Author Topic: Drilling metal back in the day  (Read 3989 times)

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Offline Nolatoolguy

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Drilling metal back in the day
« on: October 10, 2013, 11:11:32 AM »
I know back in the day they had braces but ive only ever saw wood bits for braces. Are there metal bits for braces I just haven't seen?

since there's no metal bits ive seen, how did they drill metal back in the old days after it left the factory? I would think after a plow left the factory it would eventually get a modification from the farmer. Really any type of metal equipment one day would get modification, at least I would think.

I know rivets were a big part in joining metal back in the day but how did they get the hole in the metal for the rivets to go through?
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Offline rusty

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Re: Drilling metal back in the day
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2013, 02:51:49 PM »
Before decent drills, the usual method was for a blacksmith to heat it up and punch a hole...
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Offline anglesmith

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Re: Drilling metal back in the day
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2013, 05:25:35 PM »
The modern (engineer's)twist drill was developed by Morse in the 1850s. The forged blacksmith's drill was used long before and long after! As rusty said the easiest and preferred method was hot punching, cast iron of course had to be drilled.
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« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 08:12:01 PM by anglesmith »

Offline Lostmind

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Re: Drilling metal back in the day
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2013, 06:46:22 PM »
I have a twist drill for a brace. Always assumed it was for metal , but never tried it.
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Offline john k

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Re: Drilling metal back in the day
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2013, 07:07:45 PM »
I have a few sets of steel drill bits with tapered square shank.  Only have up to size 7/8 though.  Also have a long reach set, about 14 inches.  Some came in a wooden holder with a screw top, looks like anything but a bit holder.  If you dig into older tool literature, say 1920, you will find drills, being drill bits for use on metal.  Bits are for drilling wood.   The combination term drill-bits seems to have happened later.
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Offline Branson

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Re: Drilling metal back in the day
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2013, 09:58:58 PM »
I know back in the day they had braces but ive only ever saw wood bits for braces. Are there metal bits for braces I just haven't seen?

since there's no metal bits ive seen, how did they drill metal back in the old days after it left the factory? I would think after a plow left the factory it would eventually get a modification from the farmer. Really any type of metal equipment one day would get modification, at least I would think.

I know rivets were a big part in joining metal back in the day but how did they get the hole in the metal for the rivets to go through?

People been punching holes in metal and other harder-than-wood stuff for literally thousands of years.  Certainly since the Bronze Age.  Think of all the rivets in Roman armor.   Even earlier, bronze helmets and bronze cauldrons were assembled of several pieces riveted together.  Lots of holes to be drilled. 

For your first question, though, the first picture shows a group of blacksmith made metal bits.  Tapered square shanks.  The one in the middle has had a notch filed into the shank for the push button release used mostly in the 1800s.  That one was probably used in one of the braces of that period -- see second picture.  These drills were best used in a "beam drill."  Picture one of these wood braces with a tapered end instead of a pommel.  The tapered end of the drill fit into a socket in a long beam, and a heavy weight was hung from the free end of the beam to provide the downward pressure while the smith turned the brace.  The brace and bit drill originated in the Middle Ages. 

Before the brace, there were T handled augers for big holes, and for smaller holes, there was the bow drill.  These were still used in South East Asia in the 1970s, and work remarkably well (I have two).  But they are much, much older.  Picture 3 shows a bow drill in use in Egypt.

Hard to say which is earlier, the bow drill or the pump drill (picture 4).  Both have been used to drill wood, metal, and stone.  For stone, a round piece of metal was used with an abrasive mixed into some kind of grease, and ground its way through rather than actually drilling.  I've used the same process for drilling stone and glass, mixing diamond dust with Vaseline and using a tiny diameter piece of tubing. 

There does remain the blacksmith's punch for literally punching a hole through metal.  Done that too.  I'm not sure what was commonly done for piecing together helmets and other pieces of armor (somebody in the Society for Creative Anachronism probably, almost certainly does), but heating and hot punching holes in the carefully formed pieces of metal plate seems like it would distort those pieces.

Offline johnsironsanctuary

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Re: Drilling metal back in the day
« Reply #6 on: October 11, 2013, 10:35:42 AM »
Hmmmm.... Where is 64longstep when you need him?
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Offline keykeeper

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Re: Drilling metal back in the day
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2013, 12:51:31 PM »
As stated, it all depends on the time period. Blacksmiths would have punched holes for riveting, or could have used a post drill that was hand powered. Takes a long time with the post drill by hand. Post drills would have been late 1800's to early 1900's all the way up to the 1940's, I think.

I have 3 in my shop right now, two complete and one for parts, all of the same model number! I'll try to get a pic up of my newest one.

I think Branson covered the REAL early methods quite well!
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Offline john k

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Re: Drilling metal back in the day
« Reply #8 on: October 12, 2013, 04:24:16 PM »
Here be a set of those, have used them in the drill press, having them sharp makes it drill MUCH easier.
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Offline scottg

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Re: Drilling metal back in the day
« Reply #9 on: October 12, 2013, 09:44:52 PM »
Here be a set of those, have used them in the drill press, having them sharp makes it drill MUCH easier.

 I bought bits like this new off the hardware store shelf, in the 70's.
  Cooley and Pollard, downtown Yreka Ca. Still got most of them too.
      They are the unusual sizes, 64th sizes. All the standard sizes were long gone, but laying there in the drawer were NOS bits, and a 50 year old price on them too. Pennies apiece.
I grabbed a handful.
 Should of took them all. :)
   yours Scott

Offline Nolatoolguy

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Re: Drilling metal back in the day
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2013, 08:29:02 PM »
WOW guys, thanks for answering my questions. Once again the knowledge on this site really blows me away.
And I'm proud to be an American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me.
~Lee Greenwood

Offline Aunt Phil

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Re: Drilling metal back in the day
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2013, 11:40:52 PM »
WOW guys, thanks for answering my questions. Once again the knowledge on this site really blows me away.

Now, ponder your good fortune to be coming of age in a world where a battery is the power source for the drill and not you.

Of course this may hinder your developing hiding skills when you hear "Where's the kid?".
Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance!