Drilling fine

While woodworking often doesn’t require extremely fine and/or accurate holes, there are times when a fine set of drill bits would be very handy, and when it comes to fine bits, they don’t get much finer than these sets from Zona Tool.  They are supplied in Australia by Professional Woodworkers Supplies.


Whether you are model making, making jewellery, working with wood, metal, plastic, glass, ceramic, even stone, the ability to drill incredibly tiny holes is achievable.

But what do I mean by fine? How about 0.3mm to 1mm in 0.05mm steps (then from 1 to 1.5mm in 0.1mm steps)?  0.3mm, or 300µm.  Sure, that doesn’t sound too small when talking about sanding, where we are working with particle sizes in the 10s of microns (or less), but these are drill bits we are talking about!

To put it in scale, consider the humble Australian dollar coin.  It may not be angels dancing on the head of a pin, but here are the three finest drill bits in comparison.


Of course you won’t be mounting these bits in your standard power drill!  So in the first photo, you can also see a couple of bit holders/drivers from Zona as well.  One is double ended for larger and smaller bits, the other is a twist-drive, which can hold the finest bits.  None of these are particularly expensive either, with the drill bit set around $25.

They are available in metric and imperial, and interestingly, the blue box above are diamond coated bits, which is why glass, stone, ceramic etc are also able to be drilled with this precision.

Now while talking about sanding, PWS also have sanding/polishing sheets that go from 30µm, down to a miniscule 1µm.  That is the same particle size as the extra-extra fine diamond stone from DMT.

Zona-2That is so fine, you can use these to polish out scratches on CDs and DVDs. (Let alone achieve a mirror finish on an object).

1µm. 6 times smaller than an anthrax spore. Around P8000 sandpaper!  If that isn’t smooth enough, you have a real problem!

SSYTC048 Who says drill bits are boring?

Some can do more…..

Where it comes to the reasons for drilling holes, the reasons can be many, and varied – I’m sure you can think of dozens of reasons without me making a list.

One of those reasons is as a pilot hole for screws.  This can be to prevent the timber splitting from having a screw boring in, pushing the timber aside to the point that the surrounding timber cannot withstand the pressure. Some timbers being a lot more susceptible than others.  Alternately, (and not necessarily exclusively), it can be because the force required to drive the screw into the timber is more than the screw’s torsional strength.  We’ve all had screw heads shear off, or the driver cam-out, burring the head.



What happens to the head of the screw is what we are talking about here.  After drilling a pilot hole, the screw head can be treated a number of ways.  If it is a dome or similar, it is designed to sit proud of the surface, so job done.  But often that is not the case, or desirable.  You can drive the screw home, then push a bit further, to have the head pulled into the timber.  Works in some cases, but can lead to an unsightly crush zone around the head, or if the timber is not strong enough, you can destroy the wooden thread you have just cut with the screw and then you might as well have used a nail for all the strength you’ve gotten.  If the timber is too dense, you can again burr the drive or the screw head.

The solution is to countersink.  This is normally a two stage operation – after drilling the hole, you then pick up you countersink tool to create the recess for the screw.  These can be used with a drill, or like the old Triton countersink, be done with a handtool.

counter_sink_Weldon HLLXCW10


In the past, I have been known to pick up a second drill bit that is the diameter of the screw head, and use that to create the countersink.

If you have a lot to do, drilling the pilot hole and countersinking in one step saves a lot of time.  There are a few bits on the market that can achieve this, such as this one from Amana Tool

countersink-photoPhoto 17-06-13 22 24 30

These are drill bits, fitted into a holder with carbide tipped countersink.  You can drill and countersink to your heart’s content.  Even if the drill bit blunts or breaks, it can be easily replaced and the carbide countersink will keep on cutting.

These are much more convenient than the two step operation, and in a CNC machine, depth is controlled by the program, not by the human user.  Where you are using them free-hand, it can be easy to be a bit inconsistent in hole depth, so the screw is a still a little proud, or becomes fully recessed below the surface (and the countersunk area is a larger diameter than is necessary).  If your intention is to fully bury the screw, then fill the resulting hole with a flush-cut dowel, then no problem – the inconsistent depth is a non-issue.

