Most of the drilling that we do is meant to be perpendicular to the surface. The mainstream way to do that is to use a drill press. However, not every maker has that, and they also need a place to set up.
If your line of work doesn’t constantly require using a drill press, you can still drill perfectly straight holes without one. A cordless drill can also get the job done with a few tweaks and help from some tools that you can build or buy.
We’ll guide you through how to drill straight holes without a drill press, and provide additional instructions to make your drilling process a lot more convenient.
4 Simple Methods to Drill Straight Holes without a Drill Press
Here, we’re featuring the 4 most mainstream ways to get around using a drill press. Some of these methods might require you to buy some aftermarket equipment or tools. In most cases, these are things you can do at home with things you already have around the house.
Method 1: DIY 90° Wood Jig
In this method, you’ll be making your own 90° guide. All you need is some scrap wood, glue, and a woodcutter.
Take two pieces of wood that are cut perfectly square. They should be long but not wide (about 8” in length and 1” to 1.5” in width), and they should also be thick. From here, you can do two things.
You can place one of the wood pieces on top of the other one, leaving about 1” of space at the end, and then glue them together. Or, you can glue both ends of the pieces to make an “L” shape.
The wood pieces must be perfectly squared, otherwise, you might not get a 90° angle. Use a protractor if needed to ensure the right angle. After gluing the pieces, hold them with clamps or use any force till they’re dry.
Align the drill bit with the guide’s corner to use it. You can hold the jig with your hand or use clamps. Just drill along the corner and you’ll get that perfect 90° cut.
Method 2: Drill Block
A drill block is a tool that is made specifically for this task. It can guide your drill to perfect 90° holes. The block supports many sizes of drill bits, and is super handy if you don’t intend on using a drill press any time soon.
They can be found in hardware stores for relatively cheap prices. To use it, line up the appropriate drill bit hole of the block with the spot you want to drill, insert your drill bit into the hole, and hold the block very tightly.
The tool is very convenient if your work requires you to cut 90° holes often. If you’re looking for a long-term solution, a drill block is a very good investment.
Method 3: 90° Edge Drill Guide
The simplest method on the list – this process requires just one straight piece of material. It could be anything, a left-over wood scrap, a ruler, anything that is vertically long and straight.
We’ll use a ruler for the example. Put your drill bit on top of the drilling spot, put the ruler right against the drill, and use it to straighten it out. Look at the drill from different angles to see if it is angled perfectly 90°.
This method might not be as accurate as of the others but it is very fast and easy. If your job doesn’t require hyper precision, then you can try this out.
Method 4: Drill Bit Guide
A drill bit guide is a small and simple tool that holds your drill bit while drilling, so it goes straight down. It is the cheapest option among store-bought tools for this task. It is similar to a drill block, but a lot smaller and cheaper.
Simply put the guide over the drilling location, line up the drill bit with the hole of the guide, and drill straight down. The guide will hold the drill bit at 90°, so you just have to hold the drill straight.
Making Reusable Options for Drilling Straight Holes
As you could probably tell, the DIY methods from this list are not very sustainable. The wooden jig is prone to wear out in the future, and the edge guide is just an on-the-fly option, it is not ideal for accurate results.
However, there are a few ways you can make these methods more sustainable for long-term usage.
- Metal Jig
If you have some square or circular steel tubing lying around, you can easily make a jig from those. Since it’s metal, it won’t wear down over time.
Just cut off about 2” of steel tubing (they should be cut perfectly squared), place it on the drilling target, line up your drill bit, and start drilling straight down. You can also attach two pieces of metal to make an “L” shape jig like the 90° wood jig.
A bonus to this procedure is that it collects all the dust from the drilling. So, it’s easier to clean up later.
- Reusable Wooden Jig
If you’re already set down on making a wooden jig, make an extra effort to make it reusable. All you need is two pieces of scrap metal.
Cut the metal pieces to match the width of the wood. Attach them to the corner of the jig where you will drill. You can use glue to do the job.
Alternatively, you can go to the hardware store to pick up a metal tube that matches the diameter of your drill bit. Cut off about 1” to 1.5” from the end, and glue it to the corner of the jig. Insert the drill bit into the tube to get 90° cuts.
Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t leave your jigs or guides unstable. Consider using clamps to hold them into place. Keeping the guides steady will ensure that 90° cut.
Never start drilling at full speed right away. It can damage the material you’re drilling into and also mess up the angle. Start slowly, and then gradually increase the speed.
Try not to apply too much force on the drill while you’re drilling. The drill should naturally dig into the material; so, all you need to do is just hold it. And, if it’s not doing so, don’t force it. You’ll end up damaging the drill bit.
Make sure you use as little of your hand as possible during the process. Using clamps to hold the jigs will also protect your hand if the drill ever slips. Similarly, always keep a strong grip, and be ready for a kickback while drilling.
Wear safety glasses while drilling. Wood shavings and other particles fly around all the time while drilling, you’d want to protect your eyes from them as much as possible.
Also, consider wearing ear protection if you are drilling regularly. The drill motor makes a lot of noise which can cause permanent hearing losses. Wear masks if you are allergic to dust.
Tips and Tricks
Always mark the drilling spot with a pen or pencil beforehand.
Before you start drilling, create a small dent where you want to drill. This will help to guide your drill bit through the right spot and prevent the drill from slipping.
Just marking with a pencil is often very risky as you can easily get off-target and mess up the angle.
- Can I get perfectly straight holes without a drill press?
Yes, by following one of our above-mentioned methods, you can get a near-perfect 90-degree hole. However, this process depends on how you construct the jigs or hold the drill.
- Is it safe to use guides and jigs?
Indeed, it is very safe to use guides and jigs. Moreover, a wooden jig will protect your drill bit as you’re drilling. However, just be conscious of your hand and careful while holding the drill.
- Can I replace a drill press for drilling straight holes?
While you can certainly get around using a drill press for temporary and small-scare uses, a drill press is not entirely replaceable. The speed, precision, and accuracy a drill press provides are not replicable with jigs and guides. So, if you’re looking at a large-scale usage, then a drill press is certainly worth buying.
- Is it cheap to drill straight holes without a drill press?
Certainly, it’s a lot cheaper than buying an entire dress press, and if you’re just using it for small projects, they’re worth it. By following our methods, you can drill straight holes for only $8 or for completely free if you have the necessary things at home.
- Is it worth buying aftermarket drill guides?
It mostly depends on the level of your task and the frequency of it. If you’re having to drill a lot, or if you want something portable and reusable, going with a drill block might be worth it for you. Plus, it’s very cheap considering the convenience.
A drill press is certainly the easiest way to drill straight holes, however, it’s not always the most convenient one. Additionally, there are other tools available, as well as DIY projects where you can make your own.
Among the four methods that we talked about, making a wooden jig is the most efficient way of getting the job done.
With that said, we hope we’ve provided you with enough information for you to conclude how to drill straight holes without a drill press. Just be wary of the safety precautions, and you’re good to drill.