How to Drill into Plastic Without Cracking It

How to Drill into Plastic Without Cracking It

Plastics happen to be a universal amenity of modern life. Whether it be kitchen cabinets or credit cards, plastics leave their imprint everywhere because of their diverse utility. If you’re wanting to utilize a plastic material for a DIY project, then you’ll probably want to know how to drill into plastic. However, you may be wondering if you can use a wood drill bit on plastic or if you need a special kind of bit. Further, if you don’t have a drill, you might be wondering if you can make a hole in plastic without a drill?

Don’t worry, we are going to answer all of your questions in this guide and will even offer some information on how to drill into plastic without cracking it. Upon mastering the know-how of drilling into plastic, new possibilities open up and it becomes possible to finally complete the DIY or home improvement project you’ve been dreaming of.

Can You Drill a Hole Through Plastic?

If your DIY project involves working with plastic, then we need to answer an important question. Is it really possible to drill a hole through plastic? Or, are these polymeric materials non-drillable. How does one even learn how to make a hole in plastic without cracking it?

This might come as a surprise to you, but plastics are, in fact, drillable. However, one needs to adhere to a strict set of protocols when attempting to drill a hole through plastic materials.

On the surface, drilling holes through plasticware may seem like a fairly easy task, but nothing could be further from the truth. The brittle nature of plastics makes it non-drillable using traditional drilling methods. Employing the traditional drilling bit to make a hole in the plastic material would cause the plastic material to crack and splinter.

Can I Use a Wood Drill Bit on Plastic?

As it happens, it’s quite possible to drill a hole through plastic using any kind of power drill; however, without the correct drill bit at your disposal, you’d chip or crack the material during the drilling process. Consequently, you’d end up with irregular holes and uneven edges – both of which can lead to potential cracking of the plastic material. So, before you begin your project, make sure that you have the right drill bit for drilling a hole in plastic.

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DEWALT Drill Bit Set, Brad Point, 6-Piece (DW1720)
  • Precise cutting edges of the drill bits for wood or metal are designed to reduce splintering
  • Brad point tip of drill bits reduces walking
  • DEWALT drill bit set is engineered flutes for clean effective chip removal

If you’re planning to drill into plastic, you may be wondering, can I use a wood drill bit on plastic? The simple answer is yes, but it’s not the ideal bit. The best drill bit to use on plastic is a dowel bit, also known as a spur-point bit. These are long, spiral-shaped bits with a sharp point on the end.

The problem with using wood drill bits to make a hole through plastic lies in the fact that wood drill bits have a different tip angle and often generate decent amounts of heat that can cause the plastic to crack. So, if you really want to use a wood drill bit to drill into plastic, then you have to be careful and carry out the drilling process slowly. If you drill too hard, the plastic material will crack. You also need to make refinements to your tip angle and reduce it to the optimum 90 degrees.

How to Drill into Plastic with a Power Drill

How to Drill into Plastic

Once you’ve acquired the best drill bits, it’s time to get down to business. First, you need to take accurate measurements and mark the region where you’ll be drilling. Note that your measurements and markings need to have a high degree of precision because the drilling process cannot be undone, so you don’t want to miss your mark.

Prior to drilling a hole in the plastic, it’s recommended to clamp down the plastic material securely to a bench or solid surface. This helps make sure that the plastic object stays stationary throughout the drilling process. So, your chances of ruining the material by drilling are minimized. In addition, it is recommended that you place a spare piece of plywood underneath the plastic object. The plywood acts as a barrier and helps minimize your chances of chipping the surface on the bottom.

In general, when drilling a large hole, a slower drill speed setting should be used. This is because high speeds can melt the plastic. Further, be sure to bring the drill bit speed setting to a lower value every time the drill bit exits the plastic material.

It’s also considered best practice to use a lubricant when drilling for deeper holes. The lubricant aids in the removal of debris and dissipation of heat. Throughout the drilling process, you should keep a watchful eye on the area around the hole you’re making. In the event that you observe plastic shavings gumming up, you should immediately stop drilling, let plastic cool, clear out the hole, and then resume drilling.

Finally, you also need to bear in mind that plastic materials undergo expansions and contractions with fluctuations in temperature. So, you want to make sure that your drilled hole is slightly larger than required. Doing so will allow screws placed in those holes to move freely without exerting unnecessary stress on the plastic material.

How Do You Drill a Hole in Plastic Without a Drill?

So, in the section above we talked about drilling into plastic with a drill, but how do you drill a hole in plastic without a drill? Is something like that even possible? Surprisingly, the answer is yes, but the process is a bit odd. Below are a few ways to drill a hole in plastic without a drill.

  1. Electric Knife
  2. Soldering Iron
  3. Screwdriver and a Hammer

Some say that drilling a hole in plastic without a drill requires melting the plastic. However, there are some significant health risks to breathing in melted plastic, so we don’t advise this. Your best bet at puncturing a hole in plastic without a drill will be to clamp down a thin piece of plastic, and then hold a screwdriver where you want to make the hole and hit the top of it with a hammer. However, feel free to get creative here, just know that you probably won’t make a good-looking hole.

What is the Best Type of Drill Bit for Acrylic?

Acrylic sheets are an integral part of the modern household, thus you may find yourself needing to drill through acrylic at some point. However, this is no easy task and requires a special kind of drill bit. Essentially, there are four things to look for when finding the best type of drill bit for acrylic, we’ve listed them for you below.

  1. High-Speed Steel (HSS)
  2. Cobalt
  3. Carbide
  4. Solid Carbide

Metallic drill bits tend to cut into the rigid body of the metal, but aren’t ideal for acrylic. While they may be capable of drilling a hole in the material, you’ll likely end up damaging the surface in the process.  If you use the same type of drill bit on acrylic material without making any kind of modification, then these bits will damage the plastic material.

Another option is to modify an existing bit by sharpening your drill bit so that it works for acrylic. We don’t suggest trying this unless you’re an advanced craftsman, however, if you want to give it a go, here’s what you need to know. Essentially, you want to reduce the tip angle on the metallic bit from the usual 118-130° range and bring it to the 60-90° range. Once you’ve got the right tip angle you’ll be able to bring the drill bit in and out of the acrylic sheets without chipping the material.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to drill into plastic. As you’ve seen, it’s certainly possible, but can be a bit tricky if you don’t have the right drill bits for plastic and don’t know what you’re doing. Home repair projects can be a lot of fun and are oftentimes easier than you might think, but you need to be prepared.