But what about using them freehand (as in handheld drill), when you do want the depth consistent (which would be a majority of the time I’d hesitate to say)?

For the rare few with a surviving Triton drill, you are fine – very comprehensive, built in depth stop.


For the rest, well Amana Tool has a solution for you.  Build an adjustable depth stop into the countersink bit.  What’s more, ensure that it can be adjusted independently of setting the drill bit length/replacement of drill bit.

55234Photo 17-06-13 22 23 10The depth stop has quite a range, so you can set it anywhere between having the countersink just cut the surface for the smallest screw head (and less), right through to being able to fully recess the screw head below the surface.  Obviously, because you have that range you can cater for a number of different diameter heads, and different thicknesses.

Plenty of chip clearance as you can see, and the hex bolt in the photo above is the height adjustment.

This gives you great consistency, hole after hole without having to use the eyechrometer, or having a piece of tape stuck to the bit as a crude depth stop.

drill-bit-tapeHowever, you do have to consider the material you are drilling into – will it be affected by the spinning depth stop – be this any scratches, or heat effects from the friction?  You could use tape or similar where the hole will be drilled, even a moveable thin plastic plate with an oversized hole in the right place, and compensate for this extra thickness in the height adjustment.  That would be pretty effective.

Or you could get the non-marring carbide tipped countersinking with adjustable depth stop and thrust bearing bit from Amana Tool.  Ok, it is not quite called that, but that describes the bit pretty well.  Just call it the No-Mar Countersink 🙂

nomar-countersinksPhoto 17-06-13 22 22 14 Photo 17-06-13 22 21 53

So what do we have here?  Well it is a carbide-tipped countersink.  It has an adjustable depth stop.  The depth-stop is free-spinning on a thrust bearing, and it has chip clearance and the ability to adjust the depth stop independently of the drill bit. If you look closely at the final picture above, you can see a semicircle just to the left, and behind the bit.  That was caused by the previous height-adjustable countersink.

This one, as the depth-stop touches the surface, the depth-stop stops spinning minimising the amount of friction heat and scratches in the surface.  You could again go one step further, and carefully hold the depth stop so it isn’t spinning even when it touches the surface, but just keep fingers clear of the bit.

So that’s it, a range of countersinks, Amana Tool brand from Toolstoday.com

Photo 17-06-13 22 26 05If you want to see them in action, I even shot a quick video for you. Don’t shoot me on the quality of photos or video – circumstances are still very much in flux (resolving soon, knock on wood) 😉  Drill is the Festool CXS btw.

SSYTC048 Who says drill bits are boring?

Driving Miss Daisy

I have now had the Festool CXS Cordless drill/driver for 6 months now (give or take a week) so it is worth a revisit.


I have been using the CXS extensively in that period, both while getting the old place ready, and since moving into the new one, so have really had a chance to experience its features, capabilities and limitations.

To start, I have heard criticism that this is just a screwdriver.  Of course it is, and no it isn’t on so many levels.  But this will come out as we progress.

The CXS is pretty light – not as much as one of those powered screwdrivers, but then they don’t have the range of features on offer.  I initially took the clip off (comes off easily once the battery is removed), but have since reinstated it.  It doesn’t interfere when you are not needing or using it, and particularly useful when you do.  It is able to be placed on either the left or the right, so a matter of personal preference.

The battery has an impressive longevity, and you can complete a lot of jobs before needing a recharge.  Even so, it comes with a second Li-Ion battery for when the drill stops drilling, and the light flashes (indicating the battery is finally flat).  The charger takes about 20 minutes, so if diligent about charging your battery when it does run down, you’d be hard-pressed to find yourself short.

The front of the CXS has two slots that look like they are there for a bit of styling.  That may be the case, but they are also magnetic to hold an alternate bit (or 4), or the next screw or two.  Above that is a small light, which as previously mentioned indicates when the battery has run down.  The real reason for its existence is to illuminate the are just in front of the drill, particularly useful when working in confined spaces.

