Introduction: How to Drill Straight Holes Without a Drill Press

Picture of How to Drill Straight Holes Without a Drill Press

Want to learn how to drill straight holes without a drill press?

Don't have a drill press, or can't take it with you to a place where a drill press can't be used

Don't want to invest in a $30 drill bit guide, aka a chunk of steel that has a few holes?

Want to tap a few holes for a small project, and don't want to buy a $100 hand tapping machine?

In this Instructable, I will show you how to make a simple drill bit guide, which can be used forbe used for anything fro, woodworking projects (my intended use), drilling into walls, tapping, like I mentioned above, or any other household repair.

(Watch the YouTube video: LINK FOR MOBILE VIEWERS!)

Step 1: ​What You'll Need:

Picture of ​What You'll Need:

I made it for free since I already had everything that was needed on hand. By everything, well, I mean one thing :)


Hardware & Materials:

Steel square tubing (more on that in the next step)


Tools (+Attachments):


Clamps or a homemade vise!

Speed/try square

Drill & drill bits

Subjects: Woodworking, Metalworking, Making your own tools, & ᴸᶦᶠᵉ⁻ᴴᵃᶜᵏˢ

Approximate Time: 15 minutes

Difficulty: Super Simple!


Step 2: Find Some Metal

Picture of Find Some Metal

After a quick look in my metal collection (all salvaged, of course!), I found some square steel tubing that was salvaged from a Stepping/steps machine, whatever those things are called. It had a factory edge, which is what I was looking for (the factory edge still has paint on it).

Unless the piece of metal had some obvious use, I don't think there should be a reason for the factory edge not to be 90 degrees, but I made sure that statement was true with a try-square.

Step 3: Cut!

Picture of Cut!

I clamped it down, and then cut the square steel tubing to a length of almost 4cm (~1.5") with a hacksaw. You can debur the burrs with a file if needed.

I like using a ketchup bottle for dripping water in the cut which lubricates and cools down the blade. I've done this before , but when I tried it now, it made the chips clog/ get stuck between the teeth of the blade. Anyone know why, or have a better method for doing this?

Step 4: Drill! (& Some More Tips)

Picture of Drill! (& Some More Tips)

See it in action, on YouTube!

Some more thoughts and tips:

  • PAINT SIDE DOWN! Remember, I wasn't able to saw the square tubing at 90 degrees. If you put the painted side (factory edge) up, you will not end up drilling at 90 degrees!
  • Small drill bits (<3.5mm) are usually shorter. Perhaps you should make an additional, shorter guide for them?
  • Even though this is made of steel, if you use it A LOT it will wear out eventually. Luckily, you still have 3 more corners that you can use!
  • If you have a chop-saw or metal cutting bandsaw, you can use it to cut the top to a 45 degree angle. Now you can drill both 90 and 45 degree holes, and use it as a speed square!
  • A handle. Perhaps you might want to add one?
  • Clamp it down if needed. In the video, I clamped down because I needed to hole the camera, but maybe that can help in other situations too.
  • And a bonus too!: It also collects the dust - no more dust everywhere!

Leave your tips below, and I might add them here!

Made it? Share a finished of your completed project thanks to simple 90 degree holes!


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Yonatan24 (author)2017-03-06


I'm currently building my own drill press, but this will still be useful even if I ever finish it.

Oncer (author)2017-03-03

Great idea by the way!

Yonatan24 (author) Oncer2017-03-04

Thanks! :)

Daggs42 (author)2017-03-02

Nice tip, the 5th corner threw me for a moment.....

My problem would be cutting the tube square in the first case, I just never have been able to do so.

Yonatan24 (author)Daggs422017-03-03

5th Corner?

You don't have to cut the square tubing square - that's the whole point! :) The factory edge has already been cut to 90 degrees, and it's the one that'll be used.

Added some more information to the I'ble.

Daggs42 (author)Yonatan242017-03-03

RE: 5th Corner, you wrote

"Even though this is made of steel, if you use it A LOT it will wear out
eventually. Luckily, you have 4 more corners that you can use!"

RE: Cutting square, this was a comment regarding my incapability of being able to "cut square" and when I look around my shed, the ony square tubes that I have around are all approx 2000mm long.... This could be a lot of potential pieces.

Taking your project one step further, rather than destroy a 2M length of tubing, I imagine that I could use the same and utilise just about any L bracket that happens to be lying around to achieve the same result and with that thought you have contributed greatly to solving the "square problem".

That being said, a cut tube section would be necesary for any angled requirements eg 45 degrees etc..



Yonatan24 (author)Daggs422017-03-04

Oops! I'll fix that! :)

That might work. Interested in seeing a picture if it does.

macwiley (author)2017-03-02

I've always used a light oil, like diesel or fuel oil, in a hacksaw cut.

Be sure to lift the blade on the non-cutting stroke (I prefer the traditional push-cut with a hacksaw, so I lift the blade on the backstroke.) You don't need to remove the blade from the kerf, just don't drag the teeth. Dragging the teeth in the non-cutting stroke makes the teeth curl into the gullet slightly, preventing the chips from clearing the kerf.

