I wish to bore a 12mm hole in a 9x2 vertically. How do I keep the bore hole straight through 9 inches?

  • See also: How can I drill a hole in a small stick of wood?
    – BMitch
    Nov 15, 2013 at 13:48
  • 3
    Does the bore hole have to be perfectly straight or "straight enough"? What is the final use of this hole and project?
    – Freiheit
    Nov 15, 2013 at 17:49
  • 2
    Nothing is ever perfectly straight, flat, square, or immobile. Perhaps you could drill a larger hole and let whatever it is that you're passing through it be straight that way? Nov 15, 2013 at 19:55

13 Answers 13


This is where a drill press comes in handy.

Drill Press

Drill guides are also available, but I've not had good luck with them.

Drill Guide

  • 1
    Most of the time in home repair this sort of thing has to be done freehand, since the house framing won't walk over to the drill press.
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 15, 2013 at 13:29
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    Every time I don't use my drill press, I kick myself.
    – Evil Elf
    Nov 15, 2013 at 13:35
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    If this is for a finished surface you can avoid chip-out by starting with a forstner bit, but it will likely clog up before you get through so you might just want to do that on the surface and switch to something else.
    – Incognito
    Nov 15, 2013 at 14:49
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    +1 for "have not had good luck" with so-called drill guides. I can generally do better freehand than with one of those things. Steer clear.
    – mac
    Nov 19, 2013 at 21:02
  • I've had good luck with the drill guides. Used it many times with great success so don't rule them out. They are limited by the bit length. Nov 27, 2018 at 13:40

Nine inches is quite a distance. Even w a 1/4" pilot drill you'll end up getting some wandering of the hole at increasing depth. Going straight to a half inch is likely to bog down your drill press or lathe. When you need precision, for example when making long rollers that must be symmetric around a central drive shaft, the usual practice is to start w two pieces of wood, route out a centered channel through each, glue the pieces together, drill hole to final size, and turn the result on a lathe until everything is nice and even. This book may be of use in your particular case: Deep Hole Drilling


While a drill press (the most popular suggestion so far) might seem to be the ideal tool for this, it is quite difficult to find one which has a stroke of more than 3.5 inches. Even by reversing the work piece, that leaves more than 2 inches not bored with little assurance that the holes from each side are co-linear.

At a minimum, a long shaft drill bit is needed. Frys has 18, 36, and 72 inch long 3/8" (9.525 mm) and 18 by 1/2 inch (12.7 mm) drill bits intended for stereo/security/network/hvac system installers.

enter image description here

For your problem, I would obtain one of these at least 36 inches long and build a jig (a drill guide on steroids) to hold it. The shaft on my 72 by 3/8 inch bit is 3/16 inches (4.76 mm) diameter and while it is not firmly rigid, it is not highly flexible either.

enter image description here

At least 3 guides are needed to counteract sideways forces you or the drill would tend to make. As for technique, fast rotation and slow drill movement with low forces is the best way to make the bit not wander. Adding an extra guide with a bore that is bit tip width which rests against the work piece would greatly help consistently start the bore in a consistent place.

  • 5
    While a drill press may only have a 3.5 inch stroke, the work platform is adjustable letting you start low and move it upward toward the drill head as you complete each 3.5 inch bore. You do need a long bit though.
    – bib
    Nov 15, 2013 at 22:27
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    @bib: Interesting. I have never seen a drill press with a precision adjustable work platform. Tester101's photo shows what I am used to. Maybe some rigid guides could be added to make it wander less when moved.
    – wallyk
    Nov 15, 2013 at 22:46
  • The press shown does have an adjustable table. The locking lever is on the right side of the shaft and the table moves up and down that shaft.
    – bib
    Nov 15, 2013 at 23:02
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    @bib: But there is nothing to prevent the table from moving left/right (rotating around the post) once the lever is loosened.
    – wallyk
    Nov 15, 2013 at 23:10
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    True. Your idea about guides is a good one and alignment rods could be rigged. The bit itself, left in the hole already drilled could be used to guide the platform up. This would be far from precision, but might be okay, depending on the exactness required.
    – bib
    Nov 15, 2013 at 23:13

I drilled a bunch of dog holes in a workbench recently using a wooden guide block that I made in a drill press, and it worked really well.

