Drill spot-on holes
First set your drill-press table 90° to the bit. To do this, make a Z from a stiff 12"-long wire, such as a coat hanger, as shown above. Chuck one end of the wire, and raise the table until the other end barely touches it. Rotate the chuck by hand, and tilt the table until the wire touches equally all around it.
Next attach an auxiliary drill-press table with a fence to support and position your workpiece. To buy plans for a full-featured drill-press table, go to woodmagazine.com/drilltable.
Finer points of bit selection
Finally, set aside your trusty old twist drill bits designed to cut metal, and invest in brad-point or Forstner bits for woodworking use only. Twist bits lack the pinpoint accuracy possible with these two alternatives, as you can see below. They're also more prone to tear-out on the top surface. We prefer brad-point bits up through 1⁄2 " and Forstner bits for larger diameters (up to 4" in some sets). Because Forstner bits are guided by the rim instead of the center point, they won't stray off course as they make contact with the wood.
Line up the bit and drill
You might think that large-diameter Forstner bits would be hard to align with a mark, but they're not. The trick: Turn the drill press on to see the bit's center spur through the spinning notches in the rim, as shown below.
Add stops and spacers
What if you want to drill multiple equally spaced holes or identically spaced holes in more than one workpiece? That's when to add a fence, stops, spacers, or a combination of these to precisely and repeatedly change the position your workpiece.
To drill holes in a row, such as when creating the template shown below to plunge-rout a Chinese checker board, set the fence to center the first mark beneath the bit. You'll need to visually align each mark with the bit from side to side, but the distance to each hole from the edge stays the same.
When you need to drill several identical parts—case sides with matching shelf-pin holes, for example—speed up production by using spacers and a stop, as shown below. First saw spacers from scrap as wide as the distance between the centers of holes to be drilled. Cut one fewer spacers than the number of holes. Position the workpiece against the fence where you want the farthest hole, and clamp the stop in position. After drilling the first hole, insert a spacer between the stop and the workpiece. Drill the second hole, and add another spacer to drill the third hole. Repeat until you complete the row. Be careful to keep debris from getting between the spacers.
You can use the same concept to drill evenly spaced rows of holes by inserting a spacer or spacers between the fence and workpiece, as shown below, or in combination with spacers and a stop.
Drill curved problem parts with ease
Nothing throws your drilling accuracy a curve like ... well, curves. But a couple of simple jigs will help you drill dowels and balls with ease.
To make a dowel-drilling jig, cut a V-groove into a piece of 2x4 or other 11⁄2 "-thick scrap long enough to support the dowel. Set the drill-press fence to center the groove beneath the bit. Then place the dowel in the groove and drill the hole, as shown below. To drill a row of holes into a dowel, use the groove to pencil a centerline on the dowel. Then drill each hole on the line.
Drill ball holes
To make a ball-drilling jig, glue two 3⁄4 " thick scraps together. Center the jig beneath the chuck with a fence and stop. With a Forstner bit about two-thirds the ball diameter, drill halfway through the scrap. Chuck a bit the diameter you want, place the ball in the jig, and drill the hole, as shown right.
To drill through a ball up to twice the diameter as your bit is long, raise the table until the bit nearly touches the ball, and drill halfway through the ball. Without changing bits, use the Forstner bit spur hole to drill a hole through the scrap, as shown below. Insert half of a 11⁄2 " long dowel the diameter of the hole into the jig center hole and the other half into the hole in the ball. Then drill until the two holes meet.