Tiny Drill Press

Tiny Drill Press

I rambled on a bit about Dremel-compatible drill presses back when I was working on my Learn to Solder Kit and I came close to building my own last month. I had some smooth rods that I considered cutting down and I took a bunch of scrap wood and cut it into pieces to form the body of the press. Fortunately I got too busy and I never cut the smooth rods, and then I found some nice drawer slides on the Hack Rack at Milwaukee Makerspace.

I’ve been sick the past few days but finally started to feel better on Sunday. I had planned to start doing a shop clean up and organization but I figured what better way to procrastinate than by building a tiny drill press!

Tiny Drill Press

This really was slapped together in a matter of hours. I did try to get things straight and aligned, but I didn’t obsess over it. I’m pretty sloppy at traditional woodworking and building in this fashion and that might be part of the reason I tend to like using CNC machines and software, as they change how things are measured and cut (or extruded, etc.)

(And yes, the photos are terrible because I never got around to clearing off the photo table. Because procrastination.)

Tiny Drill Press

The most difficult part was determining how to hold the round Dremel tool in place. I ended up using some 3D printed nut knobs from my CAMS system to hold the Dremel into a channel with precisely placed blocks of wood and some 1/4″ bolts. I’m able to turn on and control the speed as well as change out the bit while the Dremel is mounted. It works. This is fine.

Tiny Drill Press

I tested it with the tiniest bit I had and it worked. No bit snapping occurred, the drawer slides worked well, and I used a rubber band to hold up the Dremel. What? Yes, I don’t yet have a proper spring mechanism or counterweight, and there is currently no handle for moving the Dremel down, but it can make holes in things, so that’s something.

I’ll revisit the drill lifting mechanism another time, and I’ll figure out some sort of handle mechanism as well… at some point. For now, I can make tiny holes, and I call that progress.

Enjoy this wonderful video of Tiny Drill Press in action. I tend to post in-progress things on Instagram, in case you are interested.

One Day Tiny Drill Press is done enough for one day…

A video posted by Pete Prodoehl (@raster) on

Z Axis…

A video posted by Pete Prodoehl (@raster) on


Learn to Solder Kit (Part III)

If you’ve been following along as I develop a Learn to Solder Kit (see Part I and Part II) you’ll know that after etching the boards, we’ll need to add holes for all of the through-hole components that will be soldered into place.


I’ve been using a Dremel Drill Press we have in the Physical Computing Lab at UWM to drill all the holes. The bits are tiny, at 1mm or less in diameter. I’ve broken two already, so I’ve got a bunch more on order to replace the broken ones. The first one I broke right when I started drilling boards, probably because I was trying to drill a bit too fast. It’s important to remember that the bit needs to do the work of cutting. The tiny tools don’t work quite like the big tools you can be rough with. The second bit I broke was due to moving too fast, basically I’d drilled a ton of boards and was getting near the end and just didn’t take my time when moving the board, and slid it a bit before I fully lifted the bit out of it. Oh well…


Here’s a collection of drilled boards. Some are cut apart, and some are not yet cut apart. (We’ll cover the “cutting” part in a future installment.)


You’ll notice there’s one hole that is much larger than the rest. That hole is for a wire to feed through, and I drill that hole with my big drill press. The large copper pad you see is just used as a guide, and gets obliterated by the drill.

Drilling the large holes is a quick and easy operation compared to the smaller holes for the components. You’ll notice that this drilling leaves a bit of “crap” around the hole after the drill bit is lifted out of the material, so we’re going to clean that up…


Using a much larger bit (and our hands instead of the drill press) we just lightly twist the bit around a few times in a clockwise direction. This is enough to let the bit shave away the excess material. It helps to have sharp drill bits when doing this. This too is a quick operation, with just a few twists for each hole, on the front as well as the back. Clean holes are good holes!


Here’s the difference between a cleaned up hole (left side) and a bunch of non-cleaned up holes. It is an extra step to clean things up, but when you make things (and you care) it’s just something worth taking the time to do…

Now, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been using the Dremel Drill Press at UWM for the component holes, and while it works fine, the semester is over, so I won’t be there twice a week, so I’ve been thinking about other solutions for drilling all the holes.


