There's a project I have in mind that requires some precise and
regular drilling, so it may be time to buy a drill press. I'd prefer
to get a small benchtop model, but I have a problem.
The project requires drilling pilot holes into the ends of boards that
are roughly 30" long. You can see that this can be a problem even with
a floor drill press.
Is there a way to get around this problem? Perhaps a benchtop drill
press whose top can swivel away from the base?
Or one that can be laid over flat. One of the things a ShopSmith Mark V
is actually GOOD at is being a decent drill press that can be a
horizontal boring machine when that's more convenient (in under 30
seconds if you don't pile stuff on it). At the more reasonable of used
prices it can actually be a good deal for that. At new and unreasonable
used prices, not a good value. Either way, bigger than a benchtop drill
press, so probably not what you want - but one way to do the job.
Any Shopsmith, regardless of age will do what you want with finesse. I
have an ancient 10ER that still does shop tricks for me. Look for them
on Craigslist, eBay or wherever. Prices are low, hundreds of eBay
listings for accessories no longer manufactured. If you find one,
bring a truck, it's a lot of cast iron. Hard to find a nearly 16"
drill press for what you would pay for a 10ER. If you get lucky you
will find one with a speed changer, real handy. And besides...haven't
you always wanted a decent lathe?
I'd be thinking in terms of clamping the boards vertically to the side of a
workbench and either using one of those drill guides with a hand drill ¹ or
making a jig to keep the drill vertical. A few scraps glued together with a
vertical hole the size of the drill bit would probably work unless you need
damn near microscopic precision.
¹ http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page $05
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
Most, all that I'm familiar with anyway, drill presses will allow the
head to swivel on the post once you loosen the set screws. When
they were new they were shipped in pieces so swiveling the head is
no big deal. The tables will also swivel sideways and rotate from
the horizontal. This will let you clamp your board to it while drilling.
I'd either buy a floor model with enough clearance or I'd turn the head on a
bench top model. If you take the second method, it will not be factory set
to do that, but the base is a separate part from the support column. I'd
screw down the base securely on a bench, then rotate the column. Since it
is a repetitive job, I'm sure you will be making a fixture to line up the
Thanks to all. I wasn't sure how much a drill press head could swivel,
so I could use the method described above.
The doweling jig's a good alternative. There's one point where the
pilot holes have to be about 1/16" off-center, but shims could correct
I'd consider making a doweling jig (just an L shape with some
hardened drill guides pressed into the short leg) for this kind of
clamped to the board end. Just hand-drill the holes.
It can take some careful setup on a good drill press to make
the jig, though, and you will need to find a source of
suitable bushings for the drill guides.
I have two comments on your problem.
The first is a general comment. I have a small bench top drill press
that is about 10" from the base to the chuck. While the price was right
and it is great for most of the things I do, if I were to replace it I
would go larger. With 10" throat, you are extremely limited in the
widths of the piece that can be drilled. (A drill is 4 to 8 inches and a
the wide side of a 2X4 nearly fills the throat.)
This is something I did for a project many years ago. To drill the legs,
I would make a jig for my hand drill. The jig is a bed about the
length of the leg. Using two fences, attach them such that the distance
between them would be the width of the leg. Make a fitting to hold the
drill precisely in the position so the drill hits the leg where you want
it and aligned the drill with the channel
In operation turn the drill on, and slide the leg up the channel to the
depth you need for the hole. Channel keep the drill and leg in the same
I hope this is clear
Rip the boards in half. Plow 1/16" deep grooves down the edges
of each half, then glue back together. Drill the actual pilot
holes with an auger, letting the grooves guide the bit. You
can use a regular hand drill, no need to buy another machine
Lot of work to go through.
Simpler solution, use the drill press to drill three equidistant holes
in a stick of wood. Put dowels in the two on the ends. Straddle the
board with the dowels and the third hole will be centered and
perpendicular (assuming you did a good of making the thing).
Or cut off a piece the lumber you're working with, drill guide holes in
it using the drill press, then glue/screw/clamp/otherwise_attach blocks
all around and slip the resulting assembly over the end of the piece
that is to have the pilot holes and drill them through the guide holes.
Or just go down to Harbor Fright and drop 13 bucks on a dowel jig. Make
sure to adjust the centering on it--as they come out of the box they're
usually misaligned--so are the ones from Woodcraft that seem to be the
same item for several times the price.
I have a floor-model drill press (Delta 14"). I can swivel the table
so that it is vertical. Clamp a piece of wood to the table to serve
as a fence & clamp you boards to the fence.
May years ago, I made a horizontal boring machine as I had to make a
lot of dowel holes in the end of balusters for a railing. I don't
remember all the details, but I used plumbing metal strapping to
attach a hand-held drill to a piece of plywood. On another piece of
ply, I screwed in 4 lengths of threaded road to adjust the height and
somehow attached it to the other ply with the drill. A piece of wood
was used as a fence to guide the exact position of the dowel.
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