If you are of the opinion that a drill press can only make holes in metals, it is time to expand this vision. Nowadays, this power unit has become one of the most diverse tools in any woodworking shop because of its several effectual applications.  A high quality drill press not only drills metal but also cuts into wood to perform other woodworking tasks such as mortising and sanding. This guide will help you find the best drill press for you. We have also featured short, drill press reviews towards the end.

drill press reviews
via Kim Faires

Designed originally for metal works, a drill press is versatile enough to work with several types of jigs, tools, and attachments converting the tool into a pocket hole device, grinder, buffer, spindle sander, and mortise unit.

A few reviewers also say that a drill press, after a table saw, is genuinely the most important equipment to have in both a shop and home workshop. If you are ready to lift your home woodworking to the next level, a drill press is what you need to consider. The tool is essential for drilling holes with precision or boring to precise depths. If you set it right, the tool facilitates boring at any angle without the risk of hole reams or drill bit walking.

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Structure and Working of a Drill Press

A traditional drill press consists of three primary parts namely, a column, base, and table and head. While the base supports the tool and has pre-drilled holes for affixing the unit to the floor or bench, the column of steel holds the table and head so that it is securely affixed to the base. The motor is generally secured to a plate on the head casting behind the column. The column length decides whether the tool is a floor or bench type. The length is more in case of a floor model.

The drill press table is attached to the column. You can move it to any point lying between the base and the head. There might be slots in table, which help in clamping supportive fixtures or pieces. Additionally, at times, you may even see a mid hole through it.

A few models are such that you can tilt the table to any angle, while the remaining ones only have a fixed position. You may even have an auxiliary plywood or particleboard table that can be secured to the regular table. Such tables can be made custom made or brought as per the model type.

The head assigns the full working mechanism attached to the column’s top area. The most vital head part is the vertically revolving spindle located in bearings at a movable sleeve’s end known as the quill. The spindle gets its power from a stepped-cone pulley or pulleys affixed through a V-belt. The spindle is carried by the quill moving downward with the help of a straightforward rack-and-pinion gearing, driven by the feed lever.

Once you release the feed handle via a spring, the quill comes back to its standard up position. There are adjustments for securing or locking the quill and fixing the depth up to which the quill can move, as per the kind of hole you will make. Generally, the quill can travel (stroke) from 2.00 to 3.25 inches in most models designed for home woodworking projects.

When you go through the drill press reviews, you will come across a specification of half inch capacity chuck. This is actually an accessory that ensures full grip. However, not all models have it although it is nice to have. Several drill press accessories tend to fit directly into the chuck.

Choosing the Best Drill Press

Regardless of whether you have used a drill press or not, using it is not complicated. In fact, it makes things faster and more efficiently. Unlike handheld drills, drill presses allow making holes in a variety of materials more conveniently as well as precisely and with more power for tough pieces.

Similarly, high quality drills have a few common aspects such as solid construction, quick adaptability, and some features. This can give rise to confusion within you, due to which it can become difficult to choose the right model for your home or commercial shop.

Well, if you compare your needs with the major buying factors, it becomes easier to choose the right model quickly. Before going through the factors, you need to determine your needs. You can do so by replying to the following queries.

    • What kind of materials you will be working with?
    • What will be the probable size range of these materials?
    • Will you have heavy-duty materials to work with?
    • Will you drill at angles regularly?
    • Is there less floor space for storing or putting the tool at work?
    • What is the budget?

Once you identify these needs, you can easily compare the most promising models as per the buying factors. Let’s check out these factors right away.

What to Look for ?

Factor 1: Types

There are six types of drill presses to consider.

