Drilling a centered hole in Elm/Pine dowel

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Forum topic by Don posted 05-16-2013 06:04 PM 2222 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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22 posts in 1897 days

05-16-2013 06:04 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m trying to make a wooden hinge where every other piece of dowel is attached in a routed 1/2” cove in the box and lid. I made the dowel out of the same wood so in the end it will essentially be “invisible” but I’m having a heck of a time getting a hole through the dowel without the drill hitting the grain and wandering off to one side or the other. To line up the dowel, find the center and start a hole, I’ve found a 1/2” Forstner bit work great, but when I replace it with a small drill, that’s the one that wanders off. Two photos are attached. The first shows the start with the Forstner bit and the second shows the bottom of the 1 and 1/4” dowel with the off center hole. So far, I’ve tried drilling at both slow and fast speed, chucked it up in the lathe and drilled the hole with a stationary bit on the tail stock, tried starting with small pilot bits all to with the same results.
(The photos are with a piece of pine – I was running out of my elm dowel and the pine gives me the same results.)
Anyone have any suggestions?
Thanks, Don

11 replies so far

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2099 days

#1 posted 05-16-2013 06:08 PM

Resaw in half, run through a router table with a half round bit, glue back together and cut into segments.

-- Who is John Galt?

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 2065 days

#2 posted 05-16-2013 06:23 PM

You could cheat a bit – take a bigger piece of pine and drill your hole, then mount it on the lathe with the holes on center and turn it down to a dowel.

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View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3612 days

#3 posted 05-16-2013 06:41 PM

Get yourself an engineers centre drill to start any holes with then you wont wander. Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2099 days

#4 posted 05-17-2013 02:02 AM

Scotsman seems like a metal working tool, and is the same concept in wood as what OP is doing with the forstner tip?? read here? I am open to learning how this tool will help… can you be more specific?

-- Who is John Galt?

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2717 days

#5 posted 05-17-2013 02:10 AM

Cut a kerf down the length with the tablesaw and then glue a thin strip of elm into the slot. This basically is how the Shipwright hinges are done. He has a blog on their construction and the technique can be used to create a centered hole in your dowels.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View REO's profile


928 posts in 2101 days

#6 posted 05-17-2013 02:16 AM

Just joe nailed it.

View Marcus's profile


1163 posts in 2047 days

#7 posted 05-17-2013 11:49 AM

Here is what I do:

Get a block of wood and clamp it to my drill press. Grab a bit the same size as the dowel and drill a hole in the wood. Without adjusting anything on the drill press, I change out the bit for the size of hole I want in the dowel. Put the dowel in the hole in the wood (should be a snug fit), and just drill down with your small bit. Voila, a centered hole.

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2319 days

#8 posted 05-17-2013 12:01 PM

What Marcus just said with the added step of drilling half way from one end and flipping over to drill half way from the other end—has worked pretty good for me sometimes but not always, Also, why not use a finer grain wood such as maple, cherry or walnut so the grain doesn’t throw or grab your bit off center?

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Don's profile


22 posts in 1897 days

#9 posted 05-17-2013 01:57 PM

Thank you for the input, I knew there were ways to do this. The center drill intrigue’s me so I went to purchase one yesterday only to arrive 10 minutes after the machinist’s store closed, so will try again next week after returning home.
A finer grain wood causes less problems, however for this one project I wanted to the grain of elm ( a box to hold old black powder cartridges), just didn’t foresee the problems in the second to last step. Marcus’s suggestion to drill an “holder” is excellent and one that will be used. Sounds much easier to assure the dowel starts centered.
gfadvm – I don’t quite understand about the shipwright hinges. Is the kerf cut deep enough so that the cut ends at the diameter of the hole I want and then the thin piece of elm that is glued back in so that a basically square hole is created to allow the drill to clean out? Seems as that would work.
Anyway, great ideas and I’ll be back on this project after a quick four day trip to Montana for a shooting event and to bring the wife back from the lake. Have a great weekend, Don

View Howie's profile


2656 posts in 2950 days

#10 posted 05-17-2013 10:44 PM

Use a bradpoint bit????

-- Life is good.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2717 days

#11 posted 05-18-2013 12:11 AM

Don, I think you understand the Shipwright hinge except that there is no reason to “clean out” the square hole with a drill. I have made the hinges 18” long and they work great. I have used 1/8” brass rod, 3/32” SS rod, and even coat hanger wire for the hinge pins.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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