Rocks are everywhere. They are available and cheap for making excellent installations, from worktops to more specialist pieces of equipment. A well-treated piece of rock can be just as good as more expensive materials in the right hands. However, not everyone knows how to drill through rock.
As the rock is so hard, it can be easy to cause damage to a) the material itself and b) to your drill bits. This is obviously something we want to avoid.
Wasting materials is wasting time, which leads to wasting money. You will need some specialist equipment to do this job right. Knowing how to use a hammer drill will help you out a lot in the long run.
As the rock is so hardy, it needs very little aftercare. You can just start drilling away and don’t need to worry too much about lubricating the drill hole.
If you are worried about your drill bits and drill, you might want to take short breaks between drilling to let the machine cool down and save on having to replace bits in the long run.
How to Drill Through Rock
Gathering Your Equipment
You will need a hammer drill to work with a rock. These impressive tools can come in one hand and two hand formats and are designed to use a “hammering action” to drill through the most difficult of materials.
Specifically designed to work with brick, rock, and other general masonry materials, they can work on anything you will need a heavy-duty drill for.
Working more like a jackhammer than a conventional drill, the hammering motion takes some getting used to. Using your hammer drill on some spare rock or bricks before working on your actual project is advised. Learning to use all of your tools to get the very best out of them separates great workmen from good workmen.
As the rock is heavy and can require a lot of effort to move, you might not want to use a work surface to keep it in place. It is important to have the rock secured throughout this job. Your hammer drill packs a lot of punch, so you need to be able to control when it pushes your rock.
You will need
- A piece of rock to drill through
- Something to secure the rock (generally a worktop, but any other support is fine if you are using an irregularly shaped piece of material)
- A hammer drill
- A diamond hole or carbide hammer drill bit
- A pen
- A power supply for your hammer drill
- Appropriate safety equipment like goggles and a dust mask
Working with powerful tools like a hammer drill means you need to be safe. Take the appropriate time to prepare and you will have a safe environment to work in every time. This will prolong your career, make jobs easier, and just generally save on worrying about unwanted events in your workshop.
Understand how to use your hammer drill. It’s powerful and will have a lot of kickback. As you prepare to drill into your rock, you will need to remember this.
Similarly, understand why rock can be dangerous – using the incorrect drill bit on your rock will almost certainly break the bit. This can be dangerous if it shatters and is annoying because of wasted materials.
You will want to wear goggles to protect against any fly-away chips as you work. Rock is very solid, so it is unlikely to have bits flying off in random directions when using a hammer drill. But still, need to be safe as a flying piece of debris can cause serious injury to your eyes if you’re not careful.
As drills always spit out dust and debris, you will want to wear a dust mask too. Dust masks protect against the little particles that are spat out as you work.
Although rock is not necessarily poisonous like a lot of materials that we drill into, it can still cause long-term damage to your lungs. Long-term exposure to certain kinds of rock dust can lead to serious diseases like silicosis – a lung condition that makes breathing difficult. This is avoidable with cheap and easy-to-find dust masks.
Aside from that, general workshop safety will cut down on injuries and wasted time. Always clear the floor space in your work area to cut down on trip hazards and always use the appropriate tools in a safe way.
This includes no hands near moving drill bits, let the tool slow down and then locking it before changing bits, and no loose clothing near drill bits. Loose clothing can get caught in the mechanism, leading to potentially serious injuries.
Preparing Your Rock
As rock is a hard material, you don’t need to do a lot of preparation with it. Poor technique can lead to cracks and chips, but that’s mostly to do with your drilling technique. The most important thing to remember when dealing with rock is to take care that it won’t drop onto you.
If you are working with an already worked piece of rock, you will want to put it onto a work surface like a sawhorse or a normal worktop.
This will give you a secure basis for drilling. If you have a particularly large piece of material, you may want to clamp it down. This will stop it from falling and allow you to focus on actually drilling into the material.
If you are using an unworked piece of rock (i.e. just a rock), you might not be able to place it onto a work surface safely. If it is a rounded piece of rock, putting it on your work surface might actually make it more dangerous. There is a potential for injuries caused by the rock falling, which is a no-no.
Secure the rock as best you can. Using scrap pieces of wood like chocks for an airplane is very possible, but give it a test push before you start drilling. Moving materials can cause serious injuries and poor finishes, so protect yourself and your profits with good preparation.
