All Replies on Drill Press Quill Travel - How much do you *really* need??

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Drill Press Quill Travel - How much do you *really* need??

by PresidentsDad
posted 02-20-2020 04:49 PM

22 replies so far

View John Jardin's profile

John Jardin

98 posts in 715 days

#1 posted 02-20-2020 05:01 PM

Get the 15” floor model…quil travel is irrelevant

View tvrgeek's profile


1858 posts in 2724 days

#2 posted 02-20-2020 05:16 PM

I have to disagree with half of that statement. My benchtop Craftsman has 2 1/2 inches and it drives me crazy. I wanted over 4, but settled on a used Delta 16 1/2 inch floor with 3 1/8. I have a document listing about every current 15 and 17 incher out there and basic specs. Had I not bought the Delta, I was going to get the 17 inch Palmgren. Rikon VS was second. Jet JDP 17 sure was nice, but both stores floor model had the depth adjustment not working correctly. Powermatic and Nova were flat too expensive.

Look carefully. Some do not go slow enough for big woodworking bits ( 600 RPM slowest on some) some not fast enough for small metal bits ( 2200 on some) . 3 1/8 stroke seems common on “cheaper” drills, 4 and 5 on slightly better. Some drills have tiny round tables or small T-slot better suited for metalwork. I settled on the 3 1/8 stroke as the old Delta had almost everything I wanted and I could pay for it. It is a HUGE step up. Not perfect, but I don’t live in Perfectville.

I would have liked a larger table. I woudl have liked a full 90 degree to the side tilt for drilling ends of longer stock, I would have liked Reeves drive, I would have liked 1 HP. Oh well, I would have liked to win the lottery too.

The thing that gives me confidence, is with the quill fully extended, I can barely feel the slightest of play. Just purrs running and it needs new belts. Go test a Horrible Freight. You measure the slop in mm. Many mm. Look at the pulleys. Rougher than sandpaper.

View xeddog's profile


341 posts in 4082 days

#3 posted 02-20-2020 05:22 PM

I had a Craftsman floor standing drill press with 3” quill travel for a long time. Then I replaced it with the new Delta, and I gotta say I REALLY like having 6” quill travel. Raising or lowering the table is almost a thing of the past now. Do I NEED 6” travel?? No. But it is NNNIIIIIIIIIce.


View CaptainKlutz's profile


4427 posts in 2569 days

#4 posted 02-20-2020 05:34 PM

My 2 cents:
Considering that standard drill bits only provide ~3” of chip clearance depth; quill travel beyond 3-1/8” is strictly for user convenience to reduce table height adjustments.

Be sure to check quill tolerances when considering 6” depth machines. Have to be spend extra on a premium tool to get short throw tolerance with longer throw. Drilling wood you may not care about larger tolerance, but metal workers will see/feel the difference at max extension. BTDTGTTS


-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, Doom, despair, agony on me… - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View Andre's profile


4502 posts in 2881 days

#5 posted 02-20-2020 05:40 PM

Simple answer, somewhat! you always need just another 1/4” :)

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View ChefHDAN's profile


1805 posts in 3925 days

#6 posted 02-20-2020 07:39 PM

I had the 9” Ryobi for many years, and can’t say I actually remember how much travel the quill had. It was doing most everything I needed, and then one day in Lowes I see a Hitatchi B16RM display floor on clearance for $100. It was like night & day having the capacity to the table. My advice would be that if you have the floor space, go with the bigger model, it’s super annoying to think you’ll put a hole in something and suddenly with the drill bit was shorter.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View therealSteveN's profile (online now)


7640 posts in 1649 days

#7 posted 02-20-2020 08:20 PM

If I could get 12” quill travel, I’d pay extra for it. My current DP has 4” of travel, and I often find myself debating if I will just use a hand drill, instead of mousing around with table height adjustment to just drill some stinking holes.

I view adjusting your table height to just drill a hole, a failure of the product you are using. You spend a while setting the fence just right, as soon as that table moves, well, there went that set up time. It’s not just lifting the table up and down.

Quill travel is my #1 criteria of a good drill press, everything else can be wiggled out. It’s a matter of fact the “better” drill presses are the ones with a longer quill travel, so those better tools will also be more accurate, have greater motor capacity, finer adjustment, and a whole slew of features your POS 2” travel junk presses will not have. At some point in the cheap scale, just using a hand drill is a very real comparison.

