Ten Tips for Drilling Better Holes

Woodworking Workshop
Ten Tips for Drilling Better Holes



Drilling holes isn’t just a matter of putting a bit in the chuck and pulling the trigger. There are finer points to this often under-examined skill. From preventing blow-out, to not burning up your bits, and keeping your wrists unbroken, let’s take a look at some ways to make drilling holes better and easier. While I’m not wearing eye protection on these demonstration photos, donning protective eye wear should be the first thing you do.

84 thoughts on “Ten Tips for Drilling Better Holes

  1. trkemp says:

    I can’t view the slide show, but a larger issue is that in the two images I can see there is no eye protection being used.

  2. J.R. says:

    Once again, slideshow = dumb. Just put the article up as one page.

  3. Jason Brown says:

    Slide shows are awful, and this one does not work.

  4. Wally SirFatty says:

    Slideshow is problematic… and the lack of eye protection is such an obvious misstep, you should retake the pics.

  5. Drew Benson says:

    Please, I really want to read this information… but the slideshow is impossible and completely inappropriate for the content!

  6. pfriedel says:

    Oooh, an auto-advancing slideshow that makes lousy use of my screen and doesn’t even seem to fill the usual advertising quota for pagination. *golf clap* Well done!

  7. James says:

    I can start the stupid slideshow, but i cannot pause it long enough to actually read. Please – PLEASE – ditch this follishness.

    When your flashiness gets in the way of actually accessing content in a useful way, you’re failing your readers.

    I cannot even *begin* to imagine how this must wreak havoc for accessibility by things like screen readers and magnifiers.

  8. Michael Colombo says:

    Hi folks. We’re aware of the auto-advance issue with the slideshow and are deploying a patch to fix it. Sit tight, and thanks for your patience.

    1. Alan Dove says:

      The auto-advance bug is the least of the problems. Are you (and more importantly the bean-counters who put you up to this) noticing that every single slideshow garners a slew of comments about how much web slideshows suck? Seriously, stop.

  9. Vulpestruments (@Vulpestruments) says:

    Slidshow works fine for me!

    The drilling up through the sizes is probably my favorite newly learned method. I learnt it when a luthier at work needed help drilling holes in a £20,000 cello! it helped reduce the risk of the wood cracking or splintering around where the drill site was.

  10. davenelsondotcom says:

    This format is AWFUL!

  11. Ben says:

    Slideshow only shows 1 pic for me. “next” and “previous”-arrows don´t work

  12. Steve says:

    Every time there’s a slideshow used lots of people have problems with it. I have never been able to view these slideshows. No matter what computer or browser I’ve used, and this has been going on for years now. And what’s really annoying is every time a slideshow is used it’s actually something I’m interested in.

    So come on MAKE stop trying to be script savvy, and just let us see the pictures in a flat, simple, everyone can use page style.

  13. Michael Colombo says:

    Ok it looks like a fix has been put in. If you want it to stop auto-scrolling, click on one of the arrow buttons and you can advance it manually. As all you makers know, sometimes a bit of troubleshooting is necessary. We appreciate your constructive criticism and thank you for holding out.

    1. David Rysdam says:

      Nope, the buttons don’t work either. And why is text information being presented as a slideshow anyway? One big page with text captions FTW!

    2. trkemp says:

      It is at least broken differently. :-)

  14. Dave says:

    Sorry, Michael, still can’t pause, still unreadable.
    Text overflows the slide frame, very poor use of screen space, all around bad idea…

    Can’t agree more with the comments about lack of eye protection!
    And the #1 slide – Start Small is all well and good, but it should be #2.
    First, use a centerpunch!


    1. Michael Colombo says:

      Hi Dave. I added a note in the post about the importance of using eye protection. Also, the center punch is DEFINITELY a good idea when drilling into metal, but the tips weren’t meant to be sequential. If there were 11 tips on drilling holes using a center punch would be one of them. ;)

      1. This guy says:

        Center punching isn’t just for metal, especially when hand drilling. It helps keep the bit from wandering and gives you a “feel” of where the bit should be on any material. It should be one of the top items and not #11 since a clean hole in the wrong spot is just as bad as an incorrectly drilled hole.

  15. Gareth Branwyn says:

    BTW: All of our slideshows have a View All Slides link below the images. Click on that you want to see all of the slides on one page.

    And we apologize for today’s stumble. This is because we’re at work on a new slideshow design which will ultimately make the experience much better.

    1. trkemp says:

      The “View All Slides” link doesn’t work either.

  16. ronnie says:

    Clicking the arrow buttons still do anything for me with the normal slideshow. Opening the “view all slides” link starts a new tab, and clicking the arrows from there only makes step 1 pop up in further new tabs.

