How Can I Cut a Hole in Metal Faceplate?

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Cutting a hole in a metal faceplate is a fairly simple and straightforward operation; you just need the right tools and approach to complete the job properly and safely. Cutting into metal requires specialized saw blades or drill bits, along with the tools to use them. These tools are readily available at neighborhood or online retailers. Cutting metal can produce sharp edges or protruding burrs. Proper planning and measuring for the cut, as well as safety equipment, are essential elements for your project.

Define the Problem

  • There are a variety of structures, appliances and even vehicles with metal faceplaces, or metal coverings, usually used as a cover to protect electronics or to provide decorative or protective facing. Some appliances, such as a free-standing kitchen oven, are made almost entirely from sheet metal and are mounted on an internal aluminum or steel frame. Homes or buildings also often make use of metal building materials for siding, framing and central heating systems.

    First, determine the extent of the opening needed for your project. The size of the opening needed will determine the type of tool you need. If precision is needed, make sure to measure and mark accordingly, using a measuring tape and pencil. Use a level, if necessary.

Use the Right Tool for the Job

  • To drill or cut a satisfactory hole in any kind of a material, the right drill bit or saw is essential. Most hand-held drills will handle a standard metal drill bit up to 1/4 inch, before a different type of bit may be needed. High speed steel (HSS), cobalt steel, or coated step drill bits are appropriate for metal. Avoid carbon steel bits, as these are made for drilling into wood only.

    For smaller holes, choose a metal drill bit that is up to the task. Multiple holes may require a higher-quality and longer-lasting bit. Use special care when using the smallest sizes, as these bits can break under too much stress.

    For larger holes, a hole saw drill bit may be required. Hole saw bits attach to your drill similar to a standard drill bit and come in a variety of sizes to fit your need.

    For irregularly shaped holes, a reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade may be required. To get a larger, irregular hole started, begin by drilling a hole large enough for your reciprocating saw to be inserted and continue the cut. Depending on your project, a hand-held keyhole saw may be more appropriate and precise.

Making the Cut

  • Wear safety glasses or goggles, and know your tools. Maintain a good grip on your drill or saw. Larger drills may feature a stabilizing hand-hold or handle, which will help ensure a straight and even cut. Apply only light pressure as you make your cut, while holding your drill or saw square with the work.

    When your hole is complete, use a metal hand file (or "bastard file") to file away stray burrs, raised edges or small pieces of metal that remain attached to the edge of your cut.

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