Inherently in all woodshop equipment the design of the tool puts in features meant to create accuracy, fences on TS, Jointers. 4 posts for equal height adjustment on planers. All but the drill press, cheaply made ones have no accuracy, you need to pay for it, and quill travel is going to be there when you arrive. You can adjust a POS cheap TS to make a good cut, it may not stay adjusted, but you can get there. On a cheap DP, you just can’t make something spinning around like a drunk, go straight, and until you get straight it’s junk.

I’ll admit to being a hole snob, thank you very much. Actually those holes generally define if the piece is well made or not. Haphazard hole placement is death in any other trade, yet many woodworkers try to limp past it. At the same time the tools they say are for woodworking are often the worst tools woodworkers own. In all of the answers an accurate, and YES more expensive tool is what can fix that problem.

Yeah I know life sux.

-- Think safe, be safe

View bruce47's profile


29 posts in 3657 days

#8 posted 02-20-2020 08:27 PM

tvrgeek was talking about spindle speeds. What I am giving some real serious thought to was changing out the motor. I have a 2hp DC motor from a tread mill that I am thinking about using. It is controlled by a rheostat that came with it. I slowed it down pretty slow, put some gloves on and tried to stop it. That was not going to happen, that little motor just put more juice to it and I don’t think I slowed it down at all. Something to think about for slow speeds or fast speeds.

View tvrgeek's profile


1858 posts in 2724 days

#9 posted 02-20-2020 09:06 PM

Bruce, may be a great tip where to find a motor and controller cheap. Lots of treadmills out there where the only exercise they provide is moving it across the basement. A 1.75 HP DVR with controller runs about $650

Got my Delta set up. Somehow I have more space now.

Captain, No “standard” chip clearance depth. Jobber length depend on diameter. Stub bits only about 1/2 inch. Forstner, Spur, spade, and any length you want. Sure, once about three inches one has to do extra effort to clear the chips, Wood or metal. I decided I woudl continue to finish deep holes by hand and save me a grand. At least for now.

Andre, won’t touch that!

I suspect within a few years DVR motors will be far more common.

View Madmark2's profile


2617 posts in 1663 days

#10 posted 02-20-2020 09:28 PM

I make pipes. Lack of quill travel means I have to hand power drill the 2nd half of the stems with a 12” bit. 6” of quill travel would eliminate the hand drilling – which is where most of the drilling failures occur. A longer stroke drill press would be a godsend in my little shop.

My pipes for sale at Smokin’ Knight

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View HokieKen's profile


17504 posts in 2214 days

#11 posted 02-20-2020 09:53 PM

It’s not so much a matter of how deep you drill holes IMO but being able to use drills of multiple lengths without messing with the location of your part. So, I may want to start out with a center drill that’s 2” long, then put in a 5/16 drill that’s 4” long then put a 2” long tap in the head to get it started dead true and square. So, I’ve eaten up 2” of quill travel just ensuring that I can put all 3 bits in without having to change table height.

I know you’re thinking that’s just for metal work and I don’t do any of that. Well, what about when you need to drill a clearance hole through a 8/4 thick board with a 4” long drill bit then put a 82 degree countersink on it?

Basically, you’ll never regret spending a bit extra for extra quill travel IMHO :-)

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View Redoak49's profile


5230 posts in 3064 days

#12 posted 02-20-2020 11:06 PM

My DP has 6” quill travel and variable speed 50-3000 (and can go higher). The run out is very low and smooth running.

Yes, the Nova Voyager DVR is expensive but I love to use it. I think they have gone up in price a couple hundred since I bought mine.

View pottz's profile


16758 posts in 2059 days

#13 posted 02-20-2020 11:15 PM

my answer a lot.ive got the delta woodworkers drill press that has 6” and sometimes even thats not enough so id say the more the better.3-1/8” would be on craigs list-lol.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View SMP's profile


3933 posts in 981 days

#14 posted 02-21-2020 12:29 AM

Simple answer, somewhat! you always need just another 1/4” :)

- Andre

Basically this. However, once a hole is 2” in, you can finish it by hand perfectly straight, even after a few beers.

View tvrgeek's profile


1858 posts in 2724 days

#15 posted 02-21-2020 12:54 AM

Simple math:
2 1/2 inch, $120 years ago. Drove me crazy but suffered with it for close to 30 years thankful I had a drill press at all.
3 1/8, $350 for a quality used tool. Far better. Not even an inch more, but makes a big difference.
6 inch for a super tool. Fine, want to spot me the other $1300 bucks? Buying a new band saw with it instead

I sent contact forms to several companies from whom I had asked for details and described some of the features they got wrong. Stroke is one. Another is table design. They could offer an option ( or second one for a small fortune) between a large open X slot and a fluid type T-slot. Many have lots of speeds, but the range is too small. 16 speeds they should be able to get from 150 to 3000 and production cost would not be any higher. If you need more precision that that, you should be using a mill. Not sure why so many are so short. 6 inches more post would be handy. Designed by five foot Chinese guys? I just set mine on a 4 inch platform so the work is high enough for me to see it. If more folks provided helpful feedback, it might help the future market. Longer stroke is not expensive either. Add an inch and a half to the spindle. Most would still fit inside the existing top covers! Fractions of a cent in production cost. Add 3 and it means a higher piece of molded plastic for the top. Once tooled, no real cost.

