Need bit ideas for hardwood power boring

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Forum topic by luthierwnc posted 03-03-2016 04:48 PM 788 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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146 posts in 1745 days

03-03-2016 04:48 PM

Hi All,

I’m about to start building a new main bench along Shaker/Roubo lines. I decided on 3/4” round dogs so I can use hold-downs and possibly other devices built for that size. Except for the drawers, the whole thing will be 5/4 (milled out to 1.16”) red oak with a top thickness of 2-3/4”.

I just refurbished my drill press with a VFD for, among other reasons, the ability to bore larger diameter holes in hard stock at appropriate speeds. The holes to match the chop dogs fall on a glue seam so my plan is to glue and mill two two-board laminations and run them through the drill press with roller supports on either side. Then I’ll slip those into larger laminations of 10 boards each with a tool tray in the middle.

Now for the bit: I’m leaning towards getting a 3/4” brad-point with a 1/2” shank and running it around 300 RPM. Forstner bits seem too clean for punching basic holes and spade bits too sloppy. But, I’m open to ideas so if you have a favored bit for heavy-duty, repetitive work, I hope you’ll share your opinion.

Thanks, Skip

PS: all holes will be at 90 degrees. sh

9 replies so far

View ChrisK's profile


1946 posts in 3050 days

#1 posted 03-03-2016 06:18 PM

The 3/4” brad point should work nicely. The Forstners make clean holes but are slow when you are doing deeper holes. The spade is fast but sloppy.

-- Chris K

View Redoak49's profile


3201 posts in 1957 days

#2 posted 03-03-2016 09:04 PM

I used the Irwin Power Drill bit for my work bench. I drilled a hole in a 2” high piece of maple to use as a guide with my corded drill. The holes came out clean and perpendicular.

View Andre's profile


1786 posts in 1774 days

#3 posted 03-03-2016 09:28 PM

Did some with Plunge router, some with brad drill but the best ones were done with Hand Bit and Brace! All in 3” Maple. The Deadman 2.25” Maple all done on drill press with L.V. .75” brad bit.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View runswithscissors's profile


2725 posts in 1994 days

#4 posted 03-03-2016 10:24 PM

Spade bit performance can be improved significantly by filing spurs onto them. I started doing this years ago, using rat tail or chain saw files. The idea is to file a groove into the flats each side of the point, leaving a sharp spur that scores a nice round hole very cleanly. The file should be tilted a little to give relief to the cutting edge. I’d say the sharpness at the leading edge of the groove is as important as the sharp spur. In a drill press, they make a hole almost as clean as a forstner, and much faster than an unmodified bit.

I’ve done this with bits all the way from 1/2” up to 1”. There are spade bits available that have a spur, but the portion of the bit between the spur and the point is not as effective (not as sharp, and harder to sharpen).

I’ve also used the Irwin Power Drills, but the larger sizes will bog down a weaker drill motor. I think the screw point pulls them into the material a little too fast.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View Kazooman's profile


1001 posts in 1921 days

#5 posted 03-03-2016 10:44 PM

Way back when I built my bench I used a 3/4” brad point bit on the drill press with outrigger supports just like you are planning. It worked just fine. However, many brad point bits that diameter are pretty lousy. Mine sure was! The “point” is not really a point but more like the top of a pyramid. Once started the bit will make a clean hole, but you really should clamp the workpiece well to prevent any drift by the “point” following the grain. A really good way to go would be to start the holes to about 1” deep with a forstner bit and then finish with the faster cutting spade bit. If you care about the exit side of the hole you should use a backer board as the spade bit will leave a ragged edge.

View luthierwnc's profile


146 posts in 1745 days

#6 posted 03-04-2016 01:55 AM

A lot of my spade bits have outside spurs and they work pretty well. I’ve custom ground some of them for smaller diameters. Redoak; I like auger bits for a hand drill but I’ve incinerated them in the press. Like runwithscissors said; too aggressive digging in with the screw portion.

The start with Forstner and finish with spade could work. I really don’t care what the exit hole looks like. I’ll be cleaning that up through the planer as the laminations go together. That also avoids what for me is hit-or-miss brad-point drill bit sharpening.

No matter what I do, I’ll probably drop a piece of paraffin in the hole after it’s started to grease the skids.

Thanks, sh

View David Taylor's profile

David Taylor

326 posts in 1056 days

#7 posted 03-04-2016 04:23 AM

Wood Owl ‘Nail Chipper’ Auger Bits

These things eat bench dog holes for breakfast, then ask to chew through a hundred more. They really are that good.

I found out about them through Pop Wood and Chris Schwarz, then I bought one, and can’t say enough good about it. Here’s the pop wood blog post –

-- Learn Relentlessly

View luthierwnc's profile


146 posts in 1745 days

#8 posted 03-04-2016 12:06 PM

That might be the winner! They make a cleaner version as well. Thanks, sh

View luthierwnc's profile


146 posts in 1745 days

#9 posted 03-31-2016 12:32 PM

FWIW, I went with the Nail Chipper and am very happy. I chucked it in my heavy-duty corded drill (with a side-handle), hit my mark and it cut through 2.75” oak like butter. I was expecting a fight but the holes took no more than 4-5 seconds each and went quite easily. I am glad I had a powerful drill though. Sometimes even a good battery model has inconsistent torque depending on how steady your hand is or if you hit a knot hole. Mine has been on its last legs forever but hasn’t died yet. It doesn’t have a side-handle either.

There is some tear-out and I understand there is a smoother bit but I knew I’d still have to sand the top so the Nail Chipper worked fine. In a case where I needed a very smooth entry hole, I’d probably start it with a Forstner bit and chip it from there.

Thanks to all for comments and good luck with your own projects. sh

PS: this is not for drill presses unless you drill a pilot hole the size of the lead screw or grind the threads off the screw. sh

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