What do you look for in a drill press?

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Forum topic by BTimmons posted 03-21-2012 08:09 PM 14541 views 1 time favorited 34 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2303 posts in 2755 days

03-21-2012 08:09 PM

Topic tags/keywords: drill press question

I’ll be needing to add a drill press to my arsenal in the garage pretty soon. (Shhh, my wife doesn’t know yet.) So what do you all look for in a drill press? Are there some things I should be on the lookout for if I buy one used off of Craigslist? Is there such a thing as minimum or maximum RPM? Chuck size? Quill travel? Horsepower? Are there brands or models I would do well to avoid? I’m not too keen on Craftsman or Ryobi. The general consensus of the internet seems reluctant to buy from Harbor Freight but there are apparently some diamonds in the rough. After all, our own StumpyNubs says he got his drill press at Harbor Freight and it's apparently working alright for him.

Budget is a concern, of course. Is it likely that I’d outgrow a bench top machine quickly and need to upgrade to a floor model? If so, forking over extra may be justified.

Ok, let’s hear it. Unload those opinions.

-- Brian Timmons -

34 replies so far

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 3257 days

#1 posted 03-21-2012 08:15 PM

Have you considered a shopsmith?
I am very pleased with mine.
I have a 10ER that I found on CL without a base. I built a stand and mounted the top to the wall.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2755 days

#2 posted 03-21-2012 08:18 PM

If I didn’t already have a table saw and bandsaw, I might have gone for a Shopsmith. As it is, I’d be doubling up on equipment function.

-- Brian Timmons -

View stefang's profile


16381 posts in 3604 days

#3 posted 03-21-2012 08:23 PM

One that is easy to change the speeds on would be my first desire. A good easy to use depth gauge/lock.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View Craftsman on the lake's profile

Craftsman on the lake

2859 posts in 3707 days

#4 posted 03-21-2012 08:27 PM

I have an old craftsman… hunk of metal that gets the job done. I really like it. But, back then there was one thing missing that I would have really liked. When I need to move the table up and down I loosen a lever but I have to wrestle it before I retighten the lock. It’s heavy. If you can find a good one with the rack and pinion crank lift like most of the new ones have that would be a good addition to look out for.

-- The smell of wood, coffee in the cup, the wife let's me do my thing, the lake is peaceful.

View SASmith               's profile


1850 posts in 3257 days

#5 posted 03-21-2012 08:30 PM

I see your point.
I found the 10ER for $50 and it is used only as a drill press.
I have 3 shopsmiths and have paid $75 or less for each.
1 is used as a drill press. 1 as a lathe and 1 needs restored.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View zindel's profile


257 posts in 2920 days

#6 posted 03-21-2012 08:35 PM

I love my rigid, it works great and it is one of the cheaper floor models out there. Have not read a single bad review on it yet.

-- If you can't fix it with a hammer, You've got an electrical problem.

View canadianchips's profile


2626 posts in 3267 days

#7 posted 03-21-2012 08:38 PM

One with a good chuck. Some of the cheaper ones will not stay tight (thinking courser threads).I use a floor model OLDER craftsman, I like it.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8738 posts in 2598 days

#8 posted 03-21-2012 08:38 PM

5/8” chuck

14” or better swing

1 HP or better.

Nice heavy table with T-track slots.

large heavy base

widest possible speed range (with slower speeds)

Bench top is more convenient for me, as I don’t have the floor space to give up for a dedicated, stand alone unit.

I’d love to get a variable speed DP, but the prices are much higer, so I’m changing belts with the rest of the crew.

If you buy new, I think you’ll find Grizzly is the best bang for the buck.

-- Matt -- I yam what I yam and that's all what I yam

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2755 days

#9 posted 03-21-2012 08:41 PM

Ok, just to clarify my terminology, what is “swing”? Still learning all this stuff.

