Is a Drill Block Worth the Investment?

CNC owners discuss how a drill block can improve production, and whether that benefit justifies the up-front cost.March 13, 2014

We do all forms of cabinets including face frame and full overlay. Right now, on our less expensive jobs we use a modified form of the 32 mm system with full line boring. However, I really don't like the look of full boring and figure that when we switch over to CNC, we will bore only the required holes. That would mean that in addition to hardware holes for adjustable shelves we only drill 3 holes in the middle for a 1 shelf application and on a multiple shelf application we usually space them 8" from the top and bottom. I also prefer the look of 2" centers as opposed to 1-1/4", but am not stuck on that.

So, given those parameters, is a drill block really that necessary? I can see on an open tall cabinet that the holes would add up and take a while, but we don't do that many of those. Also, I don't believe this machine will be running all day. We're pretty small, so if it takes some extra time per sheet, that may not be too big of a problem.

Does not having a drill block put a lot of extra wear on the main spindle?

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor J:
It really depends on what all you want to do. But with a drill block, you can also have different size bits installed and the machine will then use only the bits for the size hole. This way you can have a hinge bit, 5mm, 8mm, etc. all installed and it will save time from switching tools.

From contributor M:
If you are producing cabinets, get the drill block. Over the life of the machine you will more than pay for the drill block many times over. You will be able to drill multiple holes simultaneously and will save wear on the main spindle. Cabinets are not the main output on my router, but I would never buy a machine without a drill block hanging on the tool plate. Over 10 years on my machine, millions of holes drilled, and have never had a single maintenance issue with it. On another note, I use a 32mm hybrid system and our cabinets have a custom drilled look, utilizing multiple hits but not the ugly full linebore method.

From contributor C:

This is a great question - so here is my answer. With our software we can drill only required holes, so you have a hybrid or a system 32. Either way, the drilling block is nice because in the x we have the 5mm drills for lines and hinge plates and in the y we 8mm for dowel holes and 17mm for locks and 35mm for hinges. So it is a nice feature. I smashed through 60 sheets yesterday and 12 of those were for a closet job and there is no way I could have stood there and watched one hole at a time on 72" panels.

Get the drill block, and get a long tool changer. We have 20 drills and 7 tools. And, it is nice for the tool change right there on the spot and not going back to the rack.

From contributor M:
I had a Thermwood router, no drills. Now I am running a Rover 27 with 25+ drills. It is twice as fast when I stick to 32mm spacing. I have seen it drill panels with 20 holes of various diameters in 3 plunges. Make sure you have an optimizer that can handle drilling processes. If you are only cutting 40 panels a week it will not matter. If you are cutting 40 a day it will be a big deal.

From contributor L:
The questioner doesn't seem to be drilling many line bores. In that case I'd say it isn't necessary. As long as you have an ATC you can put drills in tool holders. As long as feed/speeds are correct and you aren't trying to make pegboard (trust me, you don't want to do this), it won't wear out the machine any more than standard routing.

It's easy to say just get a drill block, get this, get that, etc., but that stuff adds up quickly and if it won't provide a significant return on investment within a year or two, I'd say try and get by without it for a while. If you find you really need it you can always upgrade later.

From contributor K:
Invest in the drill block. I have a 12 spindle block and wish it was bigger. You use it for more than the line bore holes. I have a 3mm, 7 5mm, 35, 20, 8, 15.

The reason to buy a CNC is to do things better and faster than you currently do them and increase the things you can do. In a small shop, every hour not spent in the shop is an hour that can be used for other things like working on your business or making sales. The time a drill block can save over the life of the machine is more valuable than its cost.