Improved Drill Centering Jig

After extended use of the original drill centering jig, we discovered a number of opportunities for improvement and identified some of the weaknesses that developed over long term use.  To be fair, the original jig ended up getting a lot more use than was originally expected and held up well all things considered.  One of the first things that became apparent was that a stationary jig mounted to the drill press table would be more effective.  After drilling hole after hole with a portable jig, it was easy to allow it to tilt slightly which forced the hole off center.  Another issue was that the square tubing in the original jig provided a large surface area with which to clamp the board, but it also trapped wood chips from the drill occasionally throwing the hole off center.  Eventually, the hole in the guide bar enlarged due to the friction from the drill bit, which was expected, but could be eliminated in a stationary design.


The new jig has now had nearly as much run time as the original and aside from the occasional recalibrating to center, has no major drawbacks or replacement items.  The addition of a dust collection hood was a major improvement from a convenience standpoint, but is not necessary.  For what it is intended to do, which is consistently bore a specific diameter hole in the center of a board over and over, the jig has performed exceptionally well.  As an added bonus, the jig is not limited to one size drill bit.

To ensure the jig does not flex, I first cut two 3/4” steel box tubes and two 1” steel u-channels to a length of 8”.  The u-channel will serve as the clamping surface against the wood creating minimal opportunity to trap wood chips while remaining rigid.  I also cut two 3 1/2″” lengths of 3/4” square tubing to serve as the parallel rotating members.  (fig. 1 & 2)

fig 1 fig 2

The next step was to bore three holes in the two 3 1/2″” pieces of steel square tubing.  One hole is centered and drilled at a ¼” diameter. (fig. 3) The other two are located 1” from either end and drilled at a 5/16” diameter.  In order to ensure the holes would match, I stacked them and drilled both pieces of box steel at the same time.  To ensure alignment, I drilled the center hole first and then ran a ¼” bolt through both pieces before re-clamping to bore the side holes.  (fig. 4 & 5)

fig 3

fig 4 fig 5

I then drilled 5’16” holes 1” from either end of the 8” steel tubing.  Again, drilling through both pieces, once the first hole was drilled, I dropped in a 5/16” carriage bolt to ensure alignment. (fig 6 & 7)

fig 6 fig 7

One side of each of center holes in the 3 1/2” pieces of the square tubing needed to be enlarged enough to accept a ¼” socket.  The bolt cannot extend above the surface of the square tubing because the wood will be riding on top of it.  Therefore I opened the hole up on one side with a 3/8” drill bit and then widened the hole a little more with a small grinder. (fig. 8, 9, 10 & 11)

fig 8 fig 9

fig 10 fig 11

On the opposite face of the 3 1/2” piece of steel box tubing, the two 5/16” need to be squared to in order to lock a carriage bolt.  I in the absence of a hole broach, I used a small file to square off the holes. (fig 12 & 13)

fig 12 fig 13

The u-channel needs to be drilled with some small holes to mount to the perpendicular face of the 8” square tubing.  The holes need to be offset so the bottom surface where the clamping structure will rotate is flat.  (fig. 14)  Once the holes were drilled in the u-channel, I lined up the u-channel with the box channel and drilled through the box channel using the holes as a template.  (fig. 15)

fig 14 fig 15

It is time to assemble the clamping unit.  Using 1/8” bolts, I attached the u-channel to the 8” box channel. (fig. 16)  I then used 5/8 x 2” carriage bolts to attach the two pair of box channels ensuring that the expanded holes are facing up.  (fig. 17)

fig 16 fig 17

It is now time to build the mounting base.  I used a piece of 5/4 x 8 poplar which was plained to ensure flatness and cut to a length of 18”.  I drew a center line and placed the clamping assembly on the wood and drilled the 1/4” mounting holes using the assembly as a template. (fig. 18)  I used a countersink bit on the back of the wood to create a countersink for the bolts so the base would mount to the drill press securely.  (fig. 19)

fig 18 fig 19

In order to promote the longevity of the jig considering the repetitive use, I cut a light gauge piece of sheet metal to place between the clamping jig and the wood base.  With the correct number of wide flange washers on the mounting screws, the heads of the carriage bolts can ride on the sheet metal and stabilize the jig.  I also drilled 2 large holes in the base and the sheet metal to accommodate two large bolts mounting the base to the drill press. (fig. 20 & 21)

fig 20 fig 21

After utilizing ¼” x 1.25” bugle head bolts to attach the clamping assembly to the base, I installed some plastic thumb blocks to make the clamping easier.  I also installed some rests on either side of the base to reduce the tendency of material to tilt out of the jig.  (fig. 22)

fig 22

It is now time to set the depth of the hole and calibrate the jig to center.  This requires patience and I suggest re-calibrating the jig every few hundred holes, but it is well worth it.  The jig is quick an accurate if you have to repeatedly drill holes dead center in stick lumber.


