Precision on the go
For precisely drilled holes, you can't beat a drill press if the workpiece fits on it. So if you don't own a drill press, but have a portable drill, investing in one of these drill guides will help you achieve the same accuracy. All three feature V-groove holders to center the drill bit on round stock, such as dowels or chair stretchers.
Woodpeckers Auto-Line Drill Guide
No. ALDG-21, $260
Maximum plunge depth: 43⁄4 " with spring installed; 51⁄8 " with spring and depth stop removed
Despite a shorter plunge capacity than the guides shown below (albeit plenty and on par with a drill press), this well-made aluminum and steel guide proved to be our favorite. The 1⁄2 " chuck mounts to an assembly that slides up and down the guide rods with a silky smoothness; the column spring easily returns the head without excessive resistance when plunging. The base's four etched alignment marks make it easy to center the bit on a crosshair layout mark. Although its 1" base opening limits bit size, you can remove the chuck assembly, turn it 180°, and reinstall it so the chuck is now on the back of the guide, allowing you to drill holes up to 2". A pair of pins thread into the base (above right) for drilling perfectly centered, no-measure holes in the edge of a workpiece. It's also the only model we tested that comes with an edge guide that replicates the fence of a drill press, helping you drill multiple holes the same distance from a workpiece edge.
Rockler Portable Drill Guide
No. 52885, $180
Maximum plunge depth: 87⁄8 " with depth stops removed
Like the Woodpeckers model, this guide is also well-made from aluminum and steel, and provides a 1⁄2 " chuck and centering pins. The head glides smoothly, but without a return spring the drill drops unless you tighten the locking knob, making it more tedious to line up a bit to a layout mark. The base has a large opening, but etched alignment marks in only one axis. The guide tilts up to 60° with marks in 5° increments, making drilling angled holes a breeze. A rubbery pad on the base's bottom prevents scooting.
No. 1318, $38
Maximum plunge depth: 61⁄4 " with spring installed; 81⁄4 " with spring and depth stop removed
You can't beat the value of this sturdy guide. It has plenty of vertical travel and a large bit opening, but only a 3⁄8 " chuck. Rubber feet on the base prevent scooting, but we wish it had markings to line up a bit. The head tilts to stops at 75°, 60°, and 45°, and although accurate, we found this process clumsy.