-- Brian Timmons -

View Vincent Nocito's profile

Vincent Nocito

485 posts in 3634 days

#10 posted 03-21-2012 08:47 PM

It depends on what type of work you plan to do with it. If you want to use mortising chisels then a small bench model may be too small. I have the Shop Fox H0626 Oscillating Drill Press. It has a low speed of 250 rpm and a 13.25” swing. It also comes with sanding drums and will oscillate and has a dust collection port. The low speed comes in handy when boring large diameter holds like for clock inserts or when using a circle cutter. Many of the small bench top models are only 5 speed with the low end at 500+ rpm. When boring wood, I usually only use the low speeds to avoid burning. A work light is a nice feature. As Stefang said easy speed change is nice (3 pulley versus 2 pulley). Variable speed (like the Deltas) seem like a gimmick. So is laser.

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 2755 days

#11 posted 03-21-2012 09:21 PM

Ok, I Googled “swing” so that’s no longer a mystery.

Hadn’t thought about using a mortising attachment, but having an oscillating feature for spindle sanding sure would be handy.

-- Brian Timmons -

View Manitario's profile


2725 posts in 3153 days

#12 posted 03-21-2012 09:34 PM

my 2 cents; I had read on LJ’s to not buy a “benchtop” model, as they’re too heavy to move around and by the time you find a place to permanently put it in your shop, it will take up more space than a “floor” model drill press. I wish I would have listened to that piece of wisdom. I have a 14” General International benchtop drill press, and although I saved $50 over the floor model, the base I had to build for it takes up more room than the floor model would have.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3241 days

#13 posted 03-21-2012 10:04 PM

Slow speed is essential for drilling with large diameter bits. Like 200 RPM or less is not too slow.
High speed is needed for sanding and for very small drill bits; too slow and they will snap like glass.

The only benchtop I would consider is the large type, like Manitario just mentioned. I know, because I bought the smaller 10” swing model and it sucked. The larger machines, >12” swing, are usually about 40” tall and weigh over a 100Lbs so they are not very portable, but anything less is a waste of time in my opinion.

You need enough room between the chuck and the table to allow for long bits and bulky workpieces. the small benchtops simply do not meet this requirement.

You need at least 3 1/4” of quill stroke. That’s how deep of a hole you can drill without having to move the table. 3 1/4” will get you almost through a 4×4. The aformentioned tall tabletops and most floor models have this, but be sure to check. Some only go to 2 1/8”.

The best machines like the big 18” floor model Deltas and Powermatics have 6” quill stroke. But they also sell for close to $1000.

Variable speed is real nice, but spendy. You migh find a deal on an industrial grade machine with variable speed but be sure to check it first. Those older variable speed machines used something called “Reeves pulleys” to get the speed range and those systems wear out over time and hard use. They are great when working, but just beware of the pitfalls. I recently saw an old Powermatic VS that NEW would cost $2500 on Craigs List for $400, for instance.

For what it’s worth, I have two benchtops, a crappy small one I turned into a mortiser, and a 16 speed 13” large benchtop I really like. I bought both of them from HF and have less than $250 in the pair.

View will delaney's profile

will delaney

326 posts in 2905 days

#14 posted 03-21-2012 10:38 PM

Great post. I am also looking to buy a DP and am finding it very difficult in deciding what to get. Thanks

View tsdahc's profile


109 posts in 2621 days

#15 posted 03-21-2012 11:31 PM

If you have a Big Blue store go check out the Porter Cable Floor drill press. I cant give you a review on how well it works since Ive only drilled 3 holes, which it did easily, theres 34 reviews on their website with almost all 5 stars. It is a 15” 12 speed press with 5/8 chuck, light and laser. Its a 1 hp. I was able to get them to take my HF coupon so it was like $250 with tax. I bought the extra warranty for $30. I looked at the rigid from HD but for me its $500 or so online. I found someone on CL selling them for $350 but the warranty is void then. A little tip for buying big items at Big Blue, go to the post office and ask for a change of address packet, itll save you 10% at Blue. I have been looking and looking at CL and online and I just couldnt justify 200-300 for a used press and 500 for new, so the PC fit the bill.

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