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I just realized that all of the worse faults in my first build are from drilling actions.

Free hand or with a press, I can screw it up.

Maybe I am just ignorant or cocky on the (assumed) simplicity of drilling.

list of drill related faults:

1. head stock I drilled 2 of the tuning peg holes too close together, so I ended up having to drill a 7'th hole.

2. inlaying dots on finger board some are off center

3. drilling the jack plate hole I went in a little off center, this is at least covered  by the jack plate.

4. worst for last: trying to drill between the pick up cavity and the controls cavity last night I somehow went through the top of the guitar leaving a 3/8" hole near right bottom of the pick up.

I still have to add strap buttons, drill volume and tone control holes and screw holes for tuning machine mounts so I am going to be extra super careful with those.

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Brian, Brian Brian! Stop beating yourself up! There are not one of us here (Frank included) who has not made mistakes! My list is so long and large,I would not care to even start it. 

 You need to go pick up a set of nice brad point drill bits to start off with... Welcome to the club my friend! 

I have one brad point I used for the dot inlays, even that didn't help haha next time I am measuring it and drawing an X for the center instead of eyeballing it. Live and learn right?

Hi Brian- You're not alone on this, so take heart! Tuning peg holes are always a problem- how about buying ( or making), a drilling jig to get this right. This side of the water there are some adjustable dowelling jigs available with a variety of metal bush sizes which I find can be adapted for the job. When I have to add the machine screwholes, I put the machines into position and tighten the bushes sufficiently to grip. When I have them lined up to my satisfaction, I drill the screwholes using a hand drill(never a power drill! If you 've had a bit break and gouge a groove in you beautiful finish, you'll know why!

Likewise with position markers- I keep my bridge blanks rectangular so that I can use a fence on my drill table, Draw a centre line down the blank and using a brad point drill, adjust the fence until the point is dead on the centre line. I use crossed diagonal lines to establish the centre point and then place a small hole punch dead centre and give it a tap. The drill point can easily be lined up on this.

If I have any worries about drilling through material, I always check how far I can safely drill and wrap a piece of tape round the drill to use as a visual reference.

Hope that's of some use!

Brian, with brad-tip drills, interestingly I've found many are not well centered.  When I had access to a lathe, I used to true the brad-tip bits I used.  Now that I do not have access to a lathe, I'm just really careful and always use a press when drilling.  That or a jig for the end-button.  As has been mentioned previously, I also use a sharpened nail to mark the hole prior to drilling, then go from there.  Also, anytime you can, back your hole to prevent tear out.

I grew up in a wood shop and my Dad taught me how to avoid a lot of mistakes. Somehow, using a punch to mark a hole before drilling isn't one that took. I've messed up a lot of stuff over the years because I don't bother with this simple step. Sooner or later (apparently, later) I will learn this and make better work of drilling holes. 

this gave me a good idea, if I store my punches in the case I have my bits in maybe I'll remember to use them. I have them mixed in with chisels and files right now. the 3/8" hole I wouldn't have been able to prevent with this due to the surface involved, but maybe drilling a small hole first so I could tell where I was coming out would have left me with a 1/16" hole instead of 3/8"s.

Measure twice (at least) and mark the spot with a fine point pencil, make a small indention on hte mark with an ice pick, drill a small hole and then go progressively larger with bits until you get to the desired diameter.  If the wood grain (or user error) causes the hole to go off center, you can correct by reaming a little before you go to the next size bit. The process takes longer than drilling one hole but it is faster than plugging and re-drilling an off center hole. 

Mark the desired hole depth on the bit bit with masking tape before drilling to avoid going through.

Brad point bits must have been invented for fretboard position marker holes. I splurged for the StewMac tuning machine drill jig and it has proven well worth the price.

I agree, a center punch makes to big a dent for me. Ice pick is just right. They are good for other things too.

The sad part about my story is that my Dad always kept a few 16 penny nails laying on the drill press table for just this purpose. He liked to us them because the tips are large enough to easily line up the X of the tip with the penciled X marking the spot. The punched hole can be easily sized to start either a small bit with a little pressure on the nail or a larger bit by applying more pressure to the nail.

 It was just laziness on my part that I seldom took advantage of this. It's not like it is hard to do, particularly on a piece of wood. Did I learn the lesson...? I still haven't followed his example for having "punches" at the table.  

Harrison is right that you can sometimes start small and move up to the size hole you need but, personally, I've had trouble keeping thing square and centered even when I have everything securely clamped. It seems that things always seem to move just a "smig" on me and I end up with off center and, possibly, out of round holes this way. I suppose it would be safe to say that I'm hole drilling challenged. 

One tip that has helped me is to run the drill in reverse first, which gives you a starter spot, like a center punch. Then go forward and proceed as normal.

Also, putting a piece of blue tape on the bit for how deep you want to go serves as a good visual reminder of what you are doing.

And, of course, it is always okay to stop partially through drilling, pull out the bit, blow out the hole, assess where you are, and go again. I drill a lot of holes for pen making on the lathe, and they tend to be 2" deep holes following the grain. Nibble, clear, nibble, clear, nibble, clear, repeat.

Whenever you need a bunch of holes in a line - bridge pin holes, tuner holes - you should not try to freehand it.  Make or buy a jig that will keep them straight and space them even. 

Thanks for starting this thread Brian - it is good to share lessons learned the hard way!

Further to Marks excellent advice, in particular the reverse running the drill - a while back when I freehanded the side dot holes in ebony boards I got a bit of chip out where the standard twist drill grabbed on the initial part of the process.  This was untidy around the  dot material and required a bit of filling or sanding down the side a tad.  

I recalled from past cabinetmaking stuff in the dark ages a trick of running the drill in reverse (by hand or selectable with the modern electrics) until the lands touched down (tip and sides of the drill touching the to-be-drilled surface) and compressed the surface material a little.   The drill then goes in normal rotation and the tear-out is minimal.

I subsequently made a very solid indexed jig with a high speed drill and 2.5mm brad tipped bits - which eliminated all (most) chip out and inaccuracies caused by poor centre-popping and drill run-out.  Worthwhile if you do more than a few fingerboards.  

C'ya. Rusty.

  

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