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Old 05-12-2018, 11:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Eau Claire, Wisconsin
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Default New to wood turning.

Hi. I am new to wood turning. I saw some You Tube videos about pen turning. I was intrigued so I bought a small lathe and the basic pen making supplies. I haven't been able to turn a pen yet because I haven't been able to successfully drill out a pen blank. I have a small 8in drill press. Its drilling depth is just a shade under 2in. I've been cutting my blanks in half because I thought that's what I was supposed to do. The problem is that the two halves are closer to 2.5in. I can adjust the table up and down a bit and I can drill through the blank with some work but the hole is significantly off of center on the bottom side. Is there a neat trick to doing this that I'm not aware of? Or, do I just need to get a bigger drill press? Additionally, I don't have a dedicated jig to put my blanks in for drilling. Right now I'm using a 3in drill vise. Getting the blanks to stand straight is a challenge. I'm certainly open to any help, ideas, and suggestions anyone would be willing to offer. Thanks for your time!
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Old 05-12-2018, 11:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Have you checked that your drill press table and the drill bit are square? I was having this issue with an import (inexpensive) drill press. Found that it is adjustable from side to side, but the chuck and table were not square front to back. I had to build a drill press table and shim it up in the back to get it square. Doesn't sound like you have the room to add a table though and still drill to depth.

Something that might help with depth would be to insert the drill bit completely into the chuck and drill as far as possible. Then leave the bit in the blank and let the bit out a bit and continue drilling. Not sure if that makes sense, but it could allow you to gain the extra length needed to get through the blank.
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Old 05-13-2018, 09:50 AM   #3 (permalink)
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First, cut your blanks to length, plus a little wiggle room. Make sure your spindle on your press is perfectly perpendicular to the table. When you clamp your blank in the vice in your drill press, use a square to ensure everything is tits on. If your blank is too long to drill in one go, drill as far as your press will allow. Then shut off the drill, move the table/vice/blank up, so that the bit is in the blank. Then you can switch the press back on and drill the rest of the way through. Don't forget to make sure when you break through your blank your bit is going through the hole into the table, otherwise you're going to trash your drill bits.
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Old 05-13-2018, 11:25 AM   #4 (permalink)
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It doesn’t matter if the hole doesn’t come out the other end centered unless you are drilling a segmented or other special blank. After you drill and glue in the tube you will square the ends to the tube anyway. As long as there is enough wood around the tube for the pen you are OK.

My drill press doesn’t have enough travel for many blanks either. I hold the blank in a cheap Harbor Freight DP vise and drill as far as I can. Turn off the DP without removing anything, loosen the vise a bit, slide the blank up, tighten the vise and keep drilling. As long as the drill bit comes out the bottom and not the side I’m good.
West Henrietta, NY
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Old 05-13-2018, 02:05 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Welcome John.

Lots of good information and helpful people here.

You "can" use that drill but it takes knowing how to get around the issues. Harbor Freight has some fairly good buys with 2 1/2" quill travel. Another option is to buy a drill chuck with the right MT for your lathe. Many people drill on their lathe.
Hank Lee

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Old 05-14-2018, 05:43 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default keep your blank vertical and stable

What you should do most is to stabilize the blank with a vise or similar fixture and keep the blank vertical.
If you donít have friends in your life, itís like thereís no sunshine in your life.
China & Quality Pen Turning Supplies
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Old 05-14-2018, 08:48 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Hi John. I had the same problem with my DP and here's what I did to correct it. It works great now and I can drill some pretty deep holes and even if I have to swap the blank end to end I still get a straight hole. PSI has a drill guide (DRILLCENT3) that I bought and attached a small square piece of wood to the bottom. To center the pen blank on the drill guide I use a 3/8" drill bit that is set in the drill chuck then I attach the drill guide to the drill bit that is attached to the DP chuck. I then lower the drill guide onto my DP vice and set the jaws after aligning everything. Then you can drill away and as long as you leave the drill guide in the same position you can drill many blanks. I'd like to take credit for this idea but PSI tells you how to do this, my add on to the article is the piece of wood attached to the bottom of the drill guide. Sorry if this doesn't make sense but I'm a pictures kind of guy, show me a picture of something and I can figure it out, tell me how to do it and I'm all thumbs.
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Old 05-14-2018, 09:20 AM   #8 (permalink)
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+1 for JimB's comment. As long as you have enough material thickness it doesn't need to be perfectly centered.

If you need a cheap drill vise you can make one out of a handscrew.
pen vise
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Old 05-14-2018, 11:13 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I still have a too short stroke drill press (after 20+years!) What I do is drill full stroke, turn off drill press, lift the vise up sliding the blank up the bit and slide a 1x4 under the vise, then continue drilling. Has worked this long :)
Paul in OKC, OK

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Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..........
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Old 05-14-2018, 03:03 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Paul in OKC View Post
I still have a too short stroke drill press (after 20+years!) What I do is drill full stroke, turn off drill press, lift the vise up sliding the blank up the bit and slide a 1x4 under the vise, then continue drilling. Has worked this long :)
Thanks for saving the typing time for me, Paul. I started using this process too. Having moved to making custom (kitless) pens, moving the tailstock with the drill bit in it is an every day occurrence. Try Paul's method!
Gregory Hardy
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