Dilapidated Definition

The occassional ranting of a dollfie addicted twit..

How to drill and tap a clear plastic base

So got the request today, to write up a little tutorial for my friends on Twitter. Being that drilling and tapping holes is near second nature to me now, I figured what the heck I’d go ahead and do a little write up. But before I begin, there are a couple of warnings, and disclaimers etc..

First! Some warnings, the use of cutting tools is dangerous! the use of safety glasses to protect your eyeballs is highly recommended, even though this operation will be done in plastic.. if the tool breaks.. it can screw you up, I have a piece of metal permanently imbedded in my left hand, so I know what I’m talking about.

Second! This is not a hard technique, especially if you follow instructions well.. if you are the type of person that tosses instructions away, even if you’ve never done the thing before.. Please leave now! No hurt feelings, you can go kill yaself on your own time.. I don’t want you blaming me later when you didn’t even read what I said.. so go, thank you.

Now! a Disclaimer, why in the beginning.. cause I want this upfront cause that’s the kind of guy I am. You can be seriously hurt if you screw up, you can damage not only yourself but your equipment, and the piece you are working on. This is for educational purposes only! I am not liable if you attempt this procedure on your own! Please be aware of this, I am not Liable! Thank you!

Now then that we got all that pesky stuff out of the way, so you wanna drill and tap your clear plastic base so it can sit on your tripod? sorta like this?

Pictures for my Tutorial

If that’s what ya wanna do, then your in the right place.. So what magical materials you gonna need to accomplish this feat of engineering.. Actually less then you think.

Pictures for my Tutorial

So from left to right, we have the very basics.. of what it will take to accomplish this job. There are better ways to do this, ways I would recommend highly! But most of y’all may not have access to a drill press, or other such handy and expensive equipment.. so I’m keeping it very simple. Bear in mind this is Hillbilly engineering, this isn’t the best way, but it will get you a very usable and well done job if you go slow and are careful. From left to right we have a Hand Drill motor, A measuring tape, a small drill (Preferably around 1/8 or smaller), a 13/64 drill which is our tap drill, A 1/4-20 tap, A 1/4 inch drill, a crescent style wrench(or spanner for the brits), and on the far right is actually a 1/4-20 die which isn’t for this operation, but will be handy later in this entry if you so choose to read that far. Pretty much everything you will need for this job you can get from a local Hardware store or big box hardware store. If you have a local mom and pops hardware store near you, by all means support them and give them the business. Those little hardware stores are so important, letting them go out of business is just wrong! The tap, is about the only thing that could be a problem, but again local hardware stores will prolly have them, if not then a Lowes or Home Depot will.  Now drills are something I think everyone has seen, but taps are quite a bit different, a Tap is a metal working tool designed to cut female threads into a work piece. Whereas a Die is designed to cut male threads onto a work piece.  The action of using a tap, is called tapping.

Pictures for my Tutorial

Since I already drilled and tapped my circular base from SKS Cool-cat, I thought I would go ahead and demonstrate on a different piece, but bear in mind the techniques still apply. So first thing you will want to do, is locate the center, which you can see I’ve done here with the black magic marker. The center is important, because that will be where the center of gravity will be when ya have a dollfie onboard, so the center is a good place to be.

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I can hear it now, I’m not sure from whom, but prolly someone who stumbles across my blog.. But Tsun, how did you get the center.. I measured it, that’s what the tape measure is for.. Measure twice, cut once. Its a good rule of thumb always keep it in mind, because you can always take off material.. you can’t put it back once its gone. Pictured here is a straight edge, you can use one of these if you don’t have a tape measure or vice versus, the important thing is to get the center. On a round base.. finding the center is a little more tricky, you may even end up eyeballing the center unless you have tools to find it properly.. Eyeballing generally will get you close enough that you won’t notice a difference when its on the tripod. Remember we’re hillbilly engineering this.. not precise machining it ^_^

