All Replies on What's your favorite shelf pin drilling method?

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What's your favorite shelf pin drilling method?

by Loren
posted 07-11-2011 06:09 PM

41 replies so far

View helluvawreck's profile


21248 posts in 2116 days

#1 posted 07-11-2011 06:27 PM

Loren, we use to build 32mm cabinets for a good number of years and we had automatic and semiautomatic line drilling machines. However, one of my jobs was to make the samples for new cases. To a certain extent I could use the machines for fitting holes but sometimes I just used a drill press or hand drill. I always used hand drills to drill the shelf support holes unless a machine was already set up. My jig was just a simple aluminum drill guide that keyed off of the edge (I made it on a milling machine) and I used a drill stop on the drill for a depth gage. I could make a sample pretty fast with simple tools. It was always a pain in the ass to make samples because we were always needing them and I was always needed elsewhere so I was always rushed.

We would have been better off having a small sample dept with one or two small line drills dedicated to that department and not for production. However, Our business was always growing and it always seemed we had to throw the money at making the production more efficient.

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Viktor's profile


455 posts in 2668 days

#2 posted 07-11-2011 06:29 PM

Template: a block of wood with several carefully measured and drilled holes in a row at desired spacing. Usually offset from the edge the same distance as in the shelf for easier lineup. It’s slow, but I’m not doing it for living.

View DrDirt's profile


3960 posts in 2991 days

#3 posted 07-11-2011 06:31 PM

Drill Press – with a piece of peg board double stick taped to it.

The drill press keeps me from messing up the depth and always gets the pins perpindicular to the surface.

-- I don't trust trees. They're kinda shady

View Luke's profile


288 posts in 1936 days

#4 posted 07-11-2011 06:44 PM

hardboard template with a 3/8” spaced holes, and a plunge router with 1/4” downward spiral bit and 3/8” guide bushing.

My last shelf pin jig I dadoed a 3/8” grove aligned on top of the holes just shallow enough to keep the guide busing in the track so all I need to do is slide the router an it will drop in the holes, then plunge with the 1/4” downward spiral bit and perfect 90degree holes that are exactly the same depth, and zero chip out even on Melamine.

View Bertha's profile


12982 posts in 1942 days

#5 posted 07-11-2011 06:53 PM

I always just used 1/2” ply with an edge register and bit stop. As a hobbiest, I could never justify the commercial jigs. I imagined making one out of clear acrylic but it never materialized. Good luck!

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View 8iowa's profile


1537 posts in 3010 days

#6 posted 07-11-2011 08:55 PM

I drill the holes in the sides before assembly of the case. First, I use a tape measure to mark the spacing 1” apart down the length of the side, then taking a combo square I mark the hole centers 2” in from front and rear.

Using the Shopsmith in drill press mode, I set the fence for the 2” spacing and “eyeball” each drilled hole, setting the stop so that I don’t drill all the way through. For long boards I use roller bearing stands to support the board on each end.

I find this method to be surprisingly accurate and quick.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Richard's profile


1673 posts in 1939 days

#7 posted 07-11-2011 09:20 PM

There are a lot of commercial jigs available for people that do a lot of shelf units, but for the few times I have needed to do them a peice of pegboard nailed to a 1” x 3/4” scrap whatever length I need and use a hand drill with a depth stop on the bit seems to work.

View canadianchips's profile


2168 posts in 2246 days

#8 posted 07-11-2011 09:42 PM

I use a template made from 1/4” puck board and a hand drill with a depth stop on the bit. This works for the few holes I make each year.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View stnich's profile


115 posts in 2173 days

#9 posted 07-13-2011 02:49 AM

Peg board with a Vix Bit. Easy to use just make sure that you keep left and right in mind as well as top and bottom.

View TrBlu's profile


379 posts in 1875 days

#10 posted 07-13-2011 04:46 AM

I use a piece of peg board for a guide and a handheld power drill.

-- The more I work with wood the more I recognize only God can make something as beautiful as a tree. I hope my humble attempts at this craft do justice by His masterpiece. -- Tim

View waho6o9's profile


6772 posts in 1826 days

#11 posted 07-13-2011 04:56 AM

Festool lr32 (?) works great.

View S4S's profile


2118 posts in 1930 days

#12 posted 07-13-2011 07:04 AM

16 dremels ganged together on a long narrow plunge type base .

Produces 64 holes in under 7 seconds . Simple and faster than a CNC when

you need to drill a few hundred shelf pin holes.

Not practical for one-offs .

Did I win ? Where is vonhagen ?

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 1889 days

#13 posted 07-13-2011 07:22 AM

Browning Challenger .22 pistol with CCI Stinger .22 LR (not hollow point) at 10 feet with laser sight.

