Sometimes just knowing what a tool is called is enough to get you out of a pickle. Jake Frith tests the KWB DrillBlock handheld drilling jig

I’ve been developing a prototype launching device for small powerboats lately, and it has involved cross drilling rather a lot of aluminium tubes. (Note to self – must learn to weld aluminium!).

Anyway, I’ve always struggled with cross drilling tubes perfectly plumb.

The KWB DrillBlock has guide holes for 4, 5, 6, 8 10 and 12mm drill bits

The KWB DrillBlock has guide holes for 4, 5, 6, 8 10 and 12mm drill bits

There’s something about a tube that confounds one’s natural ability to drill a hole roughly in the middle of it, and it’s even worse when it’s a harder stainless steel tube like a stanchion, where just getting the hole started without it skidding off can be demanding in itself.

Initially I started thinking about making my own tube drilling guide, but suddenly realising I can’t be the only person with this problem; it turns out lots of tool manufacturers are selling them, and a bit of Googling told me they are called ‘handheld drilling jigs’ or ‘tube drilling jigs’ or similar.

A person using a drill and a drilling jig

Clamping the workpiece gave me enough hands to hold the drill and block. Credit: Jake Frith

I’ve found quite often in practical boat ownership, or practical anything else, just knowing what the correct tool for the job is called is three quarters of the battle.

I looked at a few online, and this one looked to be one of the cheapest and also one of the better ones. (Some don’t have the metal liners for instance, so I’m not sure how long they would last).

Start off small

I’ve found it’s always best to go through with the smallest sized drill first, so a 4mm guide hole, as larger sizes can be harder to hold centralised, but it drills what appear to be perfectly straight holes in tubes of various diameters.

I’ve also found that holding the jig in position with a couple of cable ties can help too, as the tool can try to twist while drilling on larger tubes like the 50mm ones.

A KWB DrillBlock handheld drilling jig

Coated metal liners give reassurance that it should last a while. Credit: Jake Frith

Other than solving all my current tube drilling requirements, this tool and others like it also sit flat on grippy little pads, allowing you to drill a (reasonably) plumb hole in a flat surface.

The KWB DrillBlock is only about 40mm deep, so clearly it won’t drill as plumb a hole as a proper pillar drill, but I’m hardly going to untangle my drill press out of its semi- permanent home in the workshop every time I want to drill a plumb hole down at the boatyard.

 V-shaped cutaway on the base means it works on tubes, corners and flat surfaces. Credit: Jake Frith

V-shaped cutaway on the base means it works on tubes, corners and flat surfaces. Credit: Jake Frith

But this KWB DrillBlock fits in a pocket or toolbox so can come along for the ride and is infinitely neater than drilling by eye.

It’s such a clever little problem solver and undoubtedly the best thing I’ve bought for under £15 so far this year, (especially now that Wetherspoons have cranked up their Jalfrezi pricing).

Price: From £12.79

Buy the KWB DrillBlock from Amazon (UK)

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