Drilling a Center Hole: Complete and Utter Newbie

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ekeogh

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Jun 14, 2020
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Massachusetts, USA
Thank you for add to this pen turning source.

I have to admit I purchased my first ever lathe yesterday and dropped a decent amount of money on a Rockler mini lathe and all the accessories I thought I need for pen turning including a center & pen vice jig.

Let me start of by detailing my journey this far. I purchased a Rockler(USA) model Mini lathe 10 x 18 1/2HP machine and it is real sturdy-at over 85lbs. I received a spur center and a ball bearing live center. (no chuck).

The problem that I am having is that I cannot get a cocentric hole, I do own a benchtop drill press from WEN and tried using that as that was one of the reason I purchased a center & vice jig but the jig is so tall I am running out of room to fit the jig and the pen blank to drill the hole, so after doing some research i decided to use the lathe to achieve the center hole and thats when I realized that I didnt receive a chuck with MT2 taper to fit in the tailstock of the lathe, so off I went to purchase the 1/2" chuck when I got home I installed the chuck into the tail stock end thinking I was going to get a nice centered hole when I realized that when I put the pen blank on the spur center on the other side of the lathe the pen blank just stayed still and didnt turn at all when I turned the machine on.

I really cant afford to spend any more money on this as I have already spent alot.

What options are open for me, I am almost giving up at this point, if I cannot drill a centered hole for the pen then whats the point, I really do want to learn how to use the lathe but at every junction im getting road blocks.
 
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More4dan

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You have a couple options. You can precut your blank for the pen you are making, giving you some more room on your drill press. You can get Jobber length bits that are shorter. For drilling on the lathe. you will need something to hold the blank when drilling. Here is a very low cost option ($20): https://taigtools.com/product/4-jaw-3-1-4-dia-self-centering-scroll-chuck-1-8-thread/

Not ideal but doesn't break the bank. I prefer drilling on the lathe. Another option is to first turn the blank round using your two centers and use a collet chuck to hold the blank for drilling. Here is a low cost option for one that should fit your lathe. You can start with a single collet for holding your blanks for drilling and add more in the future if you want to make kitless pens.

 
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This is what I use from PSI but I'm sure other vendors have the same item. It's not cheap at $90.00 but it will get your holes straight and centered. Before I bought this chuck I used to oversize my blank to allow for it to be off center. If it called for a 5/8" square blank I would always kick it up to 3/4" or 7/8". That way if the hole isn't down the center you have extra meat on the blank. You'll also need a drill bit chuck on the tail stock, just an fyi.

Dedicated Pen Blank Drilling Chuck
#CSCPENCHK | In stock, Ready to ship!
 

ekeogh

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Jun 14, 2020
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Massachusetts, USA
You have a couple options. You can precut your blank for the pen you are making, giving you some more room on your drill press. You can get Jobber length bits that are shorter. For drilling on the lathe. you will need something to hold the blank when drilling. Here is a very low cost option ($20): https://taigtools.com/product/4-jaw-3-1-4-dia-self-centering-scroll-chuck-1-8-thread/

Not ideal but doesn't break the bank. I prefer drilling on the lathe. Another option is to first turn the blank round using your two centers and use a collet chuck to hold the blank for drilling. Here is a low cost option for one that should fit your lathe. You can start with a single collet for holding your blanks for drilling and add more in the future if you want to make kitless pens.


I am in the process of making a jig for the drill press basically a holding jig to keep to wooden blank square and plum to the drill bit on the drill press.. I will cut the blank in half and then drill both ... hope fully this will work I will eventually buy a NOVA Lathe chuck but I’m tapped out of funds right now

thanks for your advice
 

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magpens

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@ekeogh

Hi Ed, and a warm welcome to IAP !!! 😀

Whatever you do, don't give up !! . For every problem there is a solution !! . Hang in there !!

The best way to drill is on the lathe. . But you have to have the right headstock chuck for your lathe ... the NOVA might be the one but be careful in making your selection. . Having the right set of jaws for the chuck is also VERY important. . The jaws must be long enough to grip 2" of the blank or thereabouts.

I have found that getting the blank round, before drilling on the lathe, is the key step in getting the hole centered on the blank axis.

Turning between centers (TBC) is another key, both for getting the blank round and for doing the subsequent turning to final shape.
 
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ekeogh

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Massachusetts, USA
Check out a turning club near you, someone has a solution or a part you can borrow. Turners are very good at helping each other.