I could buy a Dremel Drill Press for $35 and have our friends at Amazon deliver it in two days, but there’s a few issues with that, the first of which is, my Dremel tool is old, like really old, like 25 years old maybe? Perhaps more? It belonged to my dad, and maybe even his dad. It’s old, but it works great, and I’m not planning to replace it… and sadly, I don’t think it fits the modern Dremel Drill Press, at least not without modifications.

I’ve also heard from my pals over at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories that the Dremel Drill Press lacks precision for some jobs. They like the Vanda-Lay Industries Drill Press Plus, which looks pretty solid. It’s not cheap though. There’s also the DIY press Bryan Cera made. I could certainly go the DIY route, and there’s a few other options on Thingiverse to choose from.

Right now though, I probably shouldn’t be spending time trying to DIY up my own solution to a miniature drill press since I can head over to Milwaukee Makerspace and use what we have there. I know we’ve got a “ProtoDrill” thing that drills out boards. It drills from the bottom, and has a foot switch to control it. It didn’t work amazing last year when I tried it, but I’m guessing there’s a few tips to using it I wasn’t aware of. There’s also a bunch of newer Dremel tools and a mini press at the space. The fine folks at Dremel were kind enough to donate some nice tools to us after Maker Faire Milwaukee in 2014.


For my immediate needs, I can drill holes at a variety of makery places around Milwaukee, so I’m not too concerned about a solution for my home shop. I have seen a few generic “rotary tool” drill press stands, which might be easily adaptable to work with my old Dremel tool. If I don’t go the DIY route, I may just grab one of those.

Update: I built my own.

This is just one post in a series, check out the other posts as well:


Circuit-Bending with the Easy Button

Easy Button

I’ve had an easy button lying around the house for a few years now, and remembered reading about how “easy” it was to do a little circuit-bending with it, so I finally got around to doing that…

I did a quick search for some details and found this Easy! blog post, read the bit about a 1Meg pot and figured I’d give it a try. I didn’t have a 1Meg pot on hand (I’m sure the Milwaukee Makerspace probably has a boatload of potentiometers and other parts I could have used, but I built this thing at home) so I ended up going to Radio Shack, and while they don’t have breadboards or much other stuff, they do have a few electronic components on hand.

Once you open the Easy Button (screws are under the rubber feet) you can see the main resistor, right under the rubber switch. (It’s in the center in the photo below.)

Easy Open

Take that resistor out and then solder in the wires for the potentiometer. That should be about it for the electrical part of it… (I know, you also see a push-button switch in the top photo, I’ll get to that in a minute.)

Since I tend to just start on these things without any real thought as to how they will be finished—I fly by the seat of my pants a lot—it’s always a learning experience. I had a plan to mount the pot onto the big red button, so I Dremeled the heck out of one of the legs on the bottom side of the button to make it fit, and I then realized it just wouldn’t fit, so I thought I could mount it on the inside plastic housing with a hot glue gun, this worked well, but I took out the piece of metal to do this, and, well the metal piece is what makes the button pop back up, so when I reassembled it, the button didn’t work, as it got stuck. Oh, I also built it wrong, with the button turned 180 degrees, so things didn’t line up, so I Dremeled some more, and that contributed to making the button more useless, even though I tried to put half of the metal shield thing back in. (Hacksawing that thing was a nightmare!)

I had started to document the whole thing with photos, but when it was apparent I did so many things wrong, I abandoned the plan… that said, I’m pretty confident that if I did it again, I’d get it all right the second time. Despite all that, I came up with the idea of putting in the push-button switch, which worked great, as it is much easier to push, and you can use it while twiddling the knob. From the outside you really can’t tell that things didn’t work out the way I planned, so I’ll call that a win.

Here’s a video (Vimeo) of the Easy Button in action… It’s a challenge to get the knob in just the right position, so it’s become a game at our house to see who can get the best sound (or longest bend) out of it.

If you’re totally new to circuit-bending, the Easy Button is a simple project to start with… if you are totally clueless, swing on down to the Milwaukee Makerspace for one of their Electronics and Programming Nights when non-members are welcome, and I’m sure someone there can help you get started.