Drilling Pilot Holes Without a Drill Press


Aug 6, 2013
Dalton, AX
My partscaster project will require doweling and redrilling for pretty much every pilot hole from the pickguard to the bridge to the tuners.

I don't have access to (or room for) a drill press, but I've come across guide attachments like this one:

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For $30 it'll [allegedly] keep your drill at a perpendicular angle, which is my only concern. As long as I'm getting straight holes I'm happy.

Has anyone used one of these (or some other, cheap drill press alternative) to drill pilot holes? I'd be especially interested in Ron Kirn's opinion on this if he happens to read these forums.



Strat-Talk Member
Jun 29, 2014
mass , usa
if you are just filling in screw holes , i think thats what you're doing , than thats not really nessesary, if you can find a cheap say 1/4" or 3/8" forstner bit, just use that, make yourself a simple depth gauge out of a straw or toothpick, go bout 1/2" maybe 3/4 , get the apropriate size dowels glue and fill the hole. you can hold the drill straight enuff by hand, you're not doweling frames together, donth really need that much precision. just dont wobble drill around and it will be fine.
cut dowels little longer than hole is deep, then sand it, or with very sharp chisle cut flush , fill with putty and sand to finish. if its gonna be a stained wood and not painted, just make sure the holes are going to be under the pickguard or trem plate or whatever, so dont see the dowel, and you'll be fine. i make high end custom wood products, cabinates , desks exetra.... all by hand , and thats the way i'd fill it.
unless your talking bout something compleatly different, in that case nevermind, carry on....

Skinny Nitro

Senior Stratmaster
Jul 21, 2013
Merseyside UK
Pick guard and tuner holes can be filled with tooth picks glued in using cyanoacrylate. Redrill new holes by hand using the correct bit size and pin vise. Use a piece of tape as a depth gauge on the tuner holes to avoid drilling right through the headstock
Not sure what you are planning with the bridge or the hole positions of the existing bridge. Is it 6 screw vintage or 2 point modern?


Aug 6, 2013
Dalton, AX
Ha, thanks Ron. All I meant was that the new pickguard and tuners I got don't fit the existing holes, so I have a lot of doweling and redrilling ahead of me to make them work. I'm certainly not redesigning anything. :)

Also, I had no idea real drill presses were so cheap! For some reason I thought they were much bigger and much more expensive, hence my interest in a smaller "drill guide", but your recommendation is still totally affordable and looks much more useful.

Thanks again! Exactly the info I was hoping to get.


Most Honored Senior Member
Mar 29, 2010
Marietta Georgia
Real drill presses ARE that cheap but they are not all equal. The two things that separate them are depth of throw and runout.

The cheaper ones are gonna be limited to 2 1/2 inches total working depth, or travel. More is gonna cost ya. The other thing is runout which can be mitigated somewhat by being careful and always using sharp bits. All are going to come with adjustable tables and most will have variable speed capability, which is an absolute must imo. Some are going to have geegaws like laser alignment thingies which are useless.

For drilling pilots in wood a $50 press is probably adequate. You won't get sub-thousandths level of precision with one of these presses but for most woodworking jobs you wont' need it.



Most Honored Senior Member
Jun 3, 2009
Mobile Bay, Alabama
It's easy to classify things:
For any of us doing it, guitar modding is either a hobby, a business, or a mistake. :D

As a hobby guy, I'm the guy that's has never (at least yet) touched someone else's precious:rolleyes: instrument to change a part, or otherwise alter it.

There's dowels, or wood-like filler for the holes that are misaligned. I've also got maple from enlarging tuner holes in a bottle. That, and glue will fill, too.

Measure twice, and you still might be misaligned. Hand drill at 90 degrees to the body with the right bit-that's smaller than the hole, and you should be able to resist cracks in the finish, eh? Which bit? There's quite a few 'guitar' posts on the web-where experienced modder's list which bit to use for which size screw, pickguard or otherwise.

Have fun with it, and don't get in a hurry. You can accomplish the details in several sessions if that works better for your busy schedule.