How to drill straight holes without a drill press (8 Easy Steps)

If you have a small workshop with only a few tools, drilling a straight hole without the use of a drill press can be a tricky job. Sometimes it is not possible to use a drill press at all, for example, if you have to work in a small space or if you do not have the possibility to place your workpiece under the drill press. Well, for all these situations, there are fortunately a few solutions to drill straight holes without a drill press.

To drill straight holes without a drill press, you can :
– Use a square that can guide your drill at the right angle.
– Make a simple drill guide jig in wood that guides the drill under a straight wood.

Use a portable drill guide.

In this article, I’ll go through each of these methods to drill straight holes without a drill press in further detail. This post will also include step-by-step instructions on how to make accurate straight holes in the most efficient way possible with a drill press alternative. It’s critical that you read this essay attentively if you find yourself in one of the situations indicated at the beginning.

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Table: Comparison of Methods for Drilling Straight Holes Without a Drill Press

Use A SquarePlace a square to guide the drillSimple and easyLeast accurate
Make A Drill Guide JigCreate a jig with a right-angle guideMore accurate than using a squareRequires preparation
Use A Portable Drill GuideUtilize a portable drill guideMost accurate and reliableAdditional cost, but worth it

Two of these tactics can even be done for free with tools or materials you already have in your workshop. So, if you need to respond swiftly, the first two ideas will come in handy.

A third tip means that you use an attachment. This one will be more accurate than the first two tips, but it comes with a small price.

Do you need a drill press?

The drill press is a stationary drill for making holes and many other operations (like the drum sander you can see me making in this YouTube video). This drill has a switch instead of a trigger and is much heavier than a regular handheld drill. The drill is mounted in a fixed drill chuck and the position of the drill is controlled by a lever.

The drill press is mainly used when drilling straight holes that have to be very precise. Not only can you very accurately determine the place where you will drill, but you can also be sure of the squareness with which you drill. Furthermore, the drill press has a number of other advantages such as variable constant speed, higher power, safer to work, and so on.

To answer the question, do you need a drill press is simple: you can drill straight holes with a regular drill, but it’s so much easier and faster using a drill press. So if you can invest in a drill press, I can recommend you do it. If you want to learn more about using a drill press, you should read my article, “What Is A Drill Press Used For? (7 Steps To Better Results)”.

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3 ways to drill straight holes without a drill press

If using a drill press isn’t an option, or if you don’t have one in your workshop (yet), the tricks listed below will help you drill straight holes without a drill press. No matter what way you will use, always be sure to use sharp drill bits.

Two of these drill press alternatives can even be done for free with tools or materials you already have in your workshop. So, if you need to respond swiftly, the first two ideas will come in handy.

A third drill press alternative means that you use an attachment. This one will be more accurate than the first two tips, but it comes with a small price. Check out these 3 tips on how to drill straight holes without a drill press and learn what the advantages and disadvantages are, so you can determine for your workshop which tip is applicable to you.

Use a square

This is the easiest way to drill straight holes without a drill press. Unfortunately, this is also the least reliable way. For some situations, however, this tip can help you, but you will have to practice this yourself.

The trick is to place your drill bit where you want to drill a hole. Once the drill is in place you can place the square at the front of the drill. Make sure it is flat on the wood. Because of the square, you now have a guideline with which you can keep the drill in a straight position.

How to drill straight holes without a drill press (easy) - Use a square
How to drill straight holes without a drill press (easy)Use a square

As said before, this is the least accurate of the three tips you can find here. You will need to practice keeping the drill as straight as possible in relation to the square.

Make a drill guide jig

This way of drilling holes takes a little bit more preparation, but making this jig is a job that can be done in minutes. It is a trick that works a little more accurately than the trick with the square.

How to drill straight holes without a drill press (easy) - Drill guide jig
How to drill straight holes without a drill press (easy)Drill guide jig

To make this drill guide jig you just need a piece of scrap wood whose sides are square. Cut a small piece of this wood and place the pieces side by side as shown in the photo. In this way, a small, but perfectly right angle is created.

By placing your drill in the corner of your homemade drill guide jig, you can now drill perfectly straight holes. Please note that your drill guide jig cannot slide away, in that case, the squareness will no longer be assured. So hold the jig firmly or use woodworking clamps to clamp it on the workpiece.

How to drill straight holes without a drill press (easy) - Straight holes with the drill guide jig
How to drill straight holes without a drill press (easy)Straight holes with the drill guide jig

Use a portable drill guide

If you want to drill straight holes without a drill press, the best solution is a portable drill guide. Ok, this one costs a bit, but actually the purchase price is quite negligible. With this drill guide, you are always sure of the squareness of the holes.

You need to buy this drill guide, after which you can mount any drill in this tool. The assembly itself is done within minutes. Always make sure that the drill is securely fastened in this portable drill guide.

After that, everything will show itself. You drill just like you would otherwise, only now, this portable drill guide will guide your drill at a perfect right angle. Some portable drill press guides are even adjustable to drill at an angle other than 90 degrees.

