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Hello all. As the title indicates, among other things I have to install 21 screws to assembly my Stratocaster-like guitar. Six of those screws are to install Gotoh 510 mini locking tuners on a Warmoth neck that does not have pilot holes. Any suggestions on how to install the tuners/drill the pilot holes? I don't have a drill press. Maybe put the tuners on with the top bushings, align the tuners, mark the screw locations, remove all hardware, and drill the pilot holes? Can I get the holes straight with a hand drill? Should I just pay a luthier who has a drill press?

I had imagined I'd be able to find a drill guide with a number of small diameter holes, which would ensure the drill remained perpendicular to the surface. I couldn't find anything the right size that wasn't very expensive. It seems strange that no one sells a reasonably flat block of aluminum with a dozen holes, for a few dollars.

I'm going to have the same issue for drilling pilot holes for the pickguard and top jack plate. I don't even know if I will attempt the strap button screws - that may be beyond my ability.

In any case, any suggestions for tuner installation are greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.

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Here's a really simple little trick for aligning drills - just scale it down to the size you need for the job at hand:

Just a simple block of wood with a 90 degree "V" notch makes it easier to keep vertical alignment.  

Thanks, Frank.  I will probably do that.  And, if I don't get any further suggestions, will probably try the procedure I outlined above (installing top bushing, marking hole locations, etc.).  I would guess for the depth the holes need to be, most wood would be reasonably flat enough.

Thanks again.

Lots of advantages to this idea. It fits most sizes (I guess you would need a smaller one for smaller and shorter bits) .  Its doesn't cost much if anything. It wont ruin any drill bits. And you can see where you are drilling (most important advantage to me).

Most of the time I use one of those little hand crank drills (a Stanley) for tiny pilot holes. A drill press is not necessary for an operation like this - in fact that would be quite overkill. Much of the time you dont have to be perfectly perpendicular for these little hardware screws, but of course you should try to be. The more holes you drill, the better you get at it. When I install tuners on a new neck, i put them in place and snug them up, then align them as desired, and drill for the screws with the tuner in place (I still mark the location with a good awl to guide the drill bit). If you do this, dont let the drill chuck hit the tuners!

Make sure you have some kind of depth guide - if you drill through the front youll hate yourself. And make sure the drill bit is the appropriate diameter for the screws and wood type. Too tight and youll break the screw off or ream out the head. Too loose and well, itll be too loose.

It never hurts to do practise/test holes in a piece of scrap wood thats similar to the actual workpiece.

After re-rereading the OP's post, he brings-up a pretty good idea:  

So, the next time I'm around the drill press with a nice chunk of thick aluminum block, it sure wouldn't hurt to take a few minutes and drill a series of commonly-used sizes of holes just for this purpose in the future. 

Thanks, Phillip! 

Thanks Andrew. I will definitely practice before working on the headstock. It's baked maple, so I think it's a hard wood and thus I need the right size hole.

Mike, you're welcome - I hope the block turns out to be useful. Can't believe Stew Mac doesn't sell one with fifteen different small holes for five dollars. Oh well.
Yeah baked maple is just sugar/rock maple thats been err... cooked. I imagine normal rock maple would be close enough and common enough that you should be able to locate some scrap. Ive never worked with baked maple but I dont imagine it would be drastically harder.

Also, waxing your screws before you put them in will make driving them easier/smoother (waxing your drill bits doesnt hurt neither).

I usually use a pin vise to drill those little screw holes for tuners, truss rod holes, etc.  There's a big selection here:

http://www.micromark.com/SearchResult.aspx?deptIdFilter=0&searc...

This one looks like it's pretty versatile:

http://www.micromark.com/deluxe-pin-vise,7889.html

What you get depends on the size of the drills you need to use.

Larry

I sometimes wish I had one of these: http://www.leevalley.com/en/Wood/page.aspx?p=32297&cat=1,180,42... but that would mainly be for tiny number bits (60 - 80) for occasional use piercing inlay material.

Mostly I use one similar to this (actually the chuck on this one is probably superior to my Stanley): http://www.leevalley.com/en/Wood/page.aspx?p=32294&cat=1,180,42...

I'd forgotten about the "General Tools" drill guide in a pinch.  If a drill press was unavailable and someone just had a portable electric drill to use, this gets the job done.  It'll adjust to 90-deg or almost anything else.

Additionally, the "vee" blocks on the top of the base make it suitable for drilling straight holes into a dowel or piece of pipe.  I think they're around $30 at Lowes or Home Depot...

If you're talking about hand tools for drilling holes I have some for you; 

( My apologies for the picture quality. It's my, not so great, cell camera. Quick but not so great.)

The picture shows my "cheap screwdriver set" chuck with a short, cheap, bi directional handle. Both are from different sets but together make a fairly decent pin vice and I can extend the shaft if I need to.

 The others are old exacto handles which, for some reason that it beyond me, I seem to be collecting.  I drilled the first two for different sized bits. They don't hold as well as a chuck, probably because there is no taper to their grip surfaces but they do well enough for hand use. 

The last two are a small, homemade saw for long distance cuts and the standard Exacto micro saw blade. I didn't like the bulky handle that came with the micro saw so I drilled out one of my old billet handle for a slimmer handle. It works very well. 

 I also, sometimes use an old T handle from a tap set and for small, shallow holes I sometimes just use my fingers. 

Thanks, everyone.  A lot of information to consider, and a lot of alternatives.  I appreciate all the responses.  I guess there is definitely more than one way to drill a (small diameter pilot) hole.

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