To the main function – drilling, and driving.  This isn’t an impact driver, so has no where near the maximum torque of those devices, but there again, that is often a lot of overkill (ideally, your toolbox would have both).  The Centrotec driver holder is not very useful if you don’t have a set of Centrotec bits.  Still, I use the holder as it is easy to rapidly interchange the different heads using the FastFix system.  If you want to fit a traditional hex bit and not use the magnetic extension supplied, you can remove all the heads, and insert the bit directly into the shaft.  Also a method to reduce overall length if you need to get into a confined space.

The drill chuck is also easy to interchange (also FastFix), so it isn’t too much of a hassle to switch between drill bit (for a pilot hole) and the driver.  It is limited to a maximum of 8mm, which seems a bit low.  However, I can understand the rationale behind this – larger will start to push the overall capacity of the driver.  It can still manage drill bits up to 12mm in wood, so long as they have a smaller shaft at the end (bits like this are readily available).  This is not a high-torque tool, and you can find its limit.  The advantage of an electronic motor is it senses the load, and will cut out when it hits the max.  Unlike my last drill, you can’t burn this one out by overloading it!

The shaft autolocks when doing toolless bit changing.  About the only frustration is if you remove the chuck without removing the drill bit – not a big deal, but you can’t remove the drill bit when the chuck is not attached!

You won’t use it as much, but that right-angle adapter is genius when you need it.  Fit either driver bits or the drill chuck to the end, to be able to reach in and around, and still deliver the bit to the work.  Very clever, much quieter than expected, and when you need it, you’ll love having it.

There are 12 torque settings (I rarely remember to use), and two speed settings on the gearbox.

Around this place, I have already forgotten the number of jobs I have used the CXS for.  Drilling and screwing a gate together (metal frame, self tapping screws), building (or reassembing) a bunch of Ikea furniture, and attaching various units to the wall, building a cat run (self-tapping metal screws), and I can’t remember what else – it has almost become a permanent attachment!

So the positives and negatives.

Convenient size and weight (900g)
Able to reach where others cannot
Great battery life and quick recharge
Comfortable ergonomics
Variable speed and torque (although would have preferred a bit more)
Drills and drives. Having additional Centrotec bits would be a real benefit.

Bottom line – having now experienced one for a decent run, would I want one if I didn’t have the one I currently have?  You bet.  I enjoy using this tool  It feels right, it works right  It is spot on for the job it was designed to do.  I love that it comes in a Systainer, not that it gets to see its home very often!

Have a chat to Anthony from Ideal Tools if you want one too. (My Festool supplier of choice 🙂 )

Hard Yards

In the next day or so, issue 2, 2013 of ManSpace will be on the shelves


No idea how I managed to get my articles across the line for this issue – those were some hard yards!  I’d just finished a major evolution at work (relocating about 550 staff and students in a major building reorganisation), and then as I was writing the articles themselves I was physically packing and moving house.

My articles in the current issue include:

Sharpening Drill Bits (3 pages), looking at the Drill Doctor vs the Tormek w DBS jig

Nova Comet II Lathe (2 pages)

6 Step Project – creating a kid’s blackboard (3 pages)

Let me know what you think of them!

For those who cannot get ManSpace, along with their Facebook page, they now have their website up and running ManSpace.

If you go into “In the Shed”, then “Tips and Tricks”, you will find 9 articles I wrote for previous issues. (The deck article is not one of mine!)


Ready for the next revolution?

With the addition of the DVR motor to the lathe, it was transformed into a stunning machine, powerful, energy efficient, futuristic even.

So the next revolution? (Sorry about the pun!)

Teknatool are developing a DVR drill press!

No more belts, pulley slippage, belt vibration.  No more bogging down of a drill bit as the bit meets resistance and because of the pulley ratios, the motor is stalled.

The ability to easily tilt the drill head over and angle it to the workpiece which is maintained on a flat surface, rather than having to angle the workpiece to a fixed head.  I know there are some drill presses that can achieve this, but few and far between.

Instead of drilling a hole at whatever speed that the drill press is set for (and just how often do we change the belt speed for a single hole)? you’d have no excuse not to dial in exactly the right speed, each and every time. It is going to be a great drillpress!


Thinking about it, with the motor onboard the head (direct drive), then the plunge mechanism moves the whole lot – chuck and motor combined.  There is no limit then to the amount of plunge that is available.

