Need help with buying a Drill Press?

  • Advertise with us

« back to Power Tools, Hardware and Accessories forum

Forum topic by Woodshead posted 01-12-2021 09:00 PM 645 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Woodshead's profile


6 posts in 180 days

01-12-2021 09:00 PM

Another rookie here looking for help with my first Drill Press purchase. Who knew there were so many things to consider when buying a drill press? I mean, it seems like a simple enough machine. A motor that spins a bit that drills a hole. How tough can it be? Right!? Well, the more I look the more I learn and the more confusing it gets so I’d appreciate any input on what to look for, what to stay away from, what features are worth paying for and which are not, etc… As for a budget, I don’t have any money :-) but I can probably find $400+ for this. Is that unreasonable? Thanks for you input!

19 replies so far

View therealSteveN's profile


7013 posts in 1550 days

#1 posted 01-12-2021 11:51 PM

But it’s a motor, and a set of belts and pullies, or some more dynamic changer that allows it to go from ohhh so very slow, to zippy fast. You’ll find the more $$$$$$ you throw at them the easier those changes will be, and if you don’t make the changes, there really isn’t just one speed, they are over the map, and not to, is hard on bits, and or the end result. Speaking of motor, MO POWER is a deal, not enough power is too. The not enough deal usually ends poorly, where I’ve never heard of a problem with having too much.

Then you get to quill length, Better drill presses are getting out to 5” of travel. The cheap ones will be maybe 2” + -. It won’t seem to be a big deal, until you get into a complicated drilling, and find the darn quill has stopped, and the only way you can get your depth is to lower the head of the drill. Which will automatically queer your careful set up….

There are all other kinds of bells and whistles, but a rig that allows for easy speed changes, and plenty of quill depth are my 2 wants, when I think about a drill press.

-- Think safe, be safe

View BurlyBob's profile


8300 posts in 3242 days

#2 posted 01-13-2021 04:50 AM

I bought that Porter Cable floor model a few years back. I don’t have any complaints about as it does all I need.

View SMP's profile


3204 posts in 882 days

#3 posted 01-13-2021 04:54 AM

What do you plan on using it for? Thats kind of key.

View Madmark2's profile (online now)


2098 posts in 1564 days

#4 posted 01-13-2021 05:58 AM

Decisions, decisions, decisions!

  • Floor or bench?
  • 5, 12 speeds or EVS?
  • Motor hp?
  • Speed DRO?
  • Oscillating?
  • Laser cross hair?
  • Light?
  • Table size? Max distance to table top? Crank or catch with knee (ancient)
  • Throat (quill center to post)? Or radial arm?
  • quill travel
  • Weight (heavier generally better)?
  • Depth stop type? Screw & knurled nut (ok) or lever stop (better)
  • Chuck size & taper
  • Power feed? Depth DRO?
  • T slots in table? Number? Size?

As with any tool you’ll want to compare general fit and finish as well as location and smoothness of operations.

For a cheap (<$150) drillpress I’ve gotten a ton of use out of it and still going strong!

This Skil is a 5 speed benchtop, laser guided, 2-3/8” travel, lever stop, el cheapo drill press. It is a tough little machine that I’ve had for about 8 years. It met its match with a 3” forstner, but I was able to “peck” at it to the 1/2” depth in oak I needed. Everything else it handles without issue from day one.

Bits can total out to quite a bit. I have a dozen carbide forstners, 50 pack of small bits, two or three Brad point sets, a boxed set metal drills and taps, a homeowners assortment of 50 bits, extra long “aircraft” drills, stubby bits, hole bits, plug cutters, rosette cutters, sanding drums, etc.

I also have a vise. I keep a stop block bolted to the table with a knob for easy adjustment. I have a small magnetic square to keep things plumb and aligned. A couple of 4” clamps round out the kit.

Stop block, magnetic square and clamp for repeat, plumb, drilling

-- The hump with the stump and the pump!

View LittleBlackDuck's profile


6206 posts in 1797 days

#5 posted 01-13-2021 07:35 AM

Save… save… save your shekels and buy a NOVA Voyager... it’ll just about mow your lawn and scrub your back while bathing.

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

View OldBull's profile


309 posts in 272 days

#6 posted 01-13-2021 02:13 PM

I think an option would be to buy what tens of thousands of people have and go from there. The cheap WEN $88 drill press. It will probably serve you a long time before your skills show you you want something different, and that is important, buying what you need. The power is one thing, the spindle travel another, keyless chuck is another. But unless you use it a lot, it will just sit there and occaisionally drill holes like a more expensive one will.

View Rich1955's profile


300 posts in 367 days

#7 posted 01-13-2021 02:27 PM

The drill press I have is 30 years old, nothing fancy. I only use it to drill through wood, so no need to change speed. I always leave it on medium and never had any issues burning my bits or work piece. Consider this, what are you going to use it for, how much is in your budget. and will it fit me needs. Only you can answer these questions and buy accordingly.
Hope this helps!

-- Rich

View brtech's profile


1079 posts in 3899 days

#8 posted 01-13-2021 02:32 PM

I lived for years with a benchtop Harbor Freight model. The depth stop broke within the first year, but other than that, it just kept on going. The travel limit was the thing I kept tripping over. Sure, it went through 90% of what I wanted, and a hand drill has a long throw, but it was surprising to me how many times I hit the limit.

