Vintage Tool Rehab Projects #14: Tuning My first Drill Press-An invaluable education.

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Brad posted 07-21-2012 03:04 PM 8776 reads 3 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 13: Learning to Remove a Bow: My new, old favorite crosscut saw Part 14 of Vintage Tool Rehab Projects series Part 15: Stanley #5C-Restoration Before/After »

“Does it run?”, I asked the goatee-wearing college kid working the estate sale. “I don’t know, let’s plug it in and see.” So we did. And it ran. But it made a loud rumbling sound. “Could be the bearings,” goatee-boy said. “How much you asking for it?” “Make me an offer.” “25 bucks work for you?” “Sold,” says he.

So I borrowed a dolly, backed up my Mini Cooper to the garage—you’d be surprised what a Mini Cooper can haul—then took the head off, and with the help of another college kid working his summer job, got-er loaded.

I know. I emphasize hand tools in my woodworking. And I L O V E my hand braces. But there are times when I’ve longed for the precision of a drill press. And besides that, I’m not a handtool purist. There. I’ve said it out loud.

Here’s what I brought home.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I gave my new treasure a good cleaning and fashioned a wood handle to replace the broken table adjustment lever.

It still rumbled.

Off to the Internet to do some research.

The nameplate spelled out what I was researching.

It looks like something from the 60s or 70s but I hoped that I could dig up a digital manual for it.

No dice and no manual. But I did find this manual, which I used as a guide. The Troubleshooting page was most helpful.

Tuning her up
I found a few resources to help me bring my newest shop addition to working order. The Tune Up Your Drill Press video on Youtube was excellent. This video on replacing a spindle helpful too, because it showed me how to disassemble the head to replace the bearings. More on that in a moment.

There’s nothing like a good KISS
Keep it simple stupid. That’s what I remind myself whenever I start a rehab like this. In my case, I started at square one. My research suggested that bad belts might be the root rumbling cause. So I took them off and inspected them. Sure enough, there were small cracks in the rubber and one of them had a bulge that I could feel. I just needed to replace them right? How hard could it be to find a new belt?

I’ll save you a lot of driving around. Forget the auto part stores. I found replacement v-belts at a local Ace Hardware superstore. Six bucks each.

And sure enough, it did help. A lot. But there was still some vibration—enough to make stuff dance a bit on the metal disc tray.

The troubleshooting guide suggested securing the base better to the floor. Here’s my solution.

That helped too. I was making progress. But surely there was more I could do.

Perhaps it’s the bearings. I should replace them. How hard could it be to find new bearings?

Fortunately, the old bearings had the maker’s name plus the numbers 4201z and 4204z. I’ll save you a lot of Internet research. I found them on Ebay. While I did buy them from an outfit in Hong Kong (Dragonmarts (Hong Kong) Limited), they were $10.66 total. A single NTN (original manufacturer’s bearing) 4204z was going for $17.00! I went with Hong Kong. Nine days later I had the bearings in hand and changed them out.

Not bad.

I suspect that my drilling machine is noisier than other drill presses, but heck, I’ve got a nice running machine for $25.00 + $12.00 in belts + $10.66 in bearings =$47.66 hard costs. I would also tack on a Drill Press 101 education—priceless.

Lessons Learned
If’n you go shopping for a used drill press here are a few things I learned from my experience.

1. If it rumbles you may have to replace bearings and pully wheels. If you’re lucky you just need new belts. It’s not hard to do, but you should brace yourself for the worst case and factor the cost of potential parts into your thinking before you make an offer.

2. When you buy your vintage drill press: a. Ask/look for its manual b. Be sure to get the chuck key c. Try to get the chuck key wedge (the thingy that helps you separate the chuck from the spindle) d. Have the seller include any accessories in the price. Sanding drums, desirable bits, whatever, because picking up this stuff piecemeal could start racking up the buckaroonies.

3. Give your DP a good KISS-Start with the easiest (read cheapest) solutions and work your way from there. Start with a thorough cleaning. Then progress to new belts, bearings and pullies in that order.