Kings County Tool Portable Drill Guide Jig | Convert Hand Drill to Drill Press | Bore Up To 45-Degree Angles

Check out more details and prices of this product by clicking the link below.

How to drill straight holes without a drill press – step by step

In this part I will show you how to drill straight holes without a drill press. I will make e short version first, and later in this article i will go more in detail for each step so you know exactly how to drill straight holes without a drill press.

How To Drill Straight Holes Without A Drill Press – Step by Step

  1. Choose The Right Drill: Select the correct drill bit for the job, considering spiral bits for woodworking tasks.
  2. Mark The Place Where You Want To Drill: Use a pencil or an awl to mark the drilling spot on the surface.
  3. Select The Correct Torque and Speed: Adjust the drill’s torque and speed settings as needed.
  4. Use A Square or Drill Guide Jig: Employ a square or a homemade drill guide jig for guidance.
  5. Start Drilling Slowly: Begin drilling slowly to avoid jumping and ensure a smooth start.
  6. Support The Material: Use clamps and a second piece of wood to prevent fraying and damage.
  7. Deburr The Drill Hole: After drilling, use a countersink drill for a clean hole.
  8. Control The Depth: Prevent drilling too deep by using painter’s tape or adjustable depth control rings.

Choose the right drill

This is a very important step you should take first. Drills can make all the difference in your drilling process, and you will want to choose the right drill bit for the job at hand. Spiral bits are the most common bits that would be used for this kind of job, in other cases, you will need a different type of drill depending on the desired result.

There are different thicknesses and materials of drills on the market. Always make sure to choose the correct size drill bit for the screw head so that you don’t strip it when you lower it into the wood.

Mark the place where you want to drill

Making a mark on the surface you’re drilling can help you place the drill in the right spot, just like it can with practically any other task.

It is simple to mark the place with a pencil or make a small hole with an awl for the drill to connect onto. The safest way to set the drill and keep it from leaping while it’s working is to use an awl.

Consider drilling a pilot hole to improve the accuracy of your drill holes even more. This is how I drill almost all of the holes I need to make. The drill will go through the wood more quickly and easily, leaving a beautiful drill hole in the process.

Select the correct torque

The chuck into which you insert your drill of choice will have small markings indicating the torque value of your drill. You can change this value by turning the ring around the drill.

The higher the number, the higher the resistance threshold. This means that you must choose the correct value for the surface you are drilling or the screw you are trying to drill into the surface.

Always check your drill’s instructions to see what the torque ranges are marked for, so you don’t pick the wrong torque and snap a screw, or set too much resistance to drilling a clean hole.

Select your speed

The rotational speed of the drill is controlled by you as the user. The harder you will push the trigger, the faster the drill will spin. It will take you a while to get to know your tool and find the right pressure on the trigger to get the speed you need, so practice, practice, practice.

Some handheld drills also have a speed switch on your drill. This switch allows you to switch from high to low speed, so set it correctly. You use low speed to drive a screw and high speed to drill a hole.

Always make sure to squeeze gently when you first start drilling. In this way, the drill can work itself gently into the wood without jumping off. Once the drill has drilled a small depth into the wood, you can increase the speed. At this point, the danger that the drill might jump has passed.

Use your tools

Now the tools you could discover earlier in this blog come in handy. Use the square or drill guide jig you made and place it on the surface you are going to drill.

Place your drill on the mark you made with your pencil or tapped your awl into the wood.
Hold the square against your drill and make sure to keep the drill level before you start to pull the trigger.
In case you use the homemade drill guide jig, press it up against the drill so that you can determine the correct angle.
Make sure that the drill is really straight. Check by looking at the drill from different directions.
Hold the square firmly in place as you work, and follow the line of the square as you drill.

Start drilling slowly

Always start drilling slowly. Once you have a shallow hole and the drill can no longer jump, you can increase your speed. Once started, periodically pull the drill up again. This will remove the drill dust from the hole, making it easier to drill.

If you drill all the way through the wood, it is good to support your material by placing a second piece on the back. This will keep the back of your material from fraying and damaging. Make sure that this support fits tightly to the project. do this by using clamps.

After drilling, it is good to deburr the drill hole. Use a countersink drill for this. A light pass should be enough to leave a clean hole. If you want to place a countersunk screw in this hole, you can go a little deeper with the countersink drill so that you are sure that the head of the screw will sit completely in the wood.
Related article: What is a countersink bit? and how to use it properly.

Control the depth

If you want to prevent your drill bit from sinking through the surface, there is an easy way to do this. Take a piece of painter’s tape and measure along the drill bit to find the maximum depth of the hole you need to drill. Wrap the tape around the drill at this point.

The tape will keep you from drilling too deep into the surface you are working on and you can visually see that you are approaching maximum depth so you can slow down and prepare to control the pressure on the drill as best you can.

An alternative to this is the adjustable depth control rings that you can attach to the drill. These are quickly adjustable and also reusable. I used to work with tape, but since I have a set of depth adjustment rings, I much prefer to use these because of the ease of use and speed.

Drill Bit Depth Stop

Check out more details and prices of this product by clicking the link below.

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