Height-Adjustable Drill Press Table

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Project by bendwriter posted 04-10-2018 03:20 PM 9894 views 29 times favorited 22 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Well, I finally completed three upgrades to my drill press – a mobile base, a set of storage cabinets, and a pretty cool, height adjustable top. I’ve never posted anything on Lumberjocks before, so I thought this might be a good time! This post is mainly about the top (I’ll try not to ramble on for too long!)

My old top had served me well for over 20 years, but it was small, and the fence lacked a track for adding a stop.

Worst of all, the height adjustment handle was terribly inconvenient to reach and was a real knuckle-buster to operate, and the table lock was equally inconvenient and I could never seem to get enough torque on it to really lock the table tightly.

I found a great set of drill press table plans on the web (Woodsmith, $7.95), and they were the first ones that featured a front-mount height adjustment and a side-mounted lock that were convenient. I had to try it. After I ordered the plans, I found that another Lumberjock had build the same table, and he was very helpful in giving me some tips before I got started (thanks Rayne!)

Turns out this was one of the few sets of stock plans that I used without a lot of modifications. The table went together pretty much the way it was designed, but I will tell you that it requires a few metal-working skills I don’t actually have, and a large dose of patience that I had to dig deep for. I wouldn’t describe this as a beginner’s project.

The plans call for two layers of plywood with no edge banding. I had some leftover melamine from a prior project, so I decided to use that instead, and I added an edge banding of oak that was also left over from something else. Here’s a picture of the two pieces cut and glued up. You need a 6” circle cutter to cut a hole in the top layer prior to assembly, which creates a recess for a replaceable insert.

The next part of the project is pretty straightforward. Add the edge banding, dado and add the T-tracks, then build the fence. The plans call for Kreg tracks, but I used Rockler’s Universal tracks (the blue tracks in pictures) because they’re less expensive. The plan also calls for just two tracks on the table, but in my work I clamp down a lot of odd shaped pieces, so since I had two pieces of T-track left from a previous project, I went ahead and added those to the table for extra clamping options (the two red tracks). Another thing I like about this plan is the two slots cut in the table, which allow you to use long bar clamps from underneath when necessary.

Here’s the completed table, lag-bolted to the drill press’s metal table:

Now the real fun began. To support the metal shafts that operate the crank mechanisms, the plans call for wooden bearing blocks to be added underneath the table. Well, apparently my original metal table is a bit oversized compared to most, and there wasn’t enough room to add the blocks! So I had to remove my brand new wood table, and slice 3/4” off the metal table. Hopefully you never have to do this, but if you do, I used an angle grinder with a Ridgid diamond blade, which worked great. Turned out the blade was a good investment for later as well!

After the metal table was cut and the wood table reattached, you tackle the height adjustment mechanism. This is a shaft, a handle, and two right-angle gears that replace the old adjustment handle. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that it takes a lot of fussing and a lot of patience to get things measured, drilled, adjusted, and installed correctly for the gears to mesh right. You also have to cut the metal shaft, and do some drilling and tapping of the handle and gears for the set screws and pins. But once it’s done, it works GREAT!

Final step is a shaft and handle for the table lock. This is easier to install – no gears to align here! – but does require more metal working. You have to slot the end of the new shaft to accept the old locking pin from your drill press. The plans call for cutting this slot with a hacksaw, which I think would take about 6 years of hard labor. I did it with my newly purchased diamond blade and grinder, and it went pretty smooth. After that, you install the old locking bolt, and hold it in place with a new rivet. You also have to reduce the diameter of the other end of the shaft and add a flat for the handle (I did that on a disk sander). If I may say so, I think the metal work came out okay for my first attempt! Also, the plans call for purchasing a new handle, but hats off to Rayne for mentioning that you could reuse the drill press’s original height adjustment handle here and save some money.

Okay, that’s it. Here’s the finished table. And I love it! Height adjustable from the front, and good locking torque from the side, plus ample table space and lots of clamping options.

And just to wrap things up, here’s the rest of the overall project – the mobile base and cabinets.

Thanks for wading through all that, and if anyone is contemplating building this table and would like to discuss it further, feel free to contact me with any questions.

-- "Rescuing one dog won’t change the world, but it surely will change the world for that one dog"

22 comments so far

View Andre's profile


4679 posts in 3017 days

#1 posted 04-10-2018 03:34 PM

Purity darn impressive! Shop furniture yet functional..

