Countersink Vs Counterbore

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This is Countersink Vs Counterbore, your answer guide to knowing the difference as well as when to use each type in your woodworking. It’s actually pretty easy to tell the difference, and I will show you everything you need to know. Enjoy.

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Countersink and Counterbore in Woodworking

Countersink-vs-counterboreCountersinking counterbore are two woodworking terms that refer to a hole made in a piece of wood. That’s really it. Well, actually there’s a little bit more to it, and I will get into that further down in the post.

Right now, the only thing you really need to know is that a counter sink has tapered walls, and a counterbore has straight walls.

They are both used for specific things, but the end result is to sink a screw or piece of hardware below the surface of the wood.

This makes the process of finishing a lot easier, hides the hardware, and gets the screw heads off the wood so they don’t snag. It’s really easy to do both styles, so stick with me and you’ll know exactly which one you need to use and when.

See Also: How to Pick the Right Beginner Woodworking Project

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What is a Countersink?

countersink profileA counter sink is a method of moving the head of the screw beneath the surface of the material that you are screwing into. Since the heads on screws are tapered like a V, the counter sink is also tapered like a V.

When you screw a screw into a piece of wood that has been countersunk, the head will sit nicely in the V shaped opening.

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The head will remain below the Wood surface, and you won’t have to worry about splitting or damaging the wood by over tightening.

Depending on the type of wood, a lot of woodworkers just drill their the screws in a little extra deep, and the heads dig in themselves. This will work for a construction style project, but a lot of times on finer work it can damage the wood.

Instead of taking chances, this is where creating a counter sink can be beneficial. All you do is drill your holes, and create the counter sinks after drilling. Then, you come back and install all the screws with the heads nicely below the surface.

See Also: 9 Important Things to Put In Your Woodworking Notebook

What is a Counterbore?

counterbore profileCounterbore is a little different then a counter sink. With the counterbore, the walls of the hole go straight up and down rather than taper like a V.

This is a key distinction, and allows for a little different use.

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Some hardware, like bolts, don’t have tapered heads that slip easily into a Countersink. In order to get these below the level of the wood surface, you need to create an opening that has straight side walls and is deep enough to accommodate the head of the hardware.

This is where counterbore really shines, because you can follow the pilot drill hole with the appropriate bit, typically a Forstner, and create a counterbore deep enough to hide the head. 

See Also: 19 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Woodworking

When Should You Use a Countersink?

It’s important to use a counter sink when you run into situations where you want to keep the screwheads below the surface of the wood. It’s also important for finer projects that don’t give away as easily as softer materials.

For example, if you are installing brass screws to hold a tiny little box together, then it’s important that those screws go flush to the surface without breaking it. A slight countersink can allow that screw to go to full depth without breaking the wood.

It also keeps the head of the screw from sticking up, which can snag on fingers and clothing. It’s also a tacky look to have screwheads sitting above the surface, and you should always countersink a screw with a tapered head.

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See Also: 20 Easy DIY Woodworking Projects With Tutorials

When Should You Use a Counterbore?

Counterbore can be cosmetic, but it can also serve a purpose. Sometimes, your bolts may not be long enough to drive deep enough into the inserts on the other side. In this case, the counterbore can increase the length of your bolt.

Technically the bold is still the same length, but when you sink to head into the board, you allow more of the shank to come out the other side. This means more of the threaded portion of the bolt can go into the insert on the other end of the project.

The other use is cosmetics, and to drive the head of the bolt or hardware below the surface can sometimes be beneficial. When it is, just create the counterbore, and screw in the bolt all the way in until the head is below the surface, and the hold is tight.

See Also: Does Woodworking Take a Long Time to Learn?

What Tool Makes a Countersink?

You can buy a simple tool to make a counter sink. It’s called a counter sink, and they are both manual in machine driven versions. The manual isn’t bad for smaller holes, but if you have a lot to do, or you need to go a little deeper, then power is always easier.

I recommend picking up a hand countersink, and then one that also goes into a drill. Since neither one are very expensive, you can pick up a set and have basically everything you need right at your fingertips.

These last a very long time. You can also find them in a couple of different sizes and tapers, but the most common one is really about all you need. Enjoy the set, and you’ll be glad that you have them all when it comes time to countersink some screws.

See Also: 13 Myths About Getting Into Woodworking

What Tool Makes a Counterbore?

I already mentioned the best tool to make a counterbore, and that’s a Forstner bit. These drills make perfect holes with straight sides. They also can come in pretty large diameters depending on your need.

For most counterbore operations, you really don’t need anything wider than the head of the bolt, plus the socket that will have to turn it into place. This might be a maximum of 3/4 of an inch in most cases.

The majority of the time, you may only end up using a half inch Forstner bit. Either way, a small set that goes from quarter inch up to an inch is typically around $20 depending on the manufacturer, and worth every penny.

Pick yourself up a nice set up for the shop, and you will find that you can use these for making a lot more than just counterbore holes. The larger sets especially are very good for hollowing things out, and removing a lot of material without a lot of effort.

See Also: 29 Ways to Maximize Your Woodworking Shop Layout

Which Way is the Easiest?

There really isn’t one method that’s easier than the other. Both of the countersink and the counterbore can be done with power tools, which means the results come quickly. It also means that you can have very consistent in uniform results.

The one nice thing about the counter sink, is that you can turn it by hand on a piece of delicate woodworking. This allows you a little bit more control, and that can be helpful on a delicate project that needs a lot of attention.

However, the situation is pretty rare. In a case where you want to sink the heads below the surface, you can use either method, though it does make sense to match the taper of the hole to the profile of the hardware.

This means if you’re screw heads are shaped like a V, then use a counter sink before you put them in. If you are using bolts that do not have tapered heads, and the head is more like a T shape, then use a counterbore.

See Also: LED Shop Lights for a Safer Woodworking Shop

Your Homework

Now that you know the difference between a countersink in a counterbore, take that information into the shop and pick up the tools you need in order to start. Once you have them in the shop, you’ll find a lot of reasons to use them.

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Not only will your projects look better, but they will actually be a little stronger too. When you match the profile of the hardware to the profile of the hole, you get better contact between the two items.

This means more holding power, and less chance of a bolt or a screw backing out over time. That’s great for your projects because a project that’s built really well has the best chance of lasting the longest.

The countersink and the Forstner bit are very standard woodworking tools. The overwhelming majority of woodworkers in the world have them, and in reality you should too.

They’re very small investment, and they can let you be more thorough in the way that you approach your project. 

If you have any questions, please Post a Question in the Q&A Forum and I’ll be glad to help. Happy building.

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brian forbes westfarthing woodworks llc owner

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