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When do you drill the hole in the reelseat blank, before or after stabilizing? I can see pro's and con's for both ways.  (David Dziadosz)

    My experience with stabilizing is very limited, but I will tell you what I have observed. If you are stabilizing to prevent the burl from breaking up during turning, you should stabilize before drilling. However, this requires either a pressure treatment or a LONG time in the mix. A rule of thumb is to let the wood sit in solution at least until it sinks. However, I have quite a few test pieces that sank with only minimal penetration. Bottom line is that it took 6 months to get 100% penetration.

    If the burl will hold together, I like to drill it first, and also turn it down to close to the final diameter, say .750 on a final diameter of .650. That removes excess material and exposes the interior of the wood, and you can get great results without a pressure tank. I just throw it in, and leave it for a couple weeks. Take your time with drilling, make sure the drill bit is sharp, and one list member suggested wrapping the wood in masking tape to prevent blowouts.

    You can actually tell how well you have gotten saturation by observing the chips as they come off the lathe.  Impregnated wood flakes off and the flakes look like wax shavings. Non impregnated wood looks like sawdust. If you go past your impregnation depth and get sawdust, just throw it back in the jar for another week.

    One other thing- I think that is important to allow adequate drying time after you remove the wood from the jar. I was not getting good results until I was called away from the lathe just as I was about to start turning a new piece. It ended up sitting around for two days before turning, and turned out better than anything  I  had  tried  previously.  I  also  found   that Birchwood-Casey stock sheen and conditioner applied on a piece of paper bag is a pretty good final polish for impregnated wood. Especially if you do it while the wood is still in the lathe.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

      My set up will be pulling a vacuum on a chamber with the wood inside then injecting the liquid, then pressurizing it. Shouldn't take long, if I can get it to a high enough pressure with the little compressor that I will be using.  (David Dziadosz)

        That ought to work perfectly. I think that there is another issue to think about. Many folks recommend that the acetone/Plexiglas solution be thin for penetration. I think that it needs to be reasonably thick (as thick as will penetrate). That way you get enough material inside the wood to fill voids.  (Jeff Schaeffer)

          My understanding of one article I read on stabilizing, that pulling it into a vacuum would open the cells of the wood, and remove all air and moisture. When the acrylic liquid is injected under pressure, it didn't fill the cells, just coated the interior wall of the cells. The article also claimed that stabilized wood would still absorb water, but couldn't hold water. It said you could drop a piece in a bucket of water for a while then set the wood out on a flat surface, come back later and the wood will be setting in a puddle of water, where it had drained back out. I don't know how accurate this claim is, but sounds interesting. Here's an interesting site about info, hints, and tips for stabilized wood.  (David Dziadosz)


I was turning some reel seat inserts today and drilling the hole last which I have done before. For the life of me I couldn't get the hole to come out in the center on the other end. Not off by much but never the less off center.

How do you guys drill the hole?  (Don Schneider)

    If you drill the hole first and turn on a mandrel it should be centered every time.  (Neil Savage)

    I use either 5/16" or 3/8" auto screw machine drill and drill from both ends then thru drill drill with a jobber length drill.  Then I run an old chucking reamer thru the whole length.  Have aircraft long drills, extended point bit drills etc.  Still found this is the best way.  (Jerry Young)

      My wood lathe then use a 6" three jaw chuck and a Jacobs chuck in the end stock to thru drill.  I don't process any wood on my metal cutting lathe   Then mount it on a mandrel for finish sanding using a live center and the three jaw chuck.  (Jerry Young)

    I use a self centering vise from Penn State Industries to drill the blank prior to turning.  I first fit the blank in the vise, drill with an extra long 1/4 bit, then a 3/8 extra long bit.  Finally I ream it with a single fluted reamer.  I put the blank on my mandrel that Tom Wandishin made for me and turn.  Perfectly centered every time.  (Joe Byrd)

    If you were using the drill in the tailstock (a Jacobs chuck on spindle of whatever the taper is in your tailstock), it should come out centered...  Were you doing it that way or something different?   You could also drill before turning and center a live center into it... (George Bourke)

    I drill mine in my lathe.  I use a washer turned to 49/64 on the Live center end as a depth guide, that is also my center alignment hole. I drill 3/16 starting hole before any turning is done.  After turning  the blank round to 49/64, the blank now slips into a 49/64 collet. I have a long 3/8 Parabolic drill that I use in the tailstock end. It is long enough to drill all the way through. The blank is then put on a 3/8 arbor and chucked up in the lathe with an 11/16 Washer on each end as a guide. The insert is then finished and sanded to size using the washers as size guides. The washers are used so that no measuring has to be done. The blank is turned down to the washer size saves a lot of time when you are doing a bunch of inserts. I kind of added more than you asked for but if the hole should be slightly off center, turning it to finish size on the mandrill will true it up.  (Tony Spezio)

