Basic Drill Press Advice

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Forum topic by jacobgerlach posted 11-15-2013 01:48 PM 17373 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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29 posts in 2731 days

11-15-2013 01:48 PM

Topic tags/keywords: drill press

I’m looking to buy my first drill press.

I’ve searched through some old posts and seen plenty of the benchtop vs free standing discussion. Free standing would work great for me at the edge of my garage right now, but I could do benchtop too.

I have some money saved up for shop tools, but since I am a pretty new woodworker, I’m trying to use it slowly so I don’t blow it before I know what I really need.

Initially I planned on using the “buy Harbor Freight and upgrade when you break it” logic for this purchase. Their small 5 speed benchtop (8” I think?) could be had for about $55 right now with a 20% coupon. Alternatively, they also have a benchtop one step up (bigger, slower min speed, rack and pinion table) – $110 after the coupon, or a floor model, $190 with coupon.

I’ve seen a lot of positive comments about the PC 16” available at Lowe’s. I’m just not sure about spending 5x more than the cheapo HF model (see my comment above about tring to use my shop budget slowly).

I’ve been watching Craigslist, but mostly see cheap bench units that look to be on par with the HF and priced betweeen $50-$100, or larger bench or freestanding units for $250+. Seems like at that price I’d be better off getting the PC new.

Looking for any advice or opinions.


23 replies so far

View Tedstor's profile


1691 posts in 3599 days

#1 posted 11-15-2013 02:28 PM

IMO, you’ll find an 8” drill press (regardless of brand) to be woefully inadequate in the near future. Those machines are for the lightest of duties (i.e model making, small parts, etc). It makes no sense to buy an underpowered tinker toy, only to upgrade within 12-24 months. JMHO.

A drill press is a handy machine to have on many levels. I use mine for metalwork/household/utility stuff as often as I use it for woodworking. In that regard, I think its worthwhile to spend a bite extra and get a good one. Its a machine you’ll frequently use, for the rest of your life. I too considered some of the larger HF machines. But I avoid HF for a number of reasons. Plenty of other people like them though.

I’d buy a 10” machine (at BARE minimum). But you’d be better off with a 12-14”+. Bigger=better.
The PC is the absolute best DP on the market, in that price range and class. A great value considering the features.
Craftsman also sells a couple of good DPs. They currently sell a 12” Benchtop model ($175) that I used to own. I gave it a ho-hum review, but in retrospect, it wasn’t a bad machine at all. If I HAD to have a benchtop, I’d consider buying it again. Its only 1/3 hp, which I initially thought to be too weak. However, 1/3 would probably be enough power for 95% of the jobs I’d need it to do.
In the end, I decided to ‘make’ the room for a floor model. I almost bought, the PC. But a Grizzly 7944 popped up on Craigslist for $100. So I went that route. The Grizzly is a fine machine. But it’d cost $400+ to buy it new and have it delivered. The PC can be had for about $300 with coupon at a local store. Making it the smarter play imo.

Oh- and another thing about the PC. It has a full 4 inches of spindle travel. ABout as long of a stroke as you’ll get without venturing into industrial-quality machines. VERY important feature. Most other DP’s have 3.25 inches or less. Again, I’ve gotten by ok with 3.25”. But I’ve run into a few situations where 4” would have made life easier. You can drill through a 4×4 without having to elevate the table.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 4040 days

#2 posted 11-15-2013 02:29 PM

For me, the issue with bench top lathes is the depth of the stroke. Often it is less than 3”. Free standing lathes are usually closer to 5”. That is a big deal in my work.

Drill presses are pretty simple tools. They seldom break. Get what you want for the long term now.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View JayT's profile


6417 posts in 3177 days

#3 posted 11-15-2013 02:38 PM

My 2 cents.

You will quickly find the limitations of most benchtop drill presses. The short stroke and small swing are part, but the other issue to consider is speeds. Most benchtop units, and especially the 5 speed ones have a slowest speed of ~500rpm. This is way too fast for using larger bits, such as Forstners, which recommend ~200 rpm for a speed. Look for a 12-16 speed unit to give you the necessary flexibility.

My advice would be to keep an eye out on CL and auctions, if you don’t want to spring for the PC. I just picked up a Delta floor model for $80 on an auction and have seen several other similar units sell in the $125-150 range. All are a much better long term investment than a small benchtop.

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

View tool_junkie's profile


331 posts in 3495 days

#4 posted 11-15-2013 03:38 PM


I bought the Harbor Freight bench-top drill press (the cheaper of the two bench-top models) and returned it the next weekend. I tried a few test holes with it and it failed miserably on the 35mm Forstener bit test even at the lowest speed. Regular bit were fine though. I would recommend getting a powerful floor standing model and call it a day.

I have been on the lookout for a floor standing model myself but haven’t caught a deal in my price range yet.

Hope this helps.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3937 days

#5 posted 11-15-2013 04:25 PM

I started with the HF 10”, twelve speed bench top drill press and was very disappointed.
Two reasons. 1) not enough space between the chuck and the table. Could not fit a 2×4 on edge and a drill bit in that space. 2) not enough stroke to drill through that 2×4 edge ways even if I found a short enough bit to fit in that space. This would be a good enough drill if you only drill thin stuff like metal plates and plywood. Not so good for wood working.