Make sure that SWSOGM (don’t EVEN ask) does not sneak up on you.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2172 days

#14 posted 07-18-2011 06:54 PM

Rockler jig. Works good.

-- Life is good.

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 1934 days

#15 posted 07-19-2011 08:24 PM

I stick with Norm’s simply plywood jig…plunge router with guide bushing. with time and usage the guide bushing holes loosen up a tad and a row of holes goes quickly

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 1934 days

#16 posted 07-19-2011 08:28 PM

howie…your signature line was funny until somebody told me you had to be dead to win


View Randy Sharp's profile

Randy Sharp

363 posts in 2922 days

#17 posted 07-19-2011 09:32 PM

I’m in line with teejk. Works great for me!

-- Randy, Tupelo, MS ~ A man who honors his wife will have children who honor their father.

View frostdude's profile


4 posts in 1738 days

#18 posted 08-03-2011 06:33 AM

I have used a shop made jig made of 1/8+” plastic laminate and 1/4” pin hole drill bit from Rockler. I have the templates (3) set up for spacing on 1”, 1 1/2” and 2”. Works great for any type of adjustable shelving. Just use spring clamps to hold it in place.

-- frostdude, northern cal

View hans2wiz's profile


31 posts in 1942 days

#19 posted 08-25-2011 03:46 PM

Here is one version from WolfCraft, what I’m try todo myself.
I had similar like on teejk picture, but problem is that holes are going oval over some time. Solution is to put stronger pipe (aluminium) inside hole, but drilling holes to the edges is still too difficult.

-- -- Hanno -- small steps, long way to go

View higtron's profile


206 posts in 1926 days

#20 posted 08-25-2011 04:03 PM

Home made plywood jig with half inch holes to accept the bushing of my router and a 1/4” bit. But I may try the 16 drummels ganged together trick I just need to get the financeing :)

-- A friend will help you move, a good friend will help you move a body

View rogerw's profile


262 posts in 1939 days

#21 posted 08-27-2011 05:06 PM

template made out of mdf and a plunge router with collet

-- >> my shop teacher used to say "do the best at everything you make for your mom because you're going to see it for the rest of your life!" <<

View DamnYankee's profile


3297 posts in 1811 days

#22 posted 09-13-2011 11:48 AM

Peg board has always worked well for me.

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

View NiteWalker's profile


2735 posts in 1826 days

#23 posted 09-14-2011 04:38 PM

I’ve been using the rockler jig for a while now. No complaints. Get it on sale and it’s a great deal.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View bravozulu's profile


14 posts in 1730 days

#24 posted 09-18-2011 02:29 AM

Wish I still had the photos and plans for a jig I made. It employs a small plunge router mounted a wood base that has cogs on one edge. Resembling a jigsaw puzzle piece. Done with a bandsaw. Then make a mating guide rail of a scrap 1×2 with female cogs matching the cogs on the baseplate. The base plate is screwed into the bottom of the router plate so they become one unit. Use a straight bit (preferrably pointed) to match the size of pins.

With just a couple of rails having varied spacing, you can create an assortment of shelf pins. Clamp the guide rail on the bench to the side of the cabinet sides (laying flat) Start progressing with the router, engage a cog, plunge the pin hole, move to the next cog and so on. When i did my new house with tons of built-ins, I plunged shelf pin holes for half a day. You are only sliding a router along, and then plunging it.

No need to even watch what you’re doing closely. Good dust collection helps.

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 2796 days

#25 posted 09-18-2011 04:28 AM

Cnc is my favorite method.

But since we cannot afford it I use the “wife drilling with rockler jig method”. :)

-- .

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3124 days

#26 posted 09-18-2011 04:51 AM

Plunge router with a 1/4” spiral. It really goes pretty quickly.

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View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 2796 days

#27 posted 09-18-2011 08:17 AM

Peter, i have given some thought on the plunge router. Bet that is much better

-- .

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2099 days

#28 posted 09-18-2011 03:32 PM

I have had a Blum drill press head in a dedicated DP(7 bits, amazingly accurate even for a FTOC cabinet), a humongo pneumatic Ritter single gang (BweeEE—kah—WHUMP—chhhhhhhhh), and now the manual Delta (a pretty nice solution for a small shop).

Occasional use:
I’ve never understood how the plunge router could be efficient when a drill is made to be used one handed and a piece of tape can flag the depth. I have come to the conclusion that that is one of the things Norm’s producers chuckle about when they get together for martinis at a Boston bar.

