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From the drill press's supporting pipe to the drill bit tip measures 5". I believe this limits me to drilling no farther than 5" in from any given side of my MDF sheet. Unfortunately, I need to drill 7" in from the edge of my MDF sheet.

  • Is there anyway to accomplish this with the drill press I currently own?
  • If not, are there alternatives to a drill press that can be used for accurate holes?
  • Or.. Is there a place that rents time on a drill press that could drill 7" in from the side of a sheet of MDF?

The drill press I have access to: enter image description here

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    How many holes, and how big? In a straight line or just at specific points? – LeeG Jun 18 '16 at 21:23
  • Forstner bit (more than 30 holes), at specific points. Roughly 1 inch in diameter (28mm) – Daniel Brown Jun 18 '16 at 21:59
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    Rockler tools has a portable drill guide that should work. I used one similar to make holes in my bench top for bench dogs. – user46851 Jun 21 '16 at 21:50
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For drilling single holes in the middle of a piece of wood you can use a drill bushing to keep the bit perpendicular to the piece. I use this from Big Gator Tools. enter image description here

You can also use your drill press to drill a bushing hole through a thicker board (about 1-1 1/2" works well). If you go this route, you can make the bushing for any angle you need, and place several in a line.

If you have to drill shelf pin holes in the side of a cabinet for adjustable shelves, you can use a shelf pin guide to keep consistent distance between holes. These are available from a variety of vendors at a wide range of price points, starting with basic kits such as this from Milescraft. enter image description here

  • Interesting. So would you recommend a bushing hole for a forstner bit? The resulting hole is 28mm (slightly larger than an inch) in diameter. – Daniel Brown Jun 18 '16 at 21:58
  • While it is not as safe as a drill press, you can use a Forster bit with a hand drill. Usually the bushing just helps to keep the bit perpendicular. For a Forster bit, you should be able to eyeball it pretty close. If you use a Forster in a hand drill, make sure the workpiece is well clamped, and keep a firm grip on the drill, and go slow. – LeeG Jun 18 '16 at 22:04
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Is there anyway to accomplish this with the drill press I currently own?

As far as I can see, no.

If not, are there alternatives to a drill press that can be used for accurate holes?

Yes. You can actually drill very accurate holes (accurate in all senses: position, diameter and squareness to the surface). Note that for accurate positioning marking out must be done accurately beforehand, and centre marks or pilot holes are advisable.

If you need to drill holes square to the surface there are various techniques and tricks that can be used, some of which are covered in a previous Q&A: How do I ensure my drill is perfectly vertical before cutting a hole in my desk?

Unfortunately drilling freehand with Forstner bits is not really recommended (some guides and manufacturers of the bits say outright not to do it) and it would be difficult to ensure good results consistently. Obviously if you need to do this using a hand-held power drill you can go ahead and try, but it's highly recommended you drill practice holes first in scraps of the MDF you'll be using. I would recommend slower speeds and light pressure, do not be tempted to rush.

These practice holes may dissuade you from trying this freehand, in which case other drill bits may begin to seem an attractive proposition, see Which type of drill bit for which jobs?

The job you have to do here is one reason I'm such a fan of swing braces and have given my opinion that they're very viable even today. An inexpensive older brace with a vintage 1" Jennings or Irwin auger will drill all the holes you'd need with little effort and are capable of great accuracy with only a little practice, and proper initial layout of course.

Or.. Is there a place that rents time on a drill press that could drill 7" in from the side of a sheet of MDF?

Yes for certain places, but obviously this is very location-specific so we can't answer that for you.

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I would say I am at best, hobby level. But when I had to do something like this in the past, I would use the drill press to drill holes into a template piece of wood. Something thin enough to not get in the way but thick enough to hold it's form.

Then chalk line the end MDF, place the template in the right spot. Clamp everything down really well. Use a hand drill to drill the actual holes, and just go slowly.

The forstner bit, will actually help a lot with this. Because it is thicker the template wood piece will help keep it straight up and down until you're far enough into the MDF that it keeps the shape for you too.

The ideal wood for the template piece needs to be cheap, and a little thicker than your bit is deep.

  • Make a jig out of wood to make something else out of wood :) This was my first thought. It gives you the accuracy of the drill press but on a piece that your machine can handle. Once done the jig might actually take more time than the actual process. Good answer. – Dano0430 Jun 22 '16 at 14:04
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The other option that no one has mentioned is to use a plunge router to "drill" the hole. Because the base of the router is supported by the material, you have high assurances that the hole will be routed perfectly perpendicular to the surface. Using a guide will also allow you to accurately position the holes and make repeated plunges. If needed, the depth stop on a plunge router will also ensure your holes have a consistent depth.

  • Pardon my ignorance, but can a plunge router use a forstner bit? – Daniel Brown Jun 20 '16 at 13:38
  • @DanielBrown no it can't, but there is a large variety of router bits in all shapes and sizes available. A 1" plunge bit cut just as cleanly (maybe more so) than forstner bit. – Steven Jun 20 '16 at 14:42
  • Along these lines, you could make a template and use a guide collar on the router with a much smaller than 28mm bit. Using a small diameter bit, cut in circles, guided by the template, plunging deeper with each pass. As an added bonus, you'll get a little MDF plug left over! – FreeMan Jun 20 '16 at 17:58

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