Introduction: Vertical Drill Press Jig

About: If a tree falls in the woods...make things!

You might remember the last time I put together something that holds things down on the drill press. When I finished the jig I remember thinking...holding things down on my drill press is complete. No more will I have to be bothered by evil drill press clamps that...really don't work, or spinning wood or metal. I had found my nirvana! About a week ago that suddenly crashed down all around me when I realized I had only really put together a horizontal clamp, and that a new project I was trying to jump into now required something much more difficult...vertical clamping.

The chimps in my brain went berserk as papers were thrown, office equipment destroyed, fires raged out of control, and somewhere in the back a Lord of the Flies situation started developing (thank you Simpsons for creating that image). Slowly, in the middle of the shop, arose a giant vertical obelisk where dancing apes pointed and jeered at a spinning drill bit, downwardly grinding into the monolith. This jig is this brainchild of that experience (minus the apes...and probably the obelisk).

Step 1: Gather Materials / Tools Needed and Used

Material List

  • T-Track (24" is how much I used, you might use more depending on your drill press table size):
  • (2) 1/2" plywood about the size of your drill press table (I used 12" x 12")
  • (2) 2x4x13" (to make a mini jig)
  • (4) Project knobs: Or...make your own!
  • 80 Grit sandpaper:
  • (6) #10 x 1/2" Wood screws (cone headed screws)
  • (2) 3/4" x 4 1/4" x 6" Sections of wood (I used hard maple)
  • (4) washers (ID 5/16" or above) (OD 1")
  • (4) T-track bolts (2 1/2"): (I used 3 1/2" toilet bolts)
  • Wood glue
  • Masking tape
  • Carpet tape
  • (salt to taste)

Tools Used

  • Drill Press
  • Grinder or Dremel (with a cut off disk)
  • Table saw
  • Vice grips (or pliers)
  • Bandsaw (a jig saw would work)
  • Assorted drill bits (but make sure you have a 3/8" drill bit)
  • Bar clamps
  • Black marker
  • Strip sander (or a file / grinder / rough sandpaper)
  • Ruler
  • Belt sander (or rough sandpaper)

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Step 2: Finding Your Drill Press Dimensions and Mapping Things Out

First of all, this is an extremely easy project. There are so few components in this that it almost feels like a throw away. Except for a few tricks I came up with along the way, this project never would have made it out of the trash can. That's not to say that I am speaking as some knowledgeable braggart (or a magician), but that I literally almost chucked this into the trash due to it not performing at all the way it needed to.

In this very plain step, you need to find the dimensions of your drill press table. Whether you choose to use my drill press clamping system is completely up to you. Using a simple clamp on the side will work. Because my drill press table is 12 inches by 12 inches...and the plans have already been made in those dimensions, I'm choosing to use them as my targeted example. Honestly though, as long as you can clamp it from the side, the size of the jig bed doesn't matter a whole lot.

Once you have chosen the dimensions head on to the next step.

Step 3: Preparing the Rails

If you are using my 12 by 12 dimensions, you'll want to cut two sections of t-track at 12". I know that the pre-drilled holes are going to slightly throw things off, but don't worry too much about that. We simply want 3 holes in each track, spaced somewhat proportionally apart. Because I don't have your track in front of me, I can't give you the exact sizes...but it's really easy, as long as you think about those 12" tracks having a hole nearly 2" from each end and one hole in the center.

After you've marked where the holes will go, you're going to want to countersink the holes...that is, make sure that the screw heads (again with a sloping head, like a dome) will be completely buried inside of the track, leaving the bolts that will go through the channel the ability to move without hitting those screws (and yes, it is incredibly annoying when you hit a screw head in the channel). Because I don't know the exact size of your wood screw heads, grab your drill bits and find one that is slightly larger than the wood screws you plan on using. You're going to also want to grab a drill bit that's slightly bigger than the shaft of your screws.

Once you've done that, bring the tracks over to your drill press. In the video I drilled out the larger side of the head first, and then drilled out the hole for the shaft of the screw. Looking back I think I would have reversed that as the hole you drill for the shaft will keep the head centered, but that's probably up for debate. The number one thing you need to make sure of before you start spinning that chucked steel bit, is to make absolutely sure you are in the center of the track when you start drilling.

So you're already drilled the smaller hole, the one that's slightly larger than the shaft of the screw? Now we'll drill the larger one...the one that hides the head of the screw. Take your time with it and pull it out regularly and check to see if you've drilled down enough to conceal the screw head. If you have a drill like mine, you'll have a depth stop on it that will allow you to lock the quill at a certain depth, otherwise, be careful and don't drill a huge hole through the bottom of the track!