Same with files, but lubricate them with railroad chalk. School chalk will work, but it disappears quickly.

ElectroFrank (author)macwiley2017-03-03

How is railroad chalk different to school chalk ?

I have googled this but can find no answer (except perhaps the size of the sticks).

macwiley (author)ElectroFrank2017-03-04

Railroad chalk is really dense, probably twice as heavy as school chalk for the same sized piece. RR chalk seems to stick to the file better, but either type will work. Chalk is a "must have" for draw filing.

An aside: I'd never heard of "chalking a file" until I read "The Machinist's Bedside Reader" series by Guy Lautard. Great books, but they're out of print.

Yonatan24 (author)macwiley2017-03-02

Yup, I tend to apply a lot of pressure onto the blade. So far, the pull stroke has been more comfortable for me, and I do my best not to apply a lot of pressure on the push stroke. I hate sawing metal, so I do it as fast as I can, which I guess doesn't really help...

pandrews8 (author)2017-03-02

How about some tips for a router now. And another question, do you cut material on the line, at the line, or to one side of the line? Or does it rely on how you mark off a distance from your tape measure.

Yonatan24 (author)pandrews82017-03-03

Tips for a router, from me? I don't own one. What do you need help with?

Do you mean the length of the square tubing? It doesn't really matter. I would make another one for short bits, as I mentioned in the I'ble.

The only thing that matters is step 2.

pandrews8 (author)Yonatan242017-03-03

Sorry the question was badly structured (I have just changed pain meds and they are causing Problems) what I wanted to know was what method you used to cut the steel square. Since I asked the question I have solved that problem and made a guide that works so well. I have also cut other steel drill guides with a 30, 45 and 60 degree base. I also used a small diameter plastic square waste with the centre cut out on 3 sides that is the width of a thick plank to drill holes all the way through as the wood was thicker than the length of my drill bit. Thank you for the guide.

Oncer (author)2017-03-02

Rub a wax candle along the length of the saw blade. Lubricates and is easy to clean up after than oil.

Yonatan24 (author) Oncer2017-03-02

But won't the metal stick to the blade with the wax?

Oncer (author)Yonatan242017-03-03

As you saw, the blade and workpiece warm up and the wax melts. I use this technique with wood and metal and it has always made sawing easier.
You can also use soap - rub it on the saw blade same as the candle.
You can also use soap to help anneal aluminium. Rub a tablet of soap over the aluminium piece and then play an ORANGE flame from your gas torch over it. When the soap turns brown your aluminium workpiece is annealed. If you use a blue high flame you'll just melt your work.

Yonatan24 (author)2017-03-03


nsawdon (author)2017-03-02

Great idea. Thanks

Yonatan24 (author)nsawdon2017-03-03

Glad you liked it!

yrralguthrie (author)2017-03-02

There is not really any reason to lubricate a hack saw blade when cutting. Just makes a mess.

macwiley (author)yrralguthrie2017-03-02

Except for friction, cooling, and chip clearing. I don't think there are any metalworking processes that don't benefit from lubrication. At the very least, it lengthens the life of the blade or cutter.

yrralguthrie (author)macwiley2017-03-02

I started to just let this go, but I wasn't talking nor commenting on metalworking processes beyond a hacksaw.

I see there is a PRO by your avatar. Your statement is not correct.
There are some machining techniques that work better without lubrication. Lubrication and cooling are not the same thing. Neither lubrication nor cooling aids in chip clearing. Lubrication requires a lubricant, cooling requires a coolant, and chip clearing usually requires pressurized air or flood coolant. I don't believe any of those are required with a hacksaw. LOL

None of these process are of much use when using a hacksaw. Unless you have super Pop-eye arms and you can run that hacksaw fast enough to get it hot. 50 years and I've never seen a hot one yet. Most hacksaw blades do not do well with oil for lubrication. Oil will not aid in chip clearance. There will be no chip clearing problem with a hack saw. Because the chips natural drop away. Chip clearing is required when machining a hole or cavity. Hard to do that with a hacksaw. Most machinists that use a metal cutting bandsaw, use them dry. One reason being with oil the chips will clog the cut. A metal cutting bandsaw is run slow to resist heat. Heat is what destroys tools and cutters.

Oil will in fact cause chip buildup. What shortens the life of a blade or cutter is heat. Lubrication might ease the hack saw blade through the material, but it is not acting on the teeth of the hacksaw. That would be counterproductive. Making the teeth slicker, so they don't cut as well.

All oil on a hacksaw will do is foul the cut and make a mess.

Yonatan24 (author)yrralguthrie2017-03-03

Got it. The water made the chips stick between the teeth of the hacksaw blade. It felt like I was trying to cut the square tubing with a ruler...

When I saw metal, I do it as fast as possible. I've gotten to the point where the blade can get so hot that it almost hurts to touch it. I'm not sure how high of a temperature it can reach before starting to lose its hardness...

Also, since the blade expands from the heat, I have to keep tightening the tensioning bolt. The water keeps it at an even temperature so...

macwiley (author)yrralguthrie2017-03-02

Give it a try with a few drops of very light oil. The chips still will fall away, you'll have a smoother cut face, and the sides of your teeth will wear less, keeping your cuts straighter.

