Introduction: Cheap Precision Drill Stand

Picture of Cheap Precision Drill Stand

When I begun to etch my custom pcb I felt the need to improve circuit drill tecnique. I drilled my first circuits by free-hand with my Dremel, but despite it's very fast, it's subject to errors, and it's also dangerous, because the drill bit is very narrow and weak.
I've searched a column drill as the "Proxxon Bench Drill Press TBM 115" but it's a little too expensive. I've found also a vertical stand for Dremel alt 50€, but it was a model with a single metal column as rail, similar to the most you can see with a "drill stand" search, and it had a low precision in horizontal movement of the bit. In fact you felt the head moving of about a millimeter, which is a lot when your bit is so narrow. So I decided to build it by myself.

Step 1:

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I came at this solution after taking care at cost (if your DIY is very expensive it's better you buy it!), efforts (all my hardest project are still waiting to be completed), parts availability (if you have to wait shipment for each part of the design you'll forget for how you needed them, especially with Italian post service) and functionality.
The slide is a "macro rail" for photography which you can find on eBay at about 10$, but I already had a couple of them. The other parts you need, other than the drill, are only:
  • a strong spring (but also a big elastic is good)
  • some wood boards
  • some screws
  • a nail
  • 5 inch of a little aluminium cilindrical bar (as the ones of the TV antennas)
  • a wood base
  • and two inches of aluminium pipe (this also isn't so essential)
Oh yes, and also a nice gum-covered toothbrush! You need only the handle so you can use your own toothbrush - yes, it's time to change it! And yes! THIS is essential!

Step 2:

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This good aluminium rail has two different screws to lock the camera on the cart. One of the screws can move along the axis, so you can decide the best distance between the two connection to the drill.
Behind the rail you find the hole for 1/4" screw, I've inserted a gum disc to  make the rail fixed on the column, and avoid mutual rotation.

Step 3:

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I've used these screws to link the two half of the aluminium pipe, in which I made a threaded hole. These half-pipes are to keep the drill with the help of two nylon bands. If you need you can force the two profiles to make them with the right aperture so they suit your drill. If you have not the metal pipe you could use two metal bolts with washers and let the nylon bands pass under the washers.

Step 4:

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The gears also has two knobs on the side. The bigger one acts to move the rail, the little one is to tighten and block the gear. We'll keep the bigger one and we'll remove the little one, using his hole for something I'll show you.
It could be useful know that in the two more very little holes are two hex screws which loosen or harden the rail flow. You would set them to increase the precision and to slow down the drill when you release the lever.

Step 5:

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The gray plastic piece you see in the photo has come in handy to me because it does exactly what I needed, i.e. it locks together two cylindrical perpendicular beams. It's a piece of a scooter windscreen. I glued the toothbrush so that it keep close the other clamp on the metal knob. If you don't find a similar object you can link the toothbrush with a nylon band.
The little nail you see it's to stop the drill at the resting position, so that the spring remains with the right tension.
In the hole of the little knob I've screwed the blocking hex screw. To avoid it unscrews you can add a drop of glue before screwing it.  You can remove it to loosen the spring and disassemble everything.

Step 6:

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You can see as in the upper side of the wood board I've made a deep hole in which I've inserted the aluminium bar. You should bend a little the part inserted in the wood to avoid it slides. This bar already had the hole, and I bent it so that its head is in vertical axis with the rail screw. This screw, as the other one, already has an handle to help to tighten, and I've used it to join the bottom end of the spring. The other end is locked to the bar.
You could extract or insert more the bar so that you can choose the right high of the drill over the base. Unscrewing the side hex screw you can let the toothbrush making some turns. Each turn raise or lower the rail of about 1 centimeter, this is the step at which you can set the high of the drill in the resting position.

Step 7:

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As the last thing you have to combine the column with the base. I've made it with six long wood screws from the bottom (see update). It's better you choose a wide and strong  wood plate as pedestal, so it could keep the tool in steady position. Some rubber studs helps the stability.
If you want to use various dimensions bits, I suggest to add an addictional thick wood plate under the bit, and glued it on the base with a double-side scotch tape, so you can change it when the hole becomes too large.
Of course if you want to make everything prettier you could paint with black the wood parts.
You will see that the precision and stability of this tool is impressive. The only improvement I could think is to give more distance between wood column and drill, so that you can work on bigger objects.

[UPDATE: I've built a block to add distance between column and drill, so you have more space for pcb, and I also made a more nice base. I explain you the updates in next few steps]

Step 8:

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The spacer is a wood black painted block, which is designed to put distance between column and rail, so that you can drill a bigger pcb. An horizontal hole connects it to rail with 1/4" screw, and another hole has a nut at the end, in this another screw will link the block to the column. The two vertical holes  are to take the aluminium bar.

Step 9:

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The base is made from a little wood board to cut salami, it's a good wood and it already has rounded edges and right dimensions.
I've drilled six holes to link sturdily the column. On the bottom surface of the board I've drilled with a cone bit the grooves to keep inside the screw heads.