  • Bench-Top: These directly mount to a workbench or on a drill press stand. They are compact in size due to which they are ideal for small shops wherein less or small space is enough for storage. A bench-top press usually swings from 8 to 12 inches, while its stroke reaches from 2 to 3 3/8 inches. Available at lower price range than other models, a bend-top unit is ideal for light professional and simple household jobs.
  • Floor-Standing: These tools are more powerful than bench-top models due to bigger motors, more accessories or attachments, greater speed range, and higher material dealing capacity. Such units come with a swing stretching from 13 to 20 inches as well as a stroke from 3 to 6 inches. Due to more capacity as well as power, the floor-standing models can easily handle medium to heavy-duty tasks apart from the regular ones, at home or shop. They are ideal options for professionals. While the height range for a bench top model is from 23 to 48 inches, floor models have a range of 66 to 75 inches.
  • Magnetic: These models are the latest ones with commendable swing reaching from four to more than eight inches. You can expect these tools to bore through steel pieces having a thickness of more than four inches. The units can easily move from site to site but in several cases, professionals working with metals need a heavy-duty model. Nevertheless, magnetic drill presses are tremendously powerful due to its electromagnetic design, apart from being highly portable.
  • Radial: These models come with the highest possible swing of minimum 24 inches. Such a wide swing assists in cutting through board. The most distinctive aspect of these types of presses is their specially designed equipment for facilitating angled drilling. While a radial model is a tool that a regular drill press user needs, it is also considered for drilling materials having width over 17 inches. Radial presses are perfect for working with very large pieces. Just like magnetic drill presses, radial drills need a huge up-front investment. This is because both are meant for specialty applications.
  • Portable: These drill presses are usually called cordless drills, as they are driven by rechargeable batteries. These electric drills also possess a clutch. They are adjustable for right angled drills, indicating feasibility that is preferred by several woodworkers. The battery is either made up of nickel cadmium or lithium-ion, of which the former one is cheaper and the latter one is lighter. The nickel cadmium battery takes longer time to charge and has shorter lifespan than a lithium-ion one.
  • Small: These models are also called mini drill presses, as they are the mini versions of a standard unit. Although small, they come with commendable capability. These models also come with power and variable speed setting that you can adjust as per your need. However, small drill presses do not have a table, as their base acts as the work surface as well as the table. This means that you cannot adjust the work surface. Keeping this con aside, these models are truly sturdier than their size and bigger presses.

Factor 2: Brands

When you buy any power tool, it is essential to consider only branded ones. This is because you get good quality, more warranty, and better service after sales. In case of drill presses, the top or leading brands are Grizzly, Delta, Jet, Shop Fox, SKIL, WEN, Craftsman, Powermatic, and Milwaukee. Each of these brands comes with distinct features, finest parts, and control panels to fulfill the varying needs of customers.

Delta is known for its quality bench-top laser drills featuring perfect motor power for smooth operations, 12 to 16 speed options, lights, and laser and work lamps. The brand offers expert services and ensures easy handling as well as assembling of its units. Grizzly is also admired for its quality drill presses having commendable spindly travel and speed levels, but is more popular for its stationary model with 12 different speeds. While SKIL and WEN are known for their affordable offers, Milwaukee is recognized for its heavy-duty magnetic models.

Factor 3: Size

In case of size, the tool’s capacity is decided by the distance from the chuck’s mid area to the column’s front, which is termed as the diameter. For instance, a 16.5-inch model will drill a hole via the middle of a piece of stock that is 16.5 inches in diameter. However, the distance from the chuck’s center to the column’s front is 8.25 inches.

Since the unit can hole a circle with a diameter as twice the distance, the size is specified as twice the distance from the column to the chuck’s centre. The traditional drill press sizes range from 8 to 17 inches, for home workshops.

Factor 4: Motor and Power

The total power to be exerted is perhaps the most important feature of a drill press, as it determines how effective the tool is. A good power statistics means you will gain accurate and clean holes without exerting much manual energy while cutting. This means you are ensured of better performance and saved strength.

Regardless of the model or type you choose, a drill press should have a Totally Enclosed Fan Cooled or TEFC motor, as it protects the working parts inside from dust and debris. The TEFC factor also directly contributes to the longer lifespan of the motor.

Experts suggest looking for a motor with a decent amount of HorsePower (HP) or amps, a unit of scale measuring maximum power that the motor produces. A higher HP allows boring larger holes via a tougher material.