    I turn the stock to round on the lathe with a star bit in the jaws and live center on the tailstock, leave it oversize. Then put round stock in jaws, and use the bit [a brad point will drill the straightest] in a chuck in the tailstock and drill thru. Then put on a mandrel and finish turning to size. The work is centered to the bore. I'd like to get a centering vise, but there's another $40 to spend, and I'm already set up this way. Grizzly has the lowest price on individual size brad point bits that I have found.  (Chad Wigham)

    I use a drill bit, but that's just me...  ;^}  Actually, the way I do it, everything is kind of self correcting.  I drill the hole first, then mount the reel seat blank on a mandrel.  Once the turning is done, the RS blank is centered on the hole.  (Mark Wendt)

    Thanks to all for your advice. I see the errors in my ways. I was trying to do it the hard way, which I am prone to do. I remember this girl and I standing up in a canoe...... haw, you don't want to hear that story.

    I do think I will get a 4" 3 jaw chuck for my 7x12 though.  (Don Schneider)


To bore the wood insert for a reel seat, and get consistent, straight bores is a problem for me with a drill press.

Since I am boring holes for large diameter (vintage) fiberglass fly rod blanks, when the bores are not straight, it ruins the wood blank.

If I am boring a smaller 3/8 inch hole, it's not a problem if my exit hole isn't dead center, because the wood blank will turn down on the lathe.

The drill bit has "never" exited dead center,  it is either a "little off", or "a lot off."

I use a square to verify the bit is perpendicular to the drill press table, and bolt down the machinists vise to hold the wood blank, also verified (by the square) to be vertical in the vice. Why does the bit enter the wood blank dead center at the top and exit the wood blank off center?

Nothing moves during the operation, except the bit into the wood???????? The bit is 15/32, so it doesn't "bend" off center.

The wood blank is 4 inches tall, and my boring is in .75 inch increments (approximately), extract the bit to clear the chips, plunge another .75 inch... and repeat until the bottom of the wood blank is breached.

If I turn the block end for end and bore each to the center, the hole has a little off set in the middle of the wood block. That is fixed with a file.

Yes, it is an older, inexpensive bench model drill press. If I use a Forstner bit to bore a thickish piece of block for a dead hole (no exit hole) The walls of the hole are perpendicular to the sides.

My feeling is that "something" isn't aligned correctly, but I haven't found it....... yet.  (Edward Miller)

    Sometimes the quill bushings on older drill presses tend to wear, and towards the end of the travel of the quill, it will tend to drift.  Next time you're out in the shop, extend your drill press quill to the farthest it will go, and grab hold of the chuck, and see if you can wiggle it side to side, or front to back.  If you can, that more than likely is the cause of your drift.  Even some of the new drill press have way to much slop at  or near the end of the quill travel.  When I was looking for a bigger drill press than what I had not too long ago, I did the wiggle test on a whole bunch of different drill presses in the stores.  They all exhibited some amount of wiggle.  Someday, I'd love to find an old South Bend floor mount drill press, that have bearing support on the quill.  Rock solid, and no play at all on the quill, unless the bearings were worn.  (Mark Wendt)

    I've never been able to bore straight through a piece of wood where the length is a lot more than the width either, but this is how I do it now. I use a lathe and bore through most of the way from one end, then reverse it. Most of the time the hole is off (doesn't meet exactly) even with using a lathe. The only reason I can think of is the bit must wander when drilling through a fairly long piece of wood.

    After the hole is bored I turn the blank on the lathe so that the outside surface is concentric to the hole. Of course this means you start off with an oversized wood blank.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      Like Darryl I use the lathe to bore a hole.  Several observations.  Use a good bit preferably a brad point bit.  Second let the bit do the cutting.  Any time you are pushing the bit you are opening up yourself to problems.    Dispose of chips every inch at least.  Preferably less.  Reversing the blank is OK if your headstock and tailstock are lined up but otherwise could have troubles.  I just don't trust a drill press to do the job, although I do have a pretty good one.  There are just too many places where a slight deviation multiplies to off center drilling.  (Ralph Moon)

    I bore a lot of wood.  It seems to me that if you have verified the squareness of the drill press, then the only possible explanation is the wood.  Either the wood is not square in your drill press vise or the wood is not square at all.  Either of these could reasonably be the problem.

