Metal – Mag drills 101

Electric Power Tool Inventor talks mag drills

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 10.53.15

Nathan Ford, Area Sales Manager for FEIN Power Tools in the UK, discusses what you should look for when purchasing a mag drill, the applications some can now achieve, and he touches upon the kind of accessories available in the market. Not only that, but he will also briefly cover the new cordless/compact mag drills new into the UK market.

Magnetic core drills or “Magdrills” for short are an essential tool for anyone involved in the production and installation of structural steel. They can also be a handy addition to the tool kit of anybody looking to drill larger diameter holes, which would be labour intensive and time consuming with traditional drilling methods. Core drilling is an extremely efficient process which is faster, quieter and more accurate than twist drilling. Core drilling requires no predrilling or switching over of the tooling, and so drilling times can be reduced by over 50%, with minimal physical effort by the user.

Choosing your drill

The first decisions to be made when buying a Magdrill is the capacity of the machine and what size hole are you likely to be drilling? Next, consider what thickness material you will be drilling? An obvious question yet if you are buying a drill with a 30mm max capacity and on your next job you need to drill a 35mm hole it may have been worthwhile buying the model up from the original machine. The price difference will have justified itself when you don’t have to buy a second machine or hire one to complete the job. Fein currently offers a large range of Magdrills from 30-80mm capacity, the new cordless Magdrill starting at 35mm.

When it comes to depth of cut, most machines will be able to handle a cutter with a depth of 25mm. For most applications this will suffice but if you have an application which requires either the cutting of thicker material, or the drilling of box sections, or step drilling, it is worth looking for a drill with as large a stroke range as possible. Ranges can vary from 65mm to 315mm so it worth taking this into consideration.


What is the machine going to be used for? Again this may sound like an obvious question. You want to drill a hole into a piece of steel. You have chosen your drill based on the size of hole and material thickness, but there may be some other criteria’s to look at. Most Magdrills are fixed speed; they are designed to drill a hole into steel. This fundamentally keeps the cost of the machine low, and is how many Magdrill manufacturers make machines. FEIN invests far more into its mag drills allowing the motor to deliver variable speed and is available in all FEIN Magdrills (except the KBB range). This variable speed, and in addition reverse functions are important if you have varying diameter holes to drill or are looking for a Magdrill which can Tap, Ream or Countersink.

Available accessories

Nearly all Magdrills will accept cutters with a Weldon type fitting. These are usually fixed in place with 2 x grub screws located on the tool holder. The Weldon fitting has been used for many years and it has become an industry standard for both cutters and drills. It’s a great system, however, the difficulty can be when trying to change a cutter with the machine attached to the work piece. Locating the grub screws can be a problem and there is always the moment when you just can’t find your Allen key! Thankfully there are machines available with Weldon quick change chucks which eliminate any of these issues.

Screen Shot 2018-01-08 at 10.50.34

As mentioned earlier you may have an application which is not as straight forward as drilling a hole, like tapping.  I would advise purchasing a drill with variable speed a reverse function and a good stroke range, also ensure that you can purchase the correct attachments. Auto Reverse Tapping Gearboxes are available on Weldon fittings which would allow your machine to tap without a reverse feature but these can be expensive so look for a drill with a tapping chuck in its accessory range like FEIN and other premium manufacturers.

When it comes to drilling materials a little away from the norm then the correct accessory is essential.  The correct cutter selection can make the difference between hours of frustration and expense, or getting a job done well. High Speed Steel, Tungsten Carbide, Titanium coated and High cobalt are some of the different cutter types available, and will all perform differently on different materials. It is worth seeking advice on which cutter would suit you application best and pairing it with the correct machine.

We have a function on our FEIN website called the Core drill finder . It provides information on the carbide (Ultra), coated HSS (Dura) and HSS (Nova) cutters, with various helpful information on the types of cutter sets available in the market.


Additional features and safety.

Once we have the correct drill and accessories for our application, it is worth taking a second to look over any additional features which may set one machine apart from another.

Capacity: As well as being used on site many of the larger capacity machines can replace the need for a conventional pillar type in the workshop. They make it easier to take the drill to the work piece rather than trying to move large pieces of steel up onto the drill bed. Larger machines are available with Morse taper fittings which allow for a wider range of accessories to be used.

Ease of use: Ease of access to the controls can be something that is overlooked. The controls may be easy to access when the machine is operated in one direction but when turned around they may be impossible to reach. Try to find a machine which has controls that can be reached regardless of the orientation of the machine.

Slide adjusters: Over time the slide on your machine may wear slightly due to it being metal upon metal, a good quality machine should have adjustments on the slides so that you can remove any play and tighten your guide. Any play in the guide will lead to movement and chattering in the cutter which may break cutters and also lead to an oval hole being drilled.

As you can see there are a number of different decisions to be made before choosing the correct machine – capacity, depth of cut, applications, accessories, safety features, ease of use. It can be useful to ask for a demonstration of the product before purchasing either via the machine manufacturer or your local supplier to ensure that it is suited to your application.


The brand new AKBU 35 (cordless) is supported with equally new high-power batteries and a new starter kit, helping end-users who lack mains power on-site or who need to work at heights.  If working in confined spaces a specialist right angled Magdrill would be needed, with a minimum head clearance of 169mm. The new ‘compact’ KBC 35 would assist, small enough to help get into tight spots.

Find out more about FEIN’s mag drill range

Banner (PATHED)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s