Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Pillar Drill Fence

How long has it been since I built my current pillar drill table for the machine I purchased back in September?!?

This is not good form! While the bitter-cold weather receded some time ago, I’ve only just managed to finish and install the fence for my five-month-old table…

It closely follows the design of the mitre saw fence I built barely a year ago [which, incidentally, I’ve also just replaced!], with the T-track running along the top and I’ve even found the time to make a little FlipStop for repeat drilling tasks. Both halves of this fence are adjustable to allow an opening for the chuck when drilling narrow stuff only a few millimetres away from the fence. I felt this solution would look neater than having a large notch cut out of the main fence but, now, I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary… If anything, I could have made it so that only one half was adjustable, with the other remaining fixed. Then again, I can also extend either fence slightly for an almost-telescopic length stop, if you get what I mean…

Construction of the main fence couldn’t be much simpler; it’s just two 600mm length of 18mm MDF joined at right-angles with biscuits and glue. This creates an L-section fence on to which the sliding faces (laminated from 6mm MDF and covered with Formica) can be fitted. In order to attain maximum capacity between the centre of the chuck and the front of the fence though, it’s crucial to cut away a section of the base of the fence construction so that it fits neatly around the pillar of the drill (I think mine was 75mm in diameter, maybe 80mm). On this model, you also have to account for the track of the rise and fall mechanism.

There are machine screws running through the back of the main fence – unfortunately, I positioned the T-track in the rear of my sliding fences too low down, which meant there was insufficient clearance for a Bristol lever or wing nut, with each clearance hole (for the machine screws) only millimetres away from the fence’s 18mm thick base. Each screw then locates in to a sliding nut, which fits in to the T-slots I created by carefully laminating three layers of 6mm MDF. This allows each half to slide back and forth with relative ease. If only I’d planned this a little better, I wouldn’t have to use a slotted screwdriver…

These FlipStops not only work brilliantly but they’re dead simple to make. If you try to make any for yourself then, take more care than I did, here, when it comes to positioning the holes for two lengths of M6 studding… I should’ve moved the position of the pivot bar further back as it now interferes with the thread from the Bristol lever, which is used to lock the stop in position. Sadly, this one won’t fit in my T-track. Thankfully though, all it really needs is another T-section block of hardwood, with two holes drilled correctly!

You can save a reasonable amount of money in making your own T-track and not buying the commercially-available lengths of aluminium section. However, I’ve had my share of problems when using MDF as the material and this case was no exception. I think the real reason I’ve ‘failed’ here is because I’ve created a very narrow but weak section of MDF. When you do this to a wider surface (as on the back face of the sliding fences), things rarely go so wrong, in my experience. If you look a bit closer, you’ll see it’s not the glue joints that have failed, either…

[Please ignore the section of Formica missing on that top corner! :oops:]

Next time, if I ever try to do something quite like this again, I think I’ll try laminating thin strips of hardwood instead. At least then, something close-grained like beech or maple is going to be less likely to fail away from the joint lines. Perhaps I’ll even find time to do that this week – the table saw should be just the tool to rip the old MDF atrocities away… It’s a shame that I also chose to do this on my new mitre saw fence as well! 🙄

You’ll also notice, a couple of photos up, that I’m again using G-cramps and nothing more to hold the fence secure. What I like about this is that you can easily lift the fence away when necessary, without having to clear the rest of the table just so that you can slide it off the front end and out of the tracks.

So, it still remains to be seen what I’m actually going to use those tracks cut in to the table’s surface for…! I still haven’t decided on what I’m going to do with my stack of prepared lime boards so, in the mean time, I may as well work on getting this done and dusted. I also hope to soon be in possession of a definitive depth stop for this pillar drill – but, for all that and more, you’ll have to stay tuned to these pages! 😉

Thanks for reading.

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3 responses to “Pillar Drill Fence

  1. correawoodworks 25/05/2011 at 20:36

    I have been thinking of making a drill table. One of those “when I get some time” projects. Your flip stop is nice. I may have to borrow the idea…
    -Sam

  2. scott 22/09/2013 at 22:52

    The real advantage of these flip stops is they address the major problem of commercially available flip stops which is flex in the stop and flex in the block. The double arm eliminates flex in the stop and the tongue on the block eliminates twist in the block. I think efforts to keep the length of the stop down to allow closer positioning and loose tolerances in the tongues and T track themselves are what are stopping the makes of commerical stops from pursuing this construction.

    • Olly Parry-Jones 23/09/2013 at 22:45

      Hi Scott,

      Many thanks for reading and for your comment.

      That sounds very logical. In my day job, I’ve been able to use the FlipStop system by Datum Tools and it’s impressive just how solid this is. It doesn’t look like much but then, it isn’t cheap either. It’s impressive stuff.

      Olly

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