    With the drill press vise, check to make sure that the wood is square to the bit, not the table or the bottom of the vice.  And check to make sure it is square in both directions (front/back and side-to-side).  One thing I do now to speed up that process is to use a pair of hardwood blocks with 90 degree grooves in them.  Those blocks are put in one of my vises, then the wood blank is clamped into the grooves of the wood, which hold the corners of the blank.  Sort of free-floating soft jaws for the vise.  If the vise is clean, then the wood is held pretty square.  I have never noticed that my wood blanks are bored off center except when I have a build up of wood chips in the bottom of the vise.

    One other thing I noticed about one of my drill press vices, there is a bit of a lip, or relief, cut in the jaws.  Sometimes if I put a long block in that vise, the relieve at the top of the jaws causes the block to cant one way or the other.

    Finally, if the wood is not square, then the best you can hope to do is to get the hole more or less in the middle of the wood and hope there is enough space to turn your spacer.  Good reason to use larger blocks...  (Jason Swan)

    Perhaps your problem originates with the drill bit. I have a high quality drill bit sharpener and find that even brand new bits are not sharpened properly on both sides. If they're not sharpened evenly, the drill bit will wander as it passes through the material.  (Ron Grantham)

    One other thing just occurred to me.  When I have used some softer types of wood (say cherry, spalted woods, etc.) I have actually clamped the wood too hard.  The result is that the hole at the top of the blank looks great, but the hole on the bottom is elliptical.  Weird!  Took me a while to figure that one out. 

    I don't know for sure, but it would seem to me that if the bit is flexing, or the spindle bearings are loose, it would cause the bit to turn a wider, looser hole, not necessarily one that goes at an angle to the work piece, which is the only reason I can think of that would cause an otherwise normal sized and shaped hole to end up somewhere other than exactly opposite the top hole.

    I've never been able to get the lathe boring trick down.  My tailstock gets kind of loose at the end of the 3" or so of travel.  And, considering the inconsistent nature of most wood, it seems like removing the wood from the chuck and putting it back in is just asking for an off center hole, or at least one that doesn't meet squarely in the middle.  (Jason Swan)

      Something I haven't seen mentioned yet is the wood grain.  Wood grain has alternating layers of hard and softer wood, which could easily pull the drill bit to one side, especially if the spindle bearings are not tight.  (Claude Freaner)

      I used to bore from both sides with a smaller bit then open it out with a proper sized bit until I realized that if the hole doesn't meet exactly in the middle it doesn't bother anything, as long as the rod blank goes through. Since I turn the blank afterwards all that is really important is the holes at the ends are reasonably centered.  (Darryl Hayashida)

      I wish I had three inches movement on my tail stock.  I bore in about an inch retract the bit turn off the lathe,  loosen the tailstock and advance the tailstock and bit into the hole.  Start the lathe and repeat until I am through Works fine.   (Ralph Moon)

        I got tired of doing that myself, What I do now is use a 5+" 5/8" Parabolic drill bit. Chuck it up in the tail stock chuck. Just snug up the tail stock to the bed so I can still move it with a push. Start the lathe and push the tail stock with the drill into the insert. The insert is only sticking out of the head stock chuck about two inches. The Parabolic drill has long flutes that expel the chips. I got the info on the drill from Dave LeClair On  soft wood you can push it right through. On hard wood it might take two passes.  (Tony Spezio)

          I can't help those doing this on a drill press, but on a lathe, the way to get a centered bore is to use a device called a lamp auger. Believe it or not, it's a hand held tool. The wood is held in a headstock chuck at one end, and supported by a steadyrest at the other. I have drilled 20+ inches dead center for wooden flutes. The main problem with drilling long holes, even if the drill is well ground, is that the bit will tend to follow the wood grain. The auger is designed to stay on center. The one I have is 3/8" D, but you can enlarge the hole by using a pilot bit drill afterwards. I've only made a couple flutes, but chuckle when people are impressed. Turning the visible part is woodturning 101, the real trick is boring the hole.  (Tom Smithwick)

            Going an inch at a time on my lathe would certainly be more stable.  Still, sounds like too much work.  I'd rather do it on a drill press, then mount the reel seat insert blank on my pen mandrel with my special bushings.  Also saves me the hassle of using a 3 or 4 jaw chuck to turn the sucker.  No fuss, no muss.  (Jason Swan)

    My deductive process left me with the realization that perhaps the blank was not parallel to the drill bit. 

    The new suggestions included my old drill press had worn bushings in the quill (I'll check tomorrow).  If the blank is not parallel to the bit and the quill has too much slop, this could answer all of my questions????

