Recommend a quality drill press for specific application?

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Forum topic by JohnMcClure posted 06-19-2019 01:01 AM 1083 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View JohnMcClure's profile


1100 posts in 1528 days

06-19-2019 01:01 AM

I’m in the fortunate position of needing to drill lots of precisely located holes in aluminum. The holes will range from 1/8” to 1.5” diameter. The (cast) aluminum will be 1/8” to 1/4” thick.
The project should pay enough to justify the purchase of a decent drill press, so checking here for recommendations.
I know I need low-speed capability, a solid table, and low runout.
What recommendations do you have in the $500-$2500 range?

While we’re on the subject, recommendations for tooling to cut such large-diameter holes in aluminum? I feel like a hole saw with fewer teeth would be appropriate…

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

16 replies so far

View ChefHDAN's profile


1772 posts in 3737 days

#1 posted 06-19-2019 12:50 PM

With that budget, I’d have to say Powermatic I’d love to have the ability to change speeds without fussing with the belts. The digital readout for the speed would be cool too. Unit will spin from 250 to 3000 rpm and from everything I’ve read the unit is a top choice.

For the cutters I’d talk to these people to see what they recommend between a hole saw or HD cutter

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

View Redoak49's profile


4925 posts in 2876 days

#2 posted 06-19-2019 01:00 PM

The Nova Voyager DVR Drill Press would likely fit your needs. Mine will go down to very low speeds with a turn of a knobs. The run out I measured was about 0.002” after I reseated the Morse taper.

It is 1.75 hp on 110 but 2 hp on 220. The Powermatic is 1 hp.

I have had mine for awhile now and have been very pleased. It is a solid, and smooth running.

View EdDantes's profile


74 posts in 798 days

#3 posted 06-19-2019 01:24 PM

To be honest, this sounds like the ideal job for CNC (plasma or waterjet). Depending on the job you’re doing, I’d consider getting some quotes to subcontract out that part of the project.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


3743 posts in 2382 days

#4 posted 06-19-2019 01:57 PM

+1 suggest something besides drilling, especially for sheet 1/4” thick or less..

A 30 ton metal punch press can knock 1.5” OD holes in steel @ 1/4’ thick. Aluminum will be less tonnage.
Choice between CNC punch (or water jet/plasma) .vs. old school ‘Strippit’ version depends on hole placement accuracy. The old tools made before CNC label was added could hold 0.005” on small plates, and 0.010” on 4’x8’ sheet. Newer CNC tools can be more accurate. Accuracy is always available with enough money. LOL

Could buy a punch press for home; if sheet size is small, only need a couple hole sizes, and hole count is small. Even HF sells manual 20 ton press for < $200. But if you find contractor with hole punch sizes you need already tooled, the tooling costs go way down.

TBH – Choice ‘of how to make holes’ might depend on what kind of equipment is least busy in your area machine shops, so they are will to quite lowest? :-)

When it comes to making metal stuff, it’s often tool availability and the tooling costs tend to steer between drill .vs. vertical mill .vs. CNC punch .vs. CNC path cutter decisions. So don’t limit your options till you discuss with a couple local metal fabricators.

PS- Not a metal expert, but have spent considerable time making prototype parts and tooling over years. Always amazed when can stumble across the right shop, with right tools, that aren’t back logged; just how inexpensive metal work can be.

Best Luck.

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

View waho6o9's profile


8947 posts in 3465 days

#5 posted 06-19-2019 02:07 PM

Sourcing local metal fabricators is a wise idea.

View HokieKen's profile


15171 posts in 2026 days

#6 posted 06-19-2019 02:23 PM

I would agree that farming out the boring process may be the way to go here John. However, if you need an excuse to buy a new toy and this is it, disregard the first sentence ;-)

If you really need precise hole locations, I’d probably look at something like a mill-drill with cross-slide table and maybe a DRO. (Not specifically recommending that one, it’s just an example). Or even a good, used benchtop or knee mill. The best drill press isn’t really going to help with precise location if it just has a rigid, fixed table.

But, if a drill press is what you really want, I do kinda lust after the Nova DVR and Powermatic is always a good bet. Clausing is another awesome machine if you go used. Also if you go used, I have a serious infatuation with old Unidrills:

But don’t buy one of those. ‘Cause then I’ll be really jealous and hate you.