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Dutchy's profile


4174 posts in 3380 days

#2 posted 04-10-2018 04:12 PM

As it should be. Well done and thanks for sharing.


View waho6o9's profile


9055 posts in 3788 days

#3 posted 04-10-2018 04:29 PM


View Northwest29's profile


1711 posts in 3701 days

#4 posted 04-10-2018 05:04 PM

Great job and write up. Thanks.

-- Ron, "Curiosity is a terrible thing to waste."

View fivecodys's profile


1755 posts in 2847 days

#5 posted 04-10-2018 05:37 PM

This is one of the coolest things I seen on this site.
You did a great job on both the project and the write-up!

-- A bad day woodworking is still better than a good day working.

View MrWolfe's profile


1668 posts in 1335 days

#6 posted 04-10-2018 06:03 PM

Great build!!!
Thanks for posting and i’m looking forward to more posts from you.

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

12390 posts in 4640 days

#7 posted 04-10-2018 06:32 PM

That’s one sweet drill press upgrade. Great job.

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View DaveFFMedic's profile


84 posts in 3378 days

#8 posted 04-10-2018 08:27 PM

Very nice. I often wonder how guys make such nice cabinets and accessories for their tools.

View Hawaiilad's profile


3379 posts in 4232 days

#9 posted 04-10-2018 09:02 PM

Great job on the rebuild.

-- Larry in Hawaii,

View Billfish's profile


156 posts in 2783 days

#10 posted 04-10-2018 09:46 PM

What great idea for the drill press great build thank for posting


View bacoach's profile


17 posts in 1717 days

#11 posted 04-10-2018 10:34 PM

Awesome build. Your metalwork skills are quite good. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Enjoy!

-- BAcoach, Tennessee

View Rayne's profile


1319 posts in 2751 days

#12 posted 04-10-2018 10:35 PM

You did a fantastic job on this Paul! Love your take on it and I like the doors on the side of the base. Might add that to mine just to keep the dust out of those cubbies! Glad I could assist on this. Now enjoy it to your hearts content. Never looked back after building mine and I think you’ll feel the same way. lol.

View JohnMcClure's profile


1363 posts in 1851 days

#13 posted 04-11-2018 12:02 AM

I love it. Could you explain how you make the replaceable inserts? I feel like if you cut inserts with the same circle cutter you used for the table, they would have too much play due to the kerf. What did you do?

-- I'd rather be a hammer than a nail

View bendwriter's profile


15 posts in 1504 days

#14 posted 04-11-2018 12:34 AM

Thanks so much for all the positive comments everyone. As Rayne said, no looking back after building it – you wonder how you got along without it!

JohnMcClure, to answer your question. The plans call for first cutting out a 6” circle in the table using a circle cutter, as I mentioned above. They then suggest making a pattern from a piece of 1/4” hardboard, again using your circle cutter. My particular circle cutter has a wide, tapered cutting bit that tapers to a sharp point on one end. I used it with point to the outboard side – away from the pilot bit – to cut the hole in the table, then reversed it so it was toward the inboard side – toward the pilot bit – to cut out the hardboard pattern. For the pattern, I set the cutter so it made a circle just slightly less than 6” in diameter.

After you have the 1/4” pattern, the plans suggest attaching it to a piece of scrap the same thickness as your table with double-face tape and then cutting out replacement inserts on your router table using a pattern bit. I found this to be a bit too cumbersome a method, so after making the pattern and double checking its fit, I simply used it to trace an outline onto the scrap, cut it out on the bandsaw just outside the line, then sanded up to the line on my disc sander.

A quick word about the sacrificial inserts themselves, which probably isn’t obvious in the pictures. The table is set so that the quill drills toward the back side of the insert, not in the center of it. Whenever you drill a hole into the insert, you can just rotate it to a fresh area. When it’s all beat up, you can flip it over and have a completely fresh side, and when that side’s used up, then you toss it and put in a new one. (Woodsmith’s idea, not mine!!)

-- "Rescuing one dog won’t change the world, but it surely will change the world for that one dog"

View woodbutcherbynight's profile (online now)


10252 posts in 3620 days

#15 posted 04-11-2018 02:10 AM

Pretty slick idea. One I am sure several will borrow (including me) as improvements for our DP’s. Nice work.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

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