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Metal Work Tools: Using a Reamer to Drill Accurate Holes

Chuck Girard: Hey, Kevin. What are you doing today, man?

Kevin Caron: I'm about to drill out this hole so I can insert a shoulder bolt and make a moving sculpture.

Chuck Girard: That's cool, though I don't know that I would use a drill. How about a reamer? Hey, Iíve got one. Let me show you. This is a reamer set that I brought with me today; you can get this at pretty much any hardware store, but itís usually a little cheaper if you go online, say a Grainger; store like that.
You can buy a complete set. The size weíre going to use today came out of this reamer set, and it says right on there what size it is.

Kevin Caron: Whoa, cool.

The Voice: Why would you use a reamer instead of a drill?

Chuck Girard: Typically when you drill something like half-inch metal, it's not a half-inch. You've got the runout where this thing moves around, the piece vibrates. It's going to come out larger than that. That's normal. So, people ask, "Why a reamer?" And, "How do you use a reamer?"

First, we'll use a pilot drill, like you've already done in your piece of metal art, and we usually try to make it 15 thousandths or 60 fourths to 30 seconds smaller. Thirty seconds is kind of pushing it.

Kevin Caron: OK.

Chuck Girard: So, for a half-inch, what size drill would you use?

Kevin Caron: Make it a half-size smaller.

Chuck Girard: There you go. That's the simplest way to look at it. Since we've already got the piece set up, we'll go ahead and just chuck it up. We don't want to cram this reamer all the way up in there because it doesn't allow the reamer to somewhat float, and that's what we want to do. So, let's bring it up and put it in maybe about a half-inch into the chuck jaws. Grab the chuck key, and tighten that up.

We want to go slow with the reamer. We don't want this screaming at 2200 RPM, so when we do this, we can align the reamer up on the hole. The way to do that is very similar to the way we do with a tap or a drill. We just come in here and slightly move this reverse and this will align the hole. Then we can lock everything in, and start reaming.

Kevin Caron: Cool.

The Voice: Why would you want the reamer to float, Chuck?

Chuck Girard: The reason you want the reamer to float, unless you're trying to put it dead-on a location like a machine shop would do, is because all we're trying to do is get it to where it's aligning with the hole and it's free to move a little bit. That allows the reamer to go in there straight and perpendicular as opposed to, if I choke this reamer up so much, it doesn't really allow it to move and go with the hole.

Let's go ahead and fire it up right now.

That's a little bit fast. This brings up another observation often made by people who do metal work, "my drill press doesn't have a whole lot of speeds." In this case, Kevin's tool is a five-speed, but what we can do is drift it.

And there you go. You've got a reamed hole.

The reason we don't want to go super-fast is that the faster we go, the more it wobbles and the bigger size it gets.

Kevin Caron: And the more heat. . .

Chuck Girard: And the more heat and everything else. You can use oil with it. That usually helps, especially with nonferrous materials.

Reaming is really simple to do, and a lot of people just don't understand it.

Kevin Caron: Let's talk about what else is in this set of reamers. You've got all the different sizes. Where can I buy these?

Chuck Girard: You can get them online at Grainger, MSC; some of the hardware stores might have that. Typically you can buy them individually so you don't have to buy the whole set, or you can get them in specialized sizes. The most important thing to remember about a reamer is: don't be afraid of using one.

Kevin Caron: Are they really expensive?

Chuck Girard: No. This particular set is reasonable. It's about $60 to $80. It's just my speed, but hereís my disclaimer: we don't want to go overboard with the reamers and what they can use. Just get what you need. For example, we just used a three-sixteenths, so we bought a three-sixteenths.

Kevin Caron: Cool.

Chuck Girard: It's simple, all the same size.

Kevin Caron: Thank you, buddy.

Chuck Girard: Thank you. Talk to you later.

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