Once you’ve got your new beauty running like a TSA scanner, you’ll want to build a table for it. The metal-working table that comes with a drill press simply isn’t up to the precision tasks that woodworking requires.And that brothers and sisters, is the subject of a future post.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

13 comments so far

View Don W's profile

Don W

18754 posts in 2592 days

#1 posted 07-21-2012 03:15 PM

Great drill for $25. Nice restore. I’m doing the same thing on a vintage planer. Blog to come shortly.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View spunwood's profile


1202 posts in 2860 days

#2 posted 07-21-2012 05:17 PM

Great story and experience. Thanks

-- I came, I was conquered, I was born again. ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν

View davidroberts's profile


1027 posts in 3510 days

#3 posted 07-21-2012 06:27 PM

ditto, great story and a great lesson. FYI – Chuck keys are about $2 and change at the borgs, various sizes are available, based on the hole diameter. I made a wedge just 2 weeks ago out of 3/4” by 1/4” flat stock (soft steel) with a hand grinder and file. Don’t wear sandals unless your toes are tough as nails. Haven’t changed out the bearings but may give it a go one day. For now a new set of belts did help my old Cman calm down a bit. That crank handle you made is industrious. $25 is a gloat – and probably you suck, actually you suck. Rough it out with power, refine by hand. That is what I’m learning to do more of.

-- Better woodworking through old hand tools.

View Dusty56's profile


11819 posts in 3712 days

#4 posted 07-21-2012 06:28 PM

Very well written and informational story. Thank you : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View Brit's profile


7385 posts in 2867 days

#5 posted 07-21-2012 07:16 PM

Nice drill press Brad and glad you got it running smoothly. By the way the wedge thingy that separates the chuck from the spindle is called a ‘drift’.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View OnlyJustME's profile


1562 posts in 2401 days

#6 posted 07-21-2012 11:54 PM

I’m currently looking to replace my old cheap chinese bench top drill press. This info will be helpful. Thanks
My problem is i can’t get the chuck to stay on the spindle anymore. any ideas on how to keep it from falling off short of using epoxy or super glue?

I really hope i find one like yours for $25.

-- In the end, when your life flashes before your eyes, will you like what you see?

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2864 days

#7 posted 07-22-2012 02:49 AM

Man that is the way to go. A nice find, refurbish and a killer drill press. Grats!

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2912 days

#8 posted 07-23-2012 03:04 AM

Hi Brad.

$47.66 eh? I’ll give you $50 for it! (grin)

Pretty good deal. One thing you didn’t mention about belts. Even if they look good and have no cracks, if they’ve been left under tension for a long time they develop a “memory” of the oval shape and will vibrate like a kootchy dancer on Saturday night. If this is the case, new belts are the answer. I had an old belt operated Beaver saw that a friend inherited from his father-in0law and had no real use for so he loaned it to me. I had been used maybe 15 or 20 hours total but had been sitting unused for several years. I fired it up and it danced the solid heavy wooden base all over the shop! If you take a belt off and can’t get it to lay on the bench in some semblance of a circle, it’s probably time for a new one.


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2912 days

#9 posted 07-23-2012 03:27 AM

To: OnlyJustMel

Have you tried roughing up the mating surfaces with some medium-coarse emery cloth? They may have glazed over.


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View Brad's profile


1139 posts in 2764 days

#10 posted 07-23-2012 03:34 AM

Thanks everyone for your feedback.

Brit, how right your are my friend. We even call them drifts on this side of the pond :)

Mine popped out a couple of times until I whacked the chuck good with a rubber dead-blow mallet. Now it stays firmly in place. If you try that, take care to retract the chuck jaws so as not to damage them during said whacking.

David Roberts,
I tried making a drift from some steel I had but got fair results. I think it was too narrow.

Looking forward to reading about your planer restoration.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

View OnlyJustME's profile


1562 posts in 2401 days

#11 posted 07-23-2012 02:52 PM

I did use some emery cloth on it but i think it was more fine than medium-course. I’ve wacked it with all kinds of hammers. It just doesn’t seem to want to stay on anymore.

-- In the end, when your life flashes before your eyes, will you like what you see?

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3065 days

#12 posted 07-23-2012 03:20 PM

Nice, I would be tempted to bolt it to the floor though, you never know when you might bump it, then you are looking for a new drillpress…..

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Brad's profile


1139 posts in 2764 days

#13 posted 08-14-2012 02:49 AM


Another possibility is that the retaining ring that holds the upper bearing in place has come loose. It wraps around the spindle and if it comes out the chuck will work it’s way downward. My chuck was “falling out” too, but when I tightener the retaining ring, it put an end to that. That was after I tried the whacking…Start with the easy stuff to fix, then progress from there.

-- "People's lives are their own rewards or punishments."

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

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