How to Drill Aluminum: Tools, Method,

Aluminium is a metal and is widely used in metalworking. It is a lightweight, stronger soft metal. Hence aluminum can cut, drill, roll, and heat easily with a minimum efficiency. Therefore aluminum can be used in many industries, such as automobile, construction, and many more. Aluminum is an electric conductor and it has a 660 °C melting point. Aluminum can be used as bars, plates, sheets, coils, and wires as a row material for projects.

1. Identify the Aluminum Metal Before Drilling

You may need to drill the aluminum bar, door, hinge, revert, frame, and anything when you need. Before drilling it, you had better know the types of aluminum because some are very tough and some are brittle. As well as, some parts have included special materials in order to increase their strength. Ex – Silicon.

So before you drill into aluminum, it is better to know about the material a bit.

Aluminum is an old metal. It was refined in various methods since 1825. The modern used aluminum was introduced to the public (1855) at the Paris Exposition at about the time that it became available (in small amounts at great expense) by the sodium reduction of molten aluminum chloride through the Deville process.

Today, there are 1000 – 8000 series of grade aluminum available for different purposes. Instead of pure aluminum, these metals are made with a mixing percentage of alloys. Copper, Manganese, Silicon, Magnesium, and Zinc are a few of mixed alloys for Aluminum.

Before you drill into the aluminum, you should know which types of aluminum you are going to drill because some characteristics can be varied with the types of aluminum.

The most used Aluminum Applications for home and construction are below.

  • Aluminum 5005 – Aluminum Roofing
  • Aluminium 5052 – Aluminium Riverts
  • Aluminum 6061 – Aluminium Beams
  • Aluminum 6063 – Door frames
  • Aluminum 6262 – Nuts, valves, fittings, etc

So it is important to know, the type of aluminum you are going to drill.

2. Choose the Right Drill Bit For Aluminum

Drill bits for aluminum
Drill bits for aluminum

Another important step is choosing a suitable drill bit for aluminum. Generally, aluminum is soft, nonferrous, ductile material with low density. Because its ductility and softness cause the material to make constant prolonged contact with the drill bit surface. This will increase the overheating of the drill bit easily. So let’s see, what are the suitable drill bits that can be used for the aluminum drilling.

  • HSS drill bits – HSS drill bits can be used to drill aluminum.
  • HSSCo – In order to improve the HSS characteristics, cobalt is coated on the HSS. This is a really good solution for DIY workers. Cheap and durable product for aluminum drilling.
  • Cobalt drill bits – Uncoated cobalt drill bits are suitable for drilling aluminum. Because most cobalt drill bits are coated with the coatings such as Al2O3 or AlTiN, when you use such a drill bit, it will tend to stick to the workpiece surface under heat and pressure.
  • The sticking impact can be mostly seen in CNC machines.
  • Carbide Drill bits – Suitable for high-speed drilling such as CNC machines etc. Carbide drill bits are very efficient and have a longer service life. These bits are expensive and suitable for industrial usage mostly.

The drill bit angle should be 130 degrees to 140 degrees.

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3. Choose a Suitable Drilling Machine For Aluminum

When you drill into aluminum, you should choose the right drilling machine every time because many power tools are available in the market with many options. You can use an electric drill, bench press drill, lathe, and even a CNC machine if there is a possibility.

For DIY projects, an electric drill is very effective and a bench drill is good for professional users.

4. Center Punch the Drilling Point on Aluminum

Before starting drilling, you should center punch the point you need. It will help to keep the drill bit point on the exact place to be drilled. Metals are smooth. Hence, drill bits can slipper here and there. Due to the center punch. The drill bit will not slip on the metal surface while it is starting the rotation.

You can use traditional centerpunch or modern centerpunch for this. As well as you can drill a pilot hole for a better result.

Center punch
Center punch

5. Start with Lower RPM and SFM

A drilling machine has an RPM. RPM stands for the Revolutions Per Minute. When you start drilling, you should start it with a lower RPM. It helps to contact the metal surface and the center punch to cut the material with higher torque.

Normally, you can drill aluminum in 200 – 350 SFM and 2500 RPM easily due to the softness of the metal.

6. Use Coolant if Needed.

When you drill aluminum, it can be heated too much due to the high cutting speed and RPM. As a result of this drill bit can be broken easily.

So you should use a suitable coolant. When you see smaller chips evacuated from the drilling hole, probably drill bit is blunt or the drilling angle is not correct. So applying coolant for this kind of situation is not efficient. You should check the drill bit to see whether there is a proper cutting angle.

When there is a smoke rise from the hole due to the drill bit it is a sign of too much heat generation. So you can reduce the RPM and thrust to the drill bit.

aluminum drill bit cooling
Use a suitable cooling method when drilling into aluminum

7. Clean the Drilled Hole in Aluminum

After you have finished the drilling process, you should clean the drill hole. And also, you can use a counter sink drill bit to taper the drilled hole edge for better finishing.

Why Aluminum is Melting During the Drilling Process

The aluminum workpiece can be melted during the drilling process due to higher RPM and thrust. This can be increased when there is no cutting fluid which helps to reduce the heat and friction. Due to this overheating, the drill bit can be broken easily. Hence use lower RPM and thrust in order to get maximum efficiency.

Can You Use Titanium Drill Bits for Aluminum?

Titanium drill bits can be used to drill aluminum successfully. Titanium is applied on the drill bit as a coating with mixing Aluminum, Nitrogen, and Carbon. When you use an aluminum mixed drill bit, be careful of the stickiness with the material and drill bit due to heat and friction.

Can You Use a Wood Drill Bit for Aluminum?

Most of wood drill bits can be used to drill aluminum because most of the wood drill bits are made with HSS (high-speed steel) and sometimes those are coated with titanium. Hence these drill bits directly can be used for soft metal like aluminum and wood easily.

What are the Coolents Need for Aluminum Drilling?

When you drill aluminum, you can use oil as a lubricant and coolant for the drilling process. As well as you can use WD-40 and Tap Magic 30004P for the drilling process. When you see smoke rising from the drilling point, you should reduce the thrust to the drill bit and reduce the RPM gradually. Before you place the drill bit, makesure the drill bit point angle is 118°.

Tom Mackency

Tom Mackency

Hi, I am Tom Mackency. It has been 10 years that I have been working as a professional woodworker since 2013. I am really enjoying my carrier by creating many kinds of projects in my workshop. But mostly I like for home improvement projects. Home improvement and DIY projects are the most interesting things for me. More than that, the coolest things are power tools. Those are very precious and efficient than a decade ago. So I try to introduce so many things about power tools, woodworking, DIY projects, home improvement and many more interesting topics here.

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