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Best RPM for Hole Saws when Cutting Any Material

Dec 31, 2023Dec 31, 2023

You may think using a hole saw is simply a matter of chucking it up and drilling. While that may work in many cases, setting the best hole saw cutting speed with your drill—even if you only get close, will save you from burning out the blade and possibly even ruining the material. We thought it might be handy to create a guide for setting the best RPM for hole saws when cutting any material.

Many of the best cordless drills operate on high and low speeds, and some have multiple modes or even software that controls the RPM (rotations per minute) of the keyless drill chuck. Even if you need to throttle the drill by hand, however, speed is crucial. Understanding your drill's speeds helps you drill more quickly and without ruining your hole saws. With a little practice, you can save a lot of money in the long run.

Following is a table representing the best RPM speed for using carbide-tipped hole saws. It guides you through the optimal speeds for cutting through aluminum, stainless, fiberglass, ceramic tile, and even cast iron. As a general rule—the harder or more brittle the material, the slower you should cut.

Of course, we also had to include a table for setting the best RPM speed when using bi-metal hole saws. These hole saws seem much more prominent in the trades and cost less than their carbide-tipped brethren. Consider these the general speeds you want to use for optimal cutting through mild steel, stainless, cast iron, brass, and aluminum. You can use the highest speeds on aluminum and mild steel, while cast iron and stainless require a bit more patience.

It may very well be that you can't achieve these speeds using the tools you have. In that case, just do your best. Be sure to use that variable trigger to lower speeds when cutting harder or more brittle materials. It takes patience, but these hole saws work best when used properly—and you may very well end up cutting through the material more quickly than if you run the tool at full speed. You will most certainly go through fewer blades!

Tools that use technology like Milwaukee One-Key or DeWalt Tool Connect can let you set different speed ranges for your drill. This lets you assign up to four different speed ranges—and more easily control your RPMs. While we don't expect anyone will rush out to buy a smart tool just for use with hole saws, it may help if you already have one of these drills in your collection.

It used to be that drills had one speed or gear. Now, they typically come with two—but some do better than that. If you happen to have a drill that has three or more speeds, get familiar with your settings. Manufacturers set those differing speeds at specific breakpoints. Knowing the top RPM for each mode will help you better understand how to feather the trigger to achieve the desired drilling speed.

After some practice, this should become second nature to you.

Obviously, if you don't have an electronic way to control speed or a 3- or 4-speed drill, go manual. If you know your drill's top speed, then feathering the trigger can at least get you in the ballpark RPM range. In any case, it will certainly do better than pulling the trigger all the way in High speed and burning up your bi-metal saw during its first cut!

The two charts above should give you a fairly definitive list of how to configure your drill speed for the optimal hole saw cutting. This keeps your blades sharp and stops the metal from heating up so much that it deforms the blade tips on the material. Once you lose that edge, you might as well rub a flat piece of steel across it—you’re done.

Sometimes, slow and steady does win the race!

Special thanks to Lenox Tools for providing specifications for both bi-metal and carbide-tipped hole saws.

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