One final addition was to use a piece of 1/2″ square steel tubing cut to a length of 13″ to add a handle to the right side cross member.  This allows for smooth and easy operations.  I drilled a hole in the end and wrapped paracord around the steel for a grip.

Hole Centering Jig Handle Modification by WoodAirGrille.jpg


Rod Gunter is General Manager at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns, a leading manufacturer of wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.




Ultimate Battery Management Station

Cover Image

It seemed like half the time I went to that shoe box size plastic bin overflowing with batteries and their respective packaging, much of which was carelessly left behind and empty, I would find 3 of the particular size when I needed 4.  Sometimes, I would find a dead battery in the box which was even more frustrating and I was amazed at how fast my family seemed to be going through batteries.  I later discovered that my children were generously supplying most of the kids in the neighborhood with their battery needs.  Not that I minded occasionally helping one of the kids get their toy up and going again, but I hadn’t meant to start a regular service.

There were some various battery organizers on the market and a few plans out there, but I wanted to create a battery station that not only organized my batteries, but provided a central and convenient charging station as well.  I also wanted to be reminded when I turned out the lights at night if I had any batteries charging that needed to be unplugged.  Therefore I created what I call a battery management station that organized my alkaline and rechargeable batteries, housed my chargers and cables, provided a central place to charge various batteries, and lit up to remind me that something was charging.  It features a see through door so I can see how many batteries I have, power strip with USB outlets, storage compartments for chargers or cables, a small drawer for odd size batteries, a shelf to rest things on while being charged them and a battery testing meter.

On this project I was utilizing materials I had laying around purchasing only a small piece of plexiglass, a power strip and a small light rope kit I happened to find on sale.  First I cut the top and bottom frame members of the battery storage unit using 1×3.  The top is cut to a length of 23 ¼” and the bottom is cut to 13”.  I then mark off the location of the 8 vertical members cut to a length of 12 ½”.  (Fig. 1)

Battery Station Fig 1

In order for the batteries to all line up at the front of the storage organizer, it is necessary to cut spacers that will fit in the back of the compartments.  Utilizing small pieces of scrap, I used a thickness planer to achieve the correct dimensions but this could also be easily done with a table saw.  (Fig. 2 & 3)

The spacing for the battery compartments is as follows with ¾” between for each vertical member.  Also included are the thicknesses of the rear spacers.

  • Alkaline D – 1 7/8” no spacer                            Capacity: 10
  • Alkaline C – 1 1/2” 1/2″ thick spacer              Capacity: 13
  • Alkaline 9 volt – 1” 1/2″ thick spacer              Capacity: 18
  • Alkaline AA – 3/4″                 1/2″ thick spacer              Capacity: 24
  • Alkaline AAA – 5/8” 3/4″ thick spacer              Capacity: 38
  • Rechargeable AA – 5/8” 1/2″ thick spacer              Capacity: 20
  • Rechargeable AAA – 1/2″ 3/4″ thick spacer              Capacity: 30

I now needed to prepare the vertical members of the battery storage area starting with finger holes at the bottom.  I used a quarter to mark the bottoms making sure to enlarge the 2 on either side of the D batteries.  After rough cutting with a band saw (Fig. 4), I cleaned it up with a spindle sander. (Fig. 5 & 6)

At the top of each vertical member, except for the one on the far left because it would be the outside frame, I used a ¾” forstner bit to drill a hole along the very top for the light rope to slip through.  (Fig. 7)

Battery Station Fig 7

The far left vertical member would need to be mortised for the 2 hinges.  This was achieved with a hand chisel.  (Fig. 8 & 9)

The far right vertical member needed to be mortised for a pair of magnets that would hold the door closed.  This was also done with a hand chisel.  (Fig. 10 & 11)

One last detail for the vertical members was to use a ½” forstner bit to drill a shallow recess in the second to the right vertical member.  This will provide clearance for the screw that holds the knob on the plexiglass door.  (Fig. 12)

Battery Station Fig 12

The bottom of the battery organizer was beveled to provide access and easier removal of the batteries.  I used a jointer, but a hand plane would easily do the job.  (Fig. 13)

Battery Station Fig 13

At this point, the rest of the cabinet pieces needed to be cut.  Left side of the cabinet below the organizer was cut from a 1×3 to a length of 6”.  The right side 1×3 of the cabinet was cut to a length of 20” and a 1 ½” hole was drilled near the top to allow the plug from the power strip to pass through.  (Fig. 14)  A piece of ¾” x ¾” wood was cut to a length of 10 ¼” to serve as a valance hiding the light rope on the right side.