  17. Gareth Branwyn says:

    So sorry for the continued frustrations folks. We’re working on it ASAP and will have it functioning as it should ASAP.

  18. Jake Spurlock says:

    Hey folks, if you turn off adblock plus, the slideshow will work fine.

  19. RichardK says:

    still borked!
    scrap these stupid slide shows

  20. Five Fingers says:


  21. Jeffrey A Ballard Jr. says:

    You missed one of the most important tips “peck drilling” to keep chips short and clear of the hole.

    Also safety Nazis need to get a life.

    Safety Second!

  22. Cybe R. Wizard says:

    A note on torquing your wrist. This pertains mostly to right-handers. A leftie has the drill jerked out of the hand instead. The lesson? Learn to drill left-handed.

  23. Aurock says:

    Where’s the link to view the entire article at once, instead of the slide show?

  24. t-bird says:

    I skipped the slide show and had no problems reading the comments!

  25. Alan S. Blue says:

    Use a drill press if your piece will fit. Centerpunches. Clamping. Number and letter drill bits. Reaming is fun. Deburr your hole. Countersinks rock.

  26. chuck says:

    The slide show appears to have it’s own imbedded comments thread too… or has it opened a dimensional portal? Either way they’re complaining about the same crap.
    If you do a slide show about black makers printing 3D guns the whole internet will explode.

    1. Alan Dove says:

      If Make was still the awesome operation it was when it started, they would post that last line in the weekly “Your Comments” post.

  27. rocketguy1701 says:

    The problem is that you’re allowing your need to “do something cool with software” outweigh smart content delivery.

    This content is only somewhat smart to begin with, but the presentation is a fail.

    -Slideshow is needlessly complex, difficult to deal with, and breaks accessibility from both ADA and normal human perspectives. Plus, annoying and bad information design.

    On to the content issues:
    -Safety glasses fail. You are setting yourself up to be an example, and then providing a poor one. This is worse than none at all. Editorial needs to grow a spine on this.
    -Could have gone into just slightly more depth on any of these points to increase the value immensely. Pictures are great, but text is also.
    -No references to additional resources to make up for this lack.

    I say with much love, dudes, you can do better than this. You have, and you will again.

  28. Brian says:

    Looks like a bunch of trolls and flamers on here that are hammering this guy for how he published the info. This is why I’ll never post another article…too many haters that want to put others down

    . There are ways to give constructive criticism, but blasting someone like you guys are is absurd and childish. Anyone here ever been called a bully before? Let’s grow up and enjoy the info as it comes out. If you think you can do better, then you post something.

    By the way, I never had any issues and took something from the article.

    1. trkemp says:

      You make a good point. However, aside from the safety glasses issue (which has been addressed in the description) most of the comments have to do with the website and not this article. In general, once I turned off AdBlock and could read it,

      I think this article is good. I hope Michael didn’t take any of the complaining about the slideshow personally. It’s certainly not the first article here that uses this slideshow code and I never thought he was responsible. It was just a topic that interested a lot of people and not being able to see it was frustrating. I hope that he will write more articles in the future.

      1. Michael Colombo says:

        Thank you for writing this. Slideshow issues aside (which we are still working on,) I put in a decent amount of time into this article and hope people got some good info out of it. And OF COURSE I’ll be writing more articles in the future. :)

  29. practical says:

    OMFG every time a click a freaking post on this site, it provides no additional info, an impossible to find link, or some stupid degree of obfuscation like this slide show. You know we’re all running ad block right? this is a blog for tech savy people. You’re not getting any more revenue by annoying us.

  30. Wayne says:

    I had to scroll past all the negative comments about slideshows to add my comment.

    Slideshows suck and they are the scourge of content delivery. I am dropping your feed so don’t change for me.

  31. Meatbingo says:

    Folks – this slideshow is just dire. The pop out window clips the text on the iPad, plus, you have to close the window to escape from that hell. Try some testing before going primetime.

  32. Mikemikemike says:

    Slideshows are never good things to have, my grade school shop teacher drilled this into everyone at the drill — “eye protection because I am not pick up bits of eye off my shop floor”, make it into a readable article, there are slides without any wording, no talk about alternate types of lubrication anywhere (or are those the slides without words?), and why no love for step bits? Step bits work wonders on sheet to 16 ga. (the thickest I have needed to drill through) stainless and they make real nice round holes.

  33. Chrisw says:

    I agree the slideshow was poorly done. Reminds me of Instructables which had promise, but I never visit anymore.
    Already mentioned, but centerpunch if you care where the hole goes.
    Here’s one a lot of people don’t know. When using a keyed chuck, you are supposed to tighten using all three holes in the chuck. It helps grip the bit tighter and center it better. It isn’t as important for wood or small bits, but in metal I always tighten at least two holes.

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

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