Drilling hole in wood block -- how close to edge?

la_koalaMay 3, 2011


I don't normally do woodworking, so please bear with me if this is just a stupid question.

I have a decorating project I want to do. My husband is warning me that something bad (splitting?) might happen if I drill the hole I'm imagining drilling too close to the edge of the wooden block. (He's good at thinking up things like this while I just want to try it out and see what happens. I admit that I waste more materials my way.)

Here's what I want to create:

Take a wooden block (say poplar) that's 5 inches wide by 2-1/4 inches high by 2-1/2 inches deep.

Drill a 1-3/4 inch diameter hole, centered in the 5 inch by 2-1/4 inch face, drilling all the way through to the other side.

To end up with this block with a 1-3/4 inch hole in the middle of it. Given the 2-1/4 inch height minus 1-3/4 inch = 2/4 divided by 2, that leaves 1/4 inch on the top and bottom of the hole.

Should I have that 1/4 inch between the hole and the block edge be wider, for avoiding the wood splitting during the drilling or otherwise ending up with that narrow piece broken while working on it?

That's what my husband is warning me about--having too narrow a piece of wood there.

I'm not constrained in the height--I can make it wider, except that I'd like the overall block to be as narrow in that dimension as possible. If 1/4 inch is too narrow, what would be better? Does it depend on the diameter of the hole?

Thanks in advance!


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Most dry lumber is capable of taking a hole like you describe, provided you use a forstner bit in a drill press with the stock clamped firmly. Any less than 1/8, I'd clamp a scrap to the edges. With a sacrificial scrap clamped firmly you can even drill "half holes" all day.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2011 at 11:26PM
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Proximity to the edge affects how strong it is, but the wood isn't going to spontaneously self-destruct just because it's thin. For a purely decorative element, you're fine.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 3:00AM
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I would still clamp some scrap against the faces that will have a very thin remaining thickness while drilling.

Is is cheap insurance against blowing out the thing section.

A Forstner bit would be the best choice since it tracks using the edge and is not led off by grain variation.

If fed at a moderate rate it will leave relatively clean edges in the hole.

A drill press is going to be required for a hole that large with any precision.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 11:23AM
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Which way does the grain run? And not to be unduly nosy about what you're doing, but will you be requiring some structural integrity from the piece? If so, in what direction do the forces go?


    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 5:11PM
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Hi, thanks everyone for weighing in on this!

Casey and brickeyee, thanks for supplying the "Forstner bit" term, so I know how to speak about it--and for the points about using the sacrificial scrap.

Hi KarinL, it's a fair question to ask what I'm doing and the structural integrity. And I don't mind sharing--I'm just always a bit reluctant when I feel it's going to sound wacky and I'm afraid someone's going to tell me it's a half-baked idea. (I have so many people in my life who tell me that, that I try to hold off the inevitable as long as possible until I need their help!)

Plus in this case, I'm not sure it would have made sense in word vs pictures. I want to have something like a favorite spice jar sitting in the hole, deep enough so it doesn't fall over, but enough above so I can grab it. And then playing with the idea of where to put it in the kitchen, painted with some whimsy, and a little functional.

I haven't worked out all the decorating details--was stumped by the hole question. :-)

Thanks again everyone!

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 9:25PM
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