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I have a table leg that was connected to the table top with mortise and tenon and tenon broke off. As part of the repair I'd like to put in a dowel through leg and table top and wood glue the whole thing. Leg is maybe 2 inch in diameter.

My question is how can I make I make my dowel hole centered and perfectly straight. I don't have a drill press tall enough to accommodate a leg this long.

Another idea is to use Drillmate like this https://www.leevalley.com/en-ca/shop/tools/jigs-guides-and-fixtures/73237-drill-guide?item=46J8370 but I am unsure on how to secure the table leg to a vice that would house the drillmate on top of the vice?

Am I overthinking this and should drill it by hand?

Thanks!

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  • 1
    "Am I overthinking this and should drill it by hand?" No, since you need to drill a hole with precision into a difficult material. But put that aside for a second, have you thought about how you'll drill the corresponding hole in the underside of the top? That may be by far the trickier part of the operation. Tables don't normally attach legs to tabletop via a M&T, so at a guess the legs aren't perfectly vertical and if so this second hole needs to be done at an angle, and very accurately. I think we need more detail here. Could you post some pics?
    – Graphus
    Jan 18 at 8:22
  • Does your drill press have a hole in the table. Or is it removable and can you fabricate one? Make a fence that hold the leg in the hole plumb and true.
    – Alaska Man
    Jan 18 at 18:50
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I'm going to suggest two very different methodologies, both of which won't require the purchase of any new bits or any awkward changes to the setup of your drill press (although the first suggestion does make use of the press).

Make a drill guide, use that
Essentially follow the technique from this Answer to an old Question here, How do I drill a hole exactly in the center of a circle?

enter image description here enter image description here

Note you don't need a 2" Forstner/other bit to use this method.

Although it would be great if you had a suitable 2" bit of some kind you can instead drill the bottom of the block for a few guide rods that will slip over the outside of the leg, or, chisel a shallow square mortise that the leg is a reasonably tight fit into.

Going with either of these if you happen to end up with a sloppy fit to the end of the leg don't worry, there's no need to scrap it and make a new one. As surprising as it sounds simply packing out the end of the leg with paper towels and then forcing it into the jig will still result in good alignment..... and the hold is much firmer than you might guess1.

Drill by hand, with the aid of a helper
As you probably know it's quite easy to gauge tilt to left/right when drilling, especially with a long straight piece of wood to guide your eye, but much less easy to know if you're leaning a little forward or backward.

So have your Temporary Workshop Assistant™ stand 90° to you and tell you when your drill is aligned left/right to them (your forward/backward). This can be more accurate than it sounds2 and presumably you only need to drill a fairly shallow hole here (I'm visualising a 3/4"-1" hole ~1" deep).

Note on the other stage of the operation
As I mention in a Comment above, if this leg is not mounted vertically the drilling of the corresponding hole in the tabletop might actually turn out to be the more challenging part of this!


1 I regularly use this method during restorations of swing braces to hold the heads on an undersized dowel/round piece of wood (in my case an old chair stringer or a small branch) for much of the sanding and all of the refinishing work.

2 This was actually a standard workshop technique back in the day so was widely used in production workshops.

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I'd find the center and make a good accurate divot (~1/2" deep or so). Then find a long drill bit -- at least 12". Clamp 3 or 4 narrow strips of wood to the leg so they come up 6-9" above the top of the leg where you want to drill. You'll be able to hit the divot and visually keep yourself in the middle of the sticks. If this isn't clear, respond and I'll either sketch or snap a pic of what I mean.

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    12" + drill bits aren't exactly cheap in larger diameters so this is a bit of a tough ask! Since the OP has a drill press a much simper solution (likely not requiring the purchase of any new bits) suggests itself....
    – Graphus
    Jan 18 at 8:31
  • Regarding long drill bits... there are stores over here that sell junk (ie, single use) bits for very little. I'd hate to give them free advertising, so I'll just hint that the name rhymes with Marbour Weight. Jan 18 at 21:37
  • LOLOL Not kidding, I was going to say I saw a bit of the type I was assuming you meant in a place that rhymed with Barbazon! (It was 51 bucks BTW.)
    – Graphus
    Jan 19 at 6:21
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    Hey, now, that place that gets their Freight at the Harbor has become one of my favorites! I expect I'll get a use out of that tool. Anything beyond is bonus!
    – FreeMan
    Jan 22 at 17:09
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See if you can unbolt the drill press body from the base and turn it so that the drill faces over your workbench unimpeded by its base. Then measure the accurate center, make a small hole with a thin nail, and use a brad point bit (so it doesn't skip around on the end grain surface) to drive into the nail hole. Make sure to secure your drill press carefully so it doesn't tip over. See if you can have a friend help.

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