Battery Station Fig 14

The bottom shelf assembly was made from 5 pieces of 1×3 cut to a length of 4 ½” to server as the dividers.  The 2 shelves are 24” long 1×6.  I used a belt sander to round over the corners.  (Fig. 15)  Finally the back of the unit is a piece of ¼” plywood cut 24” wide and 24 ¼” tall.

Battery Station FIg 15

The last part that needed to be prepared was the door.  The door is simply a piece of 1/8” thick plexiglass cut 13” wide and 11 3/4” tall.  What appears to be the frame is really just some decorative trim.  I mitered 4 pieces of half round molding to match the outside dimension of the plexiglass.  I pre-drilled holes for the hinges and a few to attach the molding with screws, making sure to match some of the screw holes with the magnets.  (Fig. 16)  Finally, I pre-drilled a hole for the knob lining it up with the relief hole I drilled in the second to the right vertical member of the battery organizer.  All of the holes except for the knob were widened with a countersink bit.

Battery Station Fig 16

After Sanding and painting, it is time to start assembly.  Since I was using mostly screws and nails, I masked the areas where the parts would be in contact so the glue would be bonding to bare wood.  I did not mask the back because I attached that with screws.  (Fig. 17)

Battery Station Fig 17

I started by locating and screwing in the top shelf using #8 – 1 ½” wood screws.  (Fig. 18)  Since I was using a pneumatic nailer on finished material, I wanted as few exposed nail heads as possible.  That is why I started in the middle and worked my way out.

Battery Station Fig 18

The lower left side and the right side were installed with the same screws through the back.  Where the sides make contact with the shelf, I used glue and 18 gauge 1 ½” finish nails. (Fig. 19)

Battery Station Fig 19

Next I assembled the battery organizer separately by shooting nails through the vertical members into the back spacers in order to conceal a majority of the nail heads.  I started with the right vertical member and worked my way to he left.  The exposed side on the left did not have a spacer adjacent to it so no nail heads are visible to the side.  The vertical members were also glued and nailed through the top and bottom.  (Fig. 20 & 21)

Once the battery organizer was fully assembled, I attached it to the back with some #8 – 1 ½” wood screws through the back and a few 18 gauge 1 ½” finish nail through the right side. (Fig. 22)

Battery Station Fig 22

The bottom shelf and dividers were then installed with screws and nails in the same manner as the rest of the unit.  (Fig. 23)  One of the dividers was deliberately sized to accommodate a small plastic bin l happened to have.  This became a drawer for button type and odd size batteries.  I also installed the light valance at the top right between the right side and the battery organizer.

Battery Station Fig 23

The door was assembled by with some #6 – ½” screws through the plexiglass into the half round molding.  It is very important to pre-drill everything including the molding.  I drove several screws at the location of the magnets to help hold the door closed.  I also installed the small wooden knob and the hinges.  (Fig. 24)

Battery Station Fig 24

The magnets were installed in the recesses carved out prior to finishing and the door was installed by attaching the hinges.  (Fig. 25)

Battery Station Fig 25

The light rope was threaded through the holes in the top of the vertical members of the battery organizer and held in place behind the valance with some screw hooks (Fig. 26)

Battery Station Fig 26

I needed to reinforce the back where the power strip would be attached.  I accomplished this by installing a piece of half inch plywood with #8 x ½” screws through the back.  The mounting screws for the power strip were then attached. (Fig. 27)

Battery Station Fig 27

Some double sided tape was used to mount the battery meter.  The light rope is simply plugged into the power strip so that when nothing is being charged and the power strip is off, the light is off.  The unit is now complete and ready to sit on a table or be mounted to the wall. (Fig. 28)  I have had the unit in place for several weeks and the improvement is dramatic.  Just eliminating the clutter of that old battery box is just as rewarding as the functionality of the new battery station.

Battery station Fig 28


Rod Gunter is the Executive Director at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained countless professionals including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns which produces wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.

Creating Clearance for a Wood Return Air Filter Grille

When ordering a wood return air filter grille, it is essential to pay attention the clearance you have around all 4 sides of the rough opening.  Given the structural properties of wood compared to metal, the wood grille will almost always requires more clearance.  Typically 2 ¼” around all four sides of the rough opening will accommodate a wood return grille.   So, what do you do if you do not have enough clearance?

The simplest solution is to contact WoodAirGrille and ask to have the filter housing offset.  This can reduce the clearance needed to as little as 1 ½” on as many as two adjacent sides.  There is no charge for this type of modification just as there is no charge for a 2” deep filter housing.  Though this modification can be done in the field, it is difficult and the amount of movement is more limited.  The factory can easily produce a modified housing that is cleaner and accommodates a closer offset.

