How to Enlarge a Washer (No Drill Press Needed!)




About: -----------------------------------------------------------------16 year old, sick with a deadly disease called DIY-itis!-----------------------------------------------------------------Hi FTC! My I'bles con...

You're stuck.

Stuck on a project.

The internal holes of all the washers you own are too small by half a millimeter, and none of the bolts will fit.


You've been through this already. Drilling through washers to enlarge them is pretty much impossible, since they always catch in the drill and slip, and are too small or thin to be clamped in a vise.

What do you do?

In this Instructable, I will show you a quick and simple hack that's really useful for holding washers that can't be held in a vise or with any other method without damaging them, so you can drill into them safely - whether if they are made of metal, wood, plastic, silicone, coins (for making rings), or anything else! I'm certain this will help me make my own washers in the future from aluminum sheet metal, as I've been planning to do for a while!

Let's get started!


(Watch the YouTube video: LINK FOR MOBILE VIEWERS!)

Step 1: What You'll Need:

Hardware, Materials & Consumables:

  • Some scrap wood (preferably harder woods)
  • Water (or any other coolant/lubricant, if needed)



  • Drill (or drill press)
  • Drill bit set (+step or masonry bits)
  • A torch (if you want to de-temper NON-GALVANIZED washers)
  • Two clamps

Subjects: Woodworking, Metalworking, Workshop Tips & Tricks

Approximate Time: <15 Minutes

Difficulty: Super Simple!


Step 2: Make the Jig (from Scrap Wood!)

My plan was to drill a hole into a into a block of wood, and clamp it to my workbench, so the washer would be sandwiched and held tightly in between wood on both sides.

The hole in the piece of wood would then allow me to reach the washer with the drill bit, and drill into it without allowing the washer to spin or move.The hole you drill into the piece of wood should be only slightly larger than the drill bit you plan on using to enlarge the washer, to allow for as much area of the washer to be clamped as possible. It's more friction, and how you break the laws of physics! ;)

Step 3: Clamp the Jig Over the Washer

After the drill drills through the washer, it's going to keep going, and will drill into your workbench, so I recommend clamping it in one corner of your workbench, the corner that will be used for drilling into more washers!

I put the washer on my workbench, and carefully placed the jig onto the washer, making sure the hole of the piece of wood was centered exactly over the internal hole of the washer (Just kidding! See the next step :) and clamped it down tightly.

Perhaps if you use a step bit you'll need to clamp it down even more since you don't push down, but I haven't tried it yet. A̶n̶d̶ ̶i̶f̶ ̶i̶t̶'̶s̶ ̶e̶a̶s̶i̶e̶r̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶d̶r̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶v̶e̶r̶t̶i̶c̶a̶l̶l̶y̶ ̶v̶s̶ ̶h̶o̶r̶i̶z̶o̶n̶t̶a̶l̶l̶y̶,̶ ̶I̶ ̶g̶u̶e̶s̶s̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶l̶d̶ ̶c̶l̶a̶m̶p̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶a̶ ̶v̶i̶s̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶s̶t̶e̶a̶d̶,̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶a̶t̶ ̶l̶e̶a̶s̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶o̶t̶t̶o̶m̶ ̶h̶a̶l̶f̶ Hmmm... That just over-complicates stuff.

Step 4: Drill!

Drill! Does this need to be explained? :)

If you feel the drill bit is unable to drill into the washer, it's possible that the washer has been hardened. You can either skip to the next step, or anneal the washer by heating it up with a torch and letting it cool down slowly, but you should do this only to non-galvanized washers, meaning that they are not coated with zinc (gray color), since you DO NOT want to inhale zinc fumes (for the same reason you shouldn't weld galvanized steel), which are created when you melt zinc.

As a side note, I do find that it's easier for me to drill into steel with a corded drill, since it offers more speed for less noise and weight on my hand, and is overall weaker and more sensitive, which makes it easier to feel before the drill bit protrudes through the other side, catches and possibly snaps, or has more resistance for some reason.

Step 5: Dirt Cheap Carbide Drill Bits?!

