How to Drill Straight Holes: Tips & Tricks for Drilling Into Wood, Metal, and Walls
When you’re drilling a hole, whether it’s through a wall or a horizontal surface, one of the most important things to do is make sure that the hole is straight.
Sure, there are some exceptions, such as when you need to create an angled opening. But for the most part, a straight hole is a must.
Otherwise, the screw or other attachment you slide into the hole won’t go in evenly, and your project can turn out a bit weird looking. No matter where you’re drilling, here’s how to drill straight holes.
Use a Drill Press to Drill Straight Holes
One of the easiest ways to figure out how to drill straight holes is to learn how to use a drill press.
What’s a drill press? Usually, a drill press is a towering tool with a table for holding the material you’re working on and an overhead spindle and drill chuck.
The tool works by lowering the drill bit into the wood, metal or other material. Since the object you’re drilling into is flat on a surface and usually secured to that surface, it’s less likely to move or jump when the drill bit comes into contact with it.
According to MIT, a drill press is preferable to other types of drills, especially when the orientation and the positioning of the hole need to be accurate.
Tips for Using a Drill Press
If you’re using a drill press for the first time or have used one in the past, but haven’t been happy with the results, these tips can help you out.
- Keep things slow. Anytime you’re drilling anything, it’s better to go slowly than to try to speed through things. You can usually adjust the speed of your drill press by changing the positioning of the drive belt, according to Bob Vila.
- Make sure the table is the right height. The table height determines a few things, including your comfort using the drill and how deep of a hole you can make. You can usually adjust the height by turning a crank or by adjusting a lever.
- Start small and work your way up. As with any drilling project, when learning how to drill straight holes, it’s a good idea to start with a small drill bit and gradually increase the diameter until you have the right width.
- Get the depth gauge right. Setting the depth gauge is particularly important if you’re not drilling all the way through the material.
- Secure the object. Attach the item you’re drilling into to the table using clamps.
Once you’ve got the drill press set up, using it is usually a breeze. Make a mark on the object where you want the hole to be.
Place the object on the table. Don’t turn the drill press on, but lower the bit down to make sure that it lines up with the mark.
Adjust the position of the object as needed so that the hole mark is right underneath the drill bit. Secure the object to the table.
Turn the press on, then lower the drill bit down onto the object. Go slowly and use gentle pressure to push the drill bit into the object.
Slowly release the drill bit so that it moves upward and out of the hole.
How to Drill Straight Holes in Wall
Using a drill press to make straight holes sure is convenient, unless two things apply. One is that you don’t have a drill press.
The other is if you’re drilling into a material that just won’t fit on the work table of a drill press.
For example, you can’t exactly take a wall and put it on a table.
That means you need to figure out how to drill straight holes in a wall using a handheld drill.
Don’t panic — here’s what you need to do to make a straight hole in a wall.
What you need:
- Drill press
- Small square block of wood
- Drill bits
- Handheld drill
What to do:
- Use the drill press to a drill a straight hole through the small block of wood. The block of wood will be your guide as you drill a hole into the wall. Make the hole in the wood the same size as the hole you’ll drill in the wall.
- Mark the position of the hole on the wall. Line up the block of wood so that the hole is over the mark. Hold the wood in place.
- Use the handheld drill to make the hole. Attach the appropriate size drill bit to the drill, then guide it through the wooden block. Turn the drill on and make your hole in the wall.
OK, you might be thinking, but what if I don’t have a drill press? You can still create a straight hole in the wall.
What you’ll need:
- Two pieces of wood (should be the same size and shape)
- Wood glue
- Handheld drill
- Drill bit
What to do:
- Make the jig. A jig is an L-shaped object that will guide the drill bit as you work, keeping the hole straight. To make it, glue the two pieces of wood together in an L shape.
- Place the L-shaped jig in a clamp. Secure it tightly so that the force of the clamp holds the L together as the glue dries.
- Mark on the wall where you plan on making the hole.
- Position the jig so that the inner corner of the “L” is just above your mark.
- Place the tip of the drill bit against the mark, then line the bit up, so that’s nestled in the corner of the L.
- Start drilling. Work slowly and make sure the that the drill bit stays parallel with the jig at all times.
Hacks to Help You Drill Straight Holes
If you have limited tools or materials, you aren’t stuck having to live with crooked holes. There are a few clever hacks to help you figure out how to drill straight holes.
Use an Old CD
If you happen to have an old CD (or DVD) lying around that you don’t plan on listening to or watching ever again, it can serve as a guide to help you drill a straight hole.
To use a CD/DVD as a guide, place it shiny side up (that’s the side that the laser would read) over the area you’ll be drilling. Line up the hole of the CD with the mark for drilling.
Place your drill and drill bit into the CD’s hole, over the mark on the material. Position the drill and drill bit so that the drill bit looks completely straight up and down in the reflection on the CD’s surface.
Start drilling. Work slowly and make sure the drill bit’s reflection remains completely straight.
Turn Legos Into a Guide
If you don’t have spare pieces of wood handy, but do have more Lego blocks that you know what to do with, you can use them to create a jig, according to Instructables.
To turn the blocks into a jig, snap several pieces together to create an “L” shape. Use about three layers of blocks to get the appropriate height.
You can check the squareness of the L using a protractor. Place the protractor into the L shape and confirm that the 90-degree angles line up.
When it’s time to drill, place the Lego jig on the surface, with the markings for the hole lined up with the inner corner of the L.
Invest in a Drill Guide
OK, so we get that this next one doesn’t really count as a hack. But if you see yourself having to make a lot of holes in a wall or walls in the coming months, spending the money to buy a drill guide can be worth it.
A portable drill guide attaches to a handheld drill, essentially transforming it into a smaller version of a drill press.
You can line the drill guide up on the wall or any other surface when you want to drill straight holes.
Make a Dimple in the Material
Making a small dent or dimple in the material you’re drilling into won’t guarantee that you end up with perfectly even, straight holes. But it can help.
Use a hammer and nail to make a small divot in the spot where you plan on drilling. The divot will give your drill bit something to hold onto when you begin to drill.
Often, this trick works best when combined with a jig or other drill guide.
Final Thoughts on How to Drill Straight Holes
Often, having the right tool for the job makes all the difference. While that’s the case when figuring out how to drill straight holes, you can also get pretty inventive to get the job done.
Thinking outside of the box will help you complete your project and get holes that are straight and even.