Several readers asked how to use a laser for drilling compound angles in chairmaking after I posted my love letter to green lasers.
Here it is with some important caveats:
- Yes, you can use two lasers like Greg Pennington does. If you have two lasers, go for it. I have only one.
- I use lasers as a teaching tool or when I am drilling weirdo angles that are unfamiliar to me. Once you get the feel for drilling routine mortises you might set the laser aside. You might not. Either way is fine by me and the portion of humanity that is kind and decent.
- Yes, alternately you can use a mirror. Or a spotter who holds a stick or a bar clamp or straightedge. Or the Force.
So here’s the deal: When you drill an angle – any angle – you can easily see whether you are tilted too far left or right. It’s difficult, however, to see if you are tilted too far forward or backward. The laser acts as a spotter to guide you forward or backward.
To do this, position the laser 90° to where you are standing. Shoot the laser so its line intersects both mortise holes in a chair (or tilt it to the desired angle, such as 81°). Now stand in position to drill the hole. Tilt your drill left or right until you are lined up with both mortises.
Then tilt the drill forward or back until the laser line shoots up the middle of the drill bit. Drill – and keep the laser line centered on the shaft of the bit. After you drill through the arm, position the lead screw of the bit on the mortise location on the seat. Again, line up the laser. Use your fingers to keep the bit centered in the mortise in the arm. Drill the mortise in the seat.
Move on to the next hole, moving the laser so it is always 90° to your drilling position.
And that’s it.
— Christopher Schwarz