Drilling,

How to Drill a Hole in Plastic (7-Step Guide)

Hey there, DIY enthusiasts! Today, we’re tackling a challenge that might seem simple at first glance but can actually throw a curveball if you’re not prepared—drilling holes in plastic.

In general, you can drill holes in plastic by following the steps: 

  • Step 1: Reshape the backside of a quarter-inch drill bit for a sharper point using a grinder in reverse motion; proceed with caution.
  • Step 2: Secure scrap acrylic or polycarbonate on a drill press table with plywood underneath and clamp firmly to prevent movement.
  • Step 3: Set the drill press to the lowest RPM to avoid melting the plastic.
  • Step 4: Use dish soap on the drill bit to reduce friction and heat for a smoother cut.
  • Step 5: Drill at a slow speed with gentle pressure to avoid cracks and burrs.
  • Step 6: Employ a step drill bit for larger holes, using dish soap as a lubricant.
  • Step 7: Inspect and clean up the hole, smoothing out rough edges for a clean finish.

So, grab your drill, and let’s master the art of drilling through plastic without cracking under pressure. It’s all about the right tools, the perfect technique, and a little bit of that DIY magic touch. Let’s get to it!

How to Drill a Hole in Plastic

Let’s dive into the ultimate guide to drilling holes in plastic, especially for tricky customers like acrylic and polycarbonate. But hey, we’re about to change the game and make this process as smooth as your favorite renovation reveal.

Step 1: Modify Your Drill Bit

Use a quarter-inch drill bit that’s slightly dull at the tip. Place your drill in reverse and press it against a grinder to reshape the backside of the flute.

A drill bit is being inserted into a machine to drill a hole in plastic
Video | Vice Chief

Aim for a sharper point. This step requires caution and is done at your own risk.

Step 2: Prepare the Work Area

Secure a piece of scrap acrylic or polycarbonate on your drill press table. Place a piece of plywood underneath the plastic for support to prevent cracking. Clamp the plastic firmly to prevent movement during drilling.

A person is holding a piece of wood in a workshop
Video | Vice Chief

Step 3: Adjust Drill Speed

A person is clamping plastic
Video | Vice Chief

Set your drill press to the lowest RPM setting. Drilling at a slow speed prevents the plastic from melting.

A person is using a machine to drill a hole in plastic
Video | Vice Chief

Step 4: Apply Lubricant

A person holding a dish soap bottle
Video | Vice Chief

Use dish soap as a lubricant on the drill bit. This reduces friction and heat, resulting in a smoother cut.

Step 5: Begin Drilling

Drill through the plastic at a slow speed, applying gentle pressure. The goal is to create a hole without cracks or burrs.

A man is working on a piece of wood, demonstrating how to drill a hole
Video | Vice Chief

Step 6: Use Step Drill Bits for Larger Holes

A person is working on a machine in a workshop, learning how to drill a hole in plastic
Video | Vice Chief

For larger holes, use a step drill bit. Continue to apply dish soap as a lubricant to ensure a smooth cut.

Step 7: Clean Up

After drilling, inspect the hole and clean up any rough edges. This process should result in a clean, precise hole in your plastic material.

A person is working on a piece of plastic and figuring out how to drill a hole
Video | Vice Chief

And there you have it, a no-sweat guide to drilling holes in plastic that won’t leave you or your project cracked up. Remember, it’s all about the prep, the right tools, and taking it easy. Now, go out there and make your projects shine!


Appropriate Drill Bits for Plastics

Alright, let’s get down to brass tacks on drilling through plastic. You know, working with plastic can be a bit like navigating a tricky renovation project.

Over the years, I’ve drilled my fair share of holes in plastic and found a few drill bits that really make the difference. Let me walk you through my go-to bits for a flawless finish.

Dowel Drill Bit

dowel drill bit

This bit has these two elevated spurs and a center point acting like your blueprint, guiding you where you need to go. The magic is in the smooth cutting action – it slices through plastic, leaving edges so clean, you’d swear a pro did it—no rough edges, no stress, just a perfect hole every time.

Twist HSS Drill Bit

twist HSS drill bit

This one’s a bit like the veteran in your toolkit. Made from carbon steel with a dash of chromium and vanadium, it’s got resilience. I like to use one that’s seen a bit of action already.

It’s like it’s got the experience not to dig too aggressively into the plastic, preventing those pesky burrs and making sure the drill doesn’t bite more than it can chew. It’s a solid choice for a clean job without any drama.

Step Drill

step drill

Imagine you’re stepping up the design in a room, adding layers that bring the whole space together. This drill bit works similarly, with its cone shape and progressively larger diameters.

Whether steel, cobalt, or carbide-tipped, it goes through plastic precisely, creating smooth holes around the edges and just right. It’s my go-to when I need holes of different sizes, making the job as easy as pie.

Trust me, with these bits in your toolbox, you’ll be drilling through plastic like a pro, leaving cracks and chips as a thing of the past.


Troubleshooting Guide for Drilling Holes in Plastic

Ever find yourself in a bit of a pickle while trying to put a hole through plastic? Well, you’re not alone. It’s like trying to get the perfect fit in a home renovation, but sometimes, things don’t go as planned.

Here’s a handy guide to help you navigate those tricky moments, ensuring your project looks top-notch. Let’s dive into the common problems and their fixes, DIY style!

ProblemWhat’s HappeningDIY Fix
Drill Bit SlippingYour drill bit is dancing around the plastic like it’s got moves, but trust me, that’s not the kind of groove we want.First, make sure you’re marking your spot with a small indent or using a piece of tape to give your drill bit a more grippable surface. It’s like laying down the foundation before building the walls.
Plastic MeltingInstead of cutting, your drill turns into a mini furnace, melting the plastic as it goes.This one’s all about heat management. Slow down your drill speed, and take breaks if needed. Think of it as pacing yourself through a marathon renovation project – steady wins the race.
Cracks FormingYou’re seeing cracks spreading out from your hole like unwanted design features.Cracks are a no-go. To avoid this, ensure your plastic is securely clamped down, and consider using a smaller drill bit to start. It’s like sketching out your design before laying down the paint – it gives you control.

Remember, every project has bumps along the way, but you can smooth them out with the right approach and achieve those dream results. Keep your tools ready and your creativity flowing; there’s nothing you can’t fix. Happy drilling!


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Best Type of Plastic for Drilling?
    • The ideal pick varies, but acrylic and polycarbonate are solid choices. Acrylic requires care to prevent cracking, while polycarbonate is more forgiving.
  • Drilling Very Thin Plastic without Cracking It?
    • Stabilize the plastic between two pieces of wood for support. Use a sharp drill bit at a low to medium speed for gentle drilling.
  • Preventing Plastic from Melting While Drilling?
    • Keep the drill speed low and use water or dish soap as a lubricant to reduce heat.
  • Cleaning Up After Drilling?
    • Smooth rough edges with a hand file or fine-grit sandpaper for a clean finish.
  • Is Cooling Necessary When Drilling Plastic?
    • Yes, to prevent melting. A simple lubricant like water or dish soap works wonders.


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About Sam Orlovsky

AvatarCertifications: B.E.E.
Education: University Of Denver - Electric Engineering
Lives In: Denver Colorado

Electrical engineering is my passion, and I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. This gives me a unique ability to give you expert home improvement and DIY recommendations. I’m not only an electrician, but I also like machinery and anything to do with carpentry. One of my career paths started as a general handyman, so I also have a lot of experience with home improvement I love to share.

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