Two to three amps is decent, but five or more is better. Similarly, 1/4 to 1/2 HP is decent, but 3/4 to 1 HP ensures better performance. You can look for these stats easily on the package label. Nowadays, drill press motors are available with a power ranging from 1/4 to 1 HP.

A more powerful motor is usually at the core of a floor-standing model to offer a larger capacity. It is, thus, clear that floor models tend to have 1/2 to 3/4 HP, whereas bench-top ones have 1/3 or 1/4 HP of power. For average work, a motor with 1/4 or 3/4 HP is sufficient.

Factor 5: Speed

Regardless of whether you exclusively handle a variety of wood or a myriad of different materials, it is critical to consider the speed of a drill press. The lower speed range is ideal for thicker materials or metals.

While performing at a lower speed might decelerate cutting, it aids in maintaining the motor without any risk of it getting overheated. On the other hand, the higher speed range is ideal for wood pieces. The higher rotations help in making holes rapidly without any hassle.

A higher speed range allows drilling a variety of material types as well as thicknesses. While bench-top models feature a small speed range or fewer speed settings, floor models come with more spindle speeds, adding to their versatility. Spindle speeds tend to range from below 200 Revolutions Per Minute (RPMs) to over 4,000 RPMs.

For drilling both wood and metal, a user requires a wide range of speed settings, as metal is drilled at a lower speed and wood at a medium to high speed. Thus, to get adjustably optimum juice out of your drill, you should look for multiple speed option.

Models with different speeds tend to make cuts or make holes of different diameter on a bigger array of materials such as plastic, metal, and wood, without damaging the drill bits or the material. The modern drill presses come with 5 to 12 speed settings. As a rule of thumb, the more these settings are, the more versatile is the tool.

Factor 6: Drill Bits

The bit is the most critical component of the drill press without which even the best drill press will not work nicely. The bits should actually be well maintained and should be of good quality. You should consider your drilling needs to choose the right drill bits, as these bits come with particular design elements that cater to different tasks.

While selecting your bits, it is essential to match them to the material to be bored. For instance, you need to buy masonry drill bits for boring via through tile or marble. Similarly, you need installer bits that reach up to 18 inches for drilling hardened steel, installing pipe, and performing a wiring task. For softer items such as wood, spade-type or brad-point bits are ideal.

You can choose stationary bits for control and accuracy while drilling at perfect right angles to achieve consistent recurring holes. Material wise, you can choose from the following types of drill bits:

  • Inexpensive steel bits for softwood boring
  • High-Speed Steel (HSS) bits for longer lasting sharpness as well as hardness than steel bits that get quickly dull while hardwood boring
  • A bit more expensive titanium coated bits (than HSS) for more toughness and longer sharpness than steel or HSS bits
  • Carbide-tipped bits, as more expensive than the aforementioned bits, for achieving the longest lasting sharpness as compared to all above bits
  • Extremely hard cobalt bits for boring in hard metals such as stainless steel by dissipating heat quickly

Factor 7: Drill Press Table

A table for a drill press affects the overall performance. A majority of drill presses for home shops come with a tilting work table that you can tilt by loosening a nut residing below the table. They also have a pin fitting via corresponding holes for stop at vertical and horizontal angles.

In case of a floor drill press, you can adjust to the work piece’s height. In such a case, it is suggested to look for a table that you can set up quickly. For accelerating this setup, you certainly need a rack and pinion table compilation. Herein, you only need to unlock the lock of table bracket and spin the handle until the table comes into its right position, followed by tightening the lock back.

The table should be such that you can swing it around and left or right, so that you can ensure apt drilling alignment. At times, you may have to swing the table fully, which should be done with ease by loosening the lock and turning the table. The modern presses tables can be easily uplifted and descended along the entire column length, and can even rotate completely around the column for handling pieces with odd shape.  Another feature to look worktables is the contained X grooves that aid in clamping the material.

