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  1. #1
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    drilling straight holes - no drill press

    Hey there folks,
    I'm kind of new to the forum, so if this is posted in the wrong spot, just let me know.

    I am 25 and working on building my own shop now, but had a good shop to work in as I was growing up & have experience building nice things.


    I am working on my first woodworking project in a while, and it requires me to drill holes in the edge of 3/4 ply and into 5/4 x 3-1/2" on the 3-1/2 face, but in a dado.

    As you can probably guess, I'm dowelling in a dado for some shelves. I do not have access to a drill press, and I was wondering what methods I could use, or jig I could build to make sure and get the holes straight.

    I am not worried about getting them to line up... I can measure.
    But I am worried that my hand-drilling will not be straight enough for dowelling.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated... as long as you don't say "use a drill press", because I don't have the funds for that or have access to one right now.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Bradford, Vermont, MerryCanna.
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    RE: drilling straight holes - no drill press

    Yo, D.

    You could... figure how much material is on one side of the projected dowel hole, lay a scrap of wood THAT THICKNESS down on your benchtop, and rest your drill bit across that as you drill. That'll get you accuracy in one dimension (the Y dimension).

    You could glue a block of wood across that scrap, carefully squared, and rest your drill bit in the resulting "corner". That'll get you accuracy in another dimension (the X dimension).

    Or... you could use a doweling jig (the more expensive ones are far better than the cheap ones, but the cheaper ones WILL get ya by in a pinch).

    Or... you could use one of these:
    http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?p...cid=c11135x027
    or these:
    http://www.hartvilletool.com/product...filiate_id=344
    or these:
    http://www.woodcraft.com/family.aspx?FamilyID=3121


    -- Tim --

    All sails
    are vinyl.


  3. #3
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    RE: drilling straight holes - no drill press

    I have one of the drill devices you link to. It works pretty well, but naturally not as good as a drill press. For example, about 10 years ago I used it to drill 3/4'' diameter holes in a 2 x 4. The holes had to be perfectly straight because a dowel would go through them and then into a vertical piece to connect them, making adjustable cleats.

    Well, the hole didn't even come out close to straight enough when going through so much material, so I ended up with permenent cleats. I still use this device all the time, though.

  4. #4
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    RE: drilling straight holes - no drill press

    The good ol' Portaline has come a way since I got mine back 15+ years ago.

    Presuming you'll be using ~1/4" bit for dowels, you'll want to clear the bit of crud often. This will go a ways toward keeping it from deflecting in the hole and skewing to one or another direction.

  5. #5
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    Hellertown, Pa, US.
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    RE: drilling straight holes - no drill press

    Hi,it sounds like you like to use dowels,so do i.You might want to look into the Miller Dowel system,they take a lot of guess work out of aligning the holes and gettin everything just right.I just made two kitchen wall cabinets with them,i was at the cabin and i didn`t have all the clamps and so forth i would normally use but i did have the miller dowels and bit in my tool box and it worked out like a charm. Do a search at Rockler for them. carl

  6. #6
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    O\'Fallon, Missouri, USA.
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    RE: drilling straight holes - no drill press

    Thanks for the advice so far...

    As for the portable drill guides, I have tried two variations of those, and thus far, I am better off hand drilling. I have had issues with the bit walking when using the drill guide, even after starting it with a punch. Also, the two that I tried were impossible to get to lock into a true 90*, and were extremely hard to balance well enough on the edge of 3/4" ply.

    As for the dowelling jig... I have looked at a couple, but none seem like they would be good for aligning a hole that is IN a dado... although they might be good enough to keep my drill straight as I do the alignment.

    I could see the corner method working... just have to figure a good way to temporarily attach it to the ply.

    Keep 'em coming!

  7. #7
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    Bradford, Vermont, MerryCanna.
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    RE: drilling straight holes - no drill press

    If you lay the ply down on the bench... clamp it down... and then clamp down your corner jig... then there's no need to attach anything; it's all lined up & ready to go.

    Yet another approach would be to build a special-purpose jig with a hardened drill guide pressed into it. Then, after this project is over, you could hang the jig on the wall as a "credibility point". :)

    EDIT: You ARE using bradpoint (or bullet-point) drill bits, right? They won't wander NEARLY as badly as conventional twist drills will.

    -- Tim --

    All sails
    are vinyl.


  8. #8
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    Hardinsburg, Ky, USA.
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    RE: drilling straight holes - no drill press

    I used dow pin on my last project and had problems with my Sears dow pin jig. I ended up drilling about a 1/4 of a inch to get the right location and free handing it the rest of the way but I would reccomend getting a good jig and use a brad point bit. The brad point don`t wonder like bits made for metal but drilling in to the edge of plywood might be a little trickey. Barry

  9. #9
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    RE: drilling straight holes - no drill press

    I give a second vote for Miller dowels. Since they are a through dowel, you cannot go wrong with them. They are also stronger than blind dowels.

    Of course, if you don't like the look of through dowels, then you can't use this method. I think for solid wood with conventional finishes (stain), through dowels look nice, but it is a matte of taste.

  10. #10
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    RE: drilling straight holes - no drill press

    Didn't look real close at the pics of those drill guides Timmer linked, but generally you can slide the rods in the base so that they extend below the bottom of the base. If you start with one rod on either side of the ply then rotate the entire thing so that each rod is snug against one side of the sheet, your hole will be centered on the edge. If you need to move the hole off the center by a specific amount, using a spacer of double the offset amount between the piece and the rod on the side to which the needed hole is closer.

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