Prepare those rails!

Step 4: Making the 'Jig Bed' and Adding the Rails

I cut a piece of plywood at 12" by 12". This is the base of the jig bed. You're going to want the plywood to be as flat as possible. But even if there's a slight warp to it, don't freak out as you'll have the t-track and the other plywood pieces above to lend a little support.

Once you've cut the base of the jig bed, you're going to want to measure where the t-track will be laid out. On one side I measured across 4 and 1/4", made a mark and drew a parallel line across the top with my carpenter's square (measuring from both sides). I measured the same distance on the opposite side and drew a similar line.

Laying the track out was a simple a task. Instead of putting the tracks between the edge of the jig bed and the pencil line, I instead placed the track on the opposite side of the pencil line. I did that so that it left me a nice, perfect 2" section for a sacrificial bed that I'll be able to replace later. I did that on both sides and marked the holes in the t-track onto the jig bed with a pencil before removing the tracks and drilling out pilot holes that were slightly smaller than my wood screws.

I put the tracks back on and easily drove in my screws. Just as a note, if there should happen to be any points from the screw on the backside, use a little sandpaper or a file to grind them down.

Rail addition.

Step 5: Cutting and Gluing the Jig Panels

You'll notice I'm using the same picture as the last step. I did this as that sketchup image compliments both steps.

Now we're going to cut 2 pieces of plywood at 4 1/4" by 12". Be sure that the plywood is at about 1/2" thick. If you find that the plywood you have is slightly thinner, you'll have to possibly sand the bottom of the rails enough that they're flush with each other. If you find that your t-tracks are a bit smaller than your 1/2" plywood, you shouldn't worry too much about it.

Okay, what are you saying here?

I'm saying that it is pretty important to make sure that the plywood pieces you are adding are flush with the t-tracks, or possibly slightly raised above the t-tracks. Honestly, you shouldn't have any problems, but plywood can be annoyingly sized sometimes with 1/2" pieces of construction grade being 7/16" of an inch. Very annoying.

Once we've cut both of the 4 1/4" x 12" x 1/2" pieces of plywood, use some glue and glue those sections down against the base jig, butted up next to the t-tracks. Use a handful of bar clamps to keep it where it needs to be and get a nice cold drink of water. You've earned it!

Cutting and gluing like a boss.

Step 6: Building the Fences

We're going to now build the fences for this little jig. This is a simple process that involves cutting 2 pieces of 4" x 6" x 3/4" hardwood like maple on your tablesaw, at a 45 degree angle. The nice thing about this is that we won't be wasting any of the wood we cut as we'll use both cut pieces.

We'll first set the angle on our table saw to be at 45 degrees and our table saw fence at 1 and 3/4". Cutting wood at this angle is a difficult process, so be sure to use push sticks to guide your work through or possibly make several passes, cut a little bit off at a time. We'll cut both pieces of our 4" x 6" x 3/4" of hardwood. Afterward, grab the glue and that pinch of salt I listed earlier.

The focus of your fence now should be to make sure that the diagonal angles you cut will line up in such a way that a nice, even slope is formed. If you look at the image attached to this step (created in sketchup) you'll see that both pieces are used...the intended cut piece we set up our fence for, and the off cut. We are NOT going to worry about whether or not both blocks of wood are flush with each other on the ends opposite of the angles. In fact, mine ends did not come together...but that's okay! We simply want to now glue the two pieces together and try to maintain the integrity of the slope so that it's even across.

Add the glue, throw some salt across the surface (a conservative amount...let's not turn this into a margarita rim). This will give the two pieces a bit of friction so that they don't slide around as you clamp the blocks together (which is a difficult chore as the bar clamps have little to hold onto). Once this is done...let it sit for about 7 hours or so before attempting to remove the clamps.

We'll use a bandsaw to cut the little bit of extra off, allowing the fence to be flat on the bottom. I've included a simplified picture of that as well.

A little fence building.

Step 7: Drilling the Fences and Mutating the T-track Bolts: Part 1

If you watched the video you'll see that in order to drill out the bolt holes I took two 2x4's and sandwiched the two freshly glued fence pieces I made together and added a couple clamps. This gave me a nice, flat, parallel plane to drill out my holes that will fit my t-track bolts. Take caution to make sure that the two 2x4's are straight and not bowed. I made sure I used a nice flat surface before I put the fences upside down and put the clamps on.

