General Drilling Operations


    After a workpiece is laid out and properly mounted, the drilling process can begin. The drilling process, or complete operation, involves selecting the proper twist drill or cutter for the job, properly installing the drill into the machine spindle, setting the speed and feed, starting the hole on center, and drilling the hole to specifications within the prescribed tolerance. Tolerance is the allowable deviation from standard size. The drilling process must have some provisions for tolerance because of the oversizing that naturally occurs in drilling. Drilled holes are always slightly oversized, or slightly larger than the diameter of the drill's original designation. For instance, a l/4-inch twist drill will produce a hole that may be several thousandths of an inch larger than l/4-inch.

    Oversizing is due to several factors that affect the drilling process: the actual size of the twist drill, the accuracy of the drill point, the accuracy of the machine chuck and sleeve, the accuracy and rigidity of the drilling machine spindle, the rigidity of the entire drilling machine, and the rigidity of the workpiece and setup. Field and maintenance shop drilling operations allow for some tolerance, but oversizing must be kept to the minimum by the machine operator.

Selecting the Drill

    Selecting the proper twist drill means getting the right tool for the job (see Table 6-2 in Appendix A). The material to be drilled, the size of that material, and the size of the drilled hole must all be considered when selecting the drill. Also, the drill must have the proper lip angles and lip clearances for the job. The drill must be clean and free of any burrs or chips. The shank of the drill must also be clean and free of burrs to fit into the chuck. Most drills wear on the outer edges and on the chisel point, so these areas must be checked, and resharpened if needed, before drilling can begin. If the twist drill appears to be excessively worn, replace it.

Installing the Drill

    Before installing the drill into the drilling machine spindle, clean the spindle socket and drill shank of all dirt, chips, and burrs. Use a small tile inside the socket to remove any tough burrs. Slip the tang of the drill or geared drill chuck into the sleeve and align the tang into the keyway slot (Figure 6-30).

  Tap the end of the drill lightly with a soft hammer to seat firmly. Another method used to seat the drill into the sleeve is to place a block of wood on the machine table and force the drill down onto the block.

Figure 6-30. Installing a taper shank drill.

Selecting Drill Speed

    Speed refers to the revolutions per minute (RPM) of the drilling machine spindle. For drilling, the spindle should rotate at a set speed that is selected for the material being drilled. Correct speeds are essential for satisfactory drilling. The speed at which a drill turns and cuts is called the peripheral speed. Peripheral speed is the speed of a drill at its circumference expressed in surface feet per minute (SFPM). This speed is related to the distance a drill would travel if rolled on its side. For example, a peripheral speed of 30 feet per minute means the drill would roll 30 feet in 1 minute if rolled on its side.

    It has been determined through experience and experiment that various metals machine best at certain speeds; this best speed for any given metal is what is known as its cutting speed (CS) (see Table 4-2) in Appendix A. If the cutting speed of a material is known, then a simple formula can be used to find the recommended RPM of the twist drill.

    The slower of the two recommended speeds is used for the following formulas due to the varying conditions that may exist, such as the rigidity of the setup, the size of the drilling machine, and the quality of finish.

RPM = CSx4


Where RPM = drill speed in revolutions per minute.

CS = Recommended cutting speed in surface feet per minute.


   4 = A constant in all calculations for RPM

            (except metric).

   D = The diameter of the drill itself.

For example, if a 1/2-inch (0.500-inch) twist drill is to cut aluminum, the formula would be setup as follows:

RPM = 200 X 4 = 800 = 1600 RPM

                 .500      .500

    Thus, the drilling machine would be set up to drill as close to 1,600 RPM as possible. It is best to use the machine speed that is closest to the recommended RPM. When using the metric system of measurement, a different formula must be used to find RPM:

RPM = CS (m) x 320

                   D (mm)

Where RPM = Drill speed in revolutions per


     CS = Recommended cutting                    speed             in     surface            meters per minute.

320 = A constant for all metric RPM calculations.


    D = Diameter of the twist drill in millimeters.

    For example, if a 15-mm twist drill is to cut medium-carbon steel, with a recommended cutting speed of 21.4 meters per minute, the formula would be set up as follows:

RPM= 21.4 x320 = 6848

                     15           15

RPM = 21.4 x320 = 6848 = 456.533 RPM

                      5             15        or 457 RPM

Round this RPM up or down to the nearest machine speed.

    The speeds on these tables are just recommendations and can be adjusted lower if needed, or to higher speeds if conditions permit.


    Feed is the distance a drill travels into the workpiece during each revolution of the spindle. It is expressed in thousandths of an inch or in millimeters. Hand-feed drilling machines have the feed regulated by the hand pressure of the operator; thus, the skill of the operator will determine the best feeds for drilling. Power feed drilling machines have the ability to feed the drill into the work at a preset depth of cut per spindle revolution, so the best feeding rate can be determined (see Table 4-4 in Appendix A).

    The selection of the best feed depends upon the size of the drill, the material to be drilled, and the condition of the drilling machine. Feed should increase as the size of the drill increases. After starting the drill into the workpiece by hand, a lever on the power-feed drilling machine can be activated, which will then feed the drill into the work until stopped or disengaged. Too much feed will cause the drill to split; too little feed will cause chatter, dull the drill, and possibly harden the workpiece so it becomes more difficult to drill. Drills 1/2 inch or smaller can generally be hand-fed, while the larger drills require more downward torque and should be power-fed.


    To start a twist drill into the workpiece, the point of the drill must be aligned with the center-punched mark on the workpiece. Some drilling operations may not require a precise alignment of the drill to the work, so alignment can be done by lining up the drill by hand and eye alone. If a greater precision in centering alignment is required, than more preparation is needed before starting to drill.


