March 24, 2022
Most experienced woodworkers will tell you that drilling perfectly vertical holes will be challenging, especially if you don’t have the right equipment. They will also advise you to purchase yourself a drill press if you want to make perfect straight holes with drill. Without a drill press, even if the drill bit is straight and you want it to stay straight, drilling will become a bit tough when you factor in the drill’s weight and the bit’s rotational speed.
The sad thing is that if you have limited resources, you can’t afford to engage in trial-and-error drilling on your workpieces. But the good news is, even without a drill press, it is still possible to drill perfect vertical holes. You only need to learn the different methods of how to drill straight holes without a drill press.
8 Ways to Drill Perfectly Straight Holes Without a Drill Press
If you want to raise your level of woodworking a notch higher, you should at least have a drill press. However, if you can’t afford to buy a drill press, you can still manage to drill perfectly straight holes if you employ any of the following methods:
1) Drill Level
You will find that most handheld cordless drills manufactured at present come with an in-built level on its top and back. With this integrated level, you can drill straight holes freehand even if you don’t have a drill press. Yet, freehand drilling necessitates more skill and dexterity on your part. Moreover, you need to be more comfortable with using a drill to achieve a straight hole.
If you’re not yet an expert, you can set your power drill at a slow RPM. Avoid starting the power drill at full speed, for it can throw off balance the power drill, leading to crooked holes. Instead, it is better to start with a low RPM setting. Go slow until you make a starter hole. Afterward, you can speed up the drill little by little as long as you can center the bit well as you drill through the workpiece.
2) Use an Old CD
You might not think of this method, but if you have an old CD, you can utilize it to enable you to drill straight vertical holes. You can use the center hole of the CD as your drill guide. Lay flat the CD on the wood surface. Afterward, put the drill bit in the CD’s center. Begin drilling using the CD center as your guide.
3) Use Old Scrap Wood
Another way to make a straight vertical hole is to use several scrap wood pieces (1×2). Then, nail these scrap wood pieces together, forming a right angle. Make sure that the angle is at perfect 90 degrees, or else you can never make a straight hole. You can use a square to form a perfect right angle.
Once done with your drill guide, you can utilize its inside corner to enable your drill bit to drill vertical holes. If your wood is angled well, you will get a straight hole without any problem. You should also use a clamp on your guide to ensure that it will not move or shift.
4) Use a Drill Block
You can use a drill block that comes with pre-drilled holes of various sizes. This little block can be made of metal and can keep your drill bit straight. The drill block is less bulky and more portable than other options. You can also stack away this drill block inside your toolbox with ease.
The holes of the drill block are fit enough for standard drill bits sans allowing for the drill bit to waiver or lean to one side. Furthermore, you should clamp the drill block in place before you start drilling. In this way, it will not spin or shift position while you drill.
5) Using Portable Drill Press
The simplest way to drill a vertical hole each time is to purchase a portable drill press. You can use this portable drill press to guide your handheld drill. With this portable drill press, you can drill with precision without using the bulky drill press. Thus, if you don’t like buying a cumbersome and expensive drill press, you can opt for a portable drill press.
6) Using a Drill Stand
You can buy handy accessories to enhance the accuracy of your drill. One such accessory is the adjustable angled and straight drill stand. The drill stand comes with a flat metal base and two upright rods. It also features a mounting device for holding the drill in place. This mounting drill stand likewise allows the sliding up and down of the drill bit on the rods. Since the power drill is affixed to the mounting device, the drill stand can transform your portable drill into a small drill press.
The good thing about the use of the drill stand is that you can drill at different angles. Moreover, most drill stands come with V-shaped grooves on their base’s topsides for the placement of small pipes and round dowels.
7) DIY Drilling Jigs
Aside from buying drilling accessories, you can also create your drilling guides. For example, you can make a right-angle jig. This right-angle jig consists of two wood blocks with square edges. You can join these two pieces, forming a right angle. Clamp the jig onto your board or workpiece. Then, you can start drilling onto the jig’s inside corner. You can also make your drilling block mentioned above. This drilling block comes with dozens of standard hole sizes for various drill bits.
8) Manual Freehand Method
The manual method or freehand method doesn’t necessitate the use of any specialized tool. This method relies heavily on your patience and the precision of your hands. In this method, you will only need a drill and an excellent drill bit set. One drill bit will be half the size of the intended hole, and the other one will be about the size of the hole. Of course, this method has its pros and cons. Its advantage is that you will not need any other accessory or tool.
On the other hand, its limitations include your inability to drill holes at any given angle. Of course, you can quickly drill at a 45-degree angle. But beyond that angle, it will be challenging to drill angled holes with this method. If you make angled holes below 15 degrees, the drill will wobble too much. With much movement, you can never establish a straight hole.
Additional Tips When Drilling Angled Vertical Holes
Drilling angled wood on softer wood would be easier than drilling angled holes on harder wood. Hence, you will find it easier to drill holes on softwood like hemlock and pine. These softwoods get primarily used for framing lumber. With these wood types, you can employ the manual method with relative ease.
On the other hand, you will find it challenging to drill angled holes manually on hardwoods like maple, oak, and walnut. You will also need tools and materials when drilling manually. These tools and materials include drill, drill bit set, speed square, pencil, and drill bit extender. You will also need wood pieces as your workpieces.
Safety Tips When Drilling Perfectly Straight Holes
Aside from learning the different methods of drilling perfectly straight holes without a drill press, you can also benefit from knowing the following safety tips when drilling:
- You should always wear your safety goggles when using power tools like the drill. Dust and debris can shoot up accidentally into your face, hitting your eyes accidentally.
- Ensure you clamp down your drilling guide before you begin drilling.
- Start with a low RPM setting. Get comfortable with the drill before you speed up.
- You can also use safety gloves when working with a power drill. In this way, you can provide your hands with extra protection.
- Position your free hand away from the spinning drill bit.
Drilling vertical holes can be challenging, and even if you are an expert in the use of drill bit, you can never rely only on your hands to drill vertical holes. You will need some tools or accessories like the drill press to create those vertical holes. Yet, if you’re on a tight budget, spending for a drill press can put a dent in your budget. So, in the absence of a drill press, you should devise or improvise ways to achieve flawless vertical holes. In my experience, the straight holes drill jigs are the fastest and easy methods to drilling the perfect vertical straight holes on wood.
As a beginner who doesn’t have a drill press, you can follow any of the abovementioned methods on drilling those vertical holes. Make sure you follow those simple tips and employ the necessary safety tips to ensure that you’ll always be on the safe side when making those vertical holes.
Liam is a 37-year-old woodworker and interior designer who loves to make every furniture project an art piece. He is very experienced in furniture design and woodworking project planning.