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Drilling holes with crisp edges in wood

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Hi All,

When drilling larger diameters holes in the hull of model ships for portholes, masts etc. it can be a challenge to get a nice clean hole without damaging the wooden edges. Also the drill can wander off-center if the material underneath consists of different materials, for example plywood and balsa below the same hole. 

It is possible to start with a smaller diameter drill and then enlarge the hole with bigger drills or files. Drills for making holes in metal is to me a no-go in wood as they tend to wander off-center, especially in woods like pine. Drills specially designed for drilling holes in wood should be used. They usually have a point to ensure that the hole is drilled where it is supposed to be. Also, the circumference has sharp cutting edges (spurs); the purpose of these is to cut the wood fibers and secure a sharp edge. There are a lot of different manufacturers of brad-point drill bits for wood; they can all cut a hole but the quality of the hole varies a lot. As with a lot of things - the more you pay the better quality hole you get. 


So I thought I would share my preferred go-to brand of brad-point twist drills: https://www.fine-tools.com/holzspiralbohrer.html

The spurs are very sharp and leaves a nice clean edge in any wood I have tried. The smallest diameter with spurs is 2 mm all the way up to 20 mm. 


As you can see, they are a bit pricey but they will last a life time for any modeler. If you are worried about the longevity, you can also get these drills with tungsten-carbide bits from 3 mm. 


/Lars Peter





Current build: Amerigo Vespucci 1:84 (Panart)

Current build: BB Mary Ann 1:33
Finished: BB Jylland 1:100
Finished: Church ship Danmark 1:75 (restoration project)

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At the risk of sounding negative, how often do you really need a "crisp" hole that is not going to be covered by some type of framing, such as mast partners or other framing.

At the least, any round hole would probably need some kind of beveling

“Indecision may or may not be my problem.”
― Jimmy Buffett

Current builds:    Rattlesnake (Scratch From MS Plans 

On Hold:  HMS Resolution ( AKA Ferrett )

In the Gallery: Yacht Mary,  Gretel, French Cannon

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It is also good practice to clamp a piece of waste wood over the hole to be drilled, or a metal plate with a hole pre-drilled to the correct diameter. This prevents the drill from wandering and ripping out pieces on entry.



panta rhei - Everything is in flux



M-et-M-72.jpg  Banner-AKHS-72.jpg  Banner-AAMM-72.jpg  ImagoOrbis-72.jpg
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I usually use a small center punch or a pointed tool to make a small, pointed dent in the wood at the exact center of the hole and then drill a pilot hole with a very small drill bit. The pilot hole centers and guides the drill bit used to make the finished hole. I use this method for tiny holes drilled with a pin vise and larger holes drilled with power. 



Bob Garcia

"Measure once, cuss twice!"


Current Builds: 

Hms Brig-Sloop Flirt 1782 - Vanguard Models

Pen Duick - Artesania Latina 1:28


Completed: Medway Longboat 1742 - Syren Ship Model Co. 

Member of the Nautical Research Guild




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  • 5 months later...

I place a piece of wood under the piece to be drilled. Keep it tight to the piece. Works great...Moab

Completed Builds:

Virginia Armed Sloop...Model Shipways


Louise Steam Launch...Constructo

Hansa Kogge...Dusek

Yankee Hero...BlueJacket


26’ Long Boat...Model Shipways

Under Construction:

Emma C. Berry...Model Shipways


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  • 1 month later...

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