Pictures for my Tutorial

so now that we have center, its time to drill a small starter hole.. thats what the little drill is for, you will notice I didn’t use the little drill. I used some fancy starter drills I own, but the purpose is the same, you want something for the bigger drill to follow. Drills have a horrible habit of wanting to do something called “Walking” which means they don’t tend to stay where you put em. So we drill a primer hole to get us rolling and give the tap drill something to bite into so it doesn’t end up in Topeka by the time you’ve finished drilling. Its important to note, when drilling this tiny hole.. you don’t have to go very deep.. Just deep enough to give the bigger drill something to get a hold of.. no more then a 1/8 of an inch in most cases. It is also important to know.. From here on out, if you aren’t using a drill press you must ensure that your drilling straight and vertical to the peice. If you are at the slightest angle it will make your life miserable.. and prolly will prevent the hole being usable. So 90 degrees in both side to side, and front to back in this step.. this is prolly the most critical! All drilling must be 90 degrees for this to work! Go ahead and put the 13/64 drill into the drill motor chuck, its time to use it!

Pictures for my Tutorial

This may look like hillbilly engineering.. and it is.. but its a method used in machine shops all over the world. Time to mark how deep ya gotta go!! The base I’m drilling happened to be about .590″ or around 19/32″. Its critical that you get a decent measurement of the base you are using so you can determine how deep into you can drill. Mine I could only drill about a half an inch.. so I marked the tape just around a half of an inch. The base you work on, maybe and probably will be different, so measure. The tape measure is your friend. remember to include the drill point in your depth measurement here, so in the picture.. its roughly 1/2 an inch from the drill tip to where the tape is. Now that you’ve measured.. its time to drill.. Remember about being 90 degrees, totally vertical! This is when you need to be absolutely as vertical and straight as you can.. From this point on.. once you’ve drilled this hole.. You can’t turn back! So please be careful!.

Pictures for my Tutorial

I really can’t emphasize being as straight as possible enough! I actually had a helper look both directions for me to ensure I was straight before I drilled this hole.

Pictures for my Tutorial

Look mom a straight hole! Woohoo! if you’ve gotten this far and have been successful.. pat yaself on the back.. you’ve just climbed the mountain.. just a little further to the summit!

Pictures for my Tutorial

Okay remember in your list of materials.. I forgot one, A cheap chunk o’ wood. You’ll need this cheap chunk of wood for the next step of the operation.. Which is tapping the hole! Load the 1/4 inch drill into the drill motor.. following proper drilling procedure, 90 degrees anyone?, run a hole straight through the wood. This hole is going to be very handy to you, the first time tapper! It will help you keep your tap straight from when it goes in the hole.. if you get crooked now.. your really gonna hate yaself.. so Please whatever you do.. don’t skip this step.. unless you have as many years as a machinist as I do.. I still don’t recommend skipping this step.

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Now then we got a blind hole that is just dying to get a tap! and a peice of wood to help us tap it with! Lets tap away!!

Pictures for my Tutorial

I know what your thinking.. in the previous picture he had a really fancy cool looking handle on the tap! What gives.. Well.. Nothing gives, I own really cool fancy tap handles.. You don’t need em, A little crescent wrench like this.. works just fine and dandy.. and is generally how a lot of holes get tapped. So no worries, no fretting. the wrench will work fine.. Now what you wanna be careful of in tapping a hole, is the chips!!! Chips are our friends, and our enemies.. this being plastic.. they really won’t cause much a concern.. but as you work the tap into the material.. for every few turns into the material.. turn it a quarter to half turn back it will break the chip you are making and keep the tap from binding as much. Again this plastic you shouldn’t run into a problem. Once you have about half the hole tapped.. go ahead and run the tap out of the hole and clear the chips, then run the tap in again and finish tapping the hole.. since this is a blind hole when you can’t tap any deeper.. your done! don’t try to force it.. You can and will break a tap doing that.. and if you break the tap.. You will catch hell trying to get it out of the hole! Especially if you working in steel or another metal. this is where patience comes into play. After your done tapping the hole! Your ready to start using your base for Dollfie Photography if it already has a means of holding your dollfie! such as an Cool-cat base.

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But if your like and are doing this on a scratch base.. well then follow along a little bit more and we will make a complete dollfie base!

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Now that I got my center hole done.. I measure out and prepare the base for the next hole.. which means more drilling! Back to the 13/64 drill. Now unlike our previous hole, this one goes all the way through.. no marking the drill is required, but a straight hole still is! So make sure its 90 degrees to the vertical!.

