How to Drill Holes in Plastic

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s quite possible to drill holes into plastic, here’s a reality check: Yes, it can be done. But it isn’t as easy as you think.

Many people have shared quite bitter tales of how they ended up with cracked, deformed, or damaged plastic items in the process of drilling holes in them. This doesn’t have to be your story, too.

Plastics, according to Science Direct is light in weight and brittle—which means it is liable to crack when stress is applied. This inability to exhibit toughness makes it very different from metal materials, especially when it comes to drilling holes in them.

So, how do you drill holes in your plastic items, and do it properly like a boss without sob stories? This article is going to explore two methods of expertly pulling it off.

Method 1

If you’re looking to drill tiny holes no more than ½ inch, this is how to go about it. You’re going to need the following materials to get started.

  • Pin or nail
  • Lighter
  • Bench
  1. Find an appropriate pin or nail and place it on top of a stove. Heat the tip of the nail or pin with a lighter for a couple of minutes. Using a cloth, remove the nail or pin from the stove.
  2. Place the plastic on top of a bench or flat surface.
  3. Carefully push the tip of the nail into the plastic. You may decide to twist the pin or nail as you proceed.
  4. Once, the pin has appeared on the other side, slide it out. If it cools down before piercing through the other side, eject it and heat it up again.

This process requires your undivided attention, as any little distraction may result in burning your fingers and/or the plastic getting damaged. It is highly recommended that you place your smartphone on Airplane mode before you even begin.

Yes, it’s that serious.

Method 2

drilling in plastic

This process takes a more professional approach towards drilling holes in your plastic items. Depending on the size of the hole you want to drill, you’re going to need the following materials:

  • Electric drill with speed regulator 
  • Clamp
  • Sharp twist bit
  • Sandpaper
  • Pencil
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  1. With the aid of a ruler or measuring tape, measure out the areas you want to drill and mark it with a pencil. Take some time to ensure that your markings are correct and concise. There’s no way you can undo a mistake after drilling has been done.
  2. Now that the measurements have been done, infix the sharp bit into the drill and tighten it in place. Using the clamp, hold the plastic firmly on a bench or a solid surface. This is to ensure that the plastic doesn’t shift when you start drilling.
  3. Switch on the drill and position it on the marked spot on the plastic, and press the drill trigger. It is important that you drill as slowly as you can to maintain coherence throughout the plastic if there are multiple holes to drill.
  4. Pay attention to the hole being drilled. You can stop drilling immediately you notice the other side has been pierced. Wait for the plastic to cool down before you reverse the drill settings and pull out the drill bit.
  5. To ensure that the plastic is smooth, use sandpaper to sand the perimeter of the drill hole. Ensure that you do not peel off the layer of plastic in the process.

Also, check if there are any cracks anywhere on the plastic. If there are not, you’ve done a good job. In the unfortunate event that there are cracks, well, you can carry it out more carefully with new plastic.

Here are some helpful tips to consider when drilling holes in plastic items:

  • When using Method 2 to drill holes into your plastic, it is highly recommended that you’re using the appropriate drill bit, to ensure you do not crack, chip, or melt the plastic in the process.

Drill bits for drilling plastics are come in a variety of sizes, from small to large. Using the wrong drill bit will result in irregular holes which could lead to cracking in the long run.

  • When drilling a large hole on the plastic, it is imperative to use a low speed. Drilling at high speeds can result in the plastic melting—which is what you do not want. Even when you switch the settings to reverse, as you remove the drill bit, you should also set it at a slower speed.

As stated earlier, you should clamp the plastic down on a solid surface to prevent the plastic from spinning out of position.

  • It is best practice to attach plywood at the other side of the plastic to be drilled. This is to prevent the surface of the other side from chipping when the drill bit appears.
  • Apply a lubricant on the drill bit if you’re going to be drilling a considerably deeper hole. This will help reduce the heat of drilling and help in removing the debris created as a result of drilling. I’d also suggest watching this helpful video:

  • Plastics are known to expand and contract as a result of temperature changes. Hence, if the hole is going to house a screw, it is necessary to drill a relatively bigger hole, to allow free twisting of screws inside without causing the plastic to crack.
  • The most preferred drill bit for plastics is the spur-points bits. They are specifically designed to leave a clean and smooth cut. They can also be used for drilling other soft materials. Twist bits are a no-no for plastics, as they can tear the material during drilling.
  • Most importantly, try to protect yourself by wearing protective gear. Ensure that every part of your body is properly covered before you commence drilling.

Drilling plastics is an expert skill only a few have managed to master. With these helpful tips and methods, you will be able to handle yourself pretty well and stand out from those who can’t.

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