How to Drill a Straight Hole Without a Drill Press

Learn how to drill a straight hole without a drill press with a step-by-step tutorial.

If you were looking for ways how to drill a straight hole without a drill press you may have found that it is not entirely easy. Drilling a straight vertical hole with just a hand drill is a difficult task even for experienced woodworkers. Honestly, it takes a lot of practice to drill a perfectly vertical hole. On some rare occasions, you’ll need to drill a hole at an angle, though 98% of the holes you will be drilling are perpendicular to the surface. 

You can find a few drill guides on the market but the price might not be that attractive. They range from a few dollars up to a few tens of dollars. But if you invest some of your time there is a simple jig for a drill that will make it much easier for you. It costs nothing and you will be able to reuse some of the scrap wood in your shop.

Let’s do it.

Also, check out these other Workshop TIPS that might help you with your projects.

Table of Contents

Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool.

How to Build a Drill Jig for Straight Holes

The jig I am using is made out of 2 pieces of spruce wood – (10 x 2,8 x 1,8 cm; 8 x 2,8 x 1,8 cm)
and 2 pieces of Plywood (7 x 1,2 x 2 cm; 5 x 1,2 x 2 cm).

I found out that a height of 3 cm is good enough for a guide yet it will allow you to use small drill bits.

Cut the pieces to size.

Drill jig - spruce wood

Glue the spruce wood pieces together. Make sure they are glued at a 90° angle. You can use a square for that or you can build and use a right angle clamp jig as I do.

Right angle clamping jig for straight holes
Right angle corner clamp for straight holes

Allow the glue to dry.

Additionally, you can glue the plywood pieces to the drill jig base (spruce wood pieces). It is easier and safer to operate the jig with the additional pieces. You can hold the jig by the plywood pieces making sure your fingers don’t get too close to the drill bit. Or you can use the plywood pieces to clamp down the jig to the drilled piece or workbench. In both cases, using the jig with the extra pieces is more convenient.

This is how it looks.

Drill jig for straight holes
Drill jig for vertical holes

How to Drill a Straight Hole Without a Drill Press

Before you start drilling I recommend marking the position of the hole with an awl. This way the drill bit has a place to land and it won’t wander around. 

  1. Set the drill bit in position
  2. Line up the drill bit with the corner of the jig and make sure it touches both sides of the jig
  3. Clamp the jig down or hold it using the additional plywood pieces
  4. Drill a hole
Drill bit - set drill bit in position
Drill bit - drill vertical hole in wood

Eventually, the jig will get worn out. Once that happens you can easily make another one. It costs nothing and you’ll have another one in no time.

This is the result. Pretty good for a simple 5-minute jig, right?

Making a vertical hole in wood without drill press

Drill Jig Upgrade?

You can also make a little upgrade that will make the drilling even easier and the jig will last longer. If you are using one drill bit size often, then this upgrade will come in handy.

Get a hollow aluminum rod (or brass), cut it to size, and use epoxy to glue it in the corner. This way you’ll be able to repetitively drill vertical holes. The only downside is that it works with one drill bit size only. So you might consider making a few of these to cover for the drill bits you are using the most.

NOTE: I don’t recommend using a steel rod. The torque of a hand drill is quite high which can lead to frequent jams. An aluminum rod turned out to be a better option.

How To Drill a Perfectly Vertical Hole

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How to drill a straight hole without a drill press. Drill a straight vertical hole with a hand drill.
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