Can’t See Straight!

by | Aug 12, 2012 | 12 comments

I must have bored over 10,000 perpendicular holes so drilling square is no longer a problem for me but as the ale was tasting good last night I didn’t want to trust my sight this morning when drilling a dozen ¾” holes in a + 5” thick top. We get floods of emails asking about how best to drill holes in a workbench top and as there’s nothing worse than a wangy hole in your bench top I thought now would be a good time to share my tip for this little gismo.
A quick search on the internet brings up countless complex solutions to this including some weird router jigs that look like they take longer to build than the bench itself. My solution that I’ve used for many years and that guarantees an almost perfectly perpendicular hole is a simple chock of wood fairly deep in section with a ‘V’ cut out in it.

Woodworking tips, drilling straight


It has a flat face that registers to the surface being drilled and is used to guide the drill bit square in both directions. You sit the point of your drill bit in the location of the centre of your hole and butt the chock up to the bit so that it’s cradled on both faces of the ‘V’ and you’re ready to drill.

woodworking drilling tips

hand tool woodworking tips

This little gismo works great with power drills as you can hold the chock with one hand and drill with the other. Once the drill bottoms out on the chock you remove the wood and continue drilling using the start of the hole that you’ve made to keep the rest of the hole square. Simples…

drilling straight tip

woodworking drilling guide

drilling tip

If you’re using a bit and brace as you have to use both hands you might want to clamp the guide down or alternatively do what I do and use the ‘V’ to sight down without actually rubbing against it.

tip for drilling straight, square holes

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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. douglas

    very neat Richard. I agree re the number of clever jigs that I cannot be bothered to make, and on a bench top it is very handy to take the tool to the top, the other way round (with pillar drill) being cumbersome (understatement).
    How do you get along with holdfasts in a 5″ thick top? I played with various thicknesses a while ago and ended up counter-boring the underside to reduce the depth the fast ‘sees’. I found with mine about 65mm was ideal.
    And that wheelie pinless vice…!! I had long believed that there was no single perfect vice, but I suspect that will be as close as I would ever get.

    • Richard

      Hi Douglas,
      Sorry I some how missed this one. I’ll bang a post on this week about making holdfasts grip better in thicker, I certainly agree that there’s a sweet spot at about 3″ for smooth shafted holdfasts.
      Thanks, Richard

  2. Paul Chapman

    Great tip, Richard. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Olly Parry-Jones

    Hi Richard and thank you for sharing this tip!

    Not only would I benefit from this myself (why did I buy that drill stand?!) but there are others I work with who might also find it useful.

    For spade bits (!), I imagine you could just cut away a lower section so that the ‘V’ only contacts the shank of the drill and not the cutting head.

    I reckon you should do a brief YouTube video on this! 😉

    • Richard

      Thanks Olly, when faced with something awkward I usually find it’s the simplest approach that works best, but then maybe I’m just lazy! 😉
      I’m pleased you like the tip, I may get around to doing a short video version some time.

      • Ned

        Efficiency is just organised laziness!

  4. Jonathan

    Brilliant! Much easier than using 2 upright squares. Of course you do need to cut that V accurately!

  5. Toby

    Very nice, and simple.

    You should do a series of videos.


  6. Jim Good

    Another question on round dog holes along the front edge for use with an end vice: It seems you make them perpendicular rather than slightly angled, as you would with square dog holes (3 degrees is what I’ve seen recommended).

    So, no slight angle on the front/round set of dog holes, but just straight down, right? I’m building a bench now and this would be helpful to know.


    • mike murray

      Hi Jim,
      If I can sneak in here and offer some info… I think straight down (90º) is correct for round dogs. I found a nice speedbore bit for drilling the 3/4″ dog holes. Just have to ease up on the down pressure before it comes clear of the backside on softer woods. It didn’t seem to tear out the wood fibers very bad that way. Richard’s V-block for keeping the bit at 90º is a nice think to have and use. Best of luck with your bench project.

  7. frank

    leg vice, face vice, tail vice -what the!
    I hope they do not use these on people or animals.

  8. Carla Schroder

    Not only do I get a great education in woodworking here, you expand my vocabulary in every post. Wangy 🙂 Also, being easily amused by words has a practical value– I will always remember “butt the chock”.


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