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drilling long straight holes in end grain

17755 Views 14 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  jonah
Wood Circle Metal Cylinder Paper

My project is a 10" cylindrical block of hard maple with 10 bores drilled end-to-end, starting in the center and then consistently smaller bores surrounding it. I have attempted to drill two around the center bore, but they have both wandered off of parallel by about 1/2" from one end to the other.
I am using D-bits on a lathe, with the bit spinning and the wood being pushed onto the spinning bit.
Any tips would be appreciated.


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What type of drill bit are you using?
How are you securing the block, and are you sure the block is parallel to the bit?
The d-bit is made of drill rod of varying diameters depending on the size of the bore required. I am hand feeding the wood onto the spinning bit and removing it often to remove the swarf. I would love to know how this was done in the 18thC.
I assume you have the drill bit in the lathe chuck.
You need some kind of "V" shaped trough mounted to the lathe bed that is parallel to the drill bit in all planes.
Then you could feed this by hand by sliding the part along the trough.
The height of the trough would locate the hole the correct distance from the center hole.
The part would be rotated in the trough to set the distance between each small hole.
I thin I would use a double land type brad point bit and drill as far as possible.
This would establish a good true hole for your long drill rod bit to work in and finish the hole.
Sounds like a very tricky cut to get right. I'm not sure I would even
attempt it.

Nonetheless, drills ground with a "cabinetmaker's" point (similar to
brad point bits) drill better (more concentrically) in wood end grain
that standard bits made for drilling metal.
You could make a bunch of 1" or 2" thick disks, drill the holes slightly undersized, then glue the stack together.
Then hand drill the holes to correct diameter, because the bit is not likely to wander in a pre-drilled hole.
There is some great info here about drilling straight in end grain.
THe specific drilling part starts about half-way down the page.
I have had some sucess drilling a straight hole in the end of a 4×4 block using the drill press with a clamp. The clamp was nothing more that a board with a hole in the middle a little bigger than the hole I wanted to drill in the 4×4. On each end of the clamp board I drilled holes and inserted all thread so I could mount the clamp to my drill press table. Where the all thread needed to go through the drill press table I cut slots, front to back so that I could adjust the distance of the hole from the drill press table fence. I then placed the 4×4 centered at the hole in the clamp board between the clamp board and the drill press table. Tighten down the nuts on the all thread and drilled my hole. Best I can remember I was only drilling into a piece around 6" long not 10". But I did have to resort to bit extensions.
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It is going to be a baroque rackett, which is the precursor to the bassoon. There are videos on-line where you can listen to one being played.
In the photo is a diagram of a cross-section and a finished one in the other.
Body jewelry Table Rim Wood Earrings

Gas Cylinder Wood Metal Composite material


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My guess is that in the 18'th century they used a barefoot ship's auger. They are specifically for drilling end grain.

I found this thread because I'm working on making 30 wooden tent poles for a canvas wall tent.

I have 30 rough cut ash 2×2s a little over 6' 6" long (my target length) and I'm in the process of cutting the ends even and trimming them all to the same length.

Then I have to decide how much work I want to put into cleaning up the rough cut 2×2s, whether I want to plane all four sides, whether I want to miter cut them into octagon cross section, or try to run them through a router table with a quarter or half-round router bit, or what.

Any ideas or suggestions on the above would be welcome, but it's the next step I'm really looking for advice with, which is drilling a holes in the ends of the poles to take a 1/4" diameter, 6" long metal rod (to go through the grommets in the canvas). The accuracy doesn't have to be great, but this just feels like the sort of thing that will prove to be finicky and error-prone.

I'm not sure if free-hand drilling the holes will be sufficient, or if I should try to figure out how to rig my drill press so I can clamp a pole in place and drill downward, or temporarily clamp the press to a workbench, or what.

Any advice would be appreciated.
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6" is a pretty deep hole to drill. Most drill
presses don't have a 6" stroke.

In any case, the best tool to do the job is
a Shopsmith. They can do horizontal drilling.

You could also use a doweling jig. I've
never used one to drill a hole longer than
about an inch, but they are designed to
orient a drill straight. There are a lot of
such jigs on the market.

I suggest threading the ends of the rods
and drilling the hole undersize. That way
you can twist the rod in with the threads
and 1.5" or so of depth would be more
than enough. You'd only have to thread
the first .5" or so if you wanted to get
it done quicker.
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+1 on the barefoot ship's auger. They have no lead screw (i.e. "barefoot) and are designed to drill long holes in a boat's deadwood for the propellor shaft. Not a situation where you want a crooked hole. Unless you live in boat building area, the local hardware store won't have them, but WoodenBoat magazine could give you some leads. Or google boat building tools. Or just google barefoot auger.

I also wondered about your procedure. Lathes typically have a hollow tube where the tailstock fits. You can take your long drill and run it through this hole (maybe with some sort of bushings to keep in centered), and turn the wood rather than turning the drill. Wooden lamps are often made this way.
Sorry, to clarify, the metal rods are 5-6" long, the hole only needs to be half that, i.e. 2-3".

Doweling jig certainly looks worth trying. The shopsmith looks great, but a bit out of my price range.
Couldn't you start the holes on the drill press going in from each side, then use the already drilled holes as a guide to go straight through to the other side?
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