That’s a good idea but I prefer to be self sufficient and my solution searching is part of the reason I’m on this forum ... anyway I don’t like asking for someone to lend their tools as I don’t like to lend mine
 

Jarod888

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I understand you dont want to spend a lot more money, but you are going to need to spend some in order to turn pens.

You have 2 options.

1. Precut your blank to about 1/4 inch longer than the tube. Head back to rockler and return the fancy pen drilling vice. Use that money either towards a chuck, or save it. Pick up a wood screw clamp, rockler should have a mini size one. (Two wooden jaws with 2 screws that thread in from opposite sides).
When you get home, find a nice spot about 1/2 way between the end of the wood and the first screw on the clamp. With the jaws closed, draw small diamond shape between the jaws, essentially you want a small triangle on each jaw. The triangle only needs to be about 1/4 inch deep on each jaw. Using a small saw or band saw if you have one, cut out the trianglel from each wood screw face. You've just created a cheap and effective pen blank vice for your drill press. The clamp holds the blank square while drilling it.
Now place your blank in the diamond with the center of the blank facing up towards you. Draw a line from corner to corner on the blank. Where the two lines intersect is the center of the blank. Tighten the jaws of the clamp around the blank and ensure it is flush with the bottom of the clamp. Ensure you have a wooden backer board on you drill press table. (scrap plywood around the size of your drill press table). Position the clamp and blank under the drill bit, keeping the clamp free to move around. Once you've gotten the drill bit point centered on the x in the blank, clamp the clamp to your table, ensuring it doesnt move. Drill your hole. Some people prefer to us a brad point bit that is smaller than the required hole so they can line up the center lines easier, then without moving the blank, they switch to the final size drill bit, but for that you have to have an extra set of Brad point bits.
Repeat for the other blank, always ensuring that you are drilling from the center of the blank out to each end.

Your hole for your drill tube does not need to be perfectly straight. As long as there is at least 1/8 of an inch of wood all around the metal tube, you are fine. Turning the blank on the lathe will true it up.

Your second option is to purchase a chuck with a set of pen jaws. Chucks thread onto the spindle of the lathe. Im almost certain your rockler lathe uses a 1x8 spindle thread.

You do not want a morse taper 2 chuck. It wouldnt be safe to use, unless it was secured by a drawbar.

Your Drill chuck on the tail stock end will be a morse taper 2. When you are drilling, the piece spins on the lathe, not the drill bit. It is stationary, basically completely oppisite of how a drill press or hand drill works.

If you have more questions, send me a private message, (conversation). I'll be more than glad to help you along.

Dont give up, there is a steep learning curve with this, but it will pay dividends when you produce your first pen.
 

ekeogh

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Joined
Jun 14, 2020
Messages
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Location
Massachusetts, USA
I understand you dont want to spend a lot more money, but you are going to need to spend some in order to turn pens.

You have 2 options.

1. Precut your blank to about 1/4 inch longer than the tube. Head back to rockler and return the fancy pen drilling vice. Use that money either towards a chuck, or save it. Pick up a wood screw clamp, rockler should have a mini size one. (Two wooden jaws with 2 screws that thread in from opposite sides).
When you get home, find a nice spot about 1/2 way between the end of the wood and the first screw on the clamp. With the jaws closed, draw small diamond shape between the jaws, essentially you want a small triangle on each jaw. The triangle only needs to be about 1/4 inch deep on each jaw. Using a small saw or band saw if you have one, cut out the trianglel from each wood screw face. You've just created a cheap and effective pen blank vice for your drill press. The clamp holds the blank square while drilling it.
Now place your blank in the diamond with the center of the blank facing up towards you. Draw a line from corner to corner on the blank. Where the two lines intersect is the center of the blank. Tighten the jaws of the clamp around the blank and ensure it is flush with the bottom of the clamp. Ensure you have a wooden backer board on you drill press table. (scrap plywood around the size of your drill press table). Position the clamp and blank under the drill bit, keeping the clamp free to move around. Once you've gotten the drill bit point centered on the x in the blank, clamp the clamp to your table, ensuring it doesnt move. Drill your hole. Some people prefer to us a brad point bit that is smaller than the required hole so they can line up the center lines easier, then without moving the blank, they switch to the final size drill bit, but for that you have to have an extra set of Brad point bits.
Repeat for the other blank, always ensuring that you are drilling from the center of the blank out to each end.

Your hole for your drill tube does not need to be perfectly straight. As long as there is at least 1/8 of an inch of wood all around the metal tube, you are fine. Turning the blank on the lathe will true it up.

Your second option is to purchase a chuck with a set of pen jaws. Chucks thread onto the spindle of the lathe. Im almost certain your rockler lathe uses a 1x8 spindle thread.