Step 10:

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The screws have to be long and thin, they shouldn't force the column holes, because there is danger to break the wood.
The holes are not centered on the short side of the board because pulling the toothbrush (or the lever, as you wish) you make a vertical force which has to be opposed by a larger base.

Step 11:

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The column drill is finished (really, this time not really, read upgrades on this new Instructable), I've glued four rubber feet at the corners, and you see I've added a thick wood plate which is handy to change when it will be a "gruviera" (swiss cheese, in Italy is commonly related with the presence of  many holes, but in reality that is the Emmentaler), and I can replace it with a thinner one if I need to drill with a longer bit (it's faster than vary rail height). Don't hesitate to ask me about everything, about gruviera flavor too ;-)


horneczki (author)2018-01-02

I like the toothbrush-handle! I will use this idea in my future works :-)

Thanks for that

Eh Lie Us! (author)2016-06-28

A toothbrush? Great re-use. So you get precise drill holes and a minty smile!

deswiger (author)2016-06-28

Very interesting, i like it, thanks for the share. Semper Fi

3967 (author)2016-06-28

this is great and i have an idea to cut the cost even more with the same funtionality by 60% ! .You can use a Drawer slider (~3,65$) and glue a small plastic or metal Ruler on its side (cost some 0,50 - 1,00$ idk)

JoeS30 (author)39672016-06-28

YES! This is exactly what I was thinking when i clicked on this and saw was being used. Hummmm I don't have a macro rail lying around, what do I have? *lightbulb* A drawer slider that's it!! :)

zelko (author)JoeS302016-06-28

To increase precision you could mount two draw sliders at 90 degrees to each other. That way the movement on the face side is stopped by the other slider.

yrralguthrie (author)2016-06-28

Very good use of the micro rail. Has a precise adjustment unlike a drawer slider.

Very good instructable also.

KarenW50 (author)2016-06-28

love this. wish I had seen it before I went out and spent $80 on a stand for my dremel.

Nitsan_s (author)2016-06-28


GeeB6 (author)2016-06-28

I have the dremmel drill press and router and … so I am lucky.

jmadara (author)2016-06-28

What a brilliant use of a macro rail!

Yonatan24 (author)2015-09-29

Hi, I've added your project to the "Top 5 DIY Dremel Drill Presses"

This is the link If you are interested:

DIY KING 00 (author)2015-06-04

Its a nice and handy tool.

misslorainy (author)2015-03-11

How do you make sure the drill is at a perfect vertical position when you are mounting it to the pipe cradles? awesome job by the way.

SparkySolar (author)2014-11-30

Thank you for this instructible

A lifesaver and $

crazypj (author)2014-04-09

Andrea, I finally finished off the one I was making. I need to drill some 0.35 ~ 0.80mm in 10mm brass bar so made it real 'heavy duty' Counterweight is to prevent increase feed pressure as drill advances into work - constant 'weight' of drill

andrea biffi (author)crazypj2014-04-09

Very well done!! Thanks for posting!

Fikjast Scott (author)2014-02-10

great idea and work.

ElegantAndrogyne (author)2014-02-02

Nice, simple and ingenuous :)

mje (author)2014-01-31

Very clever, and well executed. I'm going to make one for myself. Thanks!

crazypj (author)2013-10-29

I just like the idea of a counterweight system, you get constant force instead of increasing force as you drill deeper. Although the brass is only about 2~3mm thick, it's a machined 'tube' and has to be drilled through the full diameter of about 8mm
I also have to drill a few 0.35mm holes in other components maybe 3mm dia, the smaller drills break even easier if feed isn't constant

crazypj (author)2013-10-28

Dremel has enough torque, the drill bits are solid carbide and break way too easy trying to drill 'by hand' I ordered the Dremel copy off eBay as it is a lot cheaper than 'genuine'
I'm also thinking of making some 'improvements' to use a counterweight system instead of a spring for the return, I've made miniature pulley wheels for bicycle cables when they have to turn sharp angles (few weeks after I made some they were available ready made)
I think mine were better as I could make whatever angle I wanted instead of just 90 degree

andrea biffi (author)crazypj2013-10-28

Why pulleys? You don't need a constant force in this project, much better a spring with its linear force. The more you lower the drill, the higher the force is that contrast your move, in this way your bit will come out better.

