Tools of the Trade! – Center Punches 2

Center punches will help you more accurately mark and drill holes so they are right the first time. Read more to learn about center punches and how they will improve your projects!

Center punches are one of those things that the pro’s know about and use daily without a second thought. Meanwhile the people just starting out are cursing at their drill wondering why it is walking all over the place while they are trying to drill a simple hole.

Tools of the Trade! – Center Punches

Transfer punches (in holder), two center punches and a ballpeen hammer

As much as I hate having to drill holes, it is inevitable. The best way to make accurate holes is to use center punches and gradually step up in drill bit sizes. This keeps the drill bit from ‘walking’ off-center on the piece you are trying to drill. If you get even slightly off center it only gets worse when you step up to the bigger drill bit sizes.

There are a couple of different types of center punches available. Exactly which one you pick is less important than just using them. Once you have marked the center of the hole, add some drilling lube and start drilling.

Cutting Oil / Drilling Lube

Cutting oil is specifically engineered to cool drill bits and lubricate in drilling operations. Not using cutting oil will dull bits and will lead you straight to my other article: DIY Drill Bit Sharpening with Drill Dr.

I always use Tap-Magic. It has been around forever and is commonly available at hardware stores and online.

Center Punches

This is the classic original center punch, just a hardened steel punch with a point on it. You put it on the work piece where you want to drill a hole and whack it with a hammer! (insert Tim Allen style manly grunts here)

There are no moving parts. If you want a light dimple hit it with a small hammer lightly, if you want a deep hole grab a big hammer and hit it hard! A deep punch mark makes it easier to keep the drill bit centered when you start drilling.

This Starrett center punch is made from hardened steel for long life.

Automatic Center Punches

Automatic center punches are great for most projects and don’t require the use of a hammer. You just figure out where you want the center of the hole, put the point on it, and press until it pops! Works great in wood, and other soft materials. Does an OK job in metal but doesn’t make as deep of an indentation as a manual punch.


Transfer Punches

Transfer punches are great if you have a piece or layout that you need to replicate. Lets say for example you had a bracket cracking that is no longer available from the manufacturer. You can take that bracket, cut a similar size piece of metal, lay them on top of each other, stick the transfer punch in the existing hole then hit it with a hammer to copy the hole locations to the new piece.

Transfer punches come in different sizes for finding the exact center of different size holes. There are two kits linked below, one of which goes all the way up to a 1″ hole! (though the larger set is kind of expensive)


Hope this was helpful and taught you a bit about center punches as a way to get more accurate drill holes. Now YOU, get out in the garage and work on something!



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