Drilling Clean Holes

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Forum topic by TheWoodenOyster posted 02-14-2014 02:49 PM 1450 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1933 days

02-14-2014 02:49 PM

Topic tags/keywords: drill-driver

Hey everyone,

I have 2 questions about drilling clean holes.

1. Is there a good way to drill a clean hole when the bit is entering the wood at an angle. In other words, it is easy to get a clean hole when the bit is perpendicular to the surface it is entering , but what if it is at an angle, say a 45 degree angle?

2. As an extension of the questions above, if the hole needs to be somewhat large, say 1/2” diameter, what is the best way to keep the bit from skating around as the “wings” (I suppose that is what you’d call them) of the bit begin to hit the wood before the tip does?

For reference, I am trying to pocket screw an oddly-shaped 2 piece table leg and plug the holes afterwards with 1/2 plugs. I figure this scenario might raise its head a lot, and some of y’all might have some good ways to approach it.


P.S. The reason I didn’t use a tenon is because the angle is so bizarre that I figured I would do more harm than good if I went the tenon route.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

13 replies so far

View bigblockyeti's profile


5120 posts in 1718 days

#1 posted 02-14-2014 02:57 PM

Forstner bit in a drill press would be my recommendation. The knife edge around the circumference keeps the bit from skating until the center point engages the wood.

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3661 days

#2 posted 02-14-2014 03:00 PM

I assume you are using a brad-point bit in a hand drill.

I start the hole with the bit 90 degrees … go in just deep enough to score the wood a bit, then tip the drill to the desired angle.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1933 days

#3 posted 02-14-2014 03:10 PM

Dane – I was thinking about that and have done it in the past, but it results in an oval hole, more or less. I want to be able to plug it cleanly with a round plug.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View johnstoneb's profile


2914 posts in 2170 days

#4 posted 02-14-2014 03:16 PM

Forstner bit in a drill press or a jig to hold the work and handdrill steady and at the correct angle. Forstner bit is the only bit that will do what you want/

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View SuperCubber's profile


1026 posts in 2282 days

#5 posted 02-14-2014 03:20 PM

Does a pocket hole jig not fit your application? If not, I agree with the forstner bit in a drill press. That being said, I can’t see how it’s possible to get a round hole if you’re going in at an angle.

-- Joe | Spartanburg, SC | "To give anything less than your best is to sacrafice the gift." - Steve Prefontaine

View shopdog's profile


577 posts in 3483 days

#6 posted 02-14-2014 03:22 PM

I would use a good quality (lee valley or Fuller) 1/2” countersink bit with a sharp, tapered drill bit

-- Steve--

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1933 days

#7 posted 02-14-2014 04:02 PM

I was thinking forstner bit might be the solution. I’ll probably go with rigidly secured work and a forstner bit. A pocket hole jig wouldn’t really work, as the legs are curved. Thanks for the help guys. I was also thinking about a sacrificial piece at the beginning of the hole to steady the bit.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View jdh122's profile


1010 posts in 2815 days

#8 posted 02-14-2014 04:55 PM

This is pretty much exactly what spoon bits are used for, in a brace. I’ve never used any, but Lee Valley sells them for a very reasonable price (at least compared to other ones I’ve seen for sale).

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1933 days

#9 posted 02-14-2014 05:54 PM

Jeremy, just took a look at those and they look interesting. I tried to find a video on how to use them, but couldn’t find anything. Have you or anyone else ever used spoon bits?

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

View MrFid's profile


874 posts in 1902 days

#10 posted 02-14-2014 06:05 PM

Roy Underhill has done an episode about boring bits, in which I think he mentions spoon bits. It’s called ‘A very boring program’. Personally, I’d use a Forstner in a drill press, with an angled support to hold it at the right angle. Drill slow and there shoulnd’t be too much deflection.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View jdh122's profile


1010 posts in 2815 days

#11 posted 02-14-2014 06:07 PM

Roy Underhill uses them every time he does chairmaking on his show. Spoon bits are mostly used by chair makers because they allow you to drill a round bottomed hole (without a lead screw to pop through) and especially because they can drill at very acute angles. I haven’t used them and am eagerly waiting for Lee Valley’s next free shipping event to buy a couple. They’re supposed to take a bit of getting used to.
Take a look at Roy Underhill’s episode of the Woodwright’s shop called “A very boring program:”
THe link will take you to the right season, just scroll around until you find that episode.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View evenfall's profile


5 posts in 3112 days

#12 posted 02-14-2014 06:21 PM

Good advice here. Forstners with good fixturing on a DP will provide the best results.

Here are a few more tips.

Since you are drilling in curved work, a vise on the DP can help. A vise that can tilt the work to specific angles is better. Always better than tilting the table.

If you can’t get angled to suit the press, Hot glue a sacrificial piece to your work that will present the hole needing drilled square to the bit. this will help the bit start much nicer. It can even open your chances to using a brad point instead of a forstner, if you like. This sacrificial piece will pop off with a chisel after the work is finished. Clean up with a file or sand.

If the curves on the work make it hard to clamp, do you still have the offcuts from before the work became shaped? Using these can help you clamp it up.

If you can going forward, consider drilling these hole prior to any shaping. It is way easier to fixture and drill work when it is flat and square.

Also if you like, clamping sacrificial stock to where the hole will enter and exit is good for a nice finish, if it wont adversely affect layout on the input side. Forstner bits are not fans of high speed. Ease the drill in because bits can tend to tear out on the 1/4 turn that is the climb cut in the grain. Let it cut without much force. Ease up again when you know you are about to exit, and confirm you are exiting into solid stock without previously drilled exits in it. Any space at all will allow tearout.

Forstners tend to clog so prepare to clear the bit frequently. Clog it and it will overheat, burn the work and dull the bit.

Good Luck! Angled holes are challenging!

-- ~Rob

View TheWoodenOyster's profile


1317 posts in 1933 days

#13 posted 02-14-2014 08:28 PM

Yeah. This is one of those times where I wish I would have done this before I cut the curves, but alas here I am. Thanks for all the tips guys. This project has been a great learning opportunity for me especially when it comes to curved work.

-- The Wood Is Your Oyster

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