Drilling Stainless Steel, Lat Pulldown Bar: Learning from the Internet

Home made lat pulldown bar, made of stainless steel tubing and 1/4 inch eyebolt. Closeup shot. Photo by Don Tai

Home made lat pulldown bar, made of stainless steel tubing and 1/4 inch eyebolt. Closeup shot. Photo by Don Tai

As I prefer to use wood, I don’t often need to drill into metal. That said metal has qualities that are very beneficial. I need a shorter lat pulldown bar for my home gym. Instead of buying one I decided to make it. It is, after all, a pipe with an eyebolt.

As simple as it is, there are physical issues that must be addressed. For me it was how to drill two holes through the stainless steel pipe. Stainless steel is quite hard. I’m very much online, so making physical things is not a daily occurrence. I had to research how to do the drilling of stainless steel.

There are some things you take for granted because they look so easy, but this is not the case in drilling through metal. In the past, drilling a hole into metal has caused me problems, like breaking drill bits (rare), overheating and smoking the drill bits, and subsequently damaging them. You don’t just chuck in a bit and go at it. There’s a lot more to it, and some people are knowledgeable. I need to research these topics.

What you need:

  1. drill press, drill press vice, clamps: The first thing is to change the gear ratios of your drill press. Drilling steel needs a much slower speed than wood. My lowest speed on my cheap drill press was 750rpm. The belts of my drill press were difficult to change, so this took some time and effort. The pipe needs to be securely and accurately clamped to the drill press using a drill press vice. The vice then needsto be clamped to the drill press table.
  2. center punch, hammer: Measure carefully, then center punch your metal, to make a starting dimple. This allows the drill bit to not wander all over.
  3. drill bits: 1/8″ to start, up until the size you need, cutting oil: Start with a 1/8″ drill bit, add cutting oil to cool down the bit and then carefully push down. You should see thin wispy shards of metal come out, and no smoke. Smoke means the drill bit is too hot, will lose its temper and then dull it, so ease off, let the shards clear and add more oil. The drill press must run at a low speed. Once through with 1/8″, then step up 2-3 sizes to the next drill bit until you get the size hole you wish.

I needed a clearance hole for a 1/4″ eyebolt, which is 17/64ths. It actually did not take very long to do the holes. The 1/4″ eyebolt has a breaking strength 600lb. I doubt I’ll ever go above 150lb in my lifetime. That’s a large margin of error. I am also pulling in parallel to the eyebolt. The end plugs, like everything else, were scrounged from my parts bins, and are rubber. The stainless steel tubing wall thickness is 1/8″ or 0.125″. This is plenty strong.

Home made lat pulldown bar, made of stainless steel tubing and 1/4 inch eyebolt. Photo by Don Tai

Home made lat pulldown bar, made of stainless steel tubing and 1/4 inch eyebolt. Photo by Don Tai

Home made lat pulldown bar, made of stainless steel tubing and 1/4 inch eyebolt. Closeup shot. Photo by Don Tai

Home made lat pulldown bar, made of stainless steel tubing and 1/4 inch eyebolt. Closeup shot. Photo by Don Tai

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