I need to drill a hole in a shelf that's half an inch deep but I don't want to drill a hole through the shelf. What's the best way of doing that? I have a drill and i was thinking of showing just a half an inch of the drip bit. This way, I can force the drill to drill all the way to the end of the drill bit and not go through the shelf. However, a part of the drill bit's thread is being held by the drill for grip. Would using the drill and the drill bit in this way cause damage?

  • Tape the bit like Davenay says. Cheap, easy and works every time. Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 22:04

5 Answers 5


Yes, the drill chuck will mar the finish of the shelf. There is a slight chance of damage to the chuck. Plus, choking down on the bit, like that, obscures your view of the hole (the drill and chuck block it) -- making precision harder to accomplish.

The correct way to do this is to use a drill stop.
drill stops

Drill stops are less likely to slip than tape or zip-ties, and are much better for precise and/or repeated drilling.

If marring the finish is an issue, clamp a piece of 1/8th plywood over the site and adjust the drill stop accordingly.

PS: A piece of wood over the hole is usually a good idea anyway, when drilling finished surfaces. It helps reduce both splintering and the scratching that occurs when flakes of drilled wood or metal whip around the bore site.

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    After having the tape slip and putting a hole in a table top, this is the absolutely best way of preventing that. Wood filler is your not so good looking friend that remains after the failed relationship. Commented Oct 8, 2012 at 14:58

I usually just wrap a piece of masking tape around the drill bit leaving the correct length exposed. You can either wrap enough layers of tape around so that it is fairly thick, or leave a "flag" of tape sticking out. Either way will let you drill to the proper depth without the risk of marking the surface. The metal jaws of a drill can easily damage the surface if you allow them to come in contact.

enter image description here


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    Beware that if the drill bit is not squeaky clean, the tape will slip. If the drill bit gets warm, the tape will slip. Often, when the tape hits the surface, the tape will slip. Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 22:59
  • 2
    That is all true, and if I were drilling more than a half dozen holes, I would certainly go with the stop collett.
    – Dave Nay
    Commented Apr 29, 2012 at 23:04
  • 3
    I like this solution over using a drill stop simply because it's effectively no-cost (you likely have tape on-hand). I agree with the potential drawbacks mentioned though, so like always, the best solution depends on the exact situation. If you're drilling a couple approximately 1/2" deep holes into a 1" surface, the tape slipping a bit is not a big deal - it's just there to guide you. If you're drilling 50 holes that are all precisely 7/16" deep into a surface that's 1/2" thick, tape (and a hand-held drill) is probably not going to work out very well.
    – gregmac
    Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 18:06
  • If you need a 7/16 hole you probably should have gone 5/8 thick board, not 1/2 ;)
    – user19565
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 3:00

you can use a bit of scrap wood that is the length of the expose drill bit minus the depth you want to drill so that when fully drilled through with the chuck touching the scrap it will only leave the desired drill depth exposed

this way you can use the scrap as a guide as you drill and also ensure the hole is square

that or use a drill press if you have one.

  • Kudos for the drill-press mention. That is the absolute best way, but they are more expensive and not everyone has one. Commented Apr 30, 2012 at 23:23

There is also that stuff that you always leave in the box when you get a new drill... (if your drill is equipped with a drill stop) then this is when you would use it.

enter image description here

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    Good point. Doesn't always work (tight spots, small pieces, non-flat pieces), but worth remembering. Commented Oct 9, 2012 at 23:32

The easiest and cheapest way that I have found is to use a drill stop on your drill. One that works well, and costs very little, is the Century Drill and Tool 73512 Adjustable Drill Stop". The two pieces are both plastic, but extremely strong plastic, that will last years, and because it is plastic, it hardly ever leaves any marks on the wood. It works with 1/4" to 1/2".

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