I tried using a really long thin drill bit that probably had a different purpose (like maybe drywall stuff) to put a hole in a tobacco pipe project. But the bit blew out the side of the wood because it didn't drill straight.

This pipe is about 20 inches long, and I need to drill about 16 of that.

How do I put a really long narrow straight hole in a piece of wood?

  • Related (same author): woodworking.stackexchange.com/q/3413/1250
    – Jason C
    Feb 26 '16 at 4:50
  • Clamp it in position and use a drill press? How thin is the bit?
    – micmcg
    Feb 26 '16 at 11:15
  • youtu.be/-UiRXaahgiI Check this. in the video there is an excellent method to obtain a long hole, and centered. just an idea.
    – Igor
    Dec 18 '21 at 4:49
  • @Igor, that's certainly an interesting technique but to begin it requires the creation of the long narrow hole, the very thing the Question asked about!
    – Graphus
    Dec 19 '21 at 10:06

You can do it without using a drill.

See how pencils are made

  • cut some square stock to length
  • saw it in half lengthways
  • cut a groove in each half
  • glue the halves together
  • shape the outside (e.g. using a spokeshave and dowel plate)

There's a useful video of using a drill to make a hole in dowel. In summary the technique shown is

  • start with well oversize dowel
  • use a variety of drill bit lengths starting with the shortest
  • drill very slowly, a quarter-inch at a time.
  • use a spirit-level on the drill
  • shape the dowel after drilling to take into account
    • the direction of the hole (which won't emerge at centre)
    • the curvature of the hole (ruling out using a lathe)
  • What glue do you suggest is used to fasten a pipe stem together?
    – Graphus
    Feb 26 '16 at 19:05
  • 1
    @Graphus: Good point, I don't smoke. Any so long as it doesn't kill you faster than the tar and nicotine I guess ;-) Feb 26 '16 at 22:32
  • :-) It wasn't just the health issue, although that is very important of course, it was the ability to withstand the high temperatures too.
    – Graphus
    Feb 27 '16 at 7:47
  • Apparently some Pipe (Sherlock style) makers use Water Glass to create linings and adhesives, though these seem to be very individualized mixes.
    – ench
    Mar 1 '16 at 21:13

I don't think a hole this long is possible with any conventional drill bit, and finding a suitable one of this length which would be difficult to say the least. And anyway there is a significant problem with drift or wander, particularly when drilling into end grain as you might be here. Note: this is even if the drilling is done on a drill press, the amount of wander can be quite amazing.

Even in the past when very long drill bits were more commonly seen as part of the woodworking tool kit (either augers to be turned directly with a wooden handle, or for use with a brace) once you got to very long lengths in relation to the diameter of the hole it was common to use specialist bits made for that purpose only, for example shell bits.

Here's a modern shell auger to give an idea of what the traditional style looks like:

Modern shell auger bit

I suspect the only way you'll achieve this length of hole is if you can find a suitable shell auger bit or are willing to go to the trouble of making your own. You'd start the hole with a normal bit or matching diameter, then slip the shell bit into the hole and continue from there.

  • This is called a "gun" drill. It normally has a hole full length for oil to flush cuttings out of the hole as they might otherwise cause deflection of the bit. They drill pretty straight holes the length of the barrel. Sep 13 '21 at 14:18
  • @blacksmith37, this is not a gun drill. As it says in the Answer, it's a shell auger.
    – Graphus
    Sep 13 '21 at 20:40
  • Not a gun drill , odd tip and no oil hole. Sep 14 '21 at 1:09
  • @blacksmith37, uh, exactly.
    – Graphus
    Sep 14 '21 at 7:17

But the bit blew out the side of the wood because it didn't drill straight.

I think you already identified your problem. When you start doing things where small misalignments can lead to large issues, setup is key.

I've made a couple pipes before, though the draft hole was only about 3" long. Even that took a large amount of measuring and tweaking to get the bit to exactly where I needed it and to drill straight.

This pipe is about 20 inches long, and I need to drill about 16 of that.

I won't lie, what you're trying to do is very difficult. Your pipe stem is likely thin to begin with, so you have very little margin for error in the setup of your drill bit. The only advise I can give is to check, re-check, and re-re-check your alignment before drilling and hope that the bit doesn't wander through the cut.


I'm facing a related issue, though not to tolerances so fine as you face.

In the course of my researches, I learnt how boat builders stay true while drilling a hole for a propeller drive shaft several metres through the keelboard.

They don't move the drill, they move the job using a jig similar to a saw table fence. But instead of a circular saw blade there is a spinning auger perfectly parallel to both fence and table.

Build yourself a jig like this and you will be able to turn out Gandalf pipes by the dozen.

  • Could probably use a Lathe for this, with a strong chuck perfectly parallel to the bed.
    – ench
    Mar 1 '16 at 21:15
  • Or start with a thicker piece, drill a hole through, centre the piece in a wood lathe using the hole and turn it down.
    – Peter Wone
    Mar 2 '16 at 0:46
  • 1
    I think you're overstating your chances of success. Propeller shafts are fairly large in diameter, which allows the drill bits to be quite stiff. Furthermore, the hull material is quite uniform, unlike end grain of wood, so a pipe drill is going to wander. Note that historically, long-stemmed pipes were made of clay, with the bore being produced by a stiff, oiled wire being pushed through the wet clay. Mar 27 '20 at 14:53

You need a "gun" drill, it cuts on one side . It would costly for making a pipe. Cost not a problem when you are drilling several expensive gun barrels.


I just saw a video where a guy took assorted pieces of wire, (not sure what grade.) Hammered them flat, used a cordless drill and after starting a small hole with a regular drill bit, started using the wire as a drill bit. Gotta go slow, careful, let the wire do the work. Start short, gradually work up in size until you go through. He did this on a skinny piece of wood and it seems the wire will follow that soft center. I've never tried this but will find a good piece of wood and get that drying... Be interesting to see if this works. Found this hoping to see if others used this technique, so far all I found was that one video. So take it with a grain of salt. Still wire is cheap, might be worth experimenting.

  • 1
    Hi Jen, welcome to StackExchange. Could you provide more details on this, the method sounds intriguing but I think people will need a bit more info to try it out for themselves (and they might be confused by "soft center", I don't understand what you mean there and others may not either). It's also OK to link to the original video.
    – Graphus
    Sep 13 '21 at 6:43

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