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 you can make a simple drill straight jig 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.
Of course, a commercial drill guide for straight holes or a portable drill guide will work just as well. In this article, we will take a look into all the available options and provide a step-by-step guide on making your own drill straight jig.
Table of Contents
Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool.
Hand Drill or Drill Press for Straight Holes?
When it comes to drilling a straight hole, you have two primary options: a hand drill and a drill press.
- Hand drills are versatile and portable, making them ideal for small DIY projects and jobs where mobility is essential. They offer ease of use and can be operated in tight spaces. However, achieving perfectly straight holes can be challenging, especially for beginners.
- On the other hand, a drill press provides enhanced precision and stability, making it the preferred choice for professional woodworking tasks. It allows you to control the depth and angle of the holes accurately. The drawback is that drill presses are bulkier and less portable than hand drills, but they offer the best results.
Materials Needed for the Drill Straight Jig
Straight Hole Drill Jig:
2x spruce wood – (100 x 28 x 18 mm; 80 x 28 x 18 mm)
2x plywood (70 x 12 x 20 mm; 50 x 12 x 20 cm)
How to Drill a Straight Hole Without a Drill Press (3 Methods)
If you don’t have a drill press, there is no need to worry! You can still drill straight holes. One way is to create a basic drill straight jig using leftover materials from your workshop. Alternatively, you can buy a drill block or a portable drill guide.
The first option is the most budget-friendly since you’re using what you already have. The other two methods might cost a bit more, but they’re still affordable, typically costing just a few dollars – which is much cheaper than buying a whole drill press.
Always use the right drill bits for the material you’re working with. Different materials need specific types of bits. Ensure they’re sharp, too. This ensures you get the best results every time.
1. Make a Drill Straight Jig
This drill guide for straight holes is made of spruce wood and plywood. You could also use hardwood but I wouldn’t recommend MDF or HDF as these materials would wear out easily. Look for materials that are more durable.
NOTE: A height (thickness) of 3 cm is ideal for a guide because it provides adequate support while still allowing you to use small drill bits effectively.
Step 1: Cut the Pieces To Size
Start by cutting all the pieces to the desired size using either a power tool or a hand saw. The cuts don’t have to be perfectly perpendicular, so feel free to use the cutting method that works best for you.
Step 2: Glue the Pieces
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. Allow the glue to dry.
TIP: When using a right angle clamp place a piece of wax paper (or any paper) below the joint. Thus the dripping glue won’t damage the surface below.
Step 3: Add Side Holders
Additionally, you can glue 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 the finished straight hole drill jig looks.
2. Use a Commercial Drill Block
At its core, a drill block is a simple, yet effective tool, typically made of metal or hard plastic, that comes with multiple hole sizes. These holes guide your drill bit, ensuring it remains upright and drills straight into the material. Each hole in the block corresponds to a particular drill bit size, offering flexibility for various projects.
Using a drill block is straightforward. Simply choose the hole that matches your drill bit’s size, position the block over the spot you want to drill, and insert your drill bit through the guide hole. The block will keep the bit steady and straight, eliminating wobbles or deviations. Use a drill bit depth stop to drill holes of exact depth.
One of the primary benefits of a drill block is its ability to deliver precise, straight holes without relying on costly machinery like a drill press. Its multiple hole sizes ensure it’s versatile enough for a range of tasks, accommodating different drill bit dimensions. Additionally, its compact design ensures it’s not only easy to transport but also convenient to store.
- User-friendly for beginners
- Affordable alternative to drill presses
- Durable, many are made from robust materials
- Lacks the advanced features of a drill press
- May not be suitable for very large or specialized projects
A few convenient commercial drill blocks:
- Milescraft 1312 DrillBlock- Handheld Drill Guide
- Kreg KDG-6000 Drilling Guide
- Wolfcraft Drill Guide Jig 4685404
3. Use a Portable Drill Guide
A portable drill guide is an excellent alternative to a drill press. At its core, is a tool that attaches to your regular handheld drill, transforming it into a quasi-drill press. It is designed to guide the drill bit perfectly vertically and ensures that the hole you’re creating is straight.
The mechanism of the jig is relatively straightforward. The guide has a base that sits flush with your workpiece. When you drill, the guide keeps the bit perpendicular to the surface. Some models even come with angle adjustments, allowing you to drill at specific angles with the same level of accuracy.
One of the benefits of using a portable drill guide is its combination of precision and portability. Unlike stationary drill presses that are often bulky and difficult to move, a portable drill guide is compact and lightweight. This makes it ideal for anyone who wants to take it to different job sites.
A few convenient commercial portable drill guides:
- Milescraft 1318 DrillMate Portable Drill Guide
- Wolfcraft 4525404 Multi-Angle Drill Guide
- General Tools 36/37 Precision Drill Guide
How to Drill a Straight Hole Without a Drill Press with a DIY Drill Straight Jig
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.
- Set the drill bit in position
- Line up the drill bit with the corner of the jig and make sure it touches both sides of the jig
- Clamp the jig down or hold it using the side handles
- Drill a hole
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?
Drill Straight Jig Upgrade
You can also make a little upgrade to the straight hole drill jig 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you drill a straight hole without a drill press?
When drilling a straight hole without a drill press, you have a few options. You can use a square as a guide, but it might not be the most accurate method. For better precision, consider using a straight hole drill jig or a portable drill guide. These tools will help you achieve more reliable and straighter holes in your woodworking projects.
Can you drill a straight hole with a hand drill?
Yes, you can drill a straight hole with a hand drill. Using a steady hand and proper technique, you can achieve accurate results. Consider using a drill guide or making a jig to help maintain straight drilling.
Why is my drill not drilling straight?
If your drill is not drilling straight, it could be due to various reasons, such as misalignment, worn-out drill bits, or improper technique. Ensure the drill bit is sharp, and try using a guide or jig to maintain better alignment.
Can I turn my drill into a drill press?
Yes, you can turn your hand drill into a makeshift drill press by using a drill stand or a drill press attachment. These accessories provide more stability and control, allowing you to achieve straighter holes with your hand drill.