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Please help me with my drilling question...


BOUNCED EMAIL: I need to update my email address in my profile!
Dec 14, 2001
If any of you folks could help me out and give me a few hints at what I'm doing wrong, and thereby save my sanity, I would be MOST greatful. :)

Here's the problem. The single biggest problem I have in my making knives is simply drilling holes into my steel.

I work with 9260 spring steel, all of it 5/16th inch thick, in annealed form ofcourse.

I've used normal HSS drill bits, with no luck. I can make a nice dent, but that's it. No hole.

Went to a few enginneering and tool stores, no one around here even knows what annealed steel is so obviously the likelyhood of me getting any good answers out of them was zero, exactly as I fully expected having lived here for 10 years now.... (you probably think I'm joking, but you don't know New Zealand. Let's just leave it at that.)

Asking my father's opinion though, he told me to get a hss cobalt drill bit, which I did. And it worked!! Hooray, finally. You shoulda seen my happy dance.

It worked once! Yip, just once. I did the happy dance too soon.

Don't get me wrong, it was a mighty nice hole and all that and I cherish that hole, but it only worked once. I need to drill more than one hole without buying a new drill bit each time.

Next time I tried to drill, the same piece of steel just further up a bit, it barely made a 1 or 2 mm dent in the steel.

I tried and tried and nothing. I couldn't even believe my eyes. How can it work so perfectly just a few minutes earlier, and now it barely makes a dent in the steel?

I used some lubricant on it, but maybe I didn't use enough? Am I simply ruining the drill bits because I don't use enough lube? Is it a heat issue?

I don't think it's getting that hot, but who knows.

Help! Please!
Use the slowest speed that your drill press has on it. The friction heat is softening the cutting edge on the bits. I use a series of holes starting small and graduating up to the desired size. That way you have less contact on the bit which means less heat. Annealed 9260 should be very easy to drill through even with HSS, that is if you keep the speed way down.
Drilling annealed steel is quite easy as long as you have a drill press that has a slow speed setting. You can use regular HSS bits. Cobalt is better but you don't need it. The most important thing is the drill press and go slow. Do this and you'll have no problem at all.
Thank you to both of you!

It's making sense now why it worked for the first hole perfectly and then it just stopped.

Much obliged!
I used to have a small 4 speed (760 - 15?? rpm) press and had the exact same problems you're describing (1 hole and then nothing). I went out and spent the $200 or so bucks on a better press and have way less headaches. I usually drill 1/8" holes at 560 rpm and 1/4" at 345 rpm. Remember to use only light pressure and plenty of oil (don't know what you're using, but the S30V I've been using is horrible once it's work hardened).

"Only a poor tradesman blames his tools, a good tradesman makes damn sure he has better ones." (Quote from a Newfie welder)
Thanks for that!

Light pressure, that's another thing I wasn't doing.
I had some training as a machinist ... back when the dinosaurs roamed. With a decent drill press and good quality high speed steel drill bits you should not be having the trouble you've had.

(1) make a pilot hole first, maybe an eighth of an inch in diameter
(2) use a slow speed
(3) use copious quantities of cutting oil or other appropriate lubricant
(4) apply lube frequently to drill flutes as you drill
(5) use moderately heavy downward pressure
(6) use a small brush or oil to flush cuttings out of the hole maybe

If you can't easily get cutting oil, I suppose a reasonable substitute would be a medium grade of engine oil, maybe thinned a bit with automatic transmission fluid depending on the viscosity of the oil being used. Good luck.
You also have to be careful that it is a continous drillling. If you do not keep pressure on it with the 9260 it could work harden the bottom of your hole.
I have a $40 Harbor Freight drill press and I use their bits that cost about $4 for the set. I don't use any lube and I don't use light pressure but just moderate. I have no problems at all. My bits last pretty long. Since they're so cheap, I just buy a new set when they dull. I make about 2 knives per week and I use a drill to make holes for the tang, guards, and handles.
Thank you all!

I'm taking careful note of all info.
One thing I did not notice brought up.
If you are going to be drilling holes in steel sooner or later you are going to have to resharpen the bit Learn to sharpen a drill bit or get a drill doctor. A drill bit is just like a knife if it is dull it is about worthless.
I have been around machine shops all my life and sharpening drill bits was just something you had to do.

I have some 1095 steel that is not fully anealed or???? I made a few knives from it, it was difficult to saw and drill. I would have to resharpen my drill bit two or three times per hole. But it would had not got done with out being able to resharpen the drill bit