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This Instructable well help you drill a line or grid of holes with 1/400th of an inch (0.06mm) tolerances. Or so. The holes in this photo are 1/32" (0.8mm) across and 3/64" (1.2mm) apart, but the same technique can be used to drill even smaller or closer holes. And you can go bigger too, the same method will use to drill a grid of holes of just about any size.

It's not super difficult, but it does take the right equipment, attention to detail, and practice. I probably drilled 30-40 holes before I got the technique down well enough to get even spacing most of the time.

It's worth noting that this works best on soft material like plastic and wood. Harder materials like steel are a bit tricky since I don't center punch the holes which can cause the drill bit will to wander a bit.

Thanks to my brother Nick for giving me the nudge in the right direction to figure this one out.

Step 1: Tools

Here's what you need:

  • Small drill press. The one shown is an adapter for a Dremel rotary tool (Dremel #212), plus a small keyless drill chuck for the same. (You can possibly use a full sized drill press, but I'm not sure you'll get as much accuracy, and getting a #71 bit to fit in a full sized drill chuck is a pain.
  • Small drill bit. Or several of them, since they're so easy to break. If you're drilling soft materials don't spend a lot of money on them. This is the cheapo set I used.*
  • Right angle jig. If you don't have one I'll explain how to make a quickie out of old scrap wood (like this one) in step 2.
  • Business cards or notecards. Anything is fine as long as they're uniform thickness. This is what we will use to determine the space between the holes.
  • Rubber bands I use a number of them to hold stuff in place. If you have some small clamps or vice grips or whatnot, those would be useful as well.
  • Safety glasses (not pictured because they were on my face when I took the photo).
  • Practice Material. Scrap wood or plastic or whatever so you can practice before going at your final project. Trust me, you won't want to drill your final project the first time out. You'll probably also want something disposable to put under your material as you drill through it.

It's also helpful to have a dust brush, dustbuster, and/or vacuum cleaner around. While you're working keeping the workspace clean is vitally important because any small bit of sawdust or debris can throw off the accuracy.

* Often drill bits smaller than 1/16" are called "wire gauge" bits. This term can be helpful when shopping for them online.

