Rockler portable drill guide

Get the control and precision of a stationary drill press with the portability of a handheld drill.

A drill press is indispensable for furniture making and nearly so for most other woodworking endeavours. When work pieces are too large or heavy to take to the drill press we usually revert to a hand-held drill/driver. While anyone can drill a hole it’s another thing to drill perfectly straight (or perfectly angled) holes consistently, especially when using Forstner and saw hole drill bits that have a tendency to skip or walk away from the center when you first start drilling.

That’s where a portable drill guide comes in. These drill/driver accessories enable you to drill straight or angled holes with a much higher degree of precision than you can drill freehand. Over the years I’ve tried several of these drill guides, with varying degrees of frustration.

But, I think I’ve finally found portable drilling nirvana with the Rockler Portable Drill Guide.

MANUFACTURER: Rockler
MODEL: Portable Drill Guide (#52885)
PRICE: $179.99 US (approx $227 CAD)
KEY FEATURES:

  • Height: 14-1/2″
  • Chuck type: Jacobs-style 3-jaw
  • Chuck capacity: 1/2″
  • Maximum Drill Bit Diameter: 2-7/8″
  • Spindle travel: 9-5/16″
  • Materials: Guide posts: steel
  • Chuck carriage: aluminum
  • Base: aluminum
  • Handles: rubber coated ABS
  • Brass chuck carriage and depth collar locking knobs
  • On-bard chuck key storage
  • Countersunk mounting holes in base
  • Easy-grip handles
  • Includes two steel registration pins for centering narrow stock.

This drill guide is no featherweight. At just under 10 pounds and almost 15″ high it’s the heaviest, biggest drill guide on the market. Once positioned on a work piece it stays firmly in place due to the heavy duty rubber padding on the base.

rockler drill guide base
Rubber padding keeps the guide from moving about

The guide has an aluminum base and carriage and black-coated steel guide posts. The carriage moves up and down the guide posts smoothly. You can lock the carriage at any position along the guide posts by means of a brass thumbscrew on the side of the carriage. And you can set the drilling depth using one or both of the depth collars on the guide posts. You get about 8″ in carriage travel.

rockler drill guide lock
Locking the carriage in place

 

rockler drill guide depth stop
Setting the drilling depth

The tolerances are tight enough that sliding action up and down the guide posts is very smooth indeed.

On one side of the base is a long 4-1/2″ handle and on the opposite side a 2-1/4″ diameter round knob. When using the drill guide I find that holding onto the longer handle enables me to better stabilize the guide. To change the drilling angle you simply loosen both the handle and knob and tilt the guide to the desired angle (up to 60-degrees). There is a handy scale on each side of the guide that I found to be pretty accurate.

Notice the V-shaped supports on either side of the base in the photo above? These enable you to center round stock right under the drill bit. Rockler has an optional self-centering drill vise (#50916) that you can use for drilling in square stock up to 3” x 3”.

rockler drill guide setting the angle
Drilling angles are easy to set

The real work on this drill guide is done by the heavy duty 3-jaw, 1/2″ capacity chuck. It spins smoothly without any wobble. On the top end of the chuck is a 1/4″ hex shank that you can use with any drill/driver. The chuck key is stored conveniently on the base of the guide near the long handle.

rockler drill guide chuck
Smooth spinning chuck without any wobble

I used this drill guide for drilling dog holds on a new workbench. Not only was I able to drill perfectly aligned holes, but I did so in half the time it would have otherwise taken me. To help with aligning the dog holes I attached a sub-base to the drill guide. An adjustable fence on the sub-base enabled me to position the drill bit the correct distance from the edge of the workbench.

rockler drill guide drilling dog holes
Drilling dog holes in the top of the workbench

 

rockler drill guide
Drilling dog holes on the edge of the workbench

The drill guide make quick work of drill holes along the front of the workbench, and down the front legs.

The Rockler Portable Drill Guide is sturdy, reliable and easy to use. Best of all, it produces accurate, repeatable holes. You’ll find a myriad of uses for it in the workshop, on the job site and around the home. Highly recommended.


Carl Duguay - [email protected]

Carl is a Victoria-based furniture maker and the web editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.

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