I also have the Rockler jig which, wisely, stores the preset VixBit which does not oval-out the holes. I use it when Mr. Stupid built the cabinet and forgot to line bore.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View NiteWalker's profile


2735 posts in 1826 days

#29 posted 09-19-2011 08:52 AM

Yeah, that’s what I though watching norm do it.
With the router I’d need hearing protection.

The rockler jig is quick and efficient. I bought it a few years back for $20 (sale) and it hasn’t let me down yet.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3124 days

#30 posted 09-21-2011 10:55 PM

@ Lee Barker – I guess “occasional” is subjective. I’m not sure I understand your reasoning that the drill is more efficient because it is designed to be used one-handed. What can you do with that other hand to increase efficiency? Me, I have both hands on the drill to try to keep it perpendicular to the material.

Here are the efficiencies I find using a plunge router:
1) All my drills are cordless, so they turn fairly slow. Even a corded drill is only turning about 4k rpm. That’s got nothing on the drilling ability of my router doing 22k rpm. The router is easily drilling each hole in half the time or less.
2) Even if you are really good with a drill, getting holes that are perfectly square to the face of the material is tough. Slight variations in the angle of the hole mean a shelf that is not steady. The base on the router takes care of that problem.
3) If you are drilling very many holes the one-shoulder-up posture of drilling becomes very uncomfortable. The plunge router is used with both hands, creating symetrical posture and motions … much more ergonomic.
4) The tape on the drill bit thing is hard to setup and adjust accurately. Drill a hair too deep and your tape gets pushed back and wadded up on the drill bit. The depth stop on the router is a breeze.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat. If the drill works for you, that’s great! For my purposes, the router is the ticket, and I wouldn’t go back to drilling.

Here’s a short video I put together showing how my setup works.


-- -- --

View cabmaker's profile


1441 posts in 2058 days

#31 posted 09-21-2011 11:31 PM

Shop fabricated story poles. Two inch wide rip by 3/4 with bore holes down the ctr. Use a bit stop on drill. Very fast and accurate. I have been doing this for thirty plus years. I have numerous lengths and can quickly whip out more when neccesary. I typically bore before assembly but after is no problem. Short of a cnc or line boring setup I have not seen anything faster (including a router) but as always it depends on the operator.

View maljr1980's profile


171 posts in 1705 days

#32 posted 09-25-2011 05:04 AM

i used to like the horizontal line borer ideaa till i worked at a shop with a cnc, much better :)

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2078 posts in 1889 days

#33 posted 10-01-2011 11:00 AM

Peg board with drill depth stop. We highlight the target holes with a sharpie and use the same piece for all of the cabinets that get them (unless some are 36’s and some are 42’s, etc.

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


2065 posts in 1658 days

#34 posted 10-26-2011 05:24 AM

I use pegboard like most suggested but I glued two back to back giving me a deeper guide hole. If it is possible I use my drillpress and set the proper depth and it is worry free. If not I use a drill with tape as my guide.

Works okay just mark it well. Was in a rush one day and said hey that will work and used the board. Thus a new one was born and painted bright red with LARGE letters saying DO NOT USE EXCEPT TO MAKE HOLES FOR SHELVES. (Laughing)


-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

View Bearpaw's profile


235 posts in 2969 days

#35 posted 11-16-2011 04:57 PM

Made Norm’s jig many years ago and still using it.

-- "When we build, let us think we build forever." John Ruskin

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4179 posts in 3209 days

#36 posted 11-16-2011 06:00 PM

Shop built jig and Vix bits here.


View Al Killian's profile

Al Killian

85 posts in 1874 days

#37 posted 11-27-2011 06:31 AM

I had a machine shop make me a few out of alum. One for tall cabinets(6’ long) and one for cabinets(40” long). Then we use a router with guide collar and 5mm bit.

-- Owner of custom millwork shop

View Steveayerse's profile


4 posts in 13 days

#38 posted 04-25-2016 02:58 PM

Nice old thread, I will revive this! I am using drilling machines, it took me a lot of time to find out which one is the best. I wrote about top in my opinion best drilling machines , you can read it in my blog:)

p.s sorry for putting my site link, but I am too excited to share my new post with you guys, I can bet that it will be useful!

-- Read my personal blog and learn from my mistakes and success about woodworking!

View AlaskaGuy's profile


2160 posts in 1558 days

#39 posted 04-25-2016 05:45 PM

Homemade template and small plunge router. Dewalt 611 is perfect.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View jbay's profile (online now)


344 posts in 148 days

#40 posted 04-25-2016 06:22 PM

I prefer the easy method.

View CharlesNeil's profile


1379 posts in 3120 days

#41 posted 04-25-2016 07:01 PM

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