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View JohnMcClure's profile


1100 posts in 1528 days

#7 posted 06-19-2019 06:55 PM

Thank y’all very much for the recommendations. Both the PM and the Nova look pretty sweet – I am leaning toward the Nova if I go through with this, due to the lack of belts and minimum RPM of 30. Plus the DRO and tap assist functions look pretty neat.

Punch press – seems like a great idea, particularly for a lot of holes the same size!
I’ve also looked around and found Rotabroach products, which seem like a winner if I can get the exact size I need.
Still, for weird sizes (and non-circular shapes), can’t beat CNC… My CNC doesn’t have enough clearance below the spindle to do the side of a wide box, though. Hmmm.. I’ll be thinking about all this while I knock out a first prototype using what I already have…

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

View JayT's profile


6413 posts in 3099 days

#8 posted 06-19-2019 08:46 PM

I’m with Kenny that a mill with DRO is the right tool for the job. Either that or check with a fabricator that has a CNC mill or water jet.

If you do go with a drill press, add a cross slide table and you should be able to get decent accuracy. Not quite up there with a mill & DRO, but far better than locating by hand.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View GrantA's profile


2901 posts in 2295 days

#9 posted 06-20-2019 12:59 AM

I may have a spare vertical mill I’d sell. Someone else is considering it but if you’d like to see it just holler.

View JohnMcClure's profile


1100 posts in 1528 days

#10 posted 06-20-2019 01:11 PM

Thanks Grant, but I don’t have room for anything big – not this year, anyway!

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

View Jim55's profile


194 posts in 2954 days

#11 posted 06-20-2019 07:03 PM

I can’t help with specific models as I am a retired machinist and have been out of the workplace since 2004. But that said, don’t sneer at old tools. I have worked on machines built and used in WWII and they were still cranking out parts. Much of your older machinery is extremely well made especially when compared to today’s machines.

What I can offer you are some general considerations, things to consider;

One question is, what are you going to do with this machine after you have finished with your present project?

Also, what is your primary work? Most of the equipment being described for you is great for a machine shop or metal fabricating plant. But, you are asking for information on a wood working forum. If you have a wood shop, a punch press will not be of much use to you in the long run. Really, neither will a milling machine or even a mill drill. Myself, I am considering a mill drill because I seem to be doing nearly as much metal work as I do wood.

What kind of tolerances are you working with? If you’re not having to hold single digit in thousands of an inch, (.001-.009 +/) then a drill press will do you very well and will have many applications for wood working in future too.

While CNC machines can be easily set up and used for single application jobs as well as big ones, unless you have a need for a number of different hole locations located in precise references to each other, a CNC is not needed. A manual set up will let you drill a lot of holes in specific locations very well. I speak from experience. A good drill press can easily hold +/ .03125 location all day long and better with some care, and +/_.005 in hole size easily with a properly sharpened drill bit. In some instances a center cutting end mill in a special holder for drill presses will do wonders and might be just the thing for your aluminum project.

In the long run, a drill press will prove a versatile and economic tool for any shop. A final thought, you will most definitely need a geared head machine. If you will be drilling larger holes (the 1.5” you mentioned definitely qualifies!) belt drive will not do. One more thing. A standard drill press will do for parts that do not require drilling very far from the machine head. But for larger parts, then you will want a radial arm press.

There! I’m done. Just some things for you to consider. I hope this helps.

View farmfromkansas's profile


220 posts in 502 days

#12 posted 06-21-2019 01:11 AM

Look at all the drilling and milling machines Grizzly has to offer. They start way cheap and go up to industrial grade.

View Wasatch's profile


7 posts in 530 days

#13 posted 06-21-2019 01:44 AM

I have a Nova Voyager DVR drill press and love it. Way quieter than anything else on the market and way more features than any other. I use the same size Powermatic drill press at work and would much rather use the Nova.

View Wasatch's profile


7 posts in 530 days

#14 posted 06-21-2019 01:45 AM

I have a Nova Voyager DVR drill press and love it. Way quieter than anything else on the market and way more features than any other. I use the same size Powermatic drill press at work and would much rather use the Nova.

View GrantA's profile


2901 posts in 2295 days

#15 posted 06-21-2019 12:12 PM

John is there a reason you aren’t using your new cnc setup for this?

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