The shop #6: moving on up

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Blog entry by scottb posted 05-31-2010 04:08 AM 1624 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: jigs jigs jigs Part 6 of The shop series Part 7: Clearing the air »

I’ve been long in need of a decent drill press. Trying to get a bench top model with decent quill travel – for drilling out pen blanks, without getting another cheap one to replace the VERY cheap one I have. I don’t think I need, or want something so large as a floor model. The capacity seems great, horsepower certainly outstrips the rubberband motor on the $30 POS I bought online (before I knew better). But we’re in a rental, and I shouldn’t bolt anything to the floor. Oh the options…

But in a world of options, more is sometimes just more. More can confuse and lead to no decision at all.

For years, In my cramped low ceilinged basement (check out my shop tour video) I made do with my Shopsmith in horizontal boring mode. The table would deflect a little, but if I was careful I managed to have a high success rate drilling pen blanks – unfortunately the success seemed inverse to the rarity of the wood being drilled. I lost most of my Osage, Blood and Black wood, but the oak, maple and other local woods never had a problem. Oh irony!

Horizontal mode wasn’t convenient, fast, or seemingly safe for drilling plugs so I needed to resort to the other drill press for that task. It could manage it, but it took a LONG time, and tended to slow down the cutter to a snails pace, if not stop completely. Unsurprisingly the motor started to smell like it was burning out, and I’ve finally (having temporary access to a dumpster) decided to retire it. Unceremoniously.

Over the months/years, I’d been looking at different models, wishing I could find something in between two random models, or a bench top one from Steel City (With it’s 6” of quill travel!). The big box stores near me seemed to have a couple of OK options before Christmas, but now seem to be stocking smaller capacity ones than I remember.

Last Nov, just after we moved, my wife gave me the go ahead to pick out a new one for my birthday. Thinking I could get something for about $200. I did too… but $300 seems to be the magic price point for the models I’d consider taking home… and so I’ve been watching for sales, clearances, and/or new models to hit the shelves.

I’ve also been waiting to see if the table saw was going to “self-retire” itself first and I’d get myself a “real” one of those instead. Yeah, my drill press and tablesaw were under $100 combined, brand new. And while they were fine for the newby hobbyist, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the scope of my projects would outgrow their capacities, and I wasn’t even a woodworker yet… almost 9 years later I’m still making do, and am really pining for some muscle and accuracy in the shop. At the very least I’d love a table saw that always turns on when you flip the switch, (which it usually does) and turn off (which it stopped doing a year ago.)

New house, new shop, new tools, right?

Figuring a drive across state (on a holiday weekend ;( ) to Woodcraft was in the cards, I took one last look at the LJ reviews to decide if maybe going to Sears or the BORG would save me some time, and fit the bill. (And save me the temptation of dropping a boatload of cash on more pen kits, and random things I just remembered I also “need”)

The Craftsman seemed not the way to go. The benchtop Jet was a good contender, as was the floor standing Ridgid. Then I noticed a couple write ups about people using their Shopsmiths as drill presses, even buying one for use as a dedicated drill press. Other online sources claim it to be just about the best option for a woodworker as drill presses go. hmmm…

I bought my Shopsmith several years ago, primarily for use as a lathe. But never was able to use it properly as a drill press. Low ceiling at the hold house prevented the possibility. I wonder if the issues in horizontal mode will carry over to vertical… one way to find out, and a walk across the driveway sure beats a drive across the state any day. I also supposed that spending a couple of bucks on replacement parts, if I can find them, also trumps buying a new piece of machinery that I’d have to find room for.

Turn a knob here, tighten a couple levers there. and lift (wow that sucker is heavy). Hey, the table does sit tight. The problem was more with the jigs having a little too much slop. – easy fix now that I look at it. Nice.

First to test drilling out some oak face grain plugs. Banged out six of them pretty quick – without even clamping down the board – Oh what a difference having a big table and a fence! Now to test some pen blanks. 7mm into bamboo. Perfect.

Next test, I dug out all the bits and things for pen making, and made a board to keep them all organized in. All of the holes drilled nice and tight with no apparent runout. In fact the holes are so snug, that most of the bits will only fit into the holes head first. The shafts – which presumably are the same diameter, if not thousandths of an inch bigger, won’t fit!

I spent so much time with a vertically challenged shop, with it’s own spacial challenges, I got locked into certain habits and particular modes of thinking. Funny how we so often cannot see the very things we already have.

The beauty of realizing I already have the “new” drill press I’ve needed. Priceless. The realization that I can now add the money for the “new drill press” to a better new table saw, even more priceless!!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

5 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4652 days

#1 posted 05-31-2010 04:13 AM

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14189 posts in 5058 days

#2 posted 05-31-2010 04:16 AM

that Shopsmith looks like a neat tool, especially as a drill press. Looks real precise.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Karson's profile


35273 posts in 5475 days

#3 posted 05-31-2010 04:43 AM

Scott: Great setup.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View PflugervilleSteve's profile


99 posts in 4117 days

#4 posted 05-31-2010 05:09 AM

The Stones said it –
“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need”

So many time in life what we need is right under our noses. Glad you found a way to make that Shopsmith work for you! Things sure have come a long way from that initial basement river space :)

View RobS's profile


1334 posts in 5381 days

#5 posted 05-31-2010 04:49 PM

And.. now you can always wear that top hat you’ve been wanting to try… Great “thinking-above-the-ceiling”. Glad that your shop is re-shaping up.

-- Rob (A) Waxahachie,TX

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