How hard could it be to drill a couple of holes?

Drilling Laminate

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Dear NH,
I need to drill holes in plastic laminate-covered cabinets for drawer and door pulls in my kitchen. Is there a certain type of drill bit that I would use? Also is there an easy way to locate the holes? I don't want to make a mistake!
BF from Savannah, GA

Dear BF,
Drilling plastic laminate is not that much different than drilling into wood. Though the surface of laminate is indeed hard and durable, it drills easily with a sharp wood drill bit. There are, however, a few steps you can take to make the job easier.

A new, sharp drill bit will insure a clean hole. A dull bit may force you to exert too much pressure to get the hole started, leading to possible slippage and scratching of the laminate… a real no-no!! And use maximum drill speed for the cleanest hole.

Hard materials with smooth surfaces are the most difficult to drill into. The critical moment is right at the start… starting the hole! The drill bit wants to skid or "dance" all over the surface like a spinning top, resisting your efforts to keep it on the mark. Metals can be slightly dimpled with a pointed metal punch so that the drill bit does not drift from the desired drill point. However, hard-but-fragile materials such as ceramic tile and plastic laminate should not be banged with anything. Instead, put a layer or two of masking tape over the desired location and mark your drilling location on the tape. Acting as a stabilizer for the spinning end of the drill bit, the tape should keep the drill bit in place until the hole starts.

Drilling a starter hole with a very small diameter drill bit is also helpful. A 1/16" to 3/32" bit will penetrate the laminate easily, "dance" less and give you a great guide for the larger screw hole.

Locating the holes is not difficult but requires some precision. Be sure to make consistent measurements to insure that all your knobs are in the same "relative" position. You should use an adjustable carpenter's square to locate the holes precisely and consistently from the edges of your drawers or doors.

There is one situation where you might not want the pulls in the same locations. Before marking or drilling, note the alignment of the doors. If some doors sag slightly and you can't or don't want to adjust them, you might want to locate the knobs relative to each other so they are in visual alignment. This, of course, is an aesthetic choice and up to you!

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As a final thought, don't make the mistake many novices do and drill your holes too small. The holes should be large enough so that the screws for the pulls will pass through easily. If you make the holes too small you may find that the screws will not thread into the pulls correctly. So allow at least an additional 1/16" to give yourself a little "wiggle room". If you have slightly goofed and the screws don't align, you can enlarge each hole slightly for a better fit. As long as the pulls cover the holes you have not passed the point of no return.
Good luck,

copyright G.G. Alonzy

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