How to Drill Straight Holes Without a Drill Press

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Posted in WorkshopTools

Introduction: How to Drill Straight Holes Without a Drill Press

About: 15 year old, sick with a deadly disease called DIY-itis!

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!)

Tired of skipping through boring DIY videos? In case you don't already know, I now make short, tightly edited Youtube videos about homemade tools, tool hacks, woodworking, electronics, metalworking projects and much more - Subscribe to so you don't miss out! :)

Step 1: ​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 :)

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Hardware & Materials:

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

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Tools (+Attachments):

Hacksaw

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!

ALWAYS USE PROPER PPE.

Step 2: 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!

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)

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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I read ALL comments, and reply to as many as I can, so make sure to leave your questions, suggestions, tips, tricks, and any other ideas in the comments below! - Thanks!

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    45 Comments

    Thanks!

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

    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.

    3 replies

    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.

    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..

    Cheers

    Daggs

    Oops! I'll fix that! :)

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

    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.

    3 replies

    How is railroad chalk different to school chalk ?

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

    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.

    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...

    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.

    2 replies

    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.

    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.

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

    2 replies

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

    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.