Pen Blank Drilling Chuck

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TurnKC

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Aug 17, 2018
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Hello! First post here and a new turner as well. I don’t have a drill press yet so I am using a dedicated drill chuck on my lathe and I’m not that impressed so far. The drill bit (Fisch) seems to wobble when it gets to the blank and the opening at the end of the blank could be 1/8 bigger than the other end. Am I doing something wrong? Any tips or better way to do this? Thanks!


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Dehn0045

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Your setup is unclear to me, is the drill bit spinning or the blank?

I use a 4-jaw chuck to hold the blank at the headstock (so the blank spins). I have never heard of anyone doing it the other way around, though I suppose it is possible. If using a chuck to hold the blank it is critical that the blank is mounted parallel to the bit. One way to help get this right is to turn the blank round first, "pen jaws" for the chuck can help for square cut blanks.

Beware that Jacobs chucks can fall out, which can be dangerous. For this reason I would be very hesitant to put the drill bit on the headstock side (www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BChWGvqgeM). I also hold the chuck in the tailstock as I advance. I personally prefer to stop the lathe when I retract, I feel this generates less heat.

I know that some guys do not mount the bit in the tailstock, they just insert the bit by hand. I prefer mounting in the tailstock just because I am more comfortable with it and have not seen a need to change.

Lastly, I prefer using standard twist drill bits compared to the brad point, I feel I get less drift. Sometimes the standard jobber length is too short (usually only for "modified styles").
 
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Shock me

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Boerne, TX
I don't read the OP to be saying that the drill chuck is on the headstock, I'm assuming he's doing it the conventional way with the drill chuck on the tail stock while the blank is affixed to the headstock and spinning.

He is correct, the drill bit does tend to wobble as the bit engages the blank and can indeed cause an oversized entrance hole. There is also often a bit of play in the tailstock as it is locked against the bed.

My approach (which I certainly didnt come up with on my own, and I think is standard) is to begin by drilling a smaller hole with a dedicated stub bit. I bring the tailstock up to the point where the bit barely touches the blank and lock the tailstock down. I start the lathe and extend the quill of the tailstock until my starter hole is drilled. Withdraw the tailstock and replace the stub bit with the drill bit (the consensus does appear to be that brad points are nice in theory but inferior in practice), bring the tailstock back to engage the original hole, lock down and repeat by extending the quill. The presence of the starter hole reduces the wobble of the larger drill bit.
I usually drill only about 1/2" to 3/4" at a time, removing the drill bit to allow removal of the chips and cooling of the bit. I retract the quill and pull the tailstock back with the lathe off and once cooled, reinsert the drill bit to the depth of the already drilled hole, then turn on the lathe and extend the quill another 1/2 to 3/4". Fully reinserting the bit into the deepening hole keeps each subsequent advance coaxial.
 

acmaclaren

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Oct 28, 2012
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Seattle WA
I use the Dedicated Pen Blank Drilling Chuck from PSI to hold the blank. I use the Turners Select 1/2" Key Drill Chuck from Craft Supplies USA to hold the drill bit. I lock the blank in first. Then I lock in the drill bit. I slide the tailstock down as close to the blank as possible. From there I turn the lathe on and start drilling. I back out the drill bit after a few turns to clean it out. I turn off my lathe and slide the drill bit/tailstock into the hole until it stops. Then I start my lathe and continue to drill the rest of the blank. I've never experienced wobbles doing it this way.
 

MRDucks2

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Initially the Fisch bit worked well for me initially but I ended up having issues the more I used it. Same as you, enlarged entry hole, using the bit in a chuck on the talestock and the blank held in jaws on the head.

Ultimately, I stopped using the Fisch bit and my issues went away.

I am sure some have great success with them but once I found I could get better results with much, much lower cost bits I didn’t look back.

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Charlie_W

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Sterling, VA USA
Yup, longer bits can wander more and without a starter hole or dimple, the bit is subject to the grain of the blank. It will wander off a hard place in the grain and cut into the softer grain. I too use standard twist bits instead of the brad points.
The Brad point bits may be betteat flat grain drilling applications but is not my favorite for end grain.
If drilling a longer blank, either drill from both ends or drill with standard bit first and then switch to the longer bit to finish the drilling. Note that drilling from both ends works better with a true round blank instead of square.

As stated, tailstock play to the bed can be an issue. Also, when drilling, there can be play in the quill.
I use the point of a Skew and turn a dimple in the end of blanks to start the drill.
 

TurnKC

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Kansas City
Thank you everyone for your input! I look forward to trying some of these tips to see if I get better results!


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MRDucks2

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While I like the length and how quickly the Fisch bit clears, I wonder if how the flutes are cut somehow lessens the overall rigidity of the bit when drilling. Or is it just a length thing?