View Foghorn's profile


1181 posts in 462 days

#16 posted 02-21-2020 03:22 AM

My Steel City has 6” of quill travel. Not always necessary of course, but means a lot less moving of the table. It’s been a great press.

-- Darrel

View Walker's profile


464 posts in 1547 days

#17 posted 02-21-2020 06:52 AM

Go for the full length option. HokieKen’s answer is spot on…it’s not always needing to drill a 4” deep hole that’s the issue, but scenarios like the one he mentioned and others where the set up is easier with the extra quill travel. Also the floor length models are awesome when you have to drill a hole in the end of a leg or column.

I scored an old (ish) craftsman drill press for $100 on craiglist with a mobile base, fence, and vise. 4” travel. I often find myself wishing it was more than 4”.

-- ~Walker

View PresidentsDad's profile


147 posts in 1323 days

#18 posted 02-22-2020 09:22 PM

Thanks all. I think I’ll go with the floor standing model that has the longer travel. It’s not 6”, but I think it’ll do for now. :)

View tvrgeek's profile


1858 posts in 2724 days

#19 posted 02-23-2020 10:07 AM

End drilling is why I wish more drills had a full 90 degrees to at least one direction on the table. Very few do.
I am going to look to see how hard it is to modify my Delta.

Go for the full length option. HokieKen s answer is spot on…it s not always needing to drill a 4” deep hole that s the issue, but scenarios like the one he mentioned and others where the set up is easier with the extra quill travel. Also the floor length models are awesome when you have to drill a hole in the end of a leg or column.

I scored an old (ish) craftsman drill press for $100 on craiglist with a mobile base, fence, and vise. 4” travel. I often find myself wishing it was more than 4”.

- Walker

View Eric's profile


216 posts in 1313 days

#20 posted 02-25-2020 12:58 AM

My used $300 floor mounted Jet has 4.5” quill travel and a rack and pinion for the table. It doesn’t have the precision of the fancy $1200 drill press for a 6” deep hole but it’s easy to move the table up to compensate for lack of quill travel.

-- Eric

View tvrgeek's profile


1858 posts in 2724 days

#21 posted 02-27-2021 01:20 PM

Just got some feedback from Rikon. Their VS drill with 6 inch travel says the table tilts +/- 45 degrees, but he says you take the pin out and it does 90 degrees. So, it actually has everything I want in a drill press. I might ask Palmgren about their table too, but it is a T-slot and for woodwork, I like the through slot.

View 75c's profile


208 posts in 102 days

#22 posted 03-23-2021 11:47 AM

In my opinion the most important thing to look for is run out. If you don’t have enough quill travel you can adjust the table/ bit. But if the quill wiggles around you cannot adjust an oval hole. Far better to look for quality used than to by new low end. The amount of stroke many times relates to quill travel. The way the quill is supported doesn’t allow for long quill travel if you care about run out. Table size is meaningless to me as well most everyone builds a table for a woodworking drill press. The important thing with the table is that it is at a true ninety to the post and that the post and the quill are parallel. Basically the quality of machining and if it can run true is the only thing to look at. After that has been determined then it is time to look at features. On a personal note I would never buy anything with a bunch of cheap electronics on it. Think about how you are going to keep that machine running in ten or twenty years when you cannot get the board you need anymore. Then for a electronic board that doesn’t work you have a pile of junk. I am not keen at all about electronic crap. I was buying my mom new toasters about every two months. After about ten of them I kept going up in price I told a friend of mine the trouble I was having he is an electronics repair guy. I was about to go buy a Hobart commerical toaster that was 1500 dollars. I was over haft way there in cheap junk. This all started when her fifty year old one finally was broken. Anyhow my friend said let’s go shopping and he pointed at the cheapest one at the store and said buy that one no electronics in it. Well finally had a toaster that out lived mom. As far as speeds go you can always buy a two speed motor if the number of speeds bothers you. Anyhow in conclusion look for quality machining first before anything else.

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