    The best method to align and start a hole is to use the combination countersink and drill, known as the center drill (Figure 6-31). Set the drilling machine speed for the diameter of the tip of the center drill, start the machine, and gently lower the center drill into contact with the work, using hand and eye coordination. The revolving center drill will find the center punched mark on the workpiece and properly align the hole for drilling. The depth of the center-drilled hole should be no deeper than two third the length of the tapered portion of the center drill.


    Often, the drill will not be on center, sometimes due to a poorly made center-punched mark or a hard spot on the metal. To draw the twist drill back to the position desired (Figure 6-31), a sharp chisel is used to make one or more nicks or grooves on the side toward which the drill is to be drawn. The chisel marks will draw the drill over because of the tendency of the drill to follow the line of least resistance. After the chisel mark is made, the drill is again hand-fed into the work and checked for being on center. This operation must be completed before the drill point has enlarged the hole to full diameter or the surface of the workpiece will be marred by a double hole impression.


Figure 6-31. Drawing a drill back on center.


    After the drill has been aligned and the hole started, then insert the proper size drill (Figure 6-32) and continue drilling into the workpiece (Figure 6-33), while applying cutting fluid. The cutting fluid to use will depend on what material is being machined (see Table 4-3 in Appendix A). Use the cutting fluids freely.


Figure 6-32. Drilling the center drilled hole.


Figure 6-33. Drilling a workpiece

Drilling Deep Holes

    If the depth of the hole being drilled is greater than four times the diameter of the drill, remove the drill from the workpiece at frequent intervals to clean the chips from the flutes of the drill and the hole being drilled. A slight increasing speed and decrease in feed is often used to give the chips a greater freedom of movement. In deep hole drilling, the flutes of the smaller drills will clog up very quickly and cause the drill to drag in the hole, causing the diameter of the hole to become larger than the drill diameter. The larger drills have larger flutes which carry away chips easier.

    When the depth of the hole being drilled is four times the diameter of the drill itself, remove the drill at frequent intervals and clean the chips from the flutes of the drill and from the hole being drilled.

Drilling a Pilot Hole

    As the drill size increases, both the size of the web and the width of the chisel edge increase (Figure 6-34). The chisel edge of drill does not have a sharp cutting action, scraping rather than cutting occurs. In larger drills, this creates a considerable strain on the machine. To eliminate this strain when drilling a large hole, a pilot hole is drilled first (Figure 6-34) and then followed with the larger drill. A drill whose diameter is wider than the web thickness of the large drill is used for the pilot hole. This hole should be drilled accurately as the larger drill will follow the small hole.


 Figure 6-34. Using a pilot drill.

      A pilot drill can also be used when average-sized holes are to be drilled on small drilling machines. The small" machine may not have enough power to drive the larger drill through the metal. Avoid making the pilot drilled hole much wider than the web of the larger drill. Too wide of a pilot drilled hole may cause the larger drill cutting lips to grab and snag which may cause excessive chatter or an out-of-round hole.

Drilling Thin Material

   When drilling thin workpieces, such as sheet metal, place another piece of metal or wood under the workpiece to provide support and prevent bending the workpiece or ruining the hole due to the upthrust created when the drill breaks through.

   If thin metal must be drilled and a support cannot be rigged under the thin metal, then a drill designed for thin metal, such as a low helix drill with zero rake angle, commonly called a sheet metal drill, must be used.

Using a Depth Stop

   The depth stop mechanism on the drilling machine (Figure 6-35) should be used whenever drilling to a desired depth, and to prevent the twist drill from traveling too far after cutting through the workpiece. The depth stop is designed to be used whenever a number of holes of the same depth are to be drilled, or when drilling holes deep into the workpiece (blind holes). Make sure that drills are chucked tightly to avoid slipping and changing the depth setting. Most depth stops have away to measure the distance that the drill travels. Some may have a fractional gage on the depth stop rod, and some may have a micrometer dial located on the depth stop for very precise measurements.


 Figure 6-35, Depth stop mechanism.

Checking the Depth of Drilled Holes

    To accurately check the depth of a drilled hole, the length of the sides of the hole must be measured. Do not measure from the bottom point of the hole (Figure 6-36). A thin depth gage is inserted into the hole, along the side, and the measurement taken. If the hole is too small for the gage to fit down into it then a twist drill of the same size as the hole can be inserted into the hole upside down, then removed and measured with a rule. Clean all chips and coolant from the holes before attempting any depth measurement.


Figure 6-36. Checking the depth of drilled holes.

Drilling Round Stock

    When drilling shafts, rods, pipes, dowels, or other round stock, it is important to have the center punch mark aligned with the drill point (Figure 6-37). Use V-blocks to hold the round stock for center punching and drilling. Align the center of the round stock with a square or by lining the workpiece up with the twist drill point. Another method to drill round stock is to use a V-block drill jig that automatically centers the work for drilling.

Operational Checks

    After the hole is drilled to specifications, always back the drill out of the hole and shut off the machine. Allowing a drill to run on in the hole will cause the hole to be oversized. At any time during the drilling process, a problem could occur. If so, it should be fixed as soon as possible to avoid any damage or injury. Operators must observe the drilling machine for any excessive vibration or wobble, overheating of the electric motor, and unusual noises coming from the machine. A high pitched squeal coming from the drill itself may indicate a dull drill. A groaning or rumbling sound may indicate that the drill is overloaded and the feed needs to be reduced. A chattering sound may indicate an off-center drill or a poorly sharpened drill. These or other noises could also be caused by internal parts of the machine. Consult the operator's manual and correct all problems before attempting to continue drilling.


Figure 6-37. Centering for drilling round stock.

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