Introduction: Drill Press Laser Pointer

Picture of Drill Press Laser Pointer

What happens when you add a $40 Laser and $10 helping hands to a drill press?

After having to drill a bunch of circuit boards, i came to the conclusions that there had to be a better way to perform target practice. So i ordered a laser pointer and dug out an old broken set of helping hands. The helping hands were really helping this time.

Unfortunately i did not document this as i went, but thought i'd share it anyway. And since i had too much text for a slide show, i decided to go this way.

Update: I actually just looked at the receipt for the Laser pointer and stand corrected. I got 2 of them for $30 at ThinkGeek. I still have the second one laying around waiting to be mischievous.

Step 1: Dimming the Laser

Picture of Dimming the Laser

The Laser point was a bit too big and bright for what i was trying to do, so i cut the housing, mended it with epoxy and reconnected it with a resistor. The end of the helping hands connect to the clip that was on the laser pen. The tie strap that sticks out is left slightly loose and is used to depress the switch by turning it a bit. The tie straps around it are pulled tight and are there to keep the switching strap in place.

Step 2: Aiming

Picture of Aiming

Here's another angle showing the clip a little better.

Before drilling, the pointer needs to be aimed at where the drill bit will come down.
It needs to be calibrated so to speak.

Step 3: And Action

Picture of And Action

Now it is possible to quickly drill out circuit boards.

You can see another version of this and other stuff here.


RichardBronosky (author)2009-03-19

you need to take 2 laser pointers and 2 laser line lenses (<$3 each) and place them at 90º from each other to draw crosshairs. Then it will be accurate at any depth.

bpfh (author)RichardBronosky2010-05-09

Well done that man. Excellent idea. Give that man a coconut.

I have been looking at those lasers recently on my favorite online auction site for a different project, and at about $4 US a laser module with a line lens, all you have to do is hook the leads up to a 3.5v power source and you are off...

Mount one in front of the drill, line front to back, and one on the left, beam going left to right, and you are good to go. I'm going to have to do this to my own drill press, as drilling out a recessed broken bolt is not easy when you have no idea where the bit is going!

jedi pen-gui-n (author)2009-03-25

good instructible! For not having documented the process, somone could still build this if they wanted to. If you don't agree with me or you don't see the point, don't build it.

bassbindevil (author)2009-03-19

Use TWO lasers from opposite sides and aim them at the drill point. Then, if you're drilling something of a different thickness, there'd be two dots, but you'd always know that the center is in the middle of those dots. This would be harder to implement with a miniature drill press like a Dremel; I get pretty good results using a bright desk lamp which casts a shadow from the drill bit on the PC board.

Arx (author)bassbindevil2009-03-20

nonono... Get yourself some cheap line laser modules. If you look around the internet there's places with free shipping that sell them for about $4 You put them at 90 degree angles to each other on the sides of the drill, and the intersection point will always be in the right spot. when you use something higher or lower the lines move. at one extreme it'll be more like a V. at the other extreme, it'll be an inverted V, but the intersection is always in the same spot.

brehzer (author)2009-03-11

It would be beneficial if you could add the # of Ohms the resistor is. it looks like it is 100,000,000 ohm (+/- 5%) (Brown, Black, Violet, Gold) I'm guessing because the colors are a little hard to see Nice set up though and a great idea

eugenioca (author)brehzer2009-03-19

47 ohms ;) yellow violet and black

mariosk8s (author)brehzer2009-03-11

Actually the other way around: yel, vio, blck or 47 Ohms. I would actually just grab what works. This is more of a trial and error thing as lasers vary. Your environment makes a difference too. In version 2 of this i'd use a pot as guitarman63mm pointed out.

agust (author)2009-03-19

Cool, now someone has to make one with a laser scanner to the left and behind to make cross hairs an you would never have to recalibrate. I however don't even have a drill press. But who doesn't like lasers?

haclil (author)2009-03-11

Admittedly I've never drilled a circuit board, but... Unless I'm missing something, wouldn't it be better to: 1/put the laser pen into the drill chuck aiming it downwards 2/adjust the target material until the laser spot hits the right place 3/anchor the material to the base of the drill press 4/replace the laser pen with the bit and... 5/drill away! All this assumes, of course, that the laser pen is "true" when tightened into the chuck, that the chuck itself is "true", and likewise for the bit.