I bought the Wen floor model (4227) when it was on sale, and had free shipping, and I think it’s great. Over your $400, worth it.

But if you are really starting out with nothing, the cheap table top units are quite useful.

View LittleBlackDuck's profile


6206 posts in 1797 days

#9 posted 01-13-2021 02:50 PM

I’ll still stick with my high end recommendation(s)...

Many people have lived with cheap and have managed to survive… remember, cheap 30 years ago had substance behind it… I’d kill for 30 yo machinery.

However, if I’m giving advice, I will always go for the best solution… work you way down at your own peril. It’s like I’d never recommend a novice skydiver to start with an umbrella until he gets more experienced.

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

View Kudzupatch's profile


59 posts in 2185 days

#10 posted 01-13-2021 03:06 PM

One thing I never thought about is are you going to do any metal work? I had a bench top model and needed to drill out a hole in a metal. It took some force on the drill bit and the cast iron table was bending. No, I wasn’t putting a huge amount of force on it either.

I messed around after that and was shocked at how easy it was to make the table move. I replaced that shortly afterwards with a couple of 1940/1950’s Craftsman. So far superior to that Delta.

Used and old machines are not for everyone, but I find that the older ones are so much better built. But you need to know q little bit about how to check one out before buying one

-- Jeff Horton * Kudzu Craft skin boats*

View Murdock's profile


163 posts in 3460 days

#11 posted 01-13-2021 03:43 PM

I personally have a 30+ year old Craftsman that my father gifted to me last year, before that I had a bench-top model I purchased used. It was a MasterCraft brand, the company that makes them, as I understand it, makes machines for several brands.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend getting the cheapest thing out there (although I have heard good things about Wen) but that bench-top model served me very well. I had no plans to replace it before getting the bigger one which is honestly more than I need.

As others have said what you are going to do with it can alter the decision.

-- "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." - Albert Einstein

View tvrgeek's profile


1171 posts in 2625 days

#12 posted 01-13-2021 06:37 PM

I upgraded from a benchtop Sears to an older Delta post drill. Mistake. Even the Tiwian quality was not there. Had to fix some things that were wrong when he bought it 25 years ago!.

I find I don’t use the slowest speeds. 200 is fine if you drill 1 inch steel, but I don’t do that in one pass anyway, so a minimum so 500 or so is fine. I do as much metalwork as wood.

I never go past about 2000 RPM, so 3600 is not needed.

I hate the short quill stroke. I would never go for less than 5 next time.

WEN makes killer dirt cheap tools. I have several. BUT, there is quite a bit of chatter on their DP durability. Depends on how hard you use it and if plastic bits fail in 10 years and you can’t get them. I tried to go too cheap on my upgrade and am now looking to upgrade again correctly. Much more expensive than buying a lifetime tool.

Some like radial arm drills. Too flexible for my taste but quite versatile.

If speed changing is easy, you will.

Small tables suck. So do ones that won’t tilt a full 90 degrees so you can drill the end of a longer board.

They never made one rigid enough. Even my Delta will flex too much drilling rough cuts for mortices.

Lesson, there is no such thing as a woodworking tool too big and too heavy. I like the Nova, but a lot of bucks. I liked the Jet Reeves drive, but I played with two on the floor whose depth adjustment was buggered. Delta has perfect features, but horror stories on quality. Klunth features great, but never seen one. At their price, might be a Horrible Freight. In hindsight, I would buy the Palmgren. For one thing, they are the only ones who actually list their runout specs. Not perfect, but would have been smarter or maybe is the Rikon reeves drive.

Bet I did not make it any more simple!

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5331 posts in 4936 days

#13 posted 01-13-2021 06:39 PM

Mine was made in 1952 by King Seely for Craftsman (when C’man was good stuff. Bought it in a job lot along with a bunch of other items. It has never failed.
Paid $150.00 for it and a C’man 7” bench grinder with base cabinet which was part of the deal.
Keep your eyes open for a good, old machine if ya can.

-- [email protected]

View Newbie17's profile


164 posts in 1437 days

#14 posted 01-13-2021 06:45 PM

I read everywhere that the Porter Cable is the overall best of the economy drill presses.

View dbw's profile


498 posts in 2613 days

#15 posted 01-13-2021 08:47 PM

I read everywhere that the Porter Cable is the overall best of the economy drill presses.

- Newbie17

I bought one of these several years ago for $300. For the most part I am happy with it. It has some runout but I’ve learned to deal with it. I think part of the runout is due to the chuck but the machine isn’t worth the $ for an aftermarket chuck. The laser crosshair is a joke in my opinion. I have yet to use it successfully. One thing I hate to do is to change speeds due to having to play musical belts. It is a PITA. This would be true of any multi-speed DP. If I could do it over again I would buy a VS machine. Wen used to make a floor standing DP which had all the features of the Porter + it was VS from 300-3000. It was model 1424 and it’s no longer available new.

-- Wood working is like a vicious cycle. The more tools you buy the more you find to buy.

showing 1 through 15 of 19 replies

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics