Perpendicular Holes for Large Dowels - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 11:41 AM Thread Starter
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Perpendicular Holes for Large Dowels

Does anyone have suggestions for how to make really accurate perpendicular holes in 4x4s for large (1 1/4) dowels?

I'm building a wood swing set for my kids based on one I had as a kid. The play towers at either end are made out of a grid of vertical 4x4 posts with horizontal dowel rungs connecting them. Basically, like a bunch of vertical wood ladders all connected together. The rungs will be only structural element keeping everything together and square, so I want to make them as accurate as possible.

The only idea I've come up with is to use a plunge router with a 1 1/4" bit and build a centering jig for it. I'm hesitant to make the holes with a regular drill, since I'm not sure how to make a good jig for a bit that big and even with a jig, I'm not sure it would be square enough. I have a drill press, but it's in the basement and I can't get the posts down there or bring it up (it's an old floor model that's too heavy to move).

As a side note, I'm planning on using pressure-treated 4x4s and dowels and Titebond 3 to glue them in.

Any suggestions would be great!
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post #2 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 11:48 AM
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Mac - I have had good success with a large Forstner bit on posts like that.
I put the bit in an electric motor 1/2" drill and stand on the post with
the drill between my feet so I can hap-hazzardly judge the vertical position.
if you have some 4x4 scraps, try it to see if that will work for you.
if you are unstable standing on one post, put 3 or 4 together to make a
wide platform for stability.
.
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post #3 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 12:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Smith_inFL View Post
...so I can hap-hazzardly judge the vertical position.
Now that's just funny, John!!

I was thinking of a guide and started to draw one for you but a quick search yielded this video - (but don't use your chisel upside down like he does )

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post #4 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 01:14 PM
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Make a drilling jig .....

Take a 3 1/2" wide by 1" or greater thick scrap and nail or screw end/side plates on it.
Drill a centered 1 1/4" hole through it using your drill press.
Straddle the 4 X 4 where you need the hole.
Drill away......
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post #5 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks everyone!

John, I'm okay at eyeballing right angles, but I don't think I'm nearly that good yet.

David, I love the guide idea. I've only got one drill though, so I'd have to figure out how to make that piece removable. Also, it's a cordless drill (ryobi), so would drilling 100+ 1 1/4 inch holes wear out the motor?

Woodnthings, I like the simplicity of that jig. Does it do enough to keep the bit squared to the wood so that all of the rungs will be square? Also, does the bit start to eat at the sides of the jig and create wiggle room?

Is there a reason the router idea wouldn't work? Also, am I worrying too much about keeping the holes perfectly perpendicular?

Sorry if I'm asking obvious questions. I'm still pretty much a newbie.

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post #6 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 03:15 PM Thread Starter
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For what it's worth, here's a basic drawing of what I'm making (sketchup and PDF). I'm probably going to go with a 4x3 grid of posts (not 5x4) and I'll leave out some of the rungs to create some bigger spaces to play in, but this is the general idea.

I'm still not sure if I'm going to bury the ends of the posts or just run some horizontal 4x4s around the outside as a base.
Attached Files
File Type: skp Jungle Gym (template).skp (1.62 MB, 19 views)
File Type: pdf Jungle Gym.pdf (1.02 MB, 20 views)
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post #7 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 03:35 PM
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There are many different commercial drill guides on the market today- some pretty good and some not so much. Here is one link I quickly found:

https://wonderfulengineering.com/10-...guide-systems/

I cannot speak to any of their effectiveness. I'm an eyeball kind of guy and can get pretty darn close- close enough for the several jungle gyms I've built for the grandkids.

For others just search for "hand drill guides"
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Another $000,000,000.02 worth of advice,
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post #8 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 04:59 PM
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Use hardwood and a Forstner bit .....

Quote:
Originally Posted by BMcMullin View Post
Thanks everyone!

John, I'm okay at eyeballing right angles, but I don't think I'm nearly that good yet.

David, I love the guide idea. I've only got one drill though, so I'd have to figure out how to make that piece removable. Also, it's a cordless drill (ryobi), so would drilling 100+ 1 1/4 inch holes wear out the motor?

Woodnthings, I like the simplicity of that jig. Does it do enough to keep the bit squared to the wood so that all of the rungs will be square? Also, does the bit start to eat at the sides of the jig and create wiggle room?

Is there a reason the router idea wouldn't work? Also, am I worrying too much about keeping the holes perfectly perpendicular?

Sorry if I'm asking obvious questions. I'm still pretty much a newbie.
The Forstner bit doesn't have full length side cutters like a twist drill so it won't warble out the guide hole. It may not survive a hundred holes, but it should work fine for 20 or 30. The Forstner has about a 1/2" side cutter edge, so it will be guided fairly well in a 1 1/2" thick drill guide. The guide is so simple, so just use it with confidence.

The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #9 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 05:14 PM
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Mac - eventually, as your projects grow, so will your list of tools.
now may be the time to visit some pawn shops in your area to
look for a 1/2" VSR electric drill with low RPMs that give high torque.
well worth the investment - especially in this project.
with a hefty electric drill and a sharp Forstner bit, I bet your hand/eye
coordination improves tremendously drilling all those holes freehand.
(and IF you did make a jig, you would probably be ditching it after half a dozen
holes - and going freehand for speed vs accuracy.
it's a Jungle Gym for kids - not a piece of living room furniture - don't overthink it.
looking forward to seeing your project filled with yelling and squealing kids !!
(that could care less if the holes and dowels were perfectly aligned - or not).

Perpendicular Holes for Large Dowels-gym.png

looking closely at your initial design, I would suggest you go over/under the
dowels vs going through them at the intersections.
Perpendicular Holes for Large Dowels-gym-2.png

this is my "Go To" drill for anything that needs some extra UUuumphh that
a battery drill can not provide. the side handle is CRUCIAL to safe operation.

Perpendicular Holes for Large Dowels-vsr-drill.png

.
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Last edited by John Smith_inFL; 02-25-2020 at 06:12 PM. Reason: added photos
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post #10 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 09:15 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks! I'll see if I can track down a drill and make myself a jig.

Great suggestion on slightly staggering the rungs.

One nice thing about this project is that it lends itself well to doing some test runs on scrap before I start on the real thing.

Is titebond 3 the best glue for something like this?

I'll post pictures when it's all done.
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post #11 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 09:38 PM
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glue ?
personally, I would use stainless screws to hold it together.
kids grow up and outgrow such things.
if you ever wanted to take it apart, glue would make it pretty difficult.
or - when the time comes - chop it up for firewood.

.
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post #12 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 10:29 PM
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Any of those drill guides for a power hand drill. It may be more convenient to purchase a second chuck for use with the gizmo.

Interesting note - FWIW Most of the chucks on powered hand drills are held with a left hand thread screw.
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post #13 of 28 Old 02-25-2020, 11:05 PM
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I'm a bit late to this, but when I need perfectly straight holes I either use my drill press, or a drill guide like this. I've had one for years. It doesn't get used much, but when it does it's usually the only thing that will do the job. If I'm boring posts and have more than one hole to drill, I make a jig from wood to saddle the work and attach this drill guide to it. Perfectly straight or perfect angled holes every time. There are two sizes of these. This is the larger one.

https://www.generaltools.com/precisi...h-3-8-in-chuck

A Forstner bit of the desired size and a 1/2" cord powered drill would be best if drilling many holes.

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post #14 of 28 Old 02-26-2020, 06:10 AM
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I’d second John’s idea about assembling it with SS screws. If you do use dowels, make sure they’re up to the task. Some can rot in a hurry out in the elements.
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post #15 of 28 Old 02-26-2020, 06:27 AM
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Getting all the holes to align with full length dowels may be a challenge. You may want to consider shorter dowels that butt up in the 4x4s. If you went with screws, it would mean double the number.
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post #16 of 28 Old 02-26-2020, 07:22 AM Thread Starter
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Our kids are 3 and 1 1/2 (and we might decide to have another), so hopefully it's going to get many, many years of use before they're done with it. At that point I think I'd rather chop the dowels with a reciprocating saw than unscrew all of them.

I found a source for pressure-treated pine dowels - http://hardwooddowel.com/PRESSURE-TR...rn-yellow-pine. Would I be better off using non-pressure treated hardwood?

My plan was to have each rung be a separate dowel and sink each one an inch or so into the post, rather than trying to go all the way through and run one continuous dowel. I should have clarified that earlier.

It sounds like everyone is on board with using a drill versus a router, but just for my own curiosity and general education, why would you not use a router?
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post #17 of 28 Old 02-26-2020, 07:42 AM Thread Starter
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I was just looking at forums talking about what wood to use and stumbled across a photo of someone building what I'm talking about. It even looks like it probably was taken way back around the same time I was a kid. I think you all already got the gist, but couldn't help sharing this find.
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post #18 of 28 Old 02-26-2020, 08:21 AM
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Use a bigger hammer?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BMcMullin View Post
I was just looking at forums talking about what wood to use and stumbled across a photo of someone building what I'm talking about. It even looks like it probably was taken way back around the same time I was a kid. I think you all already got the gist, but couldn't help sharing this find.

Lookee there, them holes ain't all that straight!

I guess a large mallet will fix a few degrees of mis-alignment? I would still try to make them as perpendicular as possible and if that meant using a jig, OK, then.


The problem with most if not all electric drills, and I own around 15 of them, is that there is no straight line on the motor housing you can use as a vertical reference. All you have is your drill bit and if that's a Forstner, it ain't very long. So you end up guestimating what is vertical/perpendicular that that's even more difficult when drilling horizonally, just my opinion. Those small, round bubble levels might work for the end of the housing, I donno, I've never tried one?
I'll get one out and see where I could "mount" it that wouldn't interfere with cooling or get easily knocked off.



You can get 10 of them for ynder $10.00 at Amazon:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KMXBJYL...NsaWNrPXRydWU=
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post #19 of 28 Old 02-26-2020, 08:41 AM
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Sure, use a plunge router ....

Quote:
Originally Posted by BMcMullin View Post
Our kids are 3 and 1 1/2 (and we might decide to have another), so hopefully it's going to get many, many years of use before they're done with it. At that point I think I'd rather chop the dowels with a reciprocating saw than unscrew all of them.

I found a source for pressure-treated pine dowels - http://hardwooddowel.com/PRESSURE-TR...rn-yellow-pine. Would I be better off using non-pressure treated hardwood?

My plan was to have each rung be a separate dowel and sink each one an inch or so into the post, rather than trying to go all the way through and run one continuous dowel. I should have clarified that earlier.

It sounds like everyone is on board with using a drill versus a router, but just for my own curiosity and general education, why would you not use a router?

A plunge router has a flat base, so that gets you perpendicular right away!


https://www.amazon.com/uxcell-Cuttin...92&s=hi&sr=1-6
Then with an end cutting bit, in 1 1/4" diameter .... you can plunge in to a predermined depth with a stop set and make your holes. The use of two small wood scraps or aluminum angles bolted to the base for edge guide will center the router's base on the 4 X 4 easily.

I like this idea ... a Forstner bit may work if the shank is 1/2" diameter, but you would want a very short, stubby one for use in a variable speed router. I would imagine you could cut down the length of one using a cut off wheel....?
https://www.amazon.com/Irwin-Tools-1...47408790&psc=1

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Last edited by woodnthings; 02-26-2020 at 09:43 AM.
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post #20 of 28 Old 02-26-2020, 01:34 PM
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Get yourself a 1/2" drill and a Forstner bit and go to work, after a couple holes you will have figured out how to line it up and by the time you are half done you will be an expert. 😀
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