Laser guided drilling

Laser_guide_1

Yes, I use an electric drill.  This one has enough torque to break your wrist and as long as you have a source of 120V, it’s fantastic.

Last summer I learned a handy technique for free hand drilling and reaming from Greg Pennington.  It has taken me a while to replicate his setup, but I have it now.  I don’t own a drill press (anymore), but these two lasers make it possible for me to free hand drill holes with impressive accuracy.

Laser_guide_2

Twin guides.  Put them 90 degrees apart and you can accurately produce holes at any angle.  I made mine from scraps, but here are a few ideas to guide your own designs.

  • Make the base heavy to prevent them from toppling in use.
  • Make the guide tall enough that the lasers will wrap around the end of your drill.  I would make these another inch or two taller if I made them again.
  • The big wheel on the back is for angular adjustments.  Making the wheel big actually makes small adjustments easier.  Try it.
  • These lasers have magnets on the bottom, so attaching them to the stand is easy with a washer glued to the platform.

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“Calibrating” the drill

After the guides are made, it is time to “calibrate” your drill(s).  This means drawing lines on the drill that align with the axis of the chuck.  These lines will be the targets for the lasers.  To get an accurate alignment I chucked up a long section of 1/4 inch rod.  This gives a long reference for the center of the chuck.  I then aligned a laser to the center of that rod along its length and projected the line down the drill.  See the laser lighting up the center of the rod? That alignment took some time and patience.

Marking a clear line on the drill motor is another challenge.  I had a hard time finding a marker that would leave a fine, contrasting mark on the plastic surfaces of the drill.  After a few failures of pens and markers, a white gel pen from a massive internet based commerce did the trick.

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“X” marks the spot.  Notice the white lines from my gel pen vs. the laser lines. 

Here is a first person view of the goal – lasers that intersect your calibration lines (I’m off a little because I’m holding the camera).   With any luck, I’ll demonstrate how these are used to drill mortises in the bottom of chair seats, but it’s not quite time for that yet.

Bob Jones

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