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Drilling pen blanks

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Forum topic by BobD posted 1343 days ago 6982 views 1 time favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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BobD

52 posts in 2037 days


1343 days ago

Drilling a hole in pen blanks has become a frustrating problem. When I drill a hole thru the pen blank, it starts in the center at the top but exits the blank off center at the bottom. I tried to turn the pen blank anyway but it usually blows apart at the very end of the turning process. Obviously, this is very frustrating. I use a dedicated 10er in the drill press mode to drill the hole. I locate the center of the blank with 2 diagonal lines and use a center punch to create a hole to insert the brad point drill bit. When I drill the hole, I clear the wood shavings quite often. I also use a Rockler centering jig to hold the blank at 90 degrees to the table.
Any and all suggestions to resolve this problem are welcome.

-- Bob, San Diego


11 replies so far

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2785 days


#1 posted 1343 days ago

put a level on your drill and check the angle… it seems to me that it must be on a wee slight angle.
(done that been there)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View JTTHECLOCKMAN's profile

JTTHECLOCKMAN

155 posts in 1774 days


#2 posted 1343 days ago

Bob

Alot of things can be the problem and only you can eliminate them one at a time. These are all things that can cause what you describe. First and foremost make sure the bit you use is true and to do this just roll it on the tablesaw top and it should roll straight with no hump or wobble.

Next you need to make sure your drill press table is true 90 degrees front to back and also side to side and I hope you know how to do this and if not just ask and iot will be answered. Next the blank must be held 90 degrees to the bit and if your jig is accurate then this should not be a problem.

Make sure there is no runout in the drill press and the chuck on the drill press and again hopefully you know how to check for this.

Next wood grain wil have a tendency to flare a bit off course and the grainier the wood the worse the problem is.

Now those are some of the causes and the obvious answers to fixes are just cure the problems mentioned. But I will touch on some other factors that can be of help. First most pen turners forgo the drill press when drilling blanks and use the lathe to drill the holes. Alot more accurate and easier. Next and this one you mentioned and can not figure out why it does not work. When drilling the blank weather it is on a drill press or lathe and the hole comes out off center, this is no big deal at all as long as there is enough material all around the edges of the blank for the kit to fit and this will be determined by your bushings. What you must do and this is for any kit you need to trim the barrel to meet the tubes. This is done alot of times with a barrel trimmer or by a sanding jig. As log as the ends of the blank are 90 degrees to the tube it does not matter if the hole is off center. This only matters when doing inlay work and the design needs to be concentric.

Now if you did what I said and you go to mount your blank on the lathe and you notice it spins in an oblong fashion don’t worry because as you start to take material off it will true up. Nature of the beast it has to. Hope this helps some. Good luck.

-- John T.

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rance

4128 posts in 1785 days


#3 posted 1343 days ago

Actually, drill being level is irrellevant MsDebbie. :) I’m sure what you meant was that the table must be exactly perpendicular to the bit. This sounds like the most likely cause of your problem Bob. As for drilling on the lathe, I’ve tried it once or twice. A major pain. Yes, it can be done, and it is accurate, but I’ve never seen any other penturner use the lathe, the DP is just too darned efficient. Doing it on the lathe is a REAL pain. John has your other possible causes nicely listed.

To tram your DP table, chuck a stiff rod in the chuck. Clamp a board to the rod. Then clamp a pencil to the end of the board so it touches your table. DO THIS ALL WITH THE DP OFF. As you rotate the chuck by hand, the pencil will draw a circle on your table. The larger the circle, the better. As you rotate the chuck, the pencil will ride high off the table and won’t draw. THIS is the low side of your table. You can google Images for Tram “Drill Press”, to find pictures if you need. There’s a page HERE to get your started. About a third of the way down it talks about “Tramming the large drill press table”. He uses a Dial Indicator, but a pencil should work just fine for your application. HTH.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2785 days


