Defining Drilling Speed

Drilling Speed


Approximate starting advice is to set the spindle speed between above 2000 for aluminum, 700-1000 rpms for steel, and slow down if you get heavy drill bit wear.

 In most cases drill presses are too weak to follow the below recommendations. Going slower usually doesn’t hurt, and will prolong tool life. It allows to effectively use low price drilling bits. Most speed recommendations are geared towards manufacturing environments where machining time is very expensive. For the hobbyists shop longer tool life is usually more important, and reasonable advice might be to start off at about 75% of the recommended drilling speeds.

A slower spindle speed won’t hurt anything except in the case of extremely small drill bits (smaller than 1/16″). With small bits, it’s hard to feel resistance from the metal, and therefore, very easy to push down faster than they can remove metal. Using recommended RPMs (spindle rotation speed) mitigates this risk.

Feed Rate:This is how fast the drill bit is pushed down. This isn’t very useful if you’re lowering the drill bit by hand. In general, push hard enough to create a continuous chip (some materials like cast iron just won’t form one), but not so hard that the chips are turning brown. Using high-quality drill bits reduces the risk of it’s damage.

There are machining tables that list maximum speeds and feeds of drills in various materials. The key here is “maximum”. There’s nothing wrong with drilling a hole at less than the maximum speed, in fact in many cases it’s easier to control the drill at lower speeds especially as the point breaks through at the end of the hole.


 Drilling Speed (HSS, for carbide up the speeds by 2 to 3 times)

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Range (
Surface Feet per Minute)
1/8 (.125″);1/4 (.25″)5/16 (.3125″)3/8 (.375″)7/16 (.4375″)1/2 (.5″)
high carbon / alloy
steel, up to 275
Brinnel hardness
low carbon steel, up
to 275 Brinnel hardness
cast Iron50-12521391070856713611535
tool steel45-601528764611509437382
brass / bronze
high strength bronze may
require 70 or less

aluminum and alloys200-300763938203056254621831910


Drilling feed (Inches Per Revolution)

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21 1/213/4
Aluminum Bronze.
Bronze, Common.
Bronze Phos.; 1/2 Hard.
Bronze Phos.; Soft.
Copper Mang.; 30% Mn.
Iron, Cast; Med Soft.
Iron, Cast; Hard.
Iron, Cast; Chilled.
Iron, Malleable.
Nickel, Pure.
Nickel, Steel; 3 1/2%.
Rubber, Hard.
Screw Stock, C.R..
Stl, Carbon.
Stl, Drop Forged.
Stl, Machinery.
Stl, Magnet; Soft.
Stl, Magnet; Hard.
Stl, Mang.; 7-13%.
Stl, Mild; .20-.30C.
Stl, Molybdenum.
Stl, Spring.
Stl, Stainless.
Stl, Stainless.
Stl, .40-.50C.
Stl, Struct; A-
Stl, Tool; SAE, Forged.
Stl, Tool; SAE, Forged.
Zinc, Alloy.