crazypj (author)2013-10-25

Yep, I need some torque to drill 0.6mm holes in 2.5mm brass
I was wondering about problems centering, do you know the thread size on Dremel spindle?
I could probably make a new spindle and use a RC motor for easier mounting and higher torque
Maybe even use gears from RC car to lower rpm from 30,000 to 15~20,000? (or whatever they run at, haven't done any research yet)

andrea biffi (author)crazypj2013-10-25

I don' think you'll have torque problems to drill 0.6mm holes, the bit is so tiny that the resistance momentum is very low. Furthermore brass is not steel, you should drill it easy. Actually usually metal bits go slower... Have you already tried with a Dremel? I suggest you to buy it if you don't have it already. I've a Dremel too and it's very useful. I can't tell you about the spindle because I don't even know if you can detach it.. (see here and here)

maybe first link can give you some hints... I hope that

crazypj (author)2013-09-15

I looked at the Dremel 'drill press' but, as you point out, it has way too much 'wobble' for anything approaching precision work
After reading through, the macro slide looks like it has adjustable gib strip so any play looks like it can be adjusted out

andrea biffi (author)crazypj2013-10-25

Yes, macro rails have essentially no play if you adjust them, also because a bit of resistance is very good to avoid a fast movement up when you release the lever. I found that cheap dremel duplicates torque is good for my purposes, but the fact to not use Dremel spindle and bits makes you crazy in centering the bit!!

charlieb000 (author)crazypj2013-10-24

if your dremel comes with the flexible shaft (attachment 225), it may be used with a conventional (or handmade) press with a decently aligned shaft... but this is instructables... so it may be more adventurous to suggest to make your own high speed motor to attach to it (at least that would better maintain the speed you have set it to!). One alternative is to get a cheap or fake dremel and shell it. the bare motor chassis will allow the shaft to be aligned more accurately. if yours is old there may be some movement since you have likely used it pressing sideways.

crazypj (author)2013-10-24

I got a couple of the macro focus rails, they do have adjustments so can be made to move very accurately.
The cheap Dremel clones don't have anything like the same torque, I haven't found anything with high torque, high rpm and low weight (plus cheap) - yet

flickishdesire (author)2013-03-26

is that dremel or einhell bavaria 135?
the drill?

pfred2 (author)2012-12-13

Great job I like it. Really good use of that macro rail thing you have discovered.

I have to agree with what others have said about your zip tie attachments. Some other kind of removable clamp there would be an improvement. I would go for a hinged hose clamp kind of an arrangement.

That way I could attach, and remove the moto-tool easily. Although copying and adapting the hinged clamp design might be difficult to do without some heavier tools to make it. I still feel it would be perfect in use. Some plumbers tape, screws (I'd use carriage bolts I could lock into the tape holes), and wing nuts would do the job too.

All you'd need to work with plumbers tape would be a pair of snips. Or maybe one of those moto-tool cut off discs that always blows up? Other people mentioned hose clamps and while I do love me some hose clamps I don't think they would be ideal for your application.

If I had made one of these drill presses myself I would have used a pipe and a flange as the machine column too. That way I could have made the head adjustable like they are on commercial drill presses. But I often get too carried away whenever I make anything.

The way you did it is nice too. You are up and running doing what you want to do easily.

This is why I won't be making one of these drill presses anytime too soon:

I already have the real thing :)

andrea biffi (author)pfred22013-01-06

thanks Fred! great tips! I've added the second rail as you suggested, upgrades here :-)

DougOlinger-74 (author)2012-12-13

Nicely done! i think I will build this for my shop.

zenbooter (author)2012-12-12

too much talk of the salami, just give me some fresh pane tuscono and new oil with some ripe tomatoe and basil.,,,otherwise this is great idea.

andrea biffi (author)zenbooter2012-12-12


bannutechniclor (author)2012-12-10


ACSTP (author)2012-11-15

Nice job. Another tweak: A 1" through hole centered in base where Dremel comes down will prevent marring the stand. Then if you need more support, tape down a piece over it with 1/2" or no hole at all. just a thought.

andrea biffi (author)ACSTP2012-11-27

yes, I've to do that!

billgeo (author)2012-11-15

That "macro rail" thing is really versatile. I am currently using on in my steady-cam build...

andrea biffi (author)billgeo2012-11-27

right, it's very accurate and cheap

yellowcatt (author)2012-11-17

Great idea to use the macro rail

nickitzi (author)2012-11-16

I like this, only mod I would do is replace the zip ties with thumb screw hose clamps, Harbor Freight has them in variety packs, this would make install or removal easier .

uwezi (author)2012-11-16

Great idea! Thanks!!!

sekitori (author)2012-11-16

Nice. I've got a couple of rails to fix servers in a 19"rack - suppose that would work too..

ElZorro (author)2012-11-15

Great idea.
One more tweak I would make would be to install spacers behind the rail to the vertical support allowing more clearance from the bit to the vertical.

andrea biffi (author)ElZorro2012-11-15

you're right, it's a planned update ;-)

stephenfitton (author)2012-11-15

Great work,had same problem accuracy can be increased by attaching Cheap! digital vernier (ruler) to side of drill attached to stand, Setup easy, Bring drill down to touch work, hit zero button,take down to depth required.(Happy!) reset digital vernier to zero,Now instead of trying to read scale ,just look for all zero's. "HAVE -FUN!"

WOW! That's a great idea!! It should appear very technological!

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an Italian freelance structural engineer, graphic designer and photographer, and I'm teaching physics in Waldorf schools. I always investigate electronics, robotics and ... More »
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