Some of the washers in my collection are pretty thick, and that equals dull drill bits!

I had the idea of trying to use masonry bits to drill into the washers, since they are made of carbide which is way harder than the steel of a hardened steel drill bit. Overall this does work, but they do drill slower, but should last very long if not forever! They make more noise, although that might've been because they were chattering due to the low RPM of the drill. I think you can actually sharpen these to make them cutting edges and be a bit (pun not intended) better for the job, but I don't have the tools to do that.


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I read ALL comments, and reply to as many as I can, so make sure to leave your questions, suggestions, tips, tricks, and any other ideas about drilling into metal and washers in the comments below! - Thanks!


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    12 Discussions


    9 months ago

    A quick note about zinc coating (btw, thanks for mentioning that) and how the fumes given off by heating zinc are toxic, will give you flu like symptoms, so yes, be careful/beware. Most washers do have a zinc coating on them. Most common would be the gold color coating, which is zinc, and then the bright silver color coating as well. Be cautious of choosing to heat these, as yes, they're going to give off toxic fumes and can/will make you very sick.

    Great tip too btw, nice instructable! I've used the little sanding drum attachment on a rotary tool, to drills like you've started, while clamping the washer between two other pieces of material as you've done, and also bored then on the, being a machinist and having one handy helps for the latter option, lol.


    Reply9 months ago

    Thanks, I think a step bit would drill into them way faster than a sanding drum, unless it's hardened.


    9 months ago

    Clamp between 2 pieces of wood rather than to your table directly that way you don't drill your work table.


    Reply9 months ago

    That could also be done, but having a hole in my workbench is actually pretty useful, for example, when drilling through stuff, to not make more holes in my workbench accidentally, for and for hammering stuff...I have a video on this coming soon. Kinda hard to explain.


    10 months ago

    Good approach to a problem for many. Being a retired old school machinists,this can be be done differently and very effectively precise.All you need is a bench grinder with a fine or medium grinding wheel installed. In this case use a drill bit that you do not want to alter the split point geometry that it might have,in other words a drill that you can sacrifice doing a little grinding on. The goal on this drill is to reduce the flank angle behind the cutting lip.You want to raise the heal of the flank so that it gets closer to a horizontal plain.What this prevents is the bite and pull in of the drill bit. This angle should not be just a flat angle at the heal but have a radius to it.The goal is to have the pressure of the drilling ride on the heal of the drill and yet allow the cutting lip still cut.This is a balancing act if it dose not cut increase the flank angle a bit.When done right you can drill all the holes you want with a hand drill on any thickness of material of any kind without any pull in of the bit with little if any burr on exit side of the material cut.Practise makes perfect on this approach and works very well.


    Reply10 months ago

    I know what you mean to say, but all of these terms confuse me, and I don't have the skills to do this anyway :)

    To be honest, the washer that I drilled through in the video totally surprised me, I expected it to take a while, but the drill grabbed in the washer immediately and drilled through it in 2 seconds!


    Reply10 months ago

    That’s okay if not understanding the dialogue,my work world revolved around a machine shop, so I talk in those terms. I run into this with my friends all the time it ticks them off! Then I tell them to bow down to the master , THEN they really get pissed off ( Joke ) Just keep doing what your doing that’s cool.


    11 months ago

    That's a nice tip for drilling into a small piece. One little gotcha on the write-up when you said "to allow for as much area of the washer to be clamped as possible. It's more friction, and how you break the laws of physics! ;)". It's not intuitive, but the force due to friction is generally independent of the contact area between the two surfaces.


    Reply11 months ago

    It's not intuitive, but the force due to friction is generally independent of the contact area between the two surfaces.

    Google Translate <detect language>

    <Translation> unknown

    I know more surface area doesn't increase the friction, but something still made me want to write that, since it does feel as if more area is somehow more friction. As if it holds it better somehow...


    Reply11 months ago

    Yeah, I remember the argument my classmates and I had with our physics professor on this topic. He finally brought in an incline plane and a piece of wood for a demonstration - case closed.,,,,,,,,,,