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leehljp

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I must have grown up with a different experience on drilling holes. I am not a "machinist" but know how to drill holes even in metal without it skating.

1. IF the chuck is in the tail stock, LOCK the tail stock down tight. Put a drill bit in it deep enough so that there is a good bite on the bit, and tighten good. With thumb and forefinger only, hold the bit fairly tight and see if you can wiggle it. If so, there is a problem somewhere mechanical. Look for it.

2. Add the blank to the head stock chuck. Tighten it. With thumb and forefinger, can you wiggle it? If so, then check to see of the blank is square. Work on getting the blank into the chuck and with enough pressure / tightness so that it does not wiggle with moderate pressure.

3. Pull the tailstock up and see if the tip of the bit lines up with the center of end of the blank.

4. Caveat: This does not work with some 300+ lb weight lifters. :biggrin: (Of course, - they can wiggle the whole lathe with their thumb and forefinger.)

5. IN most cases for me, I start drilling with high speed and very light touch feed - metal or wood and find that works on the (my Grizzly & Rikon) lathes too. But I will say that I have had years of experience.

I don't have the most expensive lathes, but it is not much different than a drill press. Learning to tighten, insert the bit deep enough into the chuck, check everything mechanical, lock down to keep things from moving BEFORE drilling is necessary. I have all kinds of bits and don't have a problem with holes getting started (on the lathe) where they need to be - because I tighten and check each part before drilling.

Don't assume that because the bit is in the chuck and is snug and that the tail stock is locked - that they are tight.
 
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greenacres2

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May 2, 2017
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Northwest IN
I use a set of pen jaws to hold the blank in the headstock, and a drill chuck in the tail stock, with generally good success. Assuming the set-up of the lathe is good to start with (do points mounted in both head & tail meet?), the closer the blank is to square or round the more accurate the hole. If not square, then rectangular (sides parallel to each other). If the blank starts with sides that are not parallel, as it spins the center moves. It would also be true if your chuck is not running true or holding the blanks true.

This can be best seen by purposely using an out of square blank, with a pencil mounted in the drill chuck. As the blank in the headstock is hand turned, the pencil will mark a small circle instead of a single point. Wouldn't take much of a wobble in the end of the blank to enlarge the entry hole, then as the drill deepens the effect of the eccentric turning gets less and less, so the far end of the blank is the size it should be.

(i've learned this because my cure heat when stabilizing is usually too high--so i'm pushing juice out and too lazy to true the blanks. After ruining a few nice ones--if i have a blank that has an uneven layer of juice on the outside, i turn it round between centers then drill it. I was going to turn that part off any way--so no point in ruining a piece of wood that has only been created once in all of eternity!!)

Hope that made sense, and helps. Now that i've figured it out for me--my drilling tolerances are much much better.
earl
 

KenB259

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Dec 24, 2017
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Michigan
I also drill on my lathe. I have so much better lock by NOT pre marking a center point. If I don’t get it marked dead center than the drill tends to want to wobble. I just start the drill into the blank very slowly until the bit finds it’s center. From that point I can speed up a little. Ive been doing that way quite awhile and I never have any issues. I do have a couple Fisch bits, no problems with them.


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monophoto

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Mar 13, 2010
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Saratoga Springs, NY
I started out drilling on a drill press using a jorgensen clamp as a vise. That worked reasonably well. Later I switched to drilling on the lathe, mounting the blank between centers to turn a tenon on one end that could be gripped in a 4-jaw scroll chuck for drilling. That also worked reasonably well.

Later, I started making so-called '12-cent pens' - redressing BIC refills to make nice giveaway pens. That introduced two new challenges - drilling a blind hole about 5" deep (requires an 'aircraft style' bit that is 5" long), and the hole is very small so the bit is very flexible.

The one problem with using a 4-jaw chuck to grip a tenon is that the contact area between the blank and the chuck is very small, so the blank can flex in the chuck. That means three complicating factors - flexing where the chuck grips the blank, flexing of the drill bit itself, and drilling a deep hole that wants to wander off axis as the bit encounters variations in timber hardness at growth rings.

I found that a way to minimize the problem with flexing where the chuck grips the tenon is to turn the blank down to a cylinder that can be mounted in a collet chuck. A collet chuck gives a better grip on the blank and at least minimizes one of those complications. .

This method can also be used for kit pens that require larger holes.

The blank is eventually going to be turned into a cylinder, so starting that process before drilling the hole really isn't any additional work. A collet provides a very good grip, especially if the blank is pushed pretty far into the collet so that it is gripping more toward the center of the blank's length.
 
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