The reason this is possible is because the frames of the grille itself and the mounting frame utilize traditional 1 ½” wide cabinet stock.  It is ideal to place the filter within the 1 ½” grille frame, but it does leave room, in a pinch, to move it over to one side or another.  It is still easy to get the filter in and out because it is not behind the frame.  The functionality is only marginally affected.   Notice the housing in figure 1 has been moved all the way to the bottom allowing this wood return air filter grille to clear the baseboard. Wood Return Air Filter Grille Clearance Fig 1 shifted filter housing on Wood Return Air Filter Grille

Sometimes you can increase your clearance by modifying the rough opening.  This method usually works the best if the clearance is only slightly off.  Typically you only have to adjust one side of the rough opening and if you need ¼” or so, you can typically trim the sheetrock to make it work.  A word of caution though – you do not want to remove material that creates a gap allowing air to bypass the filter.  (fig. 2) Wood Cold Air Filter Return Fig 2

The most common obstruction is the trim itself, specifically the baseboard.  The most common method for dealing with this, particularly in a new construction application is to simply modify the trim.  This can be as simple as using the grille as a template to cut the offending trim out of the way.  However, with a little planning an a few leftovers, it is common for the clearance issue to be turned into an attractive design feature incorporating the grille into a seemingly seamless part of the homes design.  (Fig. 3 & 4)

Rod Gunter is Operations Manager at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns which produces wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.

Craftsmanship is the Greenest Component in Homebuilding

There are a lot of terms floating around like “green building”, “sustainable building”, “energy efficient homes”, etc.  All of which have at least some merit in improving the way homes are built.  However, navigating the minefield of what we will call “green building” almost inevitably becomes a confusing and overwhelming endeavor.

House Craftsmanship green building 2

Several years ago, I was in charge of purchasing materials and labor for one of the nation’s most respected homebuilders.  We took on the challenge of determining the best ways to build the most “green” house possible within reason of being sellable.  Almost always, green changes come with a price tag.  We understood that in our middle to upper middle price point, people are willing to spend more for a green home, but only to a point.  You could build an extremely green home, but very few are willing to pay several million dollars for an ugly 2 bedroom subterranean box.

The project turned into a six month study filling several large binders with spreadsheets, data sheets, comparisons, reports, etc.  Worse yet, if you tried to determine the “greenest” product or method to any component of the home, you would end up with more questions than answers.  To add insult to injury, the more answers you tried to find, the more questions you would end up with.

House Craftsmanship green building

Here is a typical example of how it went.  One representative for a product would come in and explain how their product was the best and most environmentally responsible because they did or didn’t use some particular process or chemical that improved the sustainability or eco-footprint by whatever percentage.  The next representative would come in and explain how that was all wrong because it took more energy to produce a certain substance in the manufacture of that product and that this other product was the way to go.  That gave us a nice research project for one of the purchasing assistants to find out who is on the level.  That usually led to a cost benefit spreadsheet because both claims had at least some validity to them.  With hundreds of components going into a house, it got maddening fast.

So, where did all of this ultimately lead us?  Though wading through the massive amount of propaganda got to be a lot like wading through the filthy sewage plant of a political election, we did ultimately find that if you back up a step to look at the big picture, there is an elegantly simple answer to the question “How do we build the most ‘green’ house possible within a reasonable cost?”  The answer is good old craftsmanship.

Is it really that simple?  Of course not, but that one word should be the navigational true north to building a home.  The most green home is one that functions efficiently and does not have to have major parts periodically replaced.  The longer it lasts, the more environmentally friendly it is.  For example, an HVAC system that is properly sized to the home, installed with quality materials, and the installer took the time to use mastic to seal all the joints and hung the ducts with two stainless screws through galvanized straps instead of one drywall screw through nylon straps is going to last longer and be more efficient than the system that was hastily installed with cheap materials, unqualified labor, but boasts a greater energy rating on a compressor.  The fact that it was poorly installed nullifies any advantages.

Craftsmanship Worker Installer

Though some products were clearly better, like finger jointed studs are great for vertical applications because they are straighter and essentially made from scraps, it really depends on the quality of installation.  Finger jointed studs will fail when installed in a horizontal application.  Paying our insulating company to take the time to slit and wrap the insulation around electrical wires or staple it against the subfloor to eliminate air gaps not only made the home more efficient, but made the home more comfortable overall for the homeowner.  After all, isn’t it more green to buy a screwdriver that is made from high quality materials and lasts a lifetime in the hands of a qualified professional than it is to buy one from the discount store that breaks after a kid with a summer job uses it as wrench condemning it to a landfill?

Rod Gunter is Operations Manager at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries.  Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point.  Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products.  Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina.  Gunter Building Solutions owns which produces wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.