<p>I am enormously gratified that you young uns are learning simple machine shop practices from each other. Some of us did nine year apprenticeships and are forever grateful to our teachers and the opportunities we were afforded by good public education.</p>
<p>Depending on the drilled medium and the hole size, to debut them, consider any of these: dental floss, thread, or guitar string (steel). Of course, one would need to be careful not to change the size or shape of the holes in the process of demurring.</p>
<p>Provided the back side of the hole (side needing deburring) is accessible. Taking a drill bit that is sizably larger than the holes just drilled, center the larger drill bit over the hole lightly debur the hole using the cutting point. Granted this process takes more time, but the results are difficult to compete with when done properly.</p>
If you care about run out (and you should with tiny drills), toss the crappy Dremel chuck and use drill bits with 1/8&quot; shanks that fit in a collet. The bits are cheap and and all over eBay and Amazon.
You could also make a simple system using threaded rod, that could be adjusted using the turn of a screw. <br><br>It's similar to done CNC machines. Cool, idea. :)
<p>for what wold this be used?</p>
<p>One example that comes to mind is printed circuit boards. One of the reasons I use surface mount parts is because I hate to drill holes in pcbs. It's difficult to drill the holes in line for something like a DIP IC. This is a nice approach.</p><p>OTOH, if you don't make your own pcbs then the point is somewhat mute.</p>
Point is moot, not mute.
<p>I use to drill PCBs and to be honest I never had a hard time doing it without a jig (but using a dremel on a vertical press). Anyway I found your instructable useful to make holes for a speaker, for instance. <br>nice one, thanks. </p>
<p>to the OP, v nice, simple jigs make life easy ;) I often spend as much time setting up jigs as doing the work, measure twice, cut once! Well shared!</p><p>to Pedrol46 and AttilaTheHun re PCBs</p><p>Tungsten PCB bits usually have a larger diameter shaft than the tip and so are easy to centre in the chuck, no flute to get in the way. They cost more but are well worth it!</p><p>If you clamp the board lightly with your hand, the board will centre to the drill as the bit is SLOWLY lowered into the copper, since it has a hole in the copper to align to. Once centred, hold tight. You can drill many holes in PCBs very quickly like this by feel as much as sight and get very accurate results without a jig!</p><p>Oh, and a nice way to ensure that the centre of a drill lines up if you don't have centre bits. Place putty etc on the tip of the drill and apply a pin. Adjust until the tip does not wobble (rotating slowly) This is the center line of your chuck.... align work to the pin, clamp &amp; drill.</p><p>Good quality quill/bearings, lots of light and firm clamping make for accurate work. And jigs rule!</p>
<p>the point is somewhat moot</p>
<p>Nice post and great idea. If you metric folks (yes, a lot of us in the US know you are superior) want something more useful than 382 um business cards then try 3M brand post-it notes (yellow sticky notes). They average 100 um and are remarkably uniform throughout the pad. It's been awhile since I was using them a lot but I think it was less than 5 um variation between sheets. I used to know the inventor and he told me that precise control of the manufacturing process was a key piece of the secret sauce.</p>
<p>I know this is a necropost but nice job! I will put this to use. </p><p>One rotary tool problem possibly needing to be addressed is the wobble of the bearing in the plastic housing molded into each side of the case. You can get quite a bit of play at the end of the bit causing breakage and inaccurate placement. Frank Ford posted instructions on how to use a small band of heat shrink tubing around the outside of the bearing, creating a tight fit when the case is screwed back together. Don't overtighten the screws when you put the case back together or you will strip the threads. </p><p><a href="http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luthier/Tools/DremelBearing/drembear.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luthier/Tools/Drem...</a></p>
<p>Wow that's super helpful! Thanks!</p>
<p>Perfect timing, I was wondering how I was going to drill four holes in a coin to turn it into a button. This is a lot easier than having to rotate the coins exactly 90 degrees three times.</p>
<p>Very good idea! I might use a round head woodscrew instead of card on one side. Measure the pitch of the thread and screw or unscrew one complete turn if the distance you require is one pitch. Fraction it if you want anything different.</p><p>Put two screws in one face and one in the other. This keeps the three-point location rule.</p><p>The gap the screw-heads create will also take care of any swarf or shavings that slip down the sides.</p><p>Card is probably simpler though!</p>
<p>aw shucks, I was going to recommend this approach smiles.</p><p>As opposed to screws could use depth micrometers coupled with gauge blocks for gross distances and get within.001 accuracy consistently without a learning curve </p>
<p>To drill precise holes, always at least start the hole using a &quot;center drill&quot;, also called a &quot;combined drill &amp; countersink&quot;. It will cut into the material exactly where it is placed. If you don't have the exact size (they can be bought from 0.010&quot; to 3/4&quot; diameter) just use one close to what you need but only barely cut into the material leaving a dimple that will position your normal drill bit to finish the hole without wandering. It takes a few minutes longer but the results, if you need accuracy, will be worth it.</p>
<p>This is one of the best pieces of advice I have EVER seen regarding drilling a series of holes in a straight line - AND THEN TO TOP IT OFF, You've done it on a tiny scale with rather good precision! AMAZING! :D</p>
<p>What is your experience drilling hard stuff like steel? any success with this technique on that?</p>
<p>For something like steel you could glue a small piece of plastic on top. The drill would get started in the plastic and be stabilized when it reaches the steel.</p>
<p>Clever and innovative use of common objects to do uncommon things... great job!</p>
<p>My dentist really needs to see this..</p>
<p>Instructables needs a like button. For reals.</p>
<p>There's a "favorite" button :)</p>
<p>I mean for comments :D</p>
<p>for what wold this be used?</p>
<p>Well done 'ible. I appreciate the sketchup drawings to fill in forgotten photos.</p>
For the last picture you could use a presured air can to get the burs out
