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AW Extra 12/20/12 - 11 Drill Press Tips



11 Drill Press Tips

If you tend to think of your drill press as a boring machine, you may not be using it to its full potential. These tips will help you find new ways to use your drill press and bring out its full potential as an indispensable woodworking tool.

1. Prevent Clogged Bits. Keep drill flutes clear with a couple squirts of bit lubricant before you drill. This is especially helpful when you are drilling deep holes. And you'll really notice the difference when drilling into end grain, such as on the pen blanks shown here. Without a lubricant, the flutes jam quickly, which can cause the blank, not to mention your temper, to rupture.



Grizzly Industrial,, 866-523-4777, OptiCut XL bit lubricant, 4 oz., #H4870.

Click any image to view a larger version.

2. Drill Without Blow-Out. Avoid blow-out on round stock by resting it in a half-round cradle instead of a V block. A cradle provides continuous support for the material so the bit won't blast through the back, leaving a ragged exit hole. To make the cradle, drill a hole the exact size of the round stock in a small piece of scrap and then cut it in half. Mount the two halves on a sheet of plywood to cradle the stock on each end.

3. Square the Table for Accuracy. Square the table using this old machinists' trick. Bend a piece of 1/4-in. steel rod (available at home centers) into an S shape, as shown in the photo above. Mount it in the chuck and swing it by hand to each side of the table. Use a feeler gauge between the end of the rod and the tabletop to test the clearance at each end of the table. Adjust the table tilt until there's .003 in. or less difference between the two sides.

4. Find the Center. Perfectly center a hole by placing one face of your workpiece against a fence and dimpling the surface with the tip of the drill bit. Then rotate the workpiece end for end and dimple it again. If the two dimples don't line up, as shown here, the fence needs to be repositioned. To center the hole, move the fence by half the distance between the two dimples.

5. Drill equally spaced holes. Drill a series of equally spaced holes using a set of flip stops. For the cribbage board shown here, each stop is made of 1/4-in. hardboard. Flip one stop for individual hole spacing, two for the large space between groups of holes.

6. Sand contours. Shape parts on your drill press using an inflatable drum sander. You can adjust the stiffness of the drum by adding or removing air. Pumped up, it acts like a typical drum sander. Drain some air out and the sander will conform to the shape being pressed against it, gently rounding the corners, as shown in the photo above. The drum mounts to a metal base clamped to your table. The base minimizes lateral stress on your drill press spindle.


Woodworkers Supply,, 800-645-9292, Pneumatic drum sander kit, including paper and base, #947-499.

7. Center a hole in a sphere. Drill a perfectly centered hole in a sphere by first counterboring a hole in a scrap board clamped to your table. Drill the counterbore using a Forstner or spade bit that's roughly half the diameter of the sphere. Replace the first bit with a brad point, nest the sphere in the counterbore and drill away.

8. Drill pocket holes. Drill screw pocket holes using a 90-degree fence with the table angled to 15 degrees. A 3/8-in. brad-point or Forstner bit works best. This is a great way to put screw pockets into table aprons for fastening the top. This jig is not a substitute for a pocket-hole jig because the setup can't drill a screw pocket into the end of a long rail.

9. Enjoy easy depth setup. Set the depth of cut using a drill bit. Mount the bit you need in the chuck and lower it until it touches your work. Lock the spindle in place. Then use a drill bit whose diameter matches the depth of the hole you need to set the stop collar on the drill press.

10. Sand curves without dust. Sand curves with a drum sander and a shop-made sanding table. A hole in the tabletop, made 1/4 in. larger than the drum, allows the drum to project into the table. You can set the drum at various heights to use its entire surface. Drill a 2-1/4-in. hole in the side to hook up a dust-collector hose.

11. Use an angled ramp. Instead of tilting the drill press table, drill angled holes on a shop-made ramp. The ramp allows you to keep your table set square and gives you an instant, accurate setup for drilling angles. Cut the ends of the ramp using a miter saw or your tablesaw's miter gauge.

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker January 2007, issue #126.

January 2007, issue #126

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sheldon wrote re: 11 Drill Press Tips
on 03-10-2009 3:05 PM

great tips. i really could us tip #5

david n schabel sr wrote re: 11 Drill Press Tips
on 03-11-2009 2:19 PM

where  is the mortise attachment?

weitinger wrote re: 11 Drill Press Tips
on 03-28-2009 6:04 PM

all tips were great I can use them all

punjab wrote re: 11 Drill Press Tips
on 04-26-2009 9:32 AM

nice tips, can use these in my shop.

bricofleur wrote re: 11 Drill Press Tips
on 06-12-2009 9:25 AM

The drum sander vac sanding box is just great! Thanks. That gives me the idea of making such box to install on my lathe while using a sanding disk to collect the fine dust. It should works great.



Tim wrote re: 11 Drill Press Tips
on 06-14-2009 10:05 AM

These are some really great tips. Thanks

Morris wrote re: 11 Drill Press Tips
on 10-11-2009 11:13 PM

The sliding table gave me an idea for modifying my Rockler table.  The drum sander dust box is a great idea. wrote re: 11 Drill Press Tips
on 07-24-2010 6:44 PM

i have made a sanding table based on yours with a slight variation. i have 4 different size drums the hole in the top of the table i made square i have 4 tiles with a different size hole for each drum. the 6mm ply tile sits in a rebate in the hole. it work great mate good one.