Never drill a crooked hole again with our expert tips

Published: March 20, 2019

drill guide machine Photo by Liam Mogan

Just drilling into stuff is pretty simple. Put the right-sized bit of the right type in the right place, and squeeze the drill’s trigger. But most holes need to be perpendicular to the surface; a technique, a drill guide, or a machine will help.

Simple and cheap

Technique: The simplest trick for drilling straight is a change of perspective. Eyeballing the bit in a power or hand drill from two or more vantage points will help you align it properly. In other words, move your head before starting. After the bit just begins to bite, stop and check it again. Try holding the corner of a block of wood near the hole to gauge the bit’s squareness.

Cottager approved
Drill guide: For even greater accuracy, a relatively inexpensive drill guide will square up a bit. The guide converts a power drill into a mini drill press. Clamped in, the drill can’t meander from 90° (or another angle you’ve set). There are also simple jigs that guide the bit through a bushing; you’re limited to bits that match the bushing size, but some of these jigs can handle very tricky situations, like drilling into a wood sphere.

Master class
Machine: You can’t beat a drill press— even a small, less-than-$200, benchtop model—for boring square to a surface. While a press isn’t easily portable, and its throat depth (distance from the pillar to the chuck’s centre) limits the size of what you can drill, its advantages are many. You can apply steady pressure, and lots of it, making it easier to drill metal. A press’s adjustable speed suits a variety of bit types. By adding an auxiliary table and a fence with stops, you can poke holes in precisely the same position on all project parts.

Pro tip in a pinch
Know a neighbour with a drill press? Have them drill a hole through a piece of scrap wood. Ta-dah! Ready-made jig.

 

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