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All the previous rules about tapping still apply! Start the tap in the wood.. tap , tap, tap.. Till ya all the way through, like this! only good thing is since its a through hole.. the chips fall out instead of stay in the hole. But its still possible to break a tap! So be careful!!!.

Now from here on most people aren’t going to be able to do this, do to a lack of tools.. but I will show you what ya need to acomplish the goal! You will need some Aluminum or your choice metal (Softer the better trust me on this!)

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A Hacksaw to cut the metal with and some files to debur! Trust me on deburring!! Burrs can cut you like butter! Again.. I’m speaking from personal experience here.

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And finally to bend the aluminum rod into the shape of your choice, a bender! This is not the bender we used for this project, This is a far cheaper one that is actually affordable.. the one I used, is easily a few hundred dollars.. but boy it does brake lines like a champ ^_^.

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Now that all that is assembled.. You’ve bent your rod into the shape you desire!, I made a saddle stand the results of my bending will be at the very end. Patience young Jedi

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After you have bent the aluminum to your heart’s desire, now comes the hard part.. Adding threads to the bottom side of the rod.. to match the ones you put in the base earlier. Here I have a 1/4-20 Die which will cut the male portion of the thread, where a Tap cuts the Female threads. You will want to put a healthy chamfer with your file before you even attempt to start the die, and whatever you do.. Make sure it runs on straight.. Dies have a horrible habit of getting crooked and then the whole job turns to crap! I really don’t recommend this for beginners.. but again I’m not liable.. this is just a tutorial!

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See I’ve done this lots of times, and even with all my experience.. my threads look like junk! Well its soft aluminum.. This is why I don’t recommend this for beginners.. Its a very tricky process, but the saving grave of these threads is.. they worked!

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And here’s the completed stand, on the tripod which we prepped for earlier!

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Hrm.. somethings missing…. What could be missing.. I don’t know.. Wait.. Wait a minute!! I know what’s missing!

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There we go! Thats better!! Hope you’ve made it this far, so does Mikuru.. But I know I poured a lot of information into this post.. its really long, and involved.. I hope you will take my little bits of advice to heart.

And remember like the disclaimer said! Its not my fault if you screw up!! ^_~ So don’t sue me!


August 27, 2010 - Posted by | Dollfie Dream, Gagets or Tech


  1. It looks great! I’m a bit lost at the “tap” part ^^; lol! great job! ^O^

    Comment by chun | August 27, 2010 | Reply

    • A tap is a tool, its how the female threads are formed. Basically it looks like a screw with reliefs cut into it.. And the process of cutting the threads is known as tapping. If you were to attempt this process and went to the hardware store, and were to ask for a 1/4-20 tap. They would give you what ya needed.

      Comment by tsunchan | August 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. Nice home made saddle stand with tripod mount threaded base!

    Might the edge of the rod not risk to scratch or tear the DD and her clothes, being bare metal? Could one easily cover it in transparent rubber/plastic?

    Comment by Smithy | August 28, 2010 | Reply

    • Oooh yeah.. It can be covered.. But a properly deburred piece will be highly unlikely to scratch.. But definately covering the contact area never hurts.

      Comment by tsunchan | August 28, 2010 | Reply

  3. Very Nice! I’m very bad at drilling holes tho lol. I have to show you one of this days the stand I use made by my father, he also has loads of tools and machines in his “dungeon” lol. This base is made of methacrylate? I thought of buying that for Sakura’s stand.

    Comment by Kuraikawai | August 29, 2010 | Reply

    • Its some sort of plastic.. Not exactly which though..

      Dungeon… Sounds like a hobby area. Yes one day you will have to show that stand to me.

      Comment by tsunchan | August 29, 2010 | Reply

  4. If you want your threads to be less noticeable, use a little mineral oil as a lubricant when you drill & tap. It reduces the heat generated by both operations and thus reduces distortion in the plastic. Using WD-40 or other tinted lubes can transfer into the plastic. Clear silicone spray will work, too. Just make sure that you haven’t exposed the area of your acrylic to high heat (from polishing). Silicone may cause slight crazing near those areas.

    Comment by John | August 17, 2012 | Reply

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