00MrNotWrong00 (author)haclil2009-03-15

Oh thank you so much! I've been drilling holes at a 54 degree angle and could not tell where my 3/4 bits center would fall. But this should clear that up nicely. Thank you so much for the keen observation. Awesome !

iBurn (author)haclil2009-03-11

You really want to do that 50 times?

Noodle god (author)2009-03-14

Pointless mod. Now you can see where you want to drill...? So that means you can only see stuff that has laser raidation being emitted onto the surface of component?

lordofthedonuts (author)2009-03-06

I have a laser on my drill press too, I don't understand why someone would want one, I mean the drill bit is already pointing where it's gonna drill...

i found it to become real difficult to aim when we're talking about 10's of mils. I would use it for drilling a 1/4 inch hole. But for circuit boards it speeds things up enough to make it worth while.

mariosk8s (author)mariosk8s2009-03-13

Oops, for the record: I would NOT use it for drilling a 1/4 inch hole. My typing gets me every time.

chaosrob (author)lordofthedonuts2009-03-11

For FINE detail (aka Small Holes)

awang8 (author)2009-03-07

I don't see why you would want to do this. I just lower the drill bit until it's touching the material, adjust it accordingly and then turn it on. Meh, saves me a few dollars.

NullLifeException (author)awang82009-03-11

While yes, that is cheaper, and pretty easy, this is an efficiency tool. If you're drilling 50+ holes into a circuit board, it'll save time. The more holes you have to drill, the more time you save. Plus, the increase in accuracy will help when working quickly with tiny pads. I don't know how many homemade PCBs I've messed up because I had really tiny pads and drilled in the wrong spot.

awang8 (author)NullLifeException2009-03-12

I don't see how you can possibly drill inaccurately when the drill bit itself is touching the material to be drilled. Also, you have to callibrate the laser carefully or else you'll still drill incorrectly.

berky93 (author)2009-03-05

a tip for easy calibration: drill, using a small bit, a small notch (on anything - the drill press itself, a piece of thin scrap board, your cat, etc.) turn the laser on (clockwise!) and put it in its final holder (whatever will fasten it to the drill) and the adjust it so the dot is in the notch. now its perfectly calibrated

You can only calibrate this for one thickness of material. If you use a 1/4" pice of scrap wood to adjust this and you are going to drill 1/16" circuit board the laser will be off target. You need to calibrate it with what you are going to drill.

well if you mount it close to vertical then even if the material thickness cahnges the mark will still be very close to what it should be.

mariosk8s (author)berky932009-03-06

although there is a limit to how vertical you can get. First the drill press itself needs to get out of the way, and then depending on the drill bit the chuck will block the light.

Oooh, clever idea. This would be pretty cool if you adapted it with the line lens idea and put it on a chop saw. If I remember correctly, the stem of a wine glass makes a good DIY line lens.

my thoughts exactly Hands Workaround: get a lens that turns the laser dot into a line. get a second laser with the same "line lens", and mount it for the other angle.

Although I like the basic idea, every time you adjust the drill press table the "calibration" would need to be redone. This idea would be better suited to a cheap drill press whose table was not adjustable, or a chop saw.

dave_b (author)2009-03-09

Anyone who drills hundreds of circuit board holes should see the value in this. Thanks for building something I've only thought about.

guitarman63mm (author)2009-03-06

Great idea! I think I might put a potentiometer on the laser too, only because I work at all hours, light and dark. Wouldn't want it to be invisible in daytime.

mariosk8s (author)guitarman63mm2009-03-06

yeah, i thought of that in the after math. However as you crank up the power, the dot gets bigger, too.

mariosk8s (author)2009-03-06

The basic idea here was, i need to drill 30-40 or so holes into a circuit board, i set up my base, take a piece of circuit board, drill a hole, point the laser at it (calibrate), and then drill the rest rather expediently. This is obviously not meant to replace a real solution which would probably have a cross and only need calibrating once. It's one of those, "There's got to be a better way to do this now" kind of things. And a cool way to spend a Saturday afternoon :)

robotguy4 (author)2009-03-06

The only problem that I can see with this set up (which is very nice, by the way) is that if you adjust the table, you will need to re adjust the laser. This doesn't mean your design is bad because that is ALWAYS the case with laser levels.

Also, for another laser guide project: if you were to get your hands on two straight line laser levels (I got two cheap ones for free as part of some magazine offers, I think) you could probably make a more professional version like this one which creates an "X" for lining up the drill head... I'm also guessing that if you were to do that... You could motorize it easily and make it self adjusting!

rimar2000 (author)2009-03-06

Very smart!

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