Drill Straight Holes Without a Drill Press


Despite my love of the drill press for building benches, you don’t need one to bore dead-straight holes for your dogs and holdfasts.

When I need to add a hole to a benchtop that is already assembled (or is a large slab), I use the jig shown above with a brace and auger. I call it the “Cletus Bore-drunk” jig because you can bore a hole dead straight even if you have been drinking (thanks to several people for the in-shop testing).

The jig is three pieces of wood: A flat platform that you can clamp to the benchtop, a thick block of wood (about 3” thick) with a dead-straight hole bored through it and a wooden fence that registers against an edge of the benchtop.

It is much like an oversized doweling jig.

The photo above is about 14 years old from when I was building the “$175 Workbench.” I usually make these jigs when I need them and then recycle their parts when I’m done, so I don’t have any of these jigs on hand.

— Christopher Schwarz

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12 Responses to Drill Straight Holes Without a Drill Press

  1. So you DO need a drill press, just at two or three removes. How do you drill the hole without a drill press at all? Perhaps you use a small square or two? Or do you learn to get by without perfectly perpendicular holes? I ask honestly, no snark intended.

    • lostartpress says:

      I don’t think you have to have a drill press to make that jig. You just have to keep boring holes in the thick stock until you get a straight one. Then use that.

      If you are hopeless bore(er), make the guide block from two parts instead. Saw out a dado in each block that is as wide as the diameter of the bit and the depth is one-half the bit’s diameter. Then glue the two blocks together. The resulting square hole will guide the auger just fine.

  2. Wow, thanks, this is unbelievably timely. I’m planning to put 3/4″ dog holes in a new benchtop in the next few days, and had been wondering whether I’d need to sacrifice a few home center 4x6s to Wood Owl Auger bit practice before doing the real thing. Now that I think about it, maybe that should be a scout badge: Auger Bit Ace.

  3. Jerry Olson says:

    Is Lost Art press going to Winston Salem in September??

    • lostartpress says:

      We are not attending WIA this year. I am going to be in San Diego that weekend. John has other obligations.

      It’s a fantastic program this year.

  4. Jeremy says:

    Can’t believe you justify such wasteful consumerism and the use of throw away tools…#joke

  5. John Kneidel says:

    If you don’t have a drill press, or can’t bore dead straight holes by hand, here’s another method that is VERY similar and can be done with hand tools…

  6. There is also a similar way to do this on a blogpost on “A woodworkers musings”. http://dblaney.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/a-very-simple-jig-for-boring-leg-holes-in-windsor-chair-seats/
    The jig is angeled but could be made the same way for straight holes.

  7. buikberg says:

    no jigs – use a small mirror

  8. woodgeek says:

    That picture must’ve been taken before you converted all of your braces to Yankees. 😉

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