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Discussion Starter #1
I know nothing about working with metal.

I need to drill 2 - 1/2" holes in 3/8" steel on my tractor to mount my new seatbelt. I have a mismatch of drill bits but nothing as large as 1/2". So I will be buying a new set of bits for this project - something I've needed for a long time anyway.

Then I thought of the step drills. I had never heard of them before I read about people using them on this forum - mostly when installing Ken's hooks. So I wonder if a step drill will work better for me on this project or should I just do it the old way I know of and start with a small bit and work my way up to the 1/2".

I'll be using both a 3/8" and 1/2" electric (read plug-in old school) drills.
 

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How thick is the metal Stan? That makes a big difference (IMHO) on the answer.
 

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i did it with hole saw bit -it works better than you would expect lots of oil :good2:-sorry thought that you have to drill a 2 1/2 inch hole For 1/2 inch hole you can use a step drill but a good one is bit expensive What will ruin the bit is high rpm better use a cordless drill on low
 

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Discussion Starter #4
How thick is the metal Stan? That makes a big difference (IMHO) on the answer.
3/8" as said in my OP. This is why I am asking because I haven't drilled this large a hole in this thick a metal before.
 

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Be careful when you step your way up to the larger bit with the plug in drill. They don't stop the split second you lay off the trigger like the cordless drills do. Chances are when you are about to break through with your finished diameter the bit could plunge and corkscrew on you and put a hurting on your wrist.
 

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Lots of people talk about step bits. I have no experience with them. For the past 10 years I have been buying the Dewalt pilot point bits. I find that the 1/2" bit along with some WD-40 will go through 3/8" soft metal in less than 10 seconds. It may not be the best as I haven't tried others, but at only 10 or so seconds I see no reason to change.

Some tips: I rock the bit back and forth a bit on older bits that are getting duller. When you're close to punching through I stop pushing so that it makes a nicer punch through and doesn't catch. With this method I only use the 1/2" instead of first drilling a smaller hole. Again this is what I use and do and I'm not saying that it's the best method but it works for me and I have done a bunch this way.


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3/8" as said in my OP. This is why I am asking because I haven't drilled this large a hole in this thick a metal before.
Yup...Sorry I sure missed it :hide:

As Blake wrote, this would not be a good project for a step drill as each "step" is usually only 1/8 or so-so you'd have a hole that has three steps in it.

Get a good bit, the Dewalt "pilot points are my current fav and doesn't even really need a pilot hole, Bosch has some nice ones too. Go slow and use (any) oil and it will cut easily.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
OK - thanks folks - this answers my question.

Yeah - even just holding the 1/2" drill horizontally will be a chore in itself. I know I am going to have to be careful when I am about to break through.
 

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I know nothing about working with metal.

I need to drill 2 - 1/2" holes in 3/8" steel on my tractor to mount my new seatbelt. I have a mismatch of drill bits but nothing as large as 1/2". So I will be buying a new set of bits for this project - something I've needed for a long time anyway.

Then I thought of the step drills. I had never heard of them before I read about people using them on this forum - mostly when installing Ken's hooks. So I wonder if a step drill will work better for me on this project or should I just do it the old way I know of and start with a small bit and work my way up to the 1/2".

I'll be using both a 3/8" and 1/2" electric (read plug-in old school) drills.
Normally use DeWalt bits, seem to hold up better.

Old school here, center punch, 1/8 pilot, 1/4 inch afterward, 3/8 inch than finally 1/2 inch when going through 3/8 or better
iron where I can't use the drill press and have to use a hand held.

Watch out for the wrist, go slow with the 3/8" and 1/2" bit, keep as straight as possible, they can hang up in an instant when
you're about through with the hole and you "wobble".
If you have a "power handle" for the big drill, use it.

Have sprained a wrist a time or two by being too aggressive with the pressure.:banghead:
 

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A step drill will provide a rounder hole than a regular bit will. Being a 1/2" hole and only 3/8" steel will provide a bit of a triangular hole. There are lots of step drill styles and if you can get at both sides of the piece you're drilling, a step drill will work best. Go from one side and use the next size up to provide a slight chamfering. Go from the other side and do the same thing. If you chose an appropriate step drill, it will clean up in the middle. If it doesn't, use a file or a regular 1/2" bit to clean up the extra material.
 