For a drill press brought to make cuts at an angle, you need a tilting table for gaining the most precise cut. You can even go for a model having a table with additional space along the edge. This is essential for affixing fences and vises.

Other features to look for in a table are ground flat for precise work, flat surface at base for holding large pieces, ribbed and slotted table and base strength and rigidity, and slats or ledges for clamping (promises both safety and convenience).

Factor 8: Drill Press Stand

You need a stand for putting your drill press, especially if there is no designated place. It should be very sturdy as it will have to endure a heavy load as well as strong vibrations. The exact specifications and style you choose shall vary as per the needs. For example, if the purpose is to have to bring the tool nearer to the eye level, a simple design is fine. In case you need mobility or storage space, consider a stand with wheels, cabinets, or shelves.

Factor 9: Construction

Having a lasting construction is another critical factor to look for while buying a drill press. Well, construction should be solid so that you can enjoy a lasting precision as well as a longer life than your expectations.

Factor 10: Adjustable Head

If you are looking for flexibility in a drill press, you just cannot ignore having an adjustable head, as the tool shall move up to 45 degrees. If the head is changeable head, it becomes easy to handle the task of compound angles. Moreover, the head should be made out of cast iron, a power tool construction material providing great support as well as protection for critical parts such as the quill, motor, and pinion shaft.

Factor 11: Chuck

Look for a chuck that is present in the drill press, which should be tightened with the help of a key or a wrench, and not by hand. It should feature a half inch capacity for encompassing bits of different sizes as well as accessories.

Several modern drills come with a taper-mounted chuck that rationally eliminates the run-out as well as ensures accurate drilling. A few chucks have a key that ejects on its own, which ensures that the key does not accidentally remain inside the chuck.

Factor 12: Other Important Features

Along with the above discussed features, you also need to assess some more features while buying a drill press. These features contribute to the maintenance, convenience, more flexibility, and replacement.

  • Poly-V Belts: Allow emitting power to the engine, which is essential for enhanced performance.
  • Rack-and-Pinion Height Change Mechanism: Ensures precise use through the portable table height that also takes care of safety.
  • Built-In Light Fixture: Allows clearer and improved visibility at the time of drilling, with the help of a table lamp that usually has an elastic neck section for apt material positioning.
  • Depth-adjustment Gauge: Facilitates accurate and precise drilling of several holes at a single depth as well as removes any guesswork. At times, you must adjust the gauges depth, specifically while drilling on a stock piece. Depth gauging is also critical while handling stopped holes having a fixed depth.
  • Quill Travel: Decides the depth to which the holes can be bored; the more the travel is, the deeper are the holes.
  • Depth Stops: Regulate the depth to which the quill shall be lowered as well as restrict the hole’s depth. They are ideal for dowel holes as well as repetitive boring. The more precise they are; the more accurate is your boring outcome.
  • Throat Depth: Refers to the distance between the spindle’s center grasping the drill bit and the post of tool holding the head. The throat depth somewhat decides the maximum size of a wood piece with whom the tool can work. For instance, the wood piece’s radius needs to be lower than the throat depth for drilling a hole in the middle.
  • Motor Bracket Support: Refers to adjustable, movable for apt belt tension, sturdily constructed support for the motor.
  • Adjustments: Are for adjusting the head’s angle. Many tables come with an adjustable angle. The degree by which you can tilt the head or table varies from one tool to another. This feature is essential for those who wish to drill at angles.
  • Mortising Kit: Is essential for ensuring more versatility, as it can help in forming rectangular holes.

5 Best Drill Presses of 2016 Reviewed

SKIL 3320-01:

SKIL 3320-01 10-inch Laser Drill Press

This drill press is ideal for those who work on weekends and desire greater precision than a handheld model. This bench-top model ensures better results for bolder and larger projects, with its superior power and required support. It features X2 2-Beam laser for accurate hole alignment along with a depth adjustment system for simple depth control, repetitive drilling, as well as consistent drills. Other features include a bump off switch for additional protection, 3.2 amps motor, cast iron base, work table, and 10-inch capacity for drilling on center. The tool also comes with five speeds ranging from 570 to 3,050 RPMs for cutting holes through wood and metal cleanly, accommodation of larger diameter bits for cutting and woodworking, tilting work surface up to 45 degrees, and half inch keyed chuck.

