Easy Bushcraft Push-Drill for Woodworking From Thread Spools

For a while now I’ve been wanting a lightweight, functional drill for making holes in spoon handles, cups, walking sticks and other carved tools and things while backpacking and practicing bushcraft in the backcountry. I’ve used and awl an have looked at antique push or crank drills, but the weight of these things makes them a big addition to my overall pack weight, especially on a multi-day trek where additional food is already making my pack heavy.

The other night, I was watching my wife sew a patch onto one of her shirts. I was fidgeting with an an old wooden spools of thread from the sewing box. My great grandfather was a tailor and I took a box of these out his basement after he passed and always wanted to do something with them.It occurred to me that by using a smaller spool on the back, I could create a palm rest that I could use to apply pressure while I spun the other spool to create the hole. The drill could also be combined with a bow from a bow-drill for making fire to make quick holes. Here’s what I came up with! First Instructable, so let me know if anything is unclear or if you have feedback. Thanks!

Step 1: Gather Materials

You’ll need:

  • 1 x large wooden spool of thread
  • 1 x small wooden spool of thread
  • 1 x ¼ inch drill bit
  • 1 x ¼ inch wide threaded bolt with nut
  • JB Weld
  • A pencil
  • Scissors
  • A ruler
  • Pliers or a wrench
  • Masking Tape
  • A couple sheets of card stock

Step 2: The Hand Press or Socket

Remove the thread from the spools. (Bonus step: if there are cool old labels on the spools, laminate them with clear gorilla tape or even clear packing tape to waterproof and preserve them; just make sure to put a hole in the center before you move on, so you don’t accidentally pop them off when inserting the drill bit or the bolt). Once the thread is removed, insert the bolt into the smaller spool of thread and tighten the nut with pliers or a wrench to secure it into place in the middle of the spool.

Step 3: Prepare a Stand for Setting the Drill Bit (Part 1)

Cut two strips of paper the approximate height of the small spool of thread. Wrap one around the small spool and tape it with masking tape. Wrap the second one around the first and tape it in place. The second ring should be snug, but slide easily up and down over the inner ring.

Step 4: Prepare a Stand for Setting the Drill Bit (Part 2)

Stand the smaller spool with the bolt up inside the tube so the bottom edge of both tubes is flush with the table top. Slide the outer ring up the smaller ring until it lifts the larger spool about 1/8 – ¼ inch above the nut on the smaller spool. Tape the outer ring in place. The goal here is to have the drill bit set so that the hole on the back end of the spool has a depth that is just slightly less than the length of the exposed part of the bolt. This way when the bolt from the smaller spool is seated inside the back of the larger spool and pressure is applied, the bolt will spin more freely against the back of the drill bit. With less surface area and a smoother, harder surface, the bolt rubbing against the back of the drill bit will produce less friction than if the back of the larger spool rubbed directly against the nut.

Step 5: Apply Epoxy and Set the Drill Bit in the Handle

Mix the JB Weld on a scrap piece of paper with a toothpick or something small. Apply it around roughly one inch of the bit, from near the blunt end, leaving about ¼ inch of space from the bottom clean of epoxy, to up just below where the thread begins on the bit. Insert the drill bit into the top of the larger spindle. It won’t be a snug fit, but the epoxy was thick enough to prevent the drill bit from leaning too much to one side and I was able to set it very straight in the larger spool with only a few small adjustments as it was curing.

Step 6: Fine Tune the Fit

As the JB Weld sets, double check the bit to make sure it is standing as straight as possible. You can make small adjustments as needed until it begins to fully cure and apply extra JB weld to the top to give it a cleaner look.

Step 7: Take It Into the Woods and Make Awesome Things With It!

Once complete, the drill can be used two handed by pressing with one hand on the butt of the drill and spinning the larger spool with the other hand. It can also be used with one hand by seating the smaller spool in the palm of your dominant hand and twisting the larger spool with your fingers. You’ll get less power, but it’s functional this way when working with smaller pieces that need to be held in place by hand. I haven't tried it, but I also think it would work great with a bow from a bow or fire drill... something to try next time I'm out.

I’ve used it a few times now and it’s worked great! Also, super light in my pack. Hope you enjoy!

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    4 Discussions

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    Alex in NZ

    4 weeks ago

    Neat idea, and a great way to bring a drill with you in your pack. Thank you for sharing :-)

    1 reply
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    seamster

    4 weeks ago

    Clever way to reuse old wooden spools! I've got several too, and have always wondered what kinds of ways they could be reused. Thanks for sharing this!

    1 reply