I tried doing something similar to drill holes into wood. Some types of wood are very problematic because of the variable density/resistance of different parts of the woodgrain- the bit will wander. Even if you clamp the workpiece down with something sturdier than rubber bands, the drillbit will bend, especially if there is another hole closeby, it tends to gravitate towards it. Anybody have a solution to this problem?
You have to mark the hole to be drilled with a punch therefore making a small dimple. This will prevent the drill bit from wandering.
Yup, punching the hole will keep it on target, though I'm not 100% how to do it accurately at this scale. The first thing I'd try is putting a punch in the chuck and use the same method with the card spacers to mark the holes first (just pull the drill down with the power off to dimple the surface). Then after all the holes are marked put the bit in and drill the holes.<br/><br/>For a punch I'd try a needle, or possibly an even smaller drill bit, but upside down so the blunt of the shaft is doing the punching.<br/><br/>The second thing I'd try is drilling a hole through a piece of steel then place it on the drill surface and drill your holes through it. It might keep the bit from drifting to the side. <sup>*</sup><br/><br/>But whatever you do I don't think you'll be able to get holes as accurately in wood as in other materials for the reasons you state. Wood grain can be surprisingly inconsistent.<br/><br/><sup>* I haven't tried either of these things, it's my best guess. If you find something that works, please post it.</sup><br/>
For toy fabrication I have used 1/4&quot; - 1/2&quot; aluminum bar to make a guide hole jig. Multiple diameter holes in a single piece of aluminum gives you a very versitle tool. If you make a set of center pins matching the holes (turned steel dowel pins or rod stock with sharp points) you can accurately locate the jig to the work. You put the locator pin through the jig, put the sharp point on the work and then slide the jig down to the part to clamp. You remove the guide pin and then drill!. You get amazing results with this method for small diameter holes. In order not to clog the jig you will need to clear the hole frequently as you drill. This method works virtually as a freehand drill press.
With very small bits the flex of the bit itself is a problem. So I use a gued piece which I have previously drilled and clamp it on top of the wood. that seems to keep the bit from drifting.
That's a tough on. Could try choking up on the bit only letting maybe 1/3 or 1/4 or the bit to hang below the face of the chuck. This should help get the hole started. I doubt they have any this small but there are bits called "Center Drills" They are short with a HEAVY shank and are used to mark or start holes in situations like this, but I'm not sure how small they make them.
I had the same thought when I was trying this out. But I found that the drill bits--at least the dime store ones I'm using-- the grooved<sup>#</sup> part of the bit was just the slightest bit thicker than the shaft. So when I put the bit really deep into the chuck it spun off center.<br/><br/>Might work with better bits though, so it's worth a try. If it works for you, post a followup!<br/><br/><em><sup>#</sup>A patch to whoever can teach me the proper name of the grooved auger-like channel part of a drill bit. </em><br/>
The drill has 2 flutes to allow the waste material to escape. The section in the middle is the web. The 2 cutting faces are the lips
it's called a flight
Bingo! Thanks!
you can get pretty fine but they are still about the mm isze for the common ones . any good engineering stockist should be able to supply smaller but sit down before they tell you the price!!
I had the same problem with wood. The best solution I found is to use a punch or even a nail to make a small indent where you want the hole. It allows the drill bit to get started in the right spot without wandering around
This is absolutely the way to go - with wood and metal. Use a center punch (or centre punch, if you're Canadian). In making small holes in metal, the classic metal-drilling protocol should be observed. Oil it (the piece being drilled) with a light mineral or petroleum-based oil. As soon as the bit hits the metal, it feels more "comfortable," and is less inclined to wander. Verrry slow is always best. Also, let up the pressure every five seconds or so. The oil also prevents the build-up of heat (saving the drill bit), and provides the cleanest bore possible. (It's amazing the stuff that I learned from my late Dad.)
In wood, a bit made especially for the purpose cuts a cleaner hole than an all purpose bit.
The key to keeping the bit from wandering due to variable resistance is to greatly slow the speed the bit descends. The finer the bit, or the closer to another hole, the slower you will need to go. It requires extreme patience.
.<br/>Chipf makes a good point as &quot;solid body&quot; drill or nail is a good solution.<br/>I have found that if the grain slants as an angle say 45* downwards through the timber, the growth rings can really deflect or steer a drill off at an angle.<br/><br/>One of the other things, is to have a very RIGID holding system, between the lump of wood and the drill chuck - cheap pedestal drills are notorious for &quot;looseness&quot; and hand held electric drills are even worse......<br/><br/>And if the HOLE is to be only shallow, you can shorten your drill length right down for special holes.<br/>.<br/>
a good way to make sure the bit does not wander is drill the hole first with a finish nail close to the diameter you need for small holes, just cut the head off and chuck it up. for larger holes i use forestner bits or bradpoint bits they dont wander do to having a pilot point.
As far as shims go, a metal feeler gauge set would be flexible, noncompressive, and small enough to fit in confined spaces, as well as having your distance measurements etched in the face of each shim. Two sets would set up your X and Y axes, I would think.
Great idea! Worthy of the Galactic Institutes' prize for extreme cleverness.
I want to take a moment to say thanks to everyone for the positive feedback and suggestions. It really makes the time I spent slaving over a hot camera feel well spent. Once things settle down I'll try to incorporate the best of everyone's suggestions (With credit of course). If you use this technique, send me a photo or post it to comments and I'll send you a Special Achievement patch.
If your using multible layers of paper/ cardstock for shims, they can compress quite a bit. affecting your acuracy. You need to make sure you have the same clamping pressure each time you set it up to maintain the same spacing.

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Bio: Creative swashbuckler. Writer for MAKE Magazine, presenter of inventions on TV, radio, magazines and newspapers. Professional problem solver. Annoyingly curious. Hacker of all things from ... More »
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