Mag Drills - The Portable Machine Shop

At SHAKO, we've found the electromagnetic drill or "mag drill" to be an essential tool for fabrication projects. A mag drill is a portable tool used for drilling precise holes in steel. It is particularly useful when working with large or heavy beams that otherwise could not be moved to a traditional drill press station.  

In this article, we'll discuss the mag drill's capabilities and show you how it enables SHAKO to operate as your portable machine shop, ready to tackle tasks that were once confined to the workshop. 

The key to a mag drill is its base, which contains powerful electrically controlled magnets that attach firmly to the steel workpiece. These magnets provide stability and prevent the drill from moving or vibrating during operation. There's no need to clamp the work piece or the drill. You just move the drill to the desired hole location, flip the switch to power the magnet, and start drilling.

In the photo above I'm using a mag drill to drill holes into 1/2 inch steel beams while they are resting on a forklift. The diagram below shows how the drill fixes itself in place with its electromagnetic base.

Mag drills are typically lightweight, under 40 pounds, and feature handles for portability. Their design allows for horizontal or even upside-down usage as long as there's a flat steel surface for the magnet to cling to. The portability of this tool grants a mechanical designer flexibility in choosing where and when to cut holes, without compromising on precision.

Mag drills also typically feature a chuck that accommodates annular cutters, as shown in the photo below. These cutters are designed to remove material in the shape of an annular ring, leaving behind a solid core plug. Because of this technique an annular cutter actually cuts much less material than a traditional twist drill bit of the same diameter. Using an annular cutter results in faster cutting time, reduced chips, and cleaner, mostly burr-free holes. An annular cutter also eliminates the need for a pilot hole or step-wise bit size increments, like you would with twist drill bits. And don't worry, the metal plug doesn't get jammed like a wood plug in a hole saw.

The pointed center pin shown above is convenient for locating with a dimple from a center punch, and the pin is spring loaded to eject the plug after the hole is cut. Also, most mag drills feature a built in fluid reservoir that flows coolant through the pin hole when the spring is depressed. This applies coolant directly into the cutting area during the cut, then automatically stops when the pin returns.

Some mag drills have the ability to control the speed of the spindle, or reverse the direction of rotation. This allows you to use tools that require specific speeds and feeds, or operations that require reverse direction - like thread tapping. A mag drill can essentially act as a portable machine shop, performing most operations that would otherwise require a drill press or other specialized shop machinery.

In conclusion, the electromagnetic drill, or "mag drill," is an indispensable tool for fabrication projects, offering exceptional precision and flexibility, especially when dealing with large and unwieldy workpieces. If you have projects or ideas that could benefit from this fabrication technique, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We are ready to assist and collaborate on your metalworking endeavors, providing efficient solutions that transcend the boundaries of traditional workshop constraints. Contact SHAKO to explore the possibilities of your metalworking projects today.

If you're interested, here's a link to an affordable mag drill that I use and recommend!

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About the author: Justin Pratt

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