This method can be handy if the wood is too big to easily balance on the drill press, or if you don't have a drill press, but know a friend with one who could make you a guide block. Use a thick scrap chunk of hardwood with the true face (the one you choose to be your reference) face down on the drill press, then drill a guide hole with the same diameter as your final hole. The thicker the wood, the more accurate it will be as a guide.

Then you put the reference face against the surface to drill, and put a long auger through it to get the hole started. In your case, with such a deep hole to drill, you can remove the guide once you are a few inches in. I like using an auger bit with an impact driver, even though it is loud and requires adapters, because the combination is easy to control and makes steady progress.


I built a drill guide jig for this. The basic concept is to secure a piece of pipe with an inside diameter just slightly larger than the auger bit. My use case was a timber frame outdoor kitchen with exposed joinery. Peg holes were 1" diameter going through 8" timbers. The jig was time-consuming to use but very accurate. Pics and YouTube video below.

Timber Framing Drill Guide Jig

enter image description here

Timber Framing Drill Guide Jig YouTube video.


If you need high precision, use a lathe with a center boring attachment.

A drill press is probably good enough. However, I would drill from both ends with a pilot bit and then finish with the size required.


I have had good luck with auger bits rather than twist or paddle bits for straight holes. Once you get it started straight, it should take care of staying straight for you.

  • Fair point - but how to you start them straight ?
    – Criggie
    Nov 27, 2018 at 19:49

The 3 point jig described above is the best strategy, yet must be applied with consideration of several ratio issues:

  1. The drill bit selected should be as straight as possible and the tip very accurately on center; verify before using.
  2. The distance between the 2 end drill guides should be over twice the intended drill hole depth, as measured from only one side with the one nearest the target kept close to the target material.
  3. Given issues 1 & 2, the drill length must be over 3 times the depth of the intended hole, as measured from only one side.
  4. The drill bit utilized should be super sharp & a pilot bit might aid in the hole staying straight.
  5. It will be very important to run the drill bit at a high speed & low pressure, thus a slow speed of advance since wood has many variations in relative hardness which will inherently "steer" the drill tip away from a straight line.
  6. Given issue 4, it will also be important to keep the drill bit well lubricated to minimize both binding and heat which dulls the tip & can induce warping of the drill shaft. A custom fabricated bell hanger bit would be useful; the bulk of the drill shaft behind the bell hanger style bits is of slightly smaller diameter.
  7. If a very long hole is wanted, a laser pointer, carefully jigged, could be used to intermittently check that the bottom of the hole is still within tolerances. If off, use a drill rod with an off center point, carefully tapped/hammered into the center point base, so as to shift the drill tip back towards the desired path.

Do it by eye , I did through a brush pole with a 19mm bit all the way through .

  • No need for anyone to mark it down. Nothing wrong with the answer. If you aren't to concerned about accuracy this works fine. Nov 27, 2018 at 13:42

A hack is to use an old optical disk like a CD or DVD.

Lay the disk down and line up the drill through the middle. The reflection of the bit /shank should be in-line with the bit/shank that you can see directly. Look from above and beside to make sure its in line in two directions.

This assumes you're drilling at 90 degrees into a flat surface.


  • Yet another life hack for old AOL disks!
    – user109695
    Jan 22, 2020 at 16:59

Just thinking out loud here.

You could duct tape a level to the side of your drill. Use a plumb to confirm that the level is parallel to the bit. Drill slow with a thin bit first; focus on keeping the drill level instead of getting through the wood.


Use a good quality wood auger selected for correct diam & of sufficient length. Then select the slowest drill you can find/borrow. It's easy to start exactly on center but even at slow RPM the bit will rapidly advance & provide little opportunity to correct if the auger wanders off course. The best way practically speaking to keep the auger true & square to the surface being drilled is to have two observers assist, each one checks the angle from 90 degrees apart & helps with alignment. If you mess up you will have to start again or correct with a chisel, so a practice run is almost essential.


I have the opposite idea. Move the wood to be drilled to the drill bit! Start with a straight piece of shutterboard and set up the drill on a block using the level to ensure the drill bit is level/horizontal. Then mark on the board two lines exactly parallel to the drill bit and the same size as the section you wish to drill. Now screw 2 fairly deep guides on the outside these lines, creating a channel so the section fits fairly tightly into the gap. Now switch the drill on and push the section towards the drill. With the guides preventing the section from moving to either side all one needs to do is hold the section down and at the same time pushing slowly to feed it into the drill

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