How to Drill a Hole in a Copper Tube

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After drilling, polishing copper can enhance the visual appeal of your finished project.
After drilling, polishing copper can enhance the visual appeal of your finished project. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The warm-red tones of a copper tube look beautiful in art projects, and they also have many practical uses, but few metals are trickier to drill successfully. If your next project calls for working with copper, careful preparation and choosing the right tools will turn this task from a tedious chore to a painless breeze. Armed with this knowledge, you can tackle anything from your next plumbing job to making a beautiful wind chime or creating gorgeous copper jewelry.

Things You'll Need

  • High-speed steel or titanium-coated drill bits
  • Power drill
  • Water-based lubricant
  • Metal file
  • Vise

Mark the point on the copper tube where you would like to drill your hole. Place the tube in a vise and tighten the vise to hold the tubing securely in place.

Pour a moderate amount of water-based lubricant on the point you marked for drilling.

Insert a high-speed steel or titanium-coated drill bit into your power drill that is one size smaller than your final intended hole size. Set your power drill to a low drilling speed. Place the tip of the drill on the spot you marked, making sure that your drill is aligned as vertically as you can position it.

Drill with slight pressure, pausing to add lubricant as needed to prevent the drill and the copper from becoming too hot. Clear away any larger pieces from the hole, then continue to drill until the bit has passed completely through the copper tube.

Remove the drill bit from the copper tube. Switch to a larger drill bit that is the same size as that of the final hole.

Pour lubricant on the hole. Begin drilling through the hole with the larger drill bit. Pause and add lubricant as before to avoid overheating the bit or the tube. Continue until the drill bit has passed completely through the tube.

Remove the copper tube from the vise. Rub a metal file along the edges of the newly drilled hole to smooth the edges and remove any stray metal shards.

Tips & Warnings

  • It is important to use the sharpest possible drill bits when drilling through copper. The metal can be gummy, and a dull bit will not drill a clean hole.
  • Always wear safety goggles and heavy work gloves when drilling through metal.
  • Even with lubricant, the friction of drilling into metal can make the drill bit very hot. Wait until a recently used drill bit has cooled before handling it.

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