Make: Projects

$3 Drill That Can Make a Hole in Anything

Lost in the jungle and need to make a life-saving device that involves drilling a big hole in something as hard as a file? No problem!!

$3 Drill That Can Make a Hole in Anything

Sooner or later almost every Maker will need to drill something that is almost un-drillable. Electrical drills make our lives much easier but they are almost useless on some work because the bit turns too fast and heat is allowed to build up to the level that destroys the bit.



Step #1:

$3 Drill That Can Make a Hole in Anything
  • Pressing down hard with a masonry bit and turning slowly is all it takes. Regular steel can be drilled with a plain drill bit in this same way.
  • This is a forgotten technique in the age of rechargeable drills. 125 years ago, holes were not "drilled," they were "ratcheted." In much more recent times, railroad tracks were drilled this way.

Step #2:

$3 Drill That Can Make a Hole in Anything
  • An early version of a once-common but now forgotten "Cole" drill.
  • Not really forgotten, now, because of the efforts of our Multimachine news group.
  • Sorry, the source of this picture has been lost.
  • A drill like this would be very expensive now because of the need for a steel forging threaded with a fine internal thread.

Step #3:

$3 Drill That Can Make a Hole in Anything
  • This was the first test by the winner of a contest I ran to build an all-wood version of the drill. He tested it by making a 1" hole in steel plate.
  • The "secret" is simple; just press down on the bit with 500 to 1000 pounds of pressure and turn slowly without letting the bit wobble.
  • It is important to apply only enough pressure to get the bit to start cutting. If you apply too much pressure a wedge will build up at the cutting edge and it will be almost impossible to drill past it.

Step #4:

$3 Drill That Can Make a Hole in Anything

My subsequent wooden version worked pretty well but had a problem.

Step #5:

$3 Drill That Can Make a Hole in Anything
  • We need a better way to apply pressure to the spindle as it slowly rotates.
  • It needs to durable and easily made in primitive conditions. A rounded hardwood hub and several large greased washers work but are not the elegant solution I am looking for.
  • It needs to withstand a thousand pounds of pressure as the spindle turns and the angle of the arm changes.
  • What's the big deal? Well, many millions of farmers could use a drill like this to attach plow points made from scrap steel to wooden plows. This would provide a huge reduction in plowing effort.
  • This was designed at the request of an EWB engineering professor in Kenya. I took so long to find a way to drill these holes that, sadly, I lost contact with the man.

  • Jerry Friedman

    Put the weight directly on top of the vertical shaft.
    Thinking of a round platform (2′ Dia) you could stand on connected directly to the vertical shaft. Add a railing the operator could use to generate rotational force with his arms.
    Clamp work down, chuck up bit, climb up onto the platform and spin around till you drill through. All the thrust goes to the drill tip – No need for a ‘thrust bearing’.

  • Eric Nashlund

    Why not repurpose a worn-out automotive clutch throwout bearing.
    Usually they are replaced once they get noisy rather than being rebuilt.
    For this low speed purpose, one too noisy for a car would still last a lifetime.

  • Rheticus

    Thrust bearings

  • Moe

    Files are not hard. They are made from fairly soft material.