DVR Drillpress

DVR Drillpress

Looking forward to seeing the DVR motor included on other machines – thicknessers, saw tables, bandsaws etc.  Instead of a router mounted under a router table, how about a DVR motor?  Seriously awesome!

Knuckling Under

Being able to firmly secure a workpiece down significantly improves both accuracy and safety.  There are lots of different clamps on the market that engage with the working surface, and work with varying degrees of success.

The knuckle clamp from Woodpeckers is an innovative approach (as is typical for them!), using a reinforced polycarbonate body with seven pivot points to maximise the capacity of the clamp.  Either end of the body is a pivoting foot to ensure the clamp makes maximum purchase on the working surface, and the workpiece.

Clamping down the workpiece

Clamping down the workpiece

The clamp also utilises the Woodpeckers Multi-knob, which makes gripping the knob and tensioning it up easy.  Not sure just how much load the clamp can take, bit it certainly provided more than enough for the test job here.  They are said to be virtually indestructible, but I didn’t want to risk destroying the ones I had to prove the point!  You can use Knuckle Clamps on all sorts of tools and jigs (homemade and otherwise) which have T track slots. In this case I chose to use the clamps on the Pro Drill Press table from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  It would work equally as well on other items such as the router table, Incra Mitre Express, the T slots on a Torque Workcentre, and any homemade jigs that you have incorporated T slots.

Work holddown

Work holddown

As a bit of a test for the clamps, I decided to try a partial-width drill with a forstner bit.  Should prove a pretty good test of the hold capability of the clamp.

Partial width forstner bit hole

Partial width forstner bit hole

Clamps held well, without any suggestion of a kickback.  Didn’t know you could even do this with a forstner bit, especially when the central pin was not in contact with the work.  Something you must not do with a forstner bit mounted in a handheld drill – the risk of a kickback is too great.  On the drill press this is achievable, but you must keep hands well away.

Preset Clamp Height

Preset Clamp Height

The clamps can be preset, both in position along the track (and locked in position), and also preset for the degree of “opening”.  This is via a second nut on the bolt which has a spring to hold the clamp up.  This nut does not have to be moved while clamping down, so makes clamping, and reclamping work very easy.

Partial width forstner bit hole

Partial width forstner bit hole

After the first cut, I tried a few more with equal success.

Forstner bits are boring ;)

Forstner bits are boring 😉

So that is the knuckle clamp from Woodpeckers.  Sold in Australia through Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  They also have kits which includes track to create some useful bench-clamping solutions.

Steak Knives, Take Two

When I first made some scales for the steak knife set (from Professional Woodworkers Supplies) about a year ago, things were going well until almost the final step when excessive tearout occurred when the roundover bit got a tad aggressive. That project has been set aside for a little longer than I expected (or realised when I looked at the date of the first effort!). So time to try again. I’m not sure if this specific set is still available, but there are plenty of other knife projects available here.

Unhandled knife kit

I didn’t take a photo of the knife kit again this time, so have recycled the first photo here. Now on with the new attempt (and yes, there is a more successful conclusion!)

To start, I have a new timber for the blanks (for a bit of variety!) This time the handles will be black hearted sassafras. The blanks have been roughly sized, and ready to be machined accurately.

I have improved the method I use to sand thin stock on the drum sander by making a sled.

Thin stock sled for the drum sander

With a piece of MDF, I have attached a thin fence to one edge with a couple of 4mm dominos.

Thin stock sled in operation

The sled carries the blanks in and through the sander – the increased area of the base works well with the sander to ensure no slippage occurs when the blanks impact the sanding drum, decreasing any chance of snipe or burning. These were sanded to 8.2mm to match the knife bolster.

Next, cut an angle on one end to match the knife blank. In this case, 36 degrees, which is easily done using the Incra Mitre Gauge HD, and even better when coupled up with the Mitre Express.

HD Gauge from Incra

Mitre Express

The Mitre Express makes machining small items safer, and minimising tearout.

Knife Scales

The resulting knife scales ready for the next stage. I needed to drill 3.5mm holes, but found my drill bit that size had the end snapped off from a previous job. So for a bit of a diversion, off to the Tormek and the drill bit sharpener jig.