Now that it's been clamped and secured, we'll measure over from all four side edges 1 1/8"s of an inch. We'll also measure over 9/16" over from the front of the slope. Honestly, pictures are easier to describe the layout, which is why I included a sketchup picture for you to pour your eyes over.

Drilling our holes.

Next we need to mutate our bolts so that they'll bend at an angle. This keeps our knobs from getting in the center where the drilling action is occurring and it makes it so much easier to clamp things. We'll mutate our bolts by cutting them half way through with a disk grinder, hacksaw or a Dremel. From the picture you can see that it's a straight, easy cut.

But how far up will we grind from the base of the bolt?

Now that is a good question! I can give you my measurements, but I think in this situation it is better to string the bolts through, put them in the track and put our newly drilled fences onto the bolts. Before we do that, it's probably a good idea to run some masking tape over the angled section as it'll keep our wood from getting dinged up and marked on.

Slide the bolts through and pull up on them so that the bolts are touching the top of the inside of the tracks. Use your marker and drag a line across where the bolt exits the hole of the wood, with the marker somewhat parallel to the tracks.

This part of the step is probably better with moving pictures.

Step 8: Drilling the Fences and Mutating the T-track Bolts: Part 2

Now that we've marked our bolts we'll slide the fences off and grind or cut along the line we marked...but not too deep! Cutting about half way through should work. I've created a sketchup image to show one way and a better way to cut your bolt. If you cut the bolt in more of a 'v' shape, it'll give you a better bend that will allow you to get the angle that you'll need.

Cutting the bolt...but not too much.

But don't go bending that bolt just yet!

I made that mistake the first time I did it. The threads below (between the bolt head and the 'v' you cut) need to be filed down so that they don't get caught in the inside of the hole as you're clamping down. You can use a file, a grinder, sand paper, but I used a strip sander.

Removing the threads from the bolt.

Step 9: Creating a Taper on Our Fence Faces and Adding Friction

This is an incredibly important step. Without this step your clamp will NOT work. I know this because it wouldn't work for me. And let me tell you, when it didn't work, it was a realization that all the work I had already mission, my dream!...well it all crumbled around me.

We'll simply take a pencil, mark over about a 1/16" of an inch at the bottom of the 90 degree angle. Take your ruler and draw a line up from that 1/16" to the tip of the block. You'll do that on both sides of both blocks. From here, bring it to the belt sander or just a course piece of sand paper glued down and sand down to that line, being very, very, careful to check both sides frequently to make sure you're keeping the sanding even.

Now we'll add sandpaper to both faces. I used double sided tape (carpet tape) to attach my sandpaper to the faces of the fences. You could use any number of glues to do the same thing but be mindful of how difficult that sandpaper is to remove if you ever need to replace it.

Adding the sandpaper.

Step 10: Bending, Assembling and Usage

Now that our bolt has a nice cut in it and the threads between the head and that cut have been removed, we'll insert the bolts into the jig base and through the fences. Grab a 5/16" nut and screw it on the bolt. Use a pair of vice grips or pliers to slowly bend the bolt down. For each bolt take your time and don't bend the bolt too far...periodically check to see if your knob sits parallel to the angle of the fences.

Bolt benders.

That's it! You're done!

But how do I use this?

You're full of good questions! The way this will work is this:

  1. Place the wood in position on your drill press.
  2. Press the drill bit down to where you want the hole to be.
  3. Press the fences together on either side of your project, squeezing the base of the fences against it.
  4. Turn the knobs to tighten it.

But why the angle of the fences in relationship to the table?

Well that was another mistake I made. When I went to put the holes in the fences I didn't think of the tracks below. But before I tossed my fences aside, I had a revelation come to me...why not turn them at an angle? Turning them at an angle allows me to hold the board that I'm drilling a little more ergonomically (with my left hand) AND it prevents the project from hitting the drill press column in the back, which means I can have much longer boards on my drill press.

Step 11: Thank You!

Congratulations, you've got yourself a jig that will clamp vertical and upright pieces of wood securely against your jig base. If you haven't done so already, I would recommend going and checking out the drill press clamp I made in a previous instructable.

As always, if you liked this instructable, give it a heart. I'd love to get a follow from you here as well as on my youtube page! PLEASE also leave me feedback! What do you think of this project, did you make it for yourself...I'd love to hear from you!

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