10 Tips for Drilling


10 Tips for Drilling:
Anyone can drill a hole – but there are right ways and wrong ways to do it. So, here are some handy hints to help you do it right.

Anyone can drill a hole – but there are right ways and wrong ways to do it. So, here are some handy hints to help you do it right

1. Drilling is so much easier with a cordless drill, meaning no trailing wires from a mains drill. Buy a drill with enough power to get the job done. For screwing and wood drilling a 10.8V/12V will probably be adequate but masonry drilling needs 14V/18V and hammer action. 

An 18 volt drill with hammer action is favourite for masonry drilling. An SDS chuck will hold bits firmly and do use extraction as shown here

2. For fine cabinetwork, a good quality secondhand ‘coffee grinder’-type hand drill is still very useful. It needs to have two bevel gears running against the centre wheel and the chuck must open and close smoothly. It will only work with smaller diameter drill sizes but will give good control, perfect for installing hinges, small locks and shelf fittings.

3. There are a variety of drill bits to suit different purposes. Be sure you use the correct type for each job. Wood drilling should be done with bradpoint bits which have a point and outer cutting spurs, while metal drilling uses bits with just a bevel-shaped tip. Masonry needs TCT (tungsten carbide tipped) drill bits. There are other types which claim superior performance or variety of application.  

Forstner bits can cut overlapping holes easily due to the cutting action and centre point

4. For larger holes standard spades bits work reasonably well, although Bosch have an advanced bit design that cuts much faster in our opinion. There are sawtooth Forstners in a variety of sizes for wood, the small centre point makes overlapping holes possible. Holesaws come with various tip types for drilling in wood or building materials.

Drill types (L–R): twist drill, bradpoint, sawtooth Forstner, small sawtooth Forstner, holesaw, spade bit

5. Freehand drilling can never be truly accurate, even if the drill bit stays on the spot you are drilling. Trying to keep it exactly perpendicular is quite a trick, although placing a trysquare standing up nearby to sight against can be helpful. If at all possibly use a pillar drill because it will be much more precise. 

6. When using a pillar drill use an engineers vice to hold metal or small wood components. If necessary bolt it down to stop it turning around, you can mount it on a long board and clamp it at either side of the drilling table. For larger components, a proper wooden sub-bed and fence will not only make drilling safer, it will give repeatable results as the workpieces can sit against the fence each time. 

A wooden sub-bed and fence for safe accurate drilling, a stop block can be added for repetition drilling

7. If you need to drill repeat holes for shelf studs a jig is needed, which can be made out of 6mm MDF. However it can get worn out quite quickly. The best answer is to use a router, straight cutter (usually 5mm for shelf studs) and a guidebush. The jig holes can be made with a 16mm drill bit, then the guidebush will fit perfectly for repeat drillings.  

8. Resharpening drills is a bit of an art. You can only do this with metalworking bits with their simple bevel profile. You should use a proper drill sharpening jig if you want attempt this. Since drill bits are cheap to buy, it is frankly easier to do that, rather than ruin the tips of your drill bits so they aren’t useable anymore! 

9. Some jobs need exact drill sizes, for example letting in door catches or rare earth magnets for use as closers or drilling metal prior to creating a screw thread using a tap and die set. Make sure you have the correct sizes in stock, if necessary buy from a specialist supplier if you need a non-standard diameter drill, e.g. imperial instead of metric for example. A set of Vernier callipers is essential for checking actual diameters.

These knife rack holes needed to be an exact fit for the rare earth magnets

10. Small diameter drills are incredibly useful but have a tendency to break as they are somewhat brittle. You can buy replacements in small quantities so you always have spares ready.


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