>>Click Here to See Reviews and Pricing on Amazon.com

WEN 4210:

WEN 4210 10-inch Laser Drill Press

This drill press with 10-inch swing and laser centering mechanism is a complete powerhouse full of features seen in more industrial type and larger models. Designed to power through wood, metal, and other items easily, the tool comes with five speed settings to achieve the precise RPM as per your project. This setting ranges from 600 to 3100 RPMs. It boasts a rigid cast iron frame construction offering both durability and sturdiness. Its robust induction motor has ball bearings ensuring a longer lifespan as well as smooth and balanced operation regardless of the speed. Other features include half inch keyed chuck, spindle taper for enjoying the versatility with different bits, rotating worktable up to 45° left and right for consistent perfect right angles, and predrilled holes in the base for mounting onto a stand or bench. The tool also comes with X-pattern laser locking the drill points for keeping guesswork away, tools for assembly, spindle travel of 2.5 inches, linear depth stop for repeatable and accurate drilling operations, 3.2 amp motor for enough torque and power, and rack & pinion height adjustment.

>>Click Here to See Reviews and Pricing on Amazon.com

JET 354170:

JET 354170JDP-20MF 20-Inch Floor Drill Press

This drill press is ideal for both home workers and professionals. The robust 1.5 HP motor through 115v or 230v circuit rotates bits up to 3/4 of an inch at any of the 12 speed options ranging from 150 to 4,200 RPMs for easy angled drilling. The unit is also equipped with an adjustable tension spindle return spring, chuck and key, pulley cover, hinged metal belt, and built-in work lamp (excluded). The work table ascends and descends at the turn of a crank to its precise position. Angled drilling is a breeze with the turning 45-degree table boasting a clamp that you can release quickly. Other features include a 1/2-inch diameter external depth stop and three-nut lock for rapid adjustment, high-quality ball bearings for spindle support, on/off switch, quill, 29-1/8 inches distance from spindle to table, and ideal drilling capacity on 2/4-inch mild steel and 1-inch cast iron.

>>Click Here to See Reviews and Pricing on Amazon.com

SHOP FOX W1670:

SHOP FOX W1670 12-Horsepower Floor Radial Drill Press

This radial arm and floor style drill press is among the most versatile and useful tools for shops. With this unit, you can drill any angle between the head’s and table’s tilt or utilize it as a horizontal boring tool. You can use this tool for a variety of sanding as well as drilling operations. The amazing swing enables boring to the center of the piece that can be 34-inch wide. The tool also features five, easy to adjust speeds ranging from 550 to 3,470 RPMs, 1/2 HP motor, 64.25-inch height, depth stop, 3.25-inch spindle travel, 5/8-inch drill chuck, tilting table up to 90-degrees right and left, tilting head up to 45 degrees left and 90 degrees right, horizontal sliding headstock, and universal table tilt system.

>>Click Here to See Reviews and Pricing on Amazon.com

DEWALT DWE1622K:

DEWALT DWE1622K 2-Speed 2-Inch Magnetic Drill Press

This drill press is ideal for heavy-duty applications with its 10-amp motor, two settings for speed capable of offering optimal performance in a myriad of projects, and four inch drill travel. The tool also comes with overload protection to keep motor damage and excess wear of accessory away. Other features include a  quick change chuck and half inch keyed chuck, feed handles, magnetic cooling tank regulating cooling fluid’s flow and allowing different unit orientations, and motor height adjustment for more range of accessory compatibility.

>>Click Here to See Reviews and Pricing on Amazon.com

Conclusion

So, have you found your best drill press? Well, if not, you can go through some more drill press reviews on our site, and let us know what you think.

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