Details on Drilling and Reaming


To make the conical mortise for a piece of staked furniture, I first bore a hole that is the smallest size of the overall joint – typically 5/8” in diameter. Then I follow that up with a tapered reamer that turns the cylindrical mortise into a cone-shaped mortise.

There are lots of good ways to do this. Here is the method that suits my tools, head and hands.

I make the 5/8”-diameter mortise with a brace. You can do this with a drill press with an angled table or any other boring tool. But after trying many methods during the last 11 years I have settled on making the initial hole with a brace and an auger.

I sight the drilling angle against a bevel gauge that I tape or clamp to the underside of the seat. As long as I sight against only one angle (what we call the resultant angle), then I can get within a fraction of a degree with this method.

Like with all good augering, I reach below the seat to feel for when the auger’s lead screw pokes through on the exit side of my hole. When I can feel the lead screw, I flip the seat over and finish the mortise from that side.

That’s the easy part for me. For many years I struggled with reaming. When I used a brace I tended to create an elliptical mortise, which is no good. After much practice, I still made a wonky mortise. I know other people do this operation with ease, but it’s out of my hands, apparently.


Then I tried reaming with a cordless drill that was set to a low speed and maximum torque. For some reason, this fixed my mortises. Instantly. Perhaps I’m suited to focusing on the direction of the cut while the drill supplied the round-and-round.

I’m not saying this is the best way, but it’s something to try if you have the same problem.

— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
This entry was posted in The Anarchist's Design Book. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Details on Drilling and Reaming

  1. Is than an 11degree Fred Emhoff reamer?

  2. Jennie here
    Looks to me that the taper is just a bit fat. My friend Carl Swensson, the wood monk, has experimented until the cows came home. A 6 degree taper is best. What did you use to taper ream?Check out the Richard Starr saw steel tapered wooden reamer described in my Web Site . It is better than sliced raisin bread. It is easy to construct and because the reaming saw steel is slid into a through slot iinside a solid cone, there is no danger of elliptoreaming. Elia Bizzarri and Tom Manning make and sell them.


    • Rachael Boyd says:

      I made one of them out of a keyhole saw and it works really well great for reaming leg hole in milk stools and bar stools. I am sure it will work for this chair also
      I got my new book of plates from lostartpress today so I don’t think I will be back on the puter for a while. were is my drule cup and towel?

  3. Have you tried a Tim Manney type scraper reamer? I had the same elliptical trouble with a brace, and the single cutting edge reamer in a cordless was too hard for me to control. The scraper reamer with it’s adjustable depth of cut, and two handed control has hit the spot for me. Also, Elia’s rounders save me the trouble of being accurate on the lathe for cutting the taper on the legs.

    • I have passed through all the “this v. that” and “his vs. his” on tools and techniques. I have all the various tools (except the Emhoff stuff, which I used for a year when I borrowed a set).

      As John Brown said: By all means listen to what the experts have to say. But don’t let it get in the way of your woodworking.

  4. diondubbeld says:

    3 posts in 1 day!?! It’s like Christmas!!!!

Comments are closed.