Tormek DBS-22

This jig quickly turned the broken tip of the bit back into a well-formed, razor sharp bit, better than new (originally a 2 facet bit – this jig allows you to develop 4 facets on the tip).

Preparing the scale for drilling

With double-sided tape, I attached one scale to the knife, then the second scale to the first. This allows me to drill both sides simultaneously, and any breakout can be minimised.

Drilling the blank

After drilling, I drew around the handle, then detached the knife. After roughing down on the bandsaw, I sanded right to the line using a combination of the disk sander and spindle sander.

The scales are then glued to either side of the knife, and the pins inserted. They are longer than necessary, and get cut and sanded to size once the glue sets.

Handles ready for final shaping and finishing

The knives were then returned to the disk and spindle sanders to finalise the shape.

From there, I used a random orbital sander to sand all sides, and round over the edges (done with the ROS held upside down in one hand, and the knife handle bought to the sander). After a while I decided the microcuts were becoming a bit excessive, so finished the job wearing a kevlar carver’s glove.

You may notice the knife bolsters are no longer polished – while shaping some of the bolsters got damaged unfortunately, so it was better to have them all sanded evenly to match. It may look a bit exaggerated in the photo, but ok in reality. Not the preferred result, but such is life.

The knives have already been used a couple of times – it is rather cool using a knife you’ve made the handle for, and the knives themselves are heavy, very sharp and slice steak to perfection.

Forgot to mention – they were finished simply by rubbing them down with Ubeaut Foodsafe Plus mineral oil. This is ideal for chopping boards, salad bowls, and of course, knife handles.

Finished knives

(just reread this post the following morning- I really shouldn’t write entries at 2am: so many typos, including the title. “Sneak knives”. Either that is autocorrect gone mad, or I have!

Episode 66 Tormek DBS22

Episode 66 Tormek DBS22

Drill Bit Sharpening

I was rather tempted to try jumping in the deep end with the new Tormek Drill Bit Sharpening jig, but decided to err on the side of caution, and rtfm.

Probably a good thing – it is a significant jig, and able to achieve a lot more than standard drill bit sharpening systems. The ability to produce a 4-facet point is significant, and only available on more expensive systems, such as the top of the range Drill Doctor models, and of course the Tormek.

A standard sharpened bit (and typically as a bit comes when it is new) has 2 facets, coming together as a chisel tip. These cannot self-centre, and slip around badly on harder materials. For these bits to cut, that chisel has to be pushed into the surface to expose the cutting edges. This significantly decreases bit life (blunting the bit), and results in a higher temperature for the bit.

The four facets come together at a point, so immediately the drill bit is able to drill into the surface rather than simply rub against it.

Two facet conventional tip

Superior Four Facet Tip

The formation of the four-facet tip using the Tormek seems more sophisticated and controllable that the 500X and 750X of the Drill Doctor, (the 350X cannot produce one at all). The significantly different radius of the cutting wheel is another point (excuse the pun!) to compare the two systems. I’ve never had an opportunity to try the Drill Doctor, so can’t say how well that system works in practice.

The Tormek controls point angle (from 90 degrees to 150 degrees) and lip clearance angle (7 to 14 degrees). There are also adjustments to limit the total amount of material removed

Unlike some other systems, the formation of the primary bevel (the actual cutting edge) is given the attention it deserves, with the secondary bevel formed to produce the 4-facet tip – it serves no other purpose, so why focus on it for the majority of the operation? You can even grind away quite a bit of the heel (the back half of the secondary bevel) to minimise the total amount of material that needs to be removed on the Tormek.

Jig set to grind the primary bevel

There is a little setting up involved, but after doing the first time following the instructions, it will soon become intuitive, and quick. Typical of Tormek, all the variables are controlled – there is nothing left to chance, or eyechrometer. Other than one – setting the drill bit at the right degree of rotation in the holder, but a magnifying glass with a reference post ensures even that is as close as is needed for the operation. (Given the bit is round, being slightly out isn’t critical – it affects the look, rather than the function of the bevel).

Controlled Variables

Next step will be to actually do the grind, but that will be the subject of another article 🙂

Episode 65 TAG

Tormeks are GO!

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