Drill press speed

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Forum topic by Hopdevil posted 02-18-2011 09:46 PM 5266 views 2 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Hopdevil's profile


210 posts in 2505 days

02-18-2011 09:46 PM

Hi my friends,

I have an older drill press that requires me to change the belt position to change the speed. It has settings for 460, 750, 1180, 1680 and 2420 RPM. Ok, I know if was following all guidelines, I would change the speed every time according to the size of the drill bit and type of material. But being the extremely lazy person I am, is there a ‘happy medium’ that would work well for most woodworking needs? It has been running at the 1680 RPM setting since I got it. I just put a link belt on it and started wondering, am I really doing anything unsafe or unwise?
Thanks much in advance for any and all thoughts and advice!


-- Buzz ---- Fare Thee Well!

15 replies so far

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2299 days

#1 posted 02-18-2011 10:03 PM

My delta drill press is the same way. Its kind of a pain changing the belts around so I usually keep it set at one speed for most work. 1680 should be fine for most work.

I don’t think there is anything unsafe about it. Worst case if its to high of speed the wood will burn a little then you can slow it down. To slow and it will just struggle a little.

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View ChrisForthofer's profile


150 posts in 2486 days

#2 posted 02-18-2011 10:03 PM

I’d say you’d be fine at that speed for anything up to 3/8” diameter. Any larger and I’d slow it down. Larger bits of course tend to grab and the last thing you want is your workpiece becoming a makeshift propeller with you standing in front of the machine.

-- -Director of slipshod craftsmanship and attention deficit woodworking

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 2577 days

#3 posted 02-18-2011 10:04 PM


There’s a big difference between drilling metal with a metal bit (fast) and using a large forstner bit (slow). I’d be careful with a “set-it/leave-it” speed. I’ve cut myself drilling metal before because I tried to use force instead of speed and I’ve ruined a project before because I used the wrong speed with a forstner bit. Size of the bit will dictate your speed, as will the material…though granted, for most normal holes in wood, you are probably safe.

-- jay,

View Dandog's profile


250 posts in 2193 days

#4 posted 02-19-2011 03:28 AM

Drilling steel is done at low speeds aluminum can be done higher.If you don’t want to change speeds keep it low . The only time you get into trouble is at higher speeds and dull bits

-- life an woodworking is one big experiment

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 2493 days

#5 posted 02-19-2011 05:38 AM

I have the same situation. Since I primarily use forstner bits and brad bits I tend to favor slower speeds. I usually leave my drill on a speed around 500 rpm and only slow it down further for the really large bits. I use forester bits up to 3”. If I remember correctly, my minimum speed is 210 rpm.

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

View ChunkyC's profile


856 posts in 2673 days

#6 posted 02-19-2011 05:55 AM

I solved the problem on mine. I installed a 3 phase 240VAC motor and added a VFD. I can control the speed from 0 – 120 hz (0-3600 RPM). This is pricey but I no longer have to change those stupid finger biting belts!

-- Chunk's Workshop pictures:

View Dark_Lightning's profile


2619 posts in 2528 days

#7 posted 02-19-2011 05:57 AM

In the machining industry, the removal of material is taken in units of surface feet per minute, based on production of finished articles. Using your drill press, if you want to use a single drill speed, you will have to go slower on large holes. If you are not on a clock, you don’t have to be concerned with speed so much. Most holes that you will drill will be done at high speeds, as they will be small. As Rich has pointed out, large holes require really low shaft speeds. But you can use a slow feed rate and accomplish the same number of surface feet per minute. You will probably trash some equipment (drill bits and wood) until you get it right. Note that for wood, with few exceptions, your cutting rate will be quite high compared to metal. It’s hard for me to quantify this for you, given the large range of wood hardnesses, which is what I think you may really be asking.

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View Hopdevil's profile


210 posts in 2505 days

#8 posted 02-19-2011 06:02 AM

Thanks to all! I will be drilling wood probably 95% of the time. Rick, thanks for scanning that chart for me. That will help a lot. (I need to stop being so lazy I guess)

-- Buzz ---- Fare Thee Well!

View jonmulzer's profile


48 posts in 2085 days

#9 posted 02-20-2011 02:10 AM

I will be the dissenting opinion, it is what I do best. :) Set it at 750 rpm and it will cover 95% of all you do. The only time I change mine from that speed is when I use a big hole saw. I routinely use a 2” Forstner at this speed with no burning but according to that chart I should be using it within a 250-500rpm range and yet I get no burning even in rock maple. To each their own though.

View JasonWagner's profile


527 posts in 2599 days

#10 posted 02-20-2011 03:16 AM

I have a Ridgid DP and have to change the belt around. I don’t do it much unless I really have to. If I am going to use large forstner bits or sanding drums I’ll slow it down. I know we’re all lazy but it only takes me about a minute.

-- some day I hope to have enough clamps to need a clamp cart!

View rogerw's profile


262 posts in 2108 days

#11 posted 02-20-2011 04:03 PM

my delta is the same way. I use mine on the slowest setting of 620 rpm probably 90% of the time with an occasional bump up to the second notch of 1100. if you are going slow with a small bit you just slow down the feed and clear the chips out more. Laziness does have a lot to do with it though as i can change belt positions in about 30 seconds probably. lol

-- >> my shop teacher used to say "do the best at everything you make for your mom because you're going to see it for the rest of your life!" <<

View wb8nbs's profile


162 posts in 2111 days

#12 posted 02-20-2011 08:14 PM

There was a really interesting article in Oct/Nov 2010 “Machinist’s Workshop” magazine about adapting a variable speed DC motor salvaged from an old treadmill. I’m looking out for a treadmill now so I can VFD my DP300 drill press.

-- The only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.

View Hopdevil's profile


210 posts in 2505 days

#13 posted 02-21-2011 04:37 AM

Hmmm, so many choices! Seems like the majority opinion is to go with the lower speeds… and be less lazy! Thanks everyone.

-- Buzz ---- Fare Thee Well!

View bluekingfisher's profile


1246 posts in 2398 days

#14 posted 02-21-2011 04:14 PM

I was clearing out some junk from my shop the other day when I came across the recommended drill speeds for the various sizes of bit. I don’t have the speeds printed in my mind but I printed it off from

If you need further info Buzz send me a PM and I’ll provide all the details I have.


-- No one plans to fail, they just, just fail to plan

View jmichaeldesign's profile


66 posts in 2202 days

#15 posted 02-21-2011 10:27 PM

I’d leave it at 1180. Thats about the speed of most hand drills and would be good up to 3/4 or so with twist bits. I’d slow down for forstner bits to save the cutting tips from heating up more so than being concerned about safety.

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