I next got a HF 12” sixteen speed bench top drill press. This one is fine.
It weighs about 80 lbs and stands about 40” tall, can slow down to 200 RPM and has 3/4hp.
Has about 16” chuck to table work space and a 3 3/8” stroke. Wish it had more stroke, but I can live with this.

On sale right now for $249, but I paid $199 for mine.

When I have the money I will get a used big radial drill, but for now, I’m good to go.

View b2rtch's profile


4921 posts in 4014 days

#6 posted 11-15-2013 04:58 PM

I have the HF floor model that I bought ( hardly) used for $100.00 I added the HF accessory table on it and I am very happy with it.

-- Bert

View jmartel's profile


9144 posts in 3116 days

#7 posted 11-15-2013 05:19 PM

I have this one:

It does a good job for what it is. Spindle travel is pretty limited. But, for $100, I can’t really complain. I’m not trying to drill through 4×4’s or anything, so it’s good enough for me for now.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View 7Footer's profile


2575 posts in 2914 days

#8 posted 11-15-2013 06:09 PM

Jake – I was in the same boat as you about 2 months ago, I searched CL for quite a while, and was torn between the bench top and floor standing but I really wanted to keep the $$ down. In the end I went with the Porter Cable 16” at Lowe’s. I am very happy with it and do agree with what most of the reviews say, although its not made in the US, it does seem like a pretty high quality machine. I went to Harbor Freight and looked that all of their models, and as Crank mentioned you can get the larger benchtop model for around $199 with a coupon, but I feel like the quality of the PC is worth the extra $100, nothing about it feels cheap or china-made (although I’m not sure if they are still $299 or not, I had to call Lowe’s because they upped the price from $299 to $399 over a weekend, but they still honored the $299 that it was previously so that definitely made it worth it for me), the lasers are spot on out of the box, the work light is nice and the it has a 3/4 hp motor, lots of power and plenty of speeds. To me it just seemed like the quality from the HF and PC were night and day. In my region it says the PC DP is $329 at the moment. If I were going to get a benchtop I’d definitely get the largest benchtop model because I agreed with the others, you will quickly find the limitations of it.

Its obviously up to you and the confines of your shop, but it really doesn’t take up that much room once assembled, and I’ve never heard anyone say “man I wish I had bought a smaller drill press.” Good luck!


View brtech's profile


1078 posts in 3888 days

#9 posted 11-15-2013 06:23 PM

I’ve had a low end Griz benchtop for several years. It’s fine, and I do want to upgrade it.

I don’t find the power or the stroke to be the limiting issue on the low end benchtops. That honor goes to the lack of rack and pinion on the table. It is a PITA to reposition the table, and if you put a drill press table on top of it, it’s a whole lot harder. So, I would recommend you get R&P no matter what you buy.

But not enough to spend a couple hundred upgrading, at least yet!

View OldRick's profile


72 posts in 2659 days

#10 posted 11-18-2013 11:41 AM

+1 for what 7Footer said. I have the same machine and I’m very happy with it. Solid machine.

View PaulDoug's profile


2436 posts in 2669 days

#11 posted 11-18-2013 01:06 PM

I’ve got an old HF model that was the first tool my wife bought me after we got married. It has served me well. I upgraded the past summer, to a 17” Jet for my wood shop, but I kept the old one for out in the garage when I need to drill metal. I would advise get a floor model if you can. There may come the need to put holes in the end of a longer board.

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View jacobgerlach's profile


29 posts in 2731 days

#12 posted 11-18-2013 02:15 PM

Thanks everyone for the advice. I went with the PC and you definitely notice the quality difference right out of the box. I put hands on at HF and there’s no comparison. I’m also glad I have as much work space on the press as I do.

For those of you that have the PC, how have you attached tables and fences to the cast table? It seems like most other drill presses have standard spaced holes through the table for drill press vises, etc.

Also, the forwardmost pulley (the one attached to the chuck) has some noticeable wobble in it. It doesn’t seem to be translating to the bit, but should I be worried about wearing out bearings or belts? I didn’t see any obvious way to adjust it and small changes to the belt tension didn’t affect the wobble.

View RPhillips's profile


1317 posts in 2802 days

#13 posted 11-18-2013 02:56 PM

As for holding down a table to the cast table, use a few of these hold down clamps from Rockler mounted on the bottom to secure it. No drilling into your cast table required. Just us two pieces of 3/4 material (Plywood, MDF, etc) drill through the bottom piece and insert a T nut for the bolts to attach. You may need to recess the tops of the “T nuts” a little, then attach the top piece of 3/4 material to the top. I didn’t use the “T bolt” like is pictures, I used a 3/8” stud (no head on either end). Then route out some 3/4” dados and install a “T Track kit, add a fence and then you’ll have the ultimate drill press work station.

-- Rob - Indianapolis IN - Learning... one mistake at a time...

View jacobgerlach's profile


29 posts in 2731 days

#14 posted 11-18-2013 04:57 PM

Rob – Not positive I understand how this attaches. Do the blue hold down brackets wedge against the bottom of the table and catch the bottom lip of the cast table?

View b2rtch's profile


4921 posts in 4014 days

#15 posted 11-18-2013 06:01 PM


Buy a table at HF, they are very good and very inexpensive and they come with everything you need.

-- Bert

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