You do not want a morse taper 2 chuck. It wouldnt be safe to use, unless it was secured by a drawbar.

Your Drill chuck on the tail stock end will be a morse taper 2. When you are drilling, the piece spins on the lathe, not the drill bit. It is stationary, basically completely oppisite of how a drill press or hand drill works.

If you have more questions, send me a private message, (conversation). I'll be more than glad to help you along.

Dont give up, there is a steep learning curve with this, but it will pay dividends when you produce your first pen.

Thanks so much for the advice , I actually have a jig that I made last night with the squares cut into it, I’m going to keep the center jig as it is a vice for assembling the pen I need this as I don’t currently have a vice I could use a clamp but since I have the vice I’ll keep it.. once the hole is cut I don’t need a pen chuck ( yet) but I will get one .. I understand that I need to-buy more accessories for the lath but can’t afford it yet .. I just want to be able to turn a pen and once I get paid again I’ll get the rest of what I need. There is a wealth of information on YouTube to helpas well which is where I got the idea of the jig I made (see below)

THANKS SO MUCH AGAIN I’ll use my jig tonight and see if I can get turning
 

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monophoto

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Ed

One of the things you will soon realize is that wood turning is a continuous series of problems for which you need solutions. For me, part of the fun comes from finding solutions to those challenges.

There are various solutions to your immediate problem (the one relating to drilling, not the one relating to availability of cash - - - ).

Many people drill blanks on a drill press, and as others have suggested, the best approach is to cut the blank to so that it is slightly longer than the pen tube before drilling. If you are working on a pen that has separate top and bottom sections, you should make a point of putting a lengthwise mark across the cut line before cutting the blank in half so that you can identify the cut end - after you turn and finish the two halves of the pen, you will want to assemble the pen so that the grain appears to be continuous across the gap between top and bottom. And be sure to always drill from the center (the cut) out to the ends of the blank - again to help assure that the grain matches when the two halves are later assembled.

A problem that you may encounter is that that the quill travel of your drill press is too short to be able to drill the hole in a single pass. The solution to that problem is to drill as far as you can, and then move the blank upwards onto the bit before completing the hole. You mentioned that you are making a jig to hold the blank while drilling. It's important that you NOT remove the blank from your jig when you move it upwards because getting the partial hole realigned with the drill bit will be a challenge. My solution is to keep a couple of scraps of '1-by' lumber (3/4" thick) next to my drill press. After drilling the partial hole, I slip a scrap of lumber under the jig to elevate it 3/4", and then continue drilling.

Another concern is that you can easily center the hole at the point where the bit enters the end of the blank, but it may not be exactly centered when it comes out the other end of the blank. That's OK (and that's why you always want to drill from the cut end of the blank sections) as long as there is enough meat surrounding the hole where the bit comes out to be able to turn the pen. That is, unless you are working with a glued-up blank (eg, making a pen with a celtic knot pattern), the hole doesn't have to be exactly centered over the length of the blank.

Incidentally, a simple way to make a drilling jig is to purchase an inexpensive 'Jorgensen clamp' (a wooden screw clamp) at Harbor freight. Close the jaws, then drill a 1" hole centered on the seam where the they come together. This will function just like the jig in your picture except that because the hole is round, it can accommodate a blank of any cross-sectional dimension, and the fact that you started with a screw clamp means that you can tighten the jaws to rigidly hold the blank while drilling. If you want to do this without drilling into the clamp itself, you can clue scraps of wood onto the inside faces of the jaws - or better yet, use double-stick tape to attach the scraps - and then drill the hole through those scraps.

As Tom mentioned, when you are drilling on the lathe, the blank would normally be held in a scroll chuck mounted to the headstock, and the drill bit would be in a jacobs chuck (like the one you bought) in the tailstock. However,there is a way to drill blanks without a scroll chuck (although this method is not ideal). You can mount your jacobs chuck in the headstock via it's Morse taper. Then, mark the approximate centers on both ends of the blank. As above, you want to cut the blank to length first, and if the pen requires that the blank be cut in half, you want the drill bit to enter from the cut end. Mount the blank between the drill bit and the point of your live center as though you are turning between centers. Using a wrench (a vice-grip would be ideal) to hold the blank, turn on the lathe and advance the tail stock to slowly push the stationary blank onto the spinning drill bit. As you approach the point where the bit will break through, stop and back off the tailstock - you don't want to force the tail stock point into the spinning drill bit. The blank will remain centered on the drill bit, and you can then complete the hole.
 
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