Woodworking Essentials: The Hole Story

01pwm1308wwessentialsDiscover a bit about clean, accurate boring.

By Megan Fitzpatrick
Pages 58-59

There are many tools in modern woodworking you can use to bore holes: powered drills (both corded and cordless), drill presses, hand-powered eggbeater drills, braces and more.

Drill presses are the powered method of choice when accuracy is important. Battery-operated drills are convenient and fast. Corded drills are fast, never need charging and are usually lighter in weight than their battery-powered brethren. Eggbeater drills are awesome when you need just a few holes. Braces are ideal for drilling large-diameter holes with ease, and making holes at odd angles (as in chairmaking) without a lot of crazy jiggery.

Level & Plumb
A drill press excels at boring accurate holes at a predetermined angle – but so can you; it just takes a little practice. I assume the majority of beginning woodworkers use an electric drill – so let’s consider the proper grip.

Like a handsaw or handplane, a drill is best used with a three-fingered grip. Use your middle finger to depress the trigger; your index finger should point along the side of the tool, in the direction that you are drilling. Your pointing finger helps to cue your body to head in the same direction. I realize it sounds a little bit nutty – but try it out; you’ll discover it works for just about any tool that you grip with one hand.

It’s also important to realize that for many holes, there is a critical and non-critical axis, and to align your tool and body on the critical axis.

Let’s use clearing waste from a mortise as an example. Looking from the end of the workpiece, what’s important is that you don’t let the bit list side to side; front to back is OK (except at the ends). Thus, side to side is the “critical axis.”

Sight your bit against a try square centered at the far end of the mortise (or draw a centerline beyond the end of the mortise to guide you), and align your body in front that guide. The try square or line, along with your body position, will help you keep the tool in the critical axis.

Video: Watch as the author demonstrates how to reduce splintering while boring – Coming soon.
In Our Store: “Become a Better Borer,” an article by Christopher Schwarz on using auger bits and braces.

From the August 2013 issue #205
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