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Drilling Nickel Silver?


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Apparently nickel silver is hard to drill? I tried drilling 1/8" pin holes in a 1/4" thick bolster, and ruined a bit on the first hole. Is there a particular bit or technique I should be using? I was using a regular bit in my drill press with cutting oil. I didn't get the typical curls of metal like I do when drilling steel, just pieces of ground up metal.

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Not sure about with nickel silver but I know with some other non ferrous metals, in particular copper, drilling with oil usually jams your bit with material and overheats them. Dry drilling it dry and at slow speed next time.

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I don't have any experience with nickel silver specifically, but when I'm dealing with hard material I will use a carbide end mill to drill my holes with.  Any machinists on this forum will cringe if they imagine an end mill chucked up in a drill press, but as long as you don't have any significant run-out in the spindle of your drill press, it works great.

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Nickel silver drills pretty much like brass in my experience.  It can be a little gummy, and can clog drills, but I wouldn't say it was hard by any stretch.  Not using cutting fluid and a slow drill speed, as Scott said, are good advice.

Nickel can be very hard.  You didn't get a hold of pure nickel by chance did you?

Edited by Brian Dougherty
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Nickel is very soft by itself, and nickel silver should also be soft. I just follow the same technique I use with copper and brass: wd-40 and slow drilling speed. I usually bust bits because I'm drilling too fast. 

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54 minutes ago, Dan Bourlotos said:

Nickel is very soft by itself, and nickel silver should also be soft. I just follow the same technique I use with copper and brass: wd-40 and slow drilling speed. I usually bust bits because I'm drilling too fast. 

Hmm, I have some pure nickle sheet that I use for electroplating, and it is very hard to cut.  However, it probably work hardens like copper does since it also has a body centered cubic crystal structure.  It may be that the sheet I have is just very hard because of the rolling process...

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I'm drilling at 290 RPM. Is that slow enough? Also, should I use a cobalt bit? I'm hesitant to use my expensive bits.

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There's no way NS should be so hard you need cobalt bits. Try heating it to a dull red, then let it air-cool.

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22 hours ago, Brian Dougherty said:

Hmm, I have some pure nickle sheet that I use for electroplating, and it is very hard to cut.  However, it probably work hardens like copper does since it also has a body centered cubic crystal structure.  It may be that the sheet I have is just very hard because of the rolling process...

If I remember correctly, fcc has a higher work hardening constant than bcc. The atomic packing factor is higher in fcc, and that half atom on the faces likely increases the energy required to form dislocations in the structure. 

But yeah, both copper and nickel are fcc, and work harden super easily.

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6 minutes ago, Dan Bourlotos said:

If I remember correctly, fcc has a higher work hardening constant than bcc. The atomic packing factor is higher in fcc, and that half atom on the faces likely increases the energy required to form dislocations in the structure. 

But yeah, both copper and nickel are fcc, and work harden super easily.

Yep, I stand corrected.  You promoted me to go look it up, and my memory was wrong.  (Seems to happen more and more often)

I would have sworn that coinable metals were BCC!  

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