Preparing Your Drill
Your drill cannot use a normal wood drill bit to cut through rock. You will need to take the time to find specialist equipment to make a good quality hole in the rock. The two best choices are:
- Diamond hole drill bits
- Carbide tipped drill bits
The size of these you need depends on the size of the hole you want to drill, but the materials are key. These are designed to cut through difficult, hardy materials such as rock and quartz. If you are going to make a hole in a piece of rock, prepare it properly.
Failing to prepare properly and using an inadequate drill bit will almost certainly destroy your bit. When a bit is destroyed, it can shatter.
Shattered pieces of drill bits can fly off and cause serious injury. If that doesn’t convince you, it can also cost you money in the long run. No one wants to be buying new drill bits every week.
Make sure your drill has full power. It will need to have full power to drill through this stubborn material. If you can, plug your drill into mains electricity before starting. This will stop the drill from slowing down mid-job.
Start to Drill
Holding your drill over the marked area, place the bit so that it touches the rock. You do not want to apply pressure or you will snap the bit before you’ve even started. When it is in the correct position, you want to slowly press the trigger.
As the bit starts to spin, put the slightest pressure on the drill. This will encourage the teeth of the bit to work through the rock. We want it to move slowly so that it bores into the rock and does not cause damage to the bit itself.
When you are around a ¼ inch into the rock, you might want to give the drill bit some time to cool down. You can use a lubricant like water for the rock and the bit, but it’s not necessary as rock is unlikely to split due to heat damage.
When you have your initial hole, you can begin to drill through the rest of the material.
Maintaining a Good Drilling Technique
Putting your drill back into position, now you can apply some downward pressure. You want the drill bit to go straight, so some pressure will give you a clean hole. It stops the bit going off course and will help you finish the job to a professional level.
If you are using a worked or narrow piece of rock, you will want to slow down when it comes to exiting the piece. Just like we were slow on entry, we want to be slow on exit.
Reduce your speed when you are approaching the other side of the rock. Slowly working through the other side is key to preventing breaking, cracking, and chipping the rock on the other side. A slow approach will save you resources, time, and money.
If you are working with an unworked or thick piece of rock, you may only want to drill in a certain distance and then pull the drill out. Whenever you reach the desired depth, allow the drill to slow down and remove it from the hole. Simple as that.
If you have followed these steps correctly, you can remove your drill and will have a clean, finished job. If you need to make additional holes, you can follow our steps above again to get the same excellent finish.
Remember – slow on entry, slightly pressure in the middle, slow on exit. Remembering these rules of thumbs will generally give good finishes for all kinds of jobs.
Drilling into rock isn’t as difficult as it first appears. The material is bulky and can be difficult to work with, but you don’t need to worry too much if you have the correct tools for the job. Find a hammer drill and a drill bit that is designed for difficult materials and you will get excellent finishes.
The steady technique is key when drilling, regardless of material. If you are too fast on entry, you will damage the drill bit, the material, and potentially your entire drill.
Sloppy, rushed workmanship leads to poor finishes, so take your time and remember that a little bit of waiting now leads to better finishes and better payment.
If your drill is overheating, remove it from the hole. Although the rock is unlikely to be damaged by the heat, your drill might be. Use a lubricant like water to cool down your drill if you need it.
FAQs About Making a Hole In a Rock
Can You Drill Into Rock?
Yes, but you will need a hammer drill and a hard-tipped drill bit. A diamond or carbide-tipped drill bit will help you drill through the rock and get an excellent finish.
What Type of Drill Bit Do I Need for Rock?
You want to use a hard-tipped drill bit like diamond or carbide. These are designed to work with difficult materials and are extremely hard themselves. Using a wood drill bit will lead to dullness and potentially shattering, so avoid using one.
What Is a Diamond Drill Bit for?
Diamond drill bits are designed for particularly difficult-to-drill materials like quartz and rock. Using them means that you will be able to make excellent drilled holes in your material without worrying about damaging your drill or the material itself.
What’s the Hardest Rock to Drill Through?
There is a scale of 1 to 10 that includes all common rocks and minerals that you might have to drill through.
Whereas quartz is listed as 9, you will find jasperite, quartzite, and taconite are listed as 10. These materials will need specialist equipment to drill through, preferably a diamond-tipped drill bit.