A drill press offers better accuracy and more power than a standard handheld drill. Here's why it should be one of the first standalone shop tools you invest in.
All woodworkers, from amateurs to pros, need the ability to drill straight holes. Hand drills take up little space and are ideal for simple jobs, but if you are serious about woodworking, a drill press will be necessary. Building furniture and tackling larger household projects require precision and power when drilling tens or hundreds of holes. With a drill press you can set exact depths and angles each time you drill.
A drill press can also be used to effectively drill holes in metal and plastic. Just remember to use the right bit and take note of the speed of the drill.
The main drawback to a drill press, of course, is the size. They aren't enormous, but they do take up floor or bench top space. But if you can squeeze them in, the trade off is well worth it.
The Two Types of Drill Presses
Drill presses are available in two different configurations, floor models and bench models.
Floor drill presses are standalone tools that provide the most power and are made for heavy-duty jobs. They start at around $500 for a basic model, but they often can be found at garage sales for a fraction of that.
Most DIY enthusiasts with a home workshop will opt for a bench model. They are small enough to be stored away in a cabinet when not in use to save space on your work bench. Look for one in the 250mm to 305mm range for the most flexibility.
Drill presses are designated by the maximum-diameter workpiece that can be centred under the bit. Take that number and divide by two to get the throat depth, which is the distance from the bit to the main column at the back of the machine. This number indicates how far you can place a hole from the edge of your work. For example, a 250mm drill press will have a throat depth of 125mm.
A quick search on Craigslist will pull up a lot of drill press options. Don't be put off by older dusty models. They are often built better than the ones you'll find today at the big box retailers.
How to Use a Drill Press
The operation of a drill press is simple. First, make sure it's powered up and placed on a solid level surface. Load your drill bit up into the chuck and use a chuck key to tighten it into position. Set the depth of your hole using the adjustment provided.
Start the drill press at the desired speed and use the lever on the right hand side to lower the drill bit into the wood.
It's recommended to clamp the wood to the drill surface which keeps it from turning, and also keeps your hands away from the drill bit. Check out the video above to see a drill press in use, as well as some details on choosing bits.
Unlike other big workshop tools, the drill press is straightforward to use and not as intimidating. But you should still always wear eye protection and hearing protection is also recommended. Don't wear loose clothing and be aware of long sleeves that might catch in the bit.
A common modification that many users make to their drill press is the addition of a drill press table. This expands the small work space of the drill press, and if you add a fence to the table you have even more options.