#4 posted 1343 days ago

yes.. that’s exactly what I meant :)
that and the wobble effect of the bit :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View beavercut's profile

beavercut

24 posts in 1677 days


#5 posted 1343 days ago

Don’t know about the 10 ER but, on the older MK5’s, even if you have your table exactly perpendicular with the drill bit, when you apply pressure with the quill the table will flex sufficiently to take the angle between the bit and table out of 90 deg. I rather expect you will find the same issue with the 10 ER. To eliminate that problem you may have to come up with a support between the outboard edge of the table and the floor.
Roger

-- Beavercut

View richgreer's profile

richgreer

4522 posts in 1699 days


#6 posted 1343 days ago

I’ve drilled holes through 100s of blanks using a small bench top drill press and a rockler jig to hold the blank in place. Going off center happened on occasion, but that was rare and it was always attributable to not securing the blank in place properly due to a build up of saw dust. Make certain to clear all the saw dust out of the jig before using it.

This should not be necessary, but when I want to drill a good distance into wood and stay on track, I use my ShopSmith (Mark 5) in horizontal boring mode. I’ve drilled as far as 10” and have been dead on. Of course, you have to pull the bit out frequently to let the chips clear.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View JTTHECLOCKMAN's profile

JTTHECLOCKMAN

155 posts in 1774 days


#7 posted 1343 days ago

Rance

For the most part you can drill on a drill press very easily if the tool is set up correctly. As far as most penturners not drilling on a lathe is a stretch. I know lots of pen turners who use the lathe and I am one of them. Not on every blank but my more important ones for sure. Also anything with inlays has to be done on a lathe or some other straight boring tool. A drill press is too iffy there.

Here is an example. I could not drill straight enough and accurate enough using a drill press

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v233/JTTHECLOCKMAN/comboknots-1.jpg

-- John T.

View northwoodsman's profile

northwoodsman

227 posts in 2371 days


#8 posted 1343 days ago

Bob,

I feel your pain. I had this issue in the past as well. I narrowed it down to two issues and was able to resolve both. The first thing I did was mount the vice to a piece of wood so I could easily clamp it down to the drill press table. #1 – the drill bit was following the grain in the blank. I switched to brad point bits. You may not be able to find them locally, but you can find them numerous places online in any size. #2 – I don’t have the Rockler pen blank drilling vise, but I have the other popular one that you see every where (no brand on it). I noticed that under pressure (even very slight pressure) when drilling the blank, that it was flexing, specifically on the end where the tightening knob is located. I took part of a cheap pen blank and cut a “V” notch in one end. I then carefully measured it to length and cut it off so that I could wedge it under the threads of the tightening knob (I had to cut it short and shim it). It ’s hard to explain but the handle and threaded rod of the vice are horizontal, this piece is vertical. This prevents the whole mechanism from flexing.

I have made around 100 pens or so. I would be very interested in the lathe drilling technique. If someone has a link to the procedures, or even photo’s showing how it is done, it would be great if you could post them.

-- NorthWoodsMan

View JTTHECLOCKMAN's profile

JTTHECLOCKMAN

155 posts in 1774 days


#9 posted 1343 days ago

Bob

If you are a pen turner you owe it to yourself tobecome a member of the IAP pen turning site. That actually goes for everyone that is a pen turner. That is where it is happening in the world of pen turning. Anyway in their library is a PDF file http://content.penturners.org/articles/2009/lathedrilling.pdf It shows the process and is pretty close to what I do myself. Alot of questions and info are answered and passed on at that site. Come join us.

-- John T.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

1652 posts in 1546 days


#10 posted 1342 days ago

My friend who has this problem just uses larger blanks to start with….1” x 1”.....problem solved.

-- In God We Trust

View rance's profile

rance

4128 posts in 1785 days


#11 posted 1340 days ago

Rich, right on with the sawdust and your other comments.

John, you are absolutely right about drilling those inlay blanks. Nice job btw. Did you build those or buy them? Have you ever trammed your DP table?

Roger, that older mk5 sounds like a boat anchor if the table flexes that much. :( I even have a small HF that does ok. It’s main problem is spindle throw… just 2”.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

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