    Also, since I bore burled and figured woods, the different wood densities may cause bit drift problem, although I am using a new brad point 15/32 bit.  Another solution was starting with a smaller bit and progressively working up to my final bore is a good option. My lathe is a Taig micro lathe, so boring the blank on the lathe would become a new set of problems.  (Edward Miller)

      I have the Taig also and I had similar problems.  The 1" travel on the tail stock is a pain, but I do the following.

      I turn the rough square using a spur and get a cylinder about a 1/2 of an inch oversize. Then I chuck this cylinder in my 3 jaw chuck. I then take my drill bit (I drill most of my reel seats to 5/16) set it at the end of the cylinder and turn the lathe on.  I advance the drill to its maximum, then retract the drill and advance the tailstock another inch.  I then do the same thing.  I found that if you take your time, it works and is quite accurate.  Once the whole is drilled, I remove the 3 jaw chuck and mount a mandrel that I made using a blank arbor from Taig and a 5/16 threaded rod.  I mount my drilled piece onto the mandrel, tighten up a live center and begin the final machining.  (Mark Babiy)

      15/32 bit seems to me to be a bit large.  Any reason why you want such a large hole?

      I rarely need anything over .350".  Just curious.  I doubt if that is your problem.  (Ralph Moon)

    Maybe I have missed something here, but why are you drilling all the way through the reel seat filler?  I know I am not addressing the straightness issue.

    If you want a straight seat you center drill first, then turn relative to the center hole.  (Chris Lucker)

    Cut the block of wood to length so you aren't drilling through more wood than need be. Start with a small drill bit, X the corners to get your centers, then drill 1/2 way through from each end. They'll hit it you watch don't tilt the drill. I do  this with a power drill, by hand. Then drill with the size you'll need to chuck it up on a threaded rod, and insert the threaded rod into your lathe, spin at the fastest speed, and with your tool post cutter, size it down to where it needs to be, plus .002 or .003 for sanding, which should be done in the lathe also, with it spinning at high speed. It's a simple process this way, with stuff you outta have hanging around the shop anyway.  (Jerry Andrews)

    For those that want to drill an hole in wood without the drill going out of line and following the grain all you have to do is use a three flute end cutting drill.  It will cut perfectly true and not wander. You will be able to get them from most places that stock cutting tools. You will need the drill in long series to get through the seat.  (Barry Grantham)


In Wayne Cattanach's book (p 149) when he talks about reel seat fillers, he says "Start by  creating turning squares 3 1/2 inches long. Then use a doweling jig to bore a hole (1/4 inch by 5/16 inch by 3/8 inch) so you can mount the square on a mandrel.

My question, what does he mean by (1/4 inch by 5/16 inch by 3/8 inch)? Is it 1/4 inch or 5/16 inch or 3/8 inch?  (Lowell Davis)

    I don't know what Wayne does, but I drill a 1/4" hole all the way through and use a 1/4" steel rod for a mandrel.  (Neil Savage)

    I find it easier to use a spur or a Forstner bit as a spur to turn the square round first. The square is turned oversize round and then placed in the three jaw chuck. I have a 3/8" X 5 1/2" drill bit that will drill all the way through without having to flip the block. You can get them in 1.4 and 5.16 " sizes too. Then install the block on an arbor and turn to size. I have a washer on each end that is the finished size of the reel seat insert, The block is turned down to the washers, this saves a lot of measuring while turning the block down to size.

    My article with photos on making the inserts is in a back issue of Power Fibers.  (Tony Spezio)

      Along Tony's thinking (the washers) I just got a woodworkers' hint yesterday for turning dowels - they suggest you use an open end wrench of the correct size as a "tester". Just turn the stock till the wrench fits over the "finished" dimension and then maintain that size all along the round, using the wrench as a fixed caliper! That way you're not measuring on the ends only and hoping the middle matches.  (Art Port)

        That is a good hint, Rush River's gauge works the same way. One end is for 3/4 inserts and the other end is for 5/8" inserts.  Not having a gauge, the wrench will be easy to come by.  (Tony Spezio)

    I always read that as "or" for the various diameter mandrels one might use. I drill mine to 5/16 so it can fit the mandrel I made.  Others I know drill to a 1/4" so it fits pen mandrels.   (Mark Babiy)

      The larger the mandrel the less likely it is to bend. I think probably the best way to turn is to do like is done in pen turning. Have the mandrel smaller and then turn a bushing drilled to fit the mandrel size and the outside turned so that one half will slide into the reel seat hole and the other half be the size you want reel seat to be. Then you can just turn to the metal bushing and you know where to stop. I suggest that you find what rings you will be using and turn your reel seats to fit the rings. I decided to just use aluminum pipe in two sizes one for larger reel seats and one for small. I turn the reel seats to fit either ring size.  (David Ray)


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