The beauty of a step drill bit

The beauty of a step drill bit


After struggling with marred and misshapen metal for his instrument panels, Aris discovered the savior of panel-makers everywhere – the step bit.

Making holes for panel pots and switches has always been a major pain in the butt for me.
I tried lots of times to make different sized holes with standard metal drills on tin sheets but the holes always came out at the wrong places or, due to the fact that I don’t have a drill stand, triangle shaped because of my inability to keep the panels from sliding up and down the drill. They also came out with lots of scrap attached to them (I cannot find the right word but I mean the metal goo that remains at the opposite side of the drill entrance).

Today, I received in the mail a… STEP DRILL!


If you are careful with the step drill you get instant holes at the desired diameter (the numbers on the drill are mm). And since there is a taper leading to the next, larger diameter on the drill, you get instant metal-goo cleaning and flattening. No more scrap at the holes…

Hmmm … I also sense a nibbler in his future – Making panel holes

22 thoughts on “The beauty of a step drill bit

  1. Jim Pritchard says:

    Re your “I cannot find the right word but I mean the metal goo …”

    Over here, we call that stuff swarf

  2. Claudio says:

    Working in the manufacturing industry, we call them “burrs”

  3. suidae says:

    I call it burrs when it’s small material attached to the cut edge, swarf if it’s detached cuttings. I guess swarf that’s stuck on like a burr would be… barf?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’m used to using a deburring tool like the one linked below… quick and easy for most deburring.

  5. beef says:

    i do some circuit bending and went without one of these for a long time…

    using standard wood/metal bits works ok but in vintage 1980s plastic you run a high risk of screwing the bit into the plastic (as opposed to drilling through). this often rips the plastic outside of your hole diameter.

    to solve this problem i developed a technique to get through the plastic cleanly:
    1. i drill a small pilot hole (< or = 1/8"). 2. once the pilot was drilled, and i put in the proper diameter bit. i run the drill in reverse and foce it 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through. 3. finally i would stop, switch to forward on the drill and finish drilling through. this works great on plastic and even wood occasionally. not good on metal. also it helps to have a higher rpm drill to accomplish the reverse cut/melt through. but then i bought a step drill bit and never did any of this again. go get one. great on any thin plastic, metal, or wood.

  6. says:

    These things rock. They were indispensable when building my geodesic dome out of 1/2″ steel conduit.

  7. Collin Cunningham says:

    @beef – I developed the same technique as well, surprisingly effective.

    @suidae – yes, I believe barf is correct

  8. Jack says:

    There’s no possible way to over-praise the value of step bits. Whether drilling panels, enclosures, car firewalls, holes in Hard disk platters, etc (basically any metal part up to about 1/4″ thick), if you want a well cut hole, step bits are THE way to go. They come in various sizes. I have one that cuts from about 3/8″ to 1″, as well as a smaller one similar to the bit pictured here. They’re somewhat expensive (about $25 to $70 depending on the size, material, and number of steps), but they are one of the most versatile tools for the maker. If you don’t have one, stop what you’re doing right now, and at least borrow from someone who does. I guarantee you’ll start looking at those old standard bits with a bit of disappointment.

    Yeah, I like step bits :)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Drill Press!

  10. Bill says:

    Harbor Freight is an inexpensive source for step-drills.

  11. Sean Michael Ragan says:

    Two words: Greenlee. Punch.

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