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I am building a home climbing wall to a very specific third party specification, and I need to drill 610 individual 7/16" holes through 3/4" plywood.

Are there any tools I could use (either rentable or cheap) to improve the consistency of the drilled holes? The holes are on a grid layout across 3 sheets of 4' x 8' plywood so I could stack the sheets to reduce work but I'm worried that I will get a bad angle on the wood.

Is there a way to have a router style drill press that I can move around the wood to make it perfectly vertical?

  • Is there a consistent pattern to the holes or are the holes in a random pattern?. What is the spacing between the holes? Is the pattern repeated every some many inches? – Programmer66 May 6 at 4:21
  • I was attempting to obtain more infor from OP to provide an ans not only how to drill vertical, but to assist in speeding up the repetitive drilling of the 600+ holes, but he seems unresponsive to provide additional information on the hole pattern. – Programmer66 May 6 at 18:58
  • @Programmer66 Understood. That is why i did not invest any time or energy into try to provide a worded answer. – Alaska Man May 7 at 16:50
  • The OP assumed we'd know that a climbing wall has regular space holes so you can install and reinstall holds to form routes. So, this is going to be a tight grid. – jdv May 7 at 21:41
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There are drill guides and drill blocks available for making repeatable holes in stock. The usual suspects like Wolfcraft and Milescraft offer these, for example. Whether you use a block-style guide (either DIY or store-bought) or a fancy guide depends a lot on what tool you will be using. For example, a block is not going to help you if you are using a forstner bit.

(So, if you want to really make consistent 90-degree holes, read on. But, for your purpose of a climbing wall you don't really have to worry all that much. As long as you are close, the hardware used to attach holds will make up for it -- they are sloppy for a reason. No one at a climbing gym is using a jig. They are just eyeballing it and getting close enough. Even single-digit degrees won't matter at the end of the day. At most, you'd want a home-made block so you mostly get it right.)

Here's an example that I have some experience with: enter image description here Image from amazon.ca product page

I have an earlier model of this which I purchased to make a number of repeatable 90 degree holes in sheet stock with a 1-inch forstner bit. It works.... ok. The bearings in the chuck are not great, and the return action is a bit finicky. It is repeatable, and the holes are closer to 90 degree than what I could do by hand.

The Wolfcraft model has two springs, which I think would solve some of the finicky problems with the Milescraft one. But I don't really know.

There are also many DIY drill guides out there, ranging from simple tall blocks or fit-to-your-drill angles, all the way to clever versions of the store-bought ones. Some of the DIY options really depend on your drill having adjacent sides that form a 90-degree angle, though, which is why the fancy plunge jigs exist.

These links are sure to be dead in an internet minute, but search terms like "DIY drill guide block" will get you a lot of hits.

You can also use a 2-axis bubble level and attach it to the back of your drill, which is often close enough for government work.

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  • unfortunately this model won't be available for a while, so i went ahead and bought a lower quality similar one, and am hoping it will survive through the project. I may also permanently screw it to a thin board that i can put my knees on to stabilize it. – maboesanman May 11 at 17:30
  • Ypu could mount it to a board that uses two other holes for alignment. Just get the first few in the right place, and then you can use existing holes to check how good your measurements are. – jdv May 19 at 21:52
  • i ended up going with just using the tool, not mounted to a bowrd. worked great! this is definitely the best way to do this. – maboesanman May 20 at 18:32
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I would spend the time making a pattern drill guide out of 3/4" plywood. Size of guide would be 24 in wide, and 18"-24" high. Start by drilling the holes 5 cm from the edge.

The next set of holes are 10 cm on center. This allows you to align the pattern guide to the edge where the drilling ended.

You can use one of the drill attachment described in the earlier answers to ensure the holes in the guide are all vertical. By using the 3/4 " guide, you do not need the vertical drilling attachment any more. The pre-drill hole will hold the spade or auger bit vertical when you are drilling.

  1. To use the drill guide, start by clamping it to the corner.
  2. Mark outline of template on plywood sheet
  3. Drill through each of the holes
  4. Move pattern guide to next position, aligning the mark previous made
  5. Clamp pattern guide in new position
  6. Continue drilling holes - Repeat process

Per your own suggestion you could stack all three sheets and do three sheets at a time.

enter image description here

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  • Making the drilling template is a nice idea, though time and material consuming. Having two pins/dowels of the proper size will ease the alignment once you've drilled a template's worth of holes. Put 2 pins in existing holes in the subject material, drop the template over them, instant alignment, no clamping necessary. You lose that row of holes for the next round, but the speed and accuracy gain would be, in my opinion, well worth it. – FreeMan May 15 at 17:31
  • Agree, that was going to be part of my original Ans, left it out because of the loss of one row as you stated, But it will make it a lot faster. – Programmer66 May 15 at 19:53
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    I recently purchased a name-brand jig designed for putting shelf-pin holes in the inside of cabinets. The jig has a lip for aligning with the edge of the wood, 6 holes, and a pin. You drill the first 6 holes, then put the pin in the last one and align the jig over that one, then drill 5 more. Without that alignment, the spacing would be almost guaranteed to be off between sets of 6 holes. Well worth it in my mind. I just wanted to bring this to the attention of the OP (or others). YMMV... – FreeMan May 18 at 11:34

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