Tips and tricks using your drill press

Build a few handy helpers to turn your drill press into precision drilling center.

Submitted by WOOD community member WOOD Magazine StaffSubmit a Shop Guide
  • Bore vertical holes with scrapwood jig

    Here's a quick-fix jig that will come in handy the next time you need to bore a vertical hole in the end of a long workpiece. To make the clamp block, laminate two 2 x 4s, one 9" long and the other 17" long as shown in the drawing below. Then, joint the sides that face the workpiece and the drill-press table to achieve a perfect 90° angle.

    Next, joint the edges and faces of the 1-1/2 x 2 x 10" fence to perfect 90° angles. Use a framing square to align the two pieces at 90°. Then, fasten the fence to the clamp block with glue and four #8 x 2-1/2" flathead wood screws and adhere a piece of 150-grit sandpaper to the clamp block as shown. Now, clamp the jig to the drill-press table, clamp the workpiece to the jig, and you're ready to bore your hole.


    -- E.C. Peters, Brighton, Ont.

  • Reposition holesaw to end sawdust woes

    I've used a holesaw many times in the past to cut out wheels for toys. And almost always, sawdust would clog the saw, the wood would burn, and smoke would fill my shop.

    Now, I position the holesaw right at the edge of the stock, creating an escape path for the sawdust. No more clogging, no more smoke.


    -- John Santoro, Billerica, Mass.

  • Protect fingers with this handmade disc

    I recently purchased an 8" adjustable circle cutter for cutting clock-face holes, but the spinning arm of the cutter scared the heck out of me when I used it. So, to keep my fingers away from the danger, I made a guard from 1/4" acrylic as shown. The guard fits between the cutter and the drill-press chuck, and the clear plastic lets me see the work.


    -- Pat Grashorn, Gilcrest, Colo.

  • Grip stuck plug with this homemade grabber

    Have you ever tried to free a stuck wooden plug from a holesaw? If so, you know that you can do a lot of damage to the wood workpiece trying to pry it out. Build this grabber, though, and you can free these wooden pieces with a quick twist of the wrist.

    Size the grabber about 1" wider than the circular plug you're cutting and about 10" long. Turn it on edge and drill a 3/16" hole for the machine screw as shown. Then, drill the counterbore and hole in the face of the workpiece and bandsaw a tapered cut from the end of the handle to the hole as shown.

    For this grabber to work, the plug must protrude below the teeth of the holesaw about 1/4". So when you cut your circles, don't lower the teeth completely through the stock. Rather, drill down until the pilot bit emerges from the back side of the stock. Flip over the workpiece and complete the cut from the backside.


    -- Bill Woodall, Gladys, Va.

  • Center hinge screws with a countersink

    Centering screws in hinges can frustrate even a veteran cabinetmaker. It's impossible to do by eye, and if you're only doing a couple of doors, you probably don't want to buy a special self-centering bit to help with the job.

    After mortising the hinge into the panel, chuck a countersink bit into your drill and drill into each of the screw holes. Be careful not to enlarge the screw holes or dull the countersink. The lowest point of the countersink is the center of the screw hole.


    -- from the WOOD® magazine shop

  • Drill dead-center holes in dowels

    Drilling a hole through the center of a short dowel sounds tricky, but this method makes it simple. Clamp a scrap board to the table of your drill press and drill a hole into it the same diameter as your dowel. Without moving the board, insert the dowel into the hole. Chuck the bit for the smaller hole into your drill press, and you're ready to drill through the center of the dowel.


    -- from the WOOD magazine shop

  • Paint rollers make great drill-press buffers

    After completing a number of the small scrollsawed pieces, I used my drill press to buff them to a nice shine. First, I cut a 9" paint-roller cover into pieces the same length as my sanding drum. (It's important to use a high-quality cover with a phenolic plastic core.) Next, I sand the insides of the roller sections with a 1” sanding drum until they fit snugly over a 1-1/2" drum.

    I apply my buffing medium with one of the paint-roller sections, then buff it off with another roller section. A roller with a 1/2" nap worked fine for me. You can use this technique for polishing metal pieces, such as jewelry and hardware, too.


    -- Steve Prensky, Ronkonkoma, N.Y.

  • Hold dowels tight during drilling

    I built a game scorekeeper that uses short lengths of dowel that slide on a rod, similar to an abacus. I cut the dowel sections first, then figured out a way to drill the holes in the thin "slices." My solution was to build the jig shown.

    The lever holds the sliced dowels firmly against the V-notch during the drilling process. The same setup with a wider V-notch works great for drilling axle holes in toy wheels.


    -- Don Lefler, Middletown, Calif.

  • Drill evenly spaced holes with speed and accuracy

    Sometimes you need to drill evenly spaced holes. If you have a ruler at least half as long as your workpiece, you can do it accurately without a lick of math. Here's how.

    First, measure, mark, and bore the standard's center hole with your drill press. (If you need an even number of holes, locate and bore one of the two holes closest to the center.) Keeping the bit in the hole and the shelf standard against the fence, clamp a ruler to the fence so that the end of the standard lines up with an easy-to-remember increment (for example, the 11" mark as shown above.)

    Now, raise the drill bit, and move your workpiece so the end lines up with the next spaced increment (for 1" spacing, slide the workpiece to the 10" mark; for 1/2" spacing, shift it to 10-1/2"). Then, bore the next hole. Continue to the next increment, drill again, and so on, until you reach the end of the workpiece. Turn the standard end for end and repeat the process, starting again with the center hole.

    -- Chuck Hedlund, WOOD® magazine staff

  • Pan traps troublesome metal shavings

    Even a tiny sliver of steel, iron, or other metal will leave an ugly stain if allowed to sit for long on top of a piece of unfinished wood. And metal shavings hidden in your sawdust can do serious damage if they get pulled into your dust-collection system and strike the impeller blades.

    To prevent these problems, put a shallow pan under your workpiece anytime you drill into metal. In the middle of the pan, support the workpiece with a backer block the same height as the edge of the pan.


    -- Joe Seibert, Bryan, Ohio

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