Blank Drilling

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RGVPens

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Oct 4, 2021
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How do most of you prefer to drill blanks...lathe or drill press?

If I use the lathe I need to get the chucks. If I use the drill press I need to get a drill vise and some kind of blank holder, and find a place to put the drill press...lol.
So at the moment it doesn't matter to me. But I would think the lathe would center the hole better...if it makes a difference.
 
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Cwalker935

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May 18, 2014
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Nothing special, I bought the large Harbor Freight set and drill at a slow speed. They also sell a cheap jacobs chuck. Acrylics will melt and stick to your bit if you drill at a high speed.
 

rfas

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Jun 18, 2021
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Orange County, CA
I started out drilling on the drill press. I just made a simple blank holder out of plywood scraps - basically glued a couple pieces up to a plywood base in a “T” shape and clamped the blank to that. The trouble I had is my drill press doesn’t have enough throw to drill throuh the longer blanks, so I’d have to drill part way down and crank the table up a little to get all the way through. It wasn’t ideal at all. Ended up buying the Penn State drill chuck and a Jacobs chuck and I like that much better. Also bought a set of brad point bits in both imperial and metric. The brad points work well on both wood and acrylic. I drill somewhere between 500 - 600 rpm and it works great. Far easier to control than a drill press in my opinion.
 

qquake

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Feb 8, 2004
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Northern California
The vast majority of the time I use the drill press, for both acrylic and wood. My drill press has t-slots in the table, so I use t-nuts with studs to hold the vise down. The only time I drill on the lathe, is with blanks that are center critical, like thin line. To me it's a hassle to drill on the lathe, and is usually not necessary. I don't use any special drill bits, just a combination of brad point and regular colbalt.
 

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RGVPens

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Oct 4, 2021
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Mission TX
I started out drilling on the drill press. I just made a simple blank holder out of plywood scraps - basically glued a couple pieces up to a plywood base in a “T” shape and clamped the blank to that. The trouble I had is my drill press doesn’t have enough throw to drill throuh the longer blanks, so I’d have to drill part way down and crank the table up a little to get all the way through. It wasn’t ideal at all. Ended up buying the Penn State drill chuck and a Jacobs chuck and I like that much better. Also bought a set of brad point bits in both imperial and metric. The brad points work well on both wood and acrylic. I drill somewhere between 500 - 600 rpm and it works great. Far easier to control than a drill press in my opinion.
That's a good point. I'll have to check the throw of my drill press.
I've seen more of a torpedo shaped drill bit for acrylics, claims it doesn't blow out the bottom as easy...??
 

RGVPens

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OK....That's settled! I checked my benchtop drill press, as rfas mentioned...thanks, and saw that I only have 2" of "throw". It's always worked fine for my scroll saw stuff, drilling pilot holes mostly. Since I've never drilled a pen blank yet, I guess it never occurred to me.
Trying to move the table after drilling a partial hole doesn't sound like the most accurate way, and a real pain on a regular basis. So I'll get the chucks and drill on the lathe as I don't need a bigger drill press for anything else.

I love these forums! As with some scroll saw forums I'm in, someone asks a question or mentions something that happened with them and bingo...the light goes on and problem solved!!
Thanks!
 

WriteON

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Aug 21, 2013
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Boynton Beach ,Fl. - BlueBell, Pa.
Lathe drilling It works. The chuck
& Jacobs fixed chuck are good for other projects. As for bits….don’t have to be expensive or fancy… sharp bits are you’re best friend. I have a friend that scrolls if I want to learn. I came close to buying the Ssaw from Bearwoods. For now I have no room for it…And secondly no idea what to do with finished items. I need another room… and I need another machine like a snail needs air brakes
 
Last edited:

its_virgil

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Jan 1, 2004
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Wichita Falls, TX, USA.
OK....That's settled! I checked my benchtop drill press, as rfas mentioned...thanks, and saw that I only have 2" of "throw". It's always worked fine for my scroll saw stuff, drilling pilot holes mostly. Since I've never drilled a pen blank yet, I guess it never occurred to me.
Trying to move the table after drilling a partial hole doesn't sound like the most accurate way, and a real pain on a regular basis. So I'll get the chucks and drill on the lathe as I don't need a bigger drill press for anything else.

I love these forums! As with some scroll saw forums I'm in, someone asks a question or mentions something that happened with them and bingo...the light goes on and problem solved!!
Thanks!
Don't raise the table...raise the pen blank vise and slide a short section of a 2x4 underneath.

Drilling on the lathe is much better.
 

egnald

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Jun 9, 2017
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Columbus, Nebraska, USA
I've seen more of a torpedo shaped drill bit for acrylics, claims it doesn't blow out the bottom as easy...??
Regarding the bits made for plastics. In my 35 year stint as an engineer, manager, and director, I was always tied closely to a machine shop in one capacity or another. That's where I learned about all kinds of specialized drill bits for different kinds of materials including plastics.

For plexiglass or polycarbonate (plastic) materials we always used drills that were ground specifically for drilling plastics. As you stated, the tip of the bit was ground to a sharper point (usually 90 degrees) as compared with standard drills (usually 118 or 135 degrees). They also had zero degree rake angles and a 10 degree (or so) lip angle.

The sharper point allows for a more gradual penetration in the plastic which helps reduce friction and provides less "bite" which helps reduce cracking, chipping, and heat buildup which can be very detrimental to drilling plastics. Drilling generates more heat than in most all other machining processes.

Deep hole drilling in plastics requires "peck drilling" to remove chips and to provide heat dissipation. The rule of thumb was that the depth for each "peck" was no more than 4 times the diameter of the hole being drilled. Improper chip ejection is the number one cause of the heat buildup that causes cracking, melting, and dimensional instability (which usually shows up as an undersized hole). One other tip is to reduce the feed rate when the drill gets close to exiting the material to help prevent blowouts and chip-outs.

That being said, many people, including myself, have been successful drilling plastic blanks with standard 135 degree high speed steel bits, and I still use them occasionally but mostly for one-off's. For many of the pen drill sizes that I use frequently, I have invested in bits made especially for drilling plastics. I get mine from McMaster-Carr. They are available in standard "inch", metric, and "letter" drill sizes. For example, I have a 10mm (0.394 inch), an "X" (0.397 inch), and a "Y" (0.404 inch) so I can tweak the hole size if needed for 10mm tubes.

Regards,
Dave
 

jrista

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Aug 12, 2021
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Colorado
Don't raise the table...raise the pen blank vise and slide a short section of a 2x4 underneath.

Drilling on the lathe is much better.

If you are doing a lot of pens, drilling on the lathe tends to be slower, as extracting the bit is a lot more effort. Between clearing the flutes and the final extraction of the bit, it can extend the time to drill a lot of blanks by quite a lot. On the other hand, with a press, once you align the pen vise, you can drill a ton of blanks in pretty short order...

So, I think it depends on what you are doing. As Jim mentioned, if dead centered drilling is essential, as with thin line blanks, the lathe may be easier to get that perfect centering, and for single blanks here and there, but for speed when drilling a lot of blanks in short order, I think a press is the more effective tool.
 
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