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I love step-bits. Use cutting oil and don't spin the bit too fast. You'll hear it dig in and see the chips when you're at the right speed. Too fast and too much pressure and you'll just burn through the bit and it will be worthless.
 

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You gotta drill what?? 2, 4 holes?

My SIL had to do that and asked me how to do it.

I gave him a set of drills, from 1/8 to 1/2", about 10 bits in the set.

I told him, for each hole, use EVERY bit. Start with the smallest, work your way up.

There is zero effort to drill each hole. it goes quick.

No pushing, no straining, no burning drill bits.

The hole is accurately located, round and clean.

When you are done,, you still have usable bits. :thumbup1gif:
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Normally use DeWalt bits, seem to hold up better.

Old school here, center punch, 1/8 pilot, 1/4 inch afterward, 3/8 inch than finally 1/2 inch when going through 3/8 or better
iron where I can't use the drill press and have to use a hand held.

Watch out for the wrist, go slow with the 3/8" and 1/2" bit, keep as straight as possible, they can hang up in an instant when
you're about through with the hole and you "wobble".
If you have a "power handle" for the big drill, use it.

Have sprained a wrist a time or two by being too aggressive with the pressure.:banghead:
You gotta drill what?? 2, 4 holes?

My SIL had to do that and asked me how to do it.

I gave him a set of drills, from 1/8 to 1/2", about 10 bits in the set.

I told him, for each hole, use EVERY bit. Start with the smallest, work your way up.

There is zero effort to drill each hole. it goes quick.

No pushing, no straining, no burning drill bits.

The hole is accurately located, round and clean.

When you are done,, you still have usable bits. :thumbup1gif:
This is my plan. Probably start with a 3/8" drill and go with the 1/2" with the larger bits and go with small steps with the bits. The 1/2" drill has a D-handle and side handle so hopefully I will be able to handle it - and going in small steps will be key for me.

I know it seems like I am making a big deal about 2 simple holes, but I have to plan everything out so as to not hurt myself.
 

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This is my plan. Probably start with a 3/8" drill and go with the 1/2" with the larger bits and go with small steps with the bits. The 1/2" drill has a D-handle and side handle so hopefully I will be able to handle it - and going in small steps will be key for me.

I know it seems like I am making a big deal about 2 simple holes, but I have to plan everything out so as to not hurt myself.
Know what you're talking about Coaltrain, I have no where near the problems you have, but my hands ain't
what they used to be.
Stuff I could just "walk off" 10 years ago and get back at it, take a while to heal up now.
That's the primary reason I went to a lot of power tools the last few years, the hands.

Be careful, take it slow.
 

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If there is any way to take the part off and mount in a vise or use a drill press do it. I would start SMALLER than 3/8"
 

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Just a note. I have found that when using pilot point bits it is not a good idea to start small and increase in size. I found that they jump around in the hole and make it to where it's hard to stay centered unless the pilot point is bigger than the initial hole which means drilling a very small initial hole and then moving directly to the 1/2".

So if you are drilling multiple holes don't use pilot points.

If only one hole, use the pilots.


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Discussion Starter #18
If there is any way to take the part off and mount in a vise or use a drill press do it. I would start SMALLER than 3/8"
I'm not starting with a 3/8" bit - a 3/8" drill.

Not very east to remove. It's the main frame part behind the rear tires that goes from the transmission case up to where the ROPS is mounted. Easy enough to get at once I wrestle the loaded R4's off....
 

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I'm not starting with a 3/8" bit - a 3/8" drill.

Not very east to remove. It's the main frame part behind the rear tires that goes from the transmission case up to where the ROPS is mounted. Easy enough to get at once I wrestle the loaded R4's off....
Oops! :hide: misunderstood. Did it not come with a seat belt, but with ROPS?
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Oops! :hide: misunderstood. Did it not come with a seat belt, but with ROPS?
I changed the seat to a Michigan suspension seat - had to remove the original seat platform which the seat belt was attached to. Wanted a retractable seat belt anyway.
 
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