Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tools for Making Holes

As a miniaturist, you will often have a need to put a hole into something - a board, a wall, furniture, or a piece of matte board - there are thousands of reasons for needing to add holes. There are many ways of getting those holes punched, too. I have a leather punch and a paper punch, but I rarely use them for my miniature making. The ones you see above, plus one low tech and one high speed tool, are the hole-makers of my hobby.

Sometimes, the simplest tool for making a tiny hole is a push pin or a T-pin. You can usually puncture a piece of matte board or make a starter hole for where you want to drill with either of these "tools." They're also less painful to work with than plain straight pins, which can make your fingers sore if you press hard on their ends.

Of course, having a cordless electric drill is almost mandatory for any home owner. It's also a valuable tool for miniaturists who want to build dollhouses or room boxes. I use screws to assemble my room boxes. I think the screws hold the wood together better than nails, and there's less likelihood of my nailing crookedly and breaking part of the wood out from the side of the box. You can use even delicate, 1/16" drill bits in a cordless drill. Once you begin to get much smaller than that, it's time to move on to the pin vises. The tinier the drill bit gets, the easier it is to break. The sheer weight of the cordless drill and the leverage that it can easily apply to a bit is just too much for a tiny, 1/32" drill!

I show four pin vises in the above picture. The two on the left are swivel top drills. The two on the right are "fixed" tops. The prettiest one is probably the one with the wooden handle. It's also the least handy for me. Here's why. The swivel top allows you to apply downward pressure on your drill bit by pressing on the top of the drill. Since the drill swivels, you can hold it in place on the swivel and turn the drill with your other hand. Or, you can hold the swivel portion of the drill by your pinky finger and still turn the drill with your index finger and thumb. You have considerably more control over the work when you do this. The fixed top drills are, well, awkward. I suppose one can argue that the wooden handled drill above gives greater leverage than the other smaller drills, but the key to using a drill is to let the drill bit do the work for you - not your hand pressure!

By the way, the plastic egg-looking item in the top, right-hand corner of the big picture is a set of miniature drill bits that I purchased years ago. I've broken or lost at least half of them. When you get down to micro-sized drill bits, they are delicate. If you get them a little ways into the wood and then carelessly allow the drill to move at a slight angle instead of straight on at the hole you're drilling, well, you probably will have added a snapped off piece of drill-bit to your project!

I really like the longer swivel-top pin vise above (and at left), because it comes with four different collets built into the shaft. For those of you who have not used a pin vise, the collet is a piece of metal with a hole in the center and slits on the sides. It expands slightly to allow you to push a drill bit down into the hole. Once you screw the top of the drill back over the collet, this tightens the collet snugly around the drill bit. Dremel tools and pin vises both use collets. You can see the extra collet in the back half of the drill at left. The collet you see has two different hole diameters to accommodate different bit sizes. I can turn remove this collet and replace it in the drill end of the pin vise to hold the drills.

The "low tech" tool I referred to at the beginning of this article is pretty rudimentary, but it works well for cutting holes! It's the X-acto or hobby knife! You can press the sharp point against a piece of wood or matte board and with a few turns of the blade, you have cut a conically shaped hole into the piece. And sometimes that is exactly what you need or want!
The one rule to remember with the Xacto knife is that it is extremely efficient at cutting. It can make a hole in you as fast or faster than it does in the wood or paper! Dropped from a workbench onto your foot, you can impale yourself. Always make sure you set it down on a flat surface away from the edge of the table and beyond where you might bump it with your hands while working on a project. Better yet, when you're done using it. Put it back in your tool box!

I can't finish this blog posting without noting the high speed tool that I use regularly in my miniature making. My Dremel tool is a constant companion at my workbench. It drills, it grinds, and it shapes. Wow! What a great tool!

So, there you have it - a variety of tools that can accomplish one simple task - making holes in your miniature things!


dora said...

Muchas gracias por las explicaciones,yo tambien utilizo la dremmel, es un aparato maravilloso.
me encanta su blog, es de gran ayuda, para todas aquellas personas que nos gustan las miniaturas.
Un abrazo Carmen

Janice said...

Hi George, just discovered your super blog and like you I have a great Dremel which has loads of gadgets. Unfortunately the only tool I seem to be able to recognise is the tiny drills!! So most of the time it remains unused
but one day I will master the thing!

The Dangerous Mezzo said...

Thank you so much for this summary, George, I found it very helpful.

Flor said...

¡Hola George!!
Estoy feliz por haber encontrado tú blog ( =
Por que todo es muy bonito y hay mucho por aprender aquí.
¡Muchas gracias por compartir tus conocimientos!!

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