Handheld vertical drilling - Jig, press or other?


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Established Member
13 Sep 2020
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The Woods
Hi all,

I need to drill a couple of hundred holes and need them to be perpendicular to the surface of the wood. Anyone got any tips (aside from using a pillar drill)?

Some will be for dowels for glue-up and will have a set depth in solid timber material to about 15mm, others will go all the way through 19mm solid material and others will go all the way through 6mm mdf. The diameters will vary from 6mm to 10mm.

Some of the holes will be in small pieces of timber, and others will be on large sheet material.

Doubtless a pillar drill would be the best solution for the smaller pieces of timber, but I don't have one, nor do I have the space to store one, and it wouldn't have the clearance to do the holes in the middle of the sheet material, so a pillar drill isn't an option for me.

I've been toying with the idea of getting one of those stands that turn a handheld drill into a pillar drill. I assume it's designed to drill an item placed on top of it's base, but I'd be placing the stand on the workpiece and trying to drill through the base of the stand, into the sheet material that's placed below.


Does anyone have any experience with these cheap drill stands, or a jig that you could recommend, or perhaps an idea for a jig that I could knock up myself?
A stand as pictured will have a bit of lateral play (rotation about the pillar) but (if made properly) will at least ensure verticality. A problem will be sighting the drill centre throught the base aperture. One cure for this wld be to rotate the column so that the drill is offset from the base, but this introduces a stabilty issue. Not, therefore ideal.

Use as shown for the small workpieces.

The overall issue is going to be the accuracy of drill centring.
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You can swing the drill right round one of those stands and drill outside the base.You then need a weight or a clamp on the base. My workshop weights are bean tins with scrap lead melted down and they come in handy often. "Gravity clamps"
PS come to think - you can set the drill to drill through the hole in the base.
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if u lived near me I could give u one complete with a decent working drill......
it came with a job lot of tools.......
will prob leave next to the village rubbish bin..
someone will make use of it....just gotta get rid of some stuff.......
Try to pick up an old Bosch S7 (there are others probably as good). I bought mine decades ago for £70 - they are decently made bits of kit, and are quite accurate. As Jacob said the head swings around on the pillar which makes things easier. You can clamp the base down and swing your drill out over your vice, which is useful. You can make fences and use it as an overhead router with a router that's got a 43mm collar (such as a Bosch POF50), as well.
Cheap drill stands are best avoided.
If you are anywhere near Salisbury then kgill has a hefty looking wolf drill stand in the for sale section, could be £15 well spent
Great advice everyone. thank you.

I do have a top-notch (although big & heavy) router, which is under-used. So may well knock up a jig and use that for the dowel jobs because I have a lot of identical components to drill.

The drill press option might be the right path for the sheet material.

Sadly not near Salisbury.

Hadn't even thought about the need to drill at different angles! Trying to resist the temptation to come up with new projects just to justify the fancier features of the Rutland press (albeit less satisfyingly meaty/machined than the Wolf/Bosch types).
I would caution against inexpensive drilling guides. Almost all of them have lateral play both in the chuck bearings and in the pillars and are almost useless for precision work. The two exceptions are the Rutland's Premium drill guide (on offer presently and which I occasionally use in the workshop) which is ok, although it has some slop, it's easy to centre and has a decent heavy base and depth stop. The other is the more expensive Axminster premium drill guide.

Other than those, as mentioned above, a router works well but it can be a pain getting it precisely centred without some sort of jig to help. I use a clamping guide bar across the work piece, and knowing the distance from the edge of the router baseplate to the centre can accurately set it up using pencil marks and once you have the first one drilled you simply move it along the prescribed c/c distance measured from the back edge of the router base each time.
What about one of these Drill guide

Probably not as accurate as the big jigs but does it need to be? I don't fancy one if those big drill guides cluttering up the workshop.
I have one of these - picked up at a boot sale for £2. It works very well for vertical holes and the flat side allows you to slide along a guide for aligning a row of holes.
How spooky, I picked up a similar one from a jumble sale yesterday for £2 as well !