From Machinery's Handbook 25: " is important to realize that almost all the energy expended in cutting metal is transformed into heat primarily by the deformation of the metal into the chip and to a lesser degree, by the friction of the chip sliding against the tool face. With these factors in mind, it becomes clear that the primary functions of any cutting fluid are: cooling of the tool, workpiece, and chip; reducing friction at the sliding contacts; and reducing or preventing Welding or adhesion at the contact surfaces which forms the “built-up edge” on the tool. Two other functions of cutting fluids are flushing away chips from the cutting zone and protecting the workpiece and tool from corrosion."

yrralguthrie (author)2017-03-02

Well I don't see you latest story. But go ahead a put oil on the hacksaw blade. It won't do much if any good...and it causes a mess.

So far as making the blade last longer, I suspect any benefit there cost wise will be off set by the minute cost of the oil.

Like I said, horizontal metal cutting band saws seldom use oil. It's just not needed for low speed cutting. I've cut 1 1/4in x 8 in steel without oil with a band saw and the cut looks really good. No heat buildup. The cut took about 20 minutes. (normal) On the other hand on my vertical mill I use some sort of lubrication and possibly coolant on any sort of metal.

mjbains (author)2017-03-02

Thanks for a great idea! I've always used oil to lube the hacksaw when doing metal - same for a pipecutter. It's what my dad always does.

Yonatan24 (author)mjbains2017-03-02

I would think that the oil would make the chips stick more because it's more viscous. I don't think I'd ever use oil, mainly because of the mess it'll make...

mjbains (author)Yonatan242017-03-02

You can get a special cutting lube oil, that is very light, but sewing machine or three in one work as well. It just takes a few drops and the metal filings don't stay where you are cutting. It's the chemistry, not the viscosity that makes it work. Clean up is easy with a paper towel or an old rag.

I've never tried water, so I can't say what the difference is.

Thanks again for a great idea. I've been trying to figure out how to an idea for a spice rack without the drill press and this will totally make it work.

PhilS43 (author)2017-03-02

I use the same principal when using a hand tap (screw-threading)

A hole through a block of wood or PVC over the hole to be threaded and the block stops the tap wobbling

Yonatan24 (author)PhilS432017-03-02

I've seen Matthias Wandel do that before (Google him if you've never heard of him, you won't regret it).

There are also people that use their drill press. My current drill press is totally off 90 degrees, but I'm in the process of building one, though unfortunately, the drill that I'm going to use has a lock that stops the chuck from turning if I don't hold the trigger. I hope this guide will help if I ever encounter that problem.

MillerI (author)2017-03-02

This is a great start to a useful home made tool.

BTW, if you
think you have four more corners to use after you wear one out, then I
have some fabulous ocean-front property in Kansas I'd like to sell you.

Cheers and thanks.

Yonatan24 (author)MillerI2017-03-02

Will get back to you after finding enough wood for turning your property into a huge workshop!

European beech wood only! :)

ᵀʰᵃᵗ ˢʰᵒᵘᶫᵈ ᵗᵃᵏᵉ ᵃᵖᵖʳᵒˣᶦᵐᵃᵗᵉᶫʸ ⁴⁰⁰ ʸᵉᵃʳˢ

Jrrrico (author)2017-03-02

Nice quick easy way. Thanks...

Yonatan24 (author)Jrrrico2017-03-02

Just gave me the idea of gluing a magnet onto my drill, and attaching it. That way, I can just pull it off, and it'll always be there when I need it :)

mxx (author)2017-03-02

Nice solution for a common problem!

Yonatan24 (author)mxx2017-03-02

Thanks - there are actually quite a bit of other solutions for this.

mtairymd (author)2017-02-28

ok...what is up with that sound during the video :)

Yonatan24 (author)mtairymd2017-03-01

I didn't notice it while filming the video - I'm going to edit the video and add music so it shouldn't be an issue :)

Sounds like a drill, a saw cutting tiles, and a car horn combined!

mtairymd (author)Yonatan242017-03-01

Lol - I thought I heard a kid crying also

Yonatan24 (author)mtairymd2017-03-01

I played it a few times before adding the music, and it sounded like a Gorilla that was yelling... Wait, do Gorillas yell, or shout? Or scream?

Might have been aliens too.

Yonatan24 (author)Yonatan242017-03-01

Just added some calming music. Funny how the first 2 clips switch exactly according to the music!

Yonatan24 (author)2017-03-01

Thanks! :)

Sherriff (author)2017-02-28

genius in its simplicity, thanks for having a thought that solves a problem I've been trying to figure out for a while

Yonatan24 (author)Sherriff2017-03-01

Glad you liked it!

About This Instructable




Bio: 15 year old, sick with a deadly disease called DIY-itis!
More by Yonatan24:How to Enlarge a Washer (No Drill Press Needed!)How to Sharpen a Japanese Saw10 MORE Bench Vise Tips, Tricks, & Hacks (Part 2)
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