Saving The Buffalo

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Blog entry by ChuckV posted 09-26-2009 03:19 AM 15961 reads 1 time favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I picked up an old Buffalo 18 drill press on Craigslist for $75. This was made by the Buffalo Forge Co. They did not put serial numbers on these machines. There is a User’s Guide for this drill on OWWM that was published in 1957, so my drill must be from around that time.

The drill was located in an auto body shop not too far from my house. When I arrived and said I was there to see Paul about a drill press, I heard, “I’m Paul. I will show you the drill press…such as it is.” That didn’t sound too good, but I was still hoping that Paul was just not a very good salesman. The drill press was in a back room of the shop. Paul said that he had had it for two years but never used it. I imagine that one of the reasons they did not want to use it is that it is definitely a pre-OSHA model. By design, the pulley guard only covers the front pulley.

Paul told me that he got the drill from a body shop that was owned by a family friend and was going out of business. So I believe that this other body shop (owned by Woodrow Wilson – but not that Woodrow) is where the machine spent its youth. We plugged it in and it ran pretty quietly, despite some obvious misalignments. Paul and two other body shop employees unbolted the machine from the floor and got it into the back of my pickup truck.

Here are a few shots of when I first got it home:

Here is the motor label:

There was some rust, lots of gunk, and gray paint on many surfaces that really should not be painted. But I imagine that having paint on these parts, such as the surface of the table, saved it from more serious corrosion.

From the start of the restoration, I did not intend to end up with a museum piece. Mostly, I wanted to make the machine as safe, accurate and smooth running as I could. I have to admit that as I came to realize what a wonderful piece of machinery I had, I found myself spending more and more time improving its appearance.

The drill and motor weigh about 400 lbs. I took some large parts off while it was in the truck, but the remainder was still very heavy. My neighbor with a tractor, who often helps me with such things, was not available before we got the remnants of a hurricane. With a bit of rearranging, I was able to get the truck into my shop for the stormy night.

The next day, my neighbor came to the rescue:

The removal of unwanted paint and preparing for repainting was a lot of work – but very satisfying as I could see the potential. Here is some of the hardware after removing paint, gunk and rust:

I wanted to use brush-on RustOleum to repaint. It seems that there are far fewer color choices in the liquid than in the aerosol. I choose Royal Blue. It turned out to be a bit brighter that I expected. Well, I will not have to worry about misplacing the drill press! For example, here is the UFO-like pulley guard:

The chuck on the drill press is a monster. It is the Jacobs model 20N “Super Chuck”. The capacity is 3/8” – 1”. Here it is next to the 1/2” chuck on my cordless drill:

The 1 HP induction motor is wired for 120V. There was some funny wiring involving a light switch attached to the side of the main frame of the drill. Also, the cord was bad and there was no ground attached anywhere. But, the motor ran beautifully from the very start:

Here is is cleaned and repainted:

It was a great feeling to finally put the machine back together and get it running. It runs great. The runout of this drill is half that of my two-year-old Delta.

Here are some pictures of the Blue Buffalo:

Now I better get back to those Christmas gifts before it gets too cold in my shop!

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

11 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 4601 days

#1 posted 09-26-2009 03:36 AM

Chuck, this is a nice blog. I really enjoy seeing older tools like this get a new lease on life through a restoration. Including the before and after pictures shows how much work and effort you put into this tool. You now have a first class drill press that should last you for years to come.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View longgone's profile


5688 posts in 4087 days

#2 posted 09-26-2009 06:18 AM

You did a really nice restoration on the drill press. It looks great. I had an old Buffalo drill press for a number of years that I bought from a woodworker that had a shop in his attic of a large 2 story home. Talk about a job of getting it out!
The old Buffalo drill press also had a foor petal attached to it that allowed the user to also drill with foot pressure and be able to have both hands available to hold the workpiece. Very unique!
Enjoy your drill press…

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 4014 days

#3 posted 09-26-2009 06:22 AM

Wow, that turned out great (and bright!). That chuck’s size is absolutely ridiculous…

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

View a1Jim's profile


118066 posts in 4356 days

#4 posted 09-26-2009 06:23 AM

View oldwoodman's profile


137 posts in 4177 days

#5 posted 09-26-2009 07:36 AM


I admire your determination to restore your drill press. You did a fantastic job. Congratulations.

View king's profile


71 posts in 4726 days

#6 posted 09-27-2009 03:26 AM

Nice job, I really enjoy turning a old drill into somthing useful again.

-- [email protected]

View Woodbutchery's profile


432 posts in 4364 days

#7 posted 09-27-2009 01:58 PM

That’s a great restoration, a great blog, and a fine addition to any work area. Well done!

-- Making scrap with zen-like precision - Woodbutchery

View PurpLev's profile


8574 posts in 4427 days

#8 posted 09-28-2009 02:17 AM

wow, thats a fantastic save, and a wonderful drill! I gotta stop by to check this one out.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View Roger's profile


21030 posts in 3583 days

#9 posted 11-06-2010 02:31 AM

Grrrrrreat restore. Wow! Nothin beats a lil tlc. great job. I’ll bet it purrs like a kitten

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View Toronto's profile


4 posts in 2477 days

#10 posted 04-22-2019 11:13 PM

Are the motor pulley exact the same size of the spindle pulley? I´m restoring one and the motor pulley is missing!!

View ChuckV's profile


3310 posts in 4306 days

#11 posted 04-23-2019 12:46 AM

Are the motor pulley exact the same size of the spindle pulley? I´m restoring one and the motor pulley is missing!!

- Toronto

No, the motor pulleys are smaller on mine. The approximate diameters are:
1.5”, 2.5”, 4.75”, 6.5”, 7.75”

It works out that the sum of the diameters at each level is the same. In other words, you can change the speed without having to readjust the belt tension.

Have you seen the maintenance and parts documentation here? I really like this part:

1.Don’t change belt with motor running.
2.Don’t try to hold work—get a clamp or vise.
3.Don’t force the work—you will dull or break the drill.
4.Don’t try to stop revolving work—a broken drill is cheaper than a broken finger.
5.Don’t take chances—if you are not sure, ask your superior.

Good luck with the restoration.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

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