Drilling (using both the Drill Press and the handheld drill)

Drilling is a simple yet incredibly important fabrication technique. Basically, it creates a hole where you need a hole. This is useful for attaching materials via screws, string/rope, zip ties, and other connections. In our fabrication-centric product, we need to affix many different components together. Drilling was crucial for our use of screws in the chassis, PVC frame, and wooden enclosure. We also drilled holes in the rubber belt to sew the two ends together.

Much of our learning of drilling was hands on or learning through experience. That being said, it is critical to take safety precautions before diving in. These include ALWAYS wearing safety glasses even though they aren’t always comfortable or may not go with your outfit and even if you are just watching you should also be wearing safety glasses as well. Drilling produces lots of scrap material, such as dust and shards, which would hurt quite a bit if they landed in your eyes. Also, tie back any long hair so as to avoid a painful makeover. Lastly, ask Dr. Aviv for the machine key, if you are using the drill press.

I always prefer to use the drill press when available, as it is steadier and easier to use. However, if the material does not fit onto the drill press’s table (platform with hole), you will have to use a handheld drill. The first step for both drills is figure out what size hole you need and find the corresponding drill bit. Attach the bit to the drill head by loosening then tightening the chuck (jaws). Make sure the bit is directly centered– if it isn’t, you won’t be able to drill a perfectly circular hole. Next, mark the area you want to drill with a pencil, marker, paint, etc.

If you are using the press, clamp the material to the table using a spring clamp or a vise, lining up the mark with the bit (this is really important because if it is not lined up then you will drill the hole in the wrong place). If the material cannot be clamped, have a friend carefully hold the ends, keeping their fingers clear of the bit. Turn on the drill and slowly lower the bit through the material. Once you have drilled through, keep the power on and raise the bit out of the hole slowly to help remove any debris. If you are using the handheld drill, clamp the material to a worktable in the same fashion, but make sure you won’t drill into the table itself. Turn on the drill and push the bit into the material, slowly but with firm pressure. Once you had drilled through, keep the drill bit spinning as you pull it out to clean the hole of debris. With both types of drills, keep a vacuum handy in order to deal with the any of the remaining debris (including dust) One of the most important things to remember is never try to drill something that isn’t clamped or held down to the table. Also, you must lower the bit into a material; it cannot start out inside of it. Here’s a fun anecdote about what happens if you don’t follow these simple guidelines: We had already drilled a hole in a piece of wood but wanted to make it cleaner. So I put the bit through the previously drilled hole, held the wood, and turned on the drill press. The piece of wood spun right out of my hands, cutting my fingers in the process of becoming a dangerous wooden saw of pain. Moral of the story is to always line up the bit and lower it through the material.

Here are a couple of helpful websites to use if you want to do more research on how to drill:





Written by Benjy Robinov Class of 2017

1 thought on “Drilling (using both the Drill Press and the handheld drill)

  1. I need to drill a 3/8 hole in a large number of cedar 1x4s. Using a drill press I put the cedar 1×4 in a small vice and slant the 1×4 in a 35 to 40 degree angle down on the drill press table. What type of drill bit drills the cleanest hole using this application please? It’s important that the holes are clean without splinters or chips on the outside edge of the holes.

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