bits. The tool is around $125
& the grinding wheels, that have to be replaced periodically, are
around $25.]