Kids and the Hand Operaterd Drill Press

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Blog entry by Jack McKee posted 07-01-2017 09:41 PM 1648 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Kids and the Hand Operated Drill Press
3rd or 4th graders learn quickly, younger kids take longer.

I found a hand-operated drill press at an antique tool sale. It makes many drilling operations easier and safer. With it, a child doesn’t have to support the weight of the drill or hold it straight. The feed mechanism allows her to apply more pressure to the bit. Kids enjoy using it. Many types of hand-operated drill presses were made in the early 1900s. The more complicated and sophisticated ones, with a flywheel and automatic feed mechanisms, are not appropriate for children. Mine is basically a big hand egg beater type drill, held in a stand, with a screw mechanism to raise or lower the bit. Mount it on a bench 12” high so the handle will be at about shoulder level for a child.

The hand-operated drill press. The crank
handle turns clockwise to rotate the bit. The top wheel turns the direction of the arrow to move the bit down. The wood is held still by a clamp. Blocks under the wood adjust the work to the correct height.

Using the Drill Press

Install the proper bit in the same way as for the hand drill. Get the wood ready to be drilled by raising the bit up as far as it will go and blocking up underneath the wood, if necessary, to get it up close to the bit. Hold the wood so it won’t move. Small pieces can be clamped as shown in Figure 28. Large wood will spin a half turn or so until it hits the pipe that supports the drill and stops. Now you’re ready to begin the actual drilling.

Using the drill press is a little like rubbing your stomach and patting your head. There are two controls, one for each hand, and they have different motions. A handle on the right, like the one on the hand drill, rotates the drill bit. A wheel on top of the drill press moves the bit either up or down. To drill a hole, both controls need to be turned clockwise at the same time. The right hand needs to keep the drill turning at a comfortable speed while the left hand feeds the bit into the wood at the appropriate rate—slow for large holes and faster for smaller ones. Both wheels should be marked with a clockwise pointing arrow as a reminder of the correct direction to turn. Nearly everyone turns the top wheel down too fast, which jams the bit into the wood and stops it from rotating.

Teaching kids how to use this tool is a classic example of words not really helping much. At first I would tell a child to slow the top wheel but it just doesn’t register. Sometimes I’ll slow the top wheel with my own hand and they learn from that. Or I might let them go ahead and jam the bit (if its a big bit) into the wood and then show them a slower feed works better. Another approach is to pace them with a little chant, “one, two, quarter turn.” This means turn the crank handle once around, twice around, and then turn the down feed (top wheel) a quarter turn. If a child still has trouble, I’ll suggest he put one hand behind his back and use one hand for both operations. The same little chant

Kelsey and Jillian working together on the drill press.

sometimes helps here, too. It takes practice and often I’ll have to come back and help 3 or 4 times. Sometimes two children can work together one operating the down feed and the other rotating the bit. After the hole is finished, the bit must still be removed from the hole. First raise the wood up (by turning the up-down wheel counterclockwise) until there is plenty of room underneath it. Then rotate the drill (same direction as for drilling) and push down on the wood at the same time. Kids (or adults) intuitively want to reverse the drill bit to get it out but this will often loosen the bit in the chuck so it gets stuck in the wood.

I bought this many years ago and hundreds of kids have used it. If kids can drill straight and bigger holes it allows them to build quite a few more projects. They like the challenge of learning to use it and are also proud of their new found competence. Often they want to demonstrate how to use the drill press to their parents.

-- Jack,

2 comments so far

View Ocelot's profile


3131 posts in 3757 days

#1 posted 07-01-2017 09:53 PM

That’s a lot easier than using a brace or eggbeater.

nice tool. Wish I could find one for a reasonable price.

I have an Ixion hand-cranked 2-speed breast drill, but it’s very heavy. My 5-year-old would have a hard time with it.

-- I intended to be a woodworker, but turned into a tool and lumber collector.

View magaoitin's profile


249 posts in 2068 days

#2 posted 07-03-2017 05:43 PM

Get em hooked on woodworking as young as possible! That is a great looking press as well.

-- Jeff ~ Tacoma Wa.

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