So, of course, I have used a drill plenty of times – taking outlet cover plates off the walls before painting, hanging curtain rods or heavy framed artwork…  However, when it came to building furniture, it turns out there’s a lot more to a drill that I didn’t know.  In this article we’ll talk about using torque, drilling pilot holes, and a handy little gadget called a drill guide.

First, let’s talk torque.  Pick up your drill and you may see a collar with numbers (usually going to 30) that rotates like a dial.  This sets the torque or amount of force the drill will apply.  Most experts would advise you to start with the middle number (typically 15) and adjust up or down from there.  But also, if you’re building with cedar, which is a softer wood, you may find 15 to be too much torque.  Test it out, if you find your drill pushes the screw through too far and too easily, lower the torque number.  And vice versa if your drill quits on you before the screw head is flush.  It’s a bit of trial and error, but you’ll quickly figure it out.

Pilot holes and bore clearance holes:

Admittedly, I’d never heard of a clearance hole, or bore clearance hole and how that was different from a pilot hole.  Here’s the deal: a clearance hole is basically the same diameter as your screw and only should go through the first board.  I pilot hole is a small-diameter and bored through the bottom board.  The first one, the clearance hole, allows the screw to grab the bottom board and pull it tight to the top board. It also prevents the top board from splitting.  This is super important when the top board is a thinner 1x board and you’re screwing into the end or near the edge.  The second one, the pilot hole, again just keeps your boards from splitting and helps guide the path of the screw.  I highly recommend pre-drilling if you are attaching thin boards, drilling into the end of a board, or near the edge of a board.

The handy-dandy drill guide:

Many times in furniture building you will have a T-connection, or perpendicular connection, where the butt end of a board is attached to the face of another.  This is an especially difficult connection because you need to make sure you drill the screw in straight so it doesn’t pop out the side of your board.  I recently discovered a tool that will help prevent this mishap: it’s called a drill guide kit.  Use it and bore perfectly straight pilot holes.  It can be found by going to the following website: