Do I NEED a 15 speed drill press?

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Forum topic by eregister posted 07-07-2011 03:18 AM 2304 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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14 posts in 2657 days

07-07-2011 03:18 AM

I am in the market for a Floor Model drill press. I’ve come across a Craftsman 15” 4 speed floor model press from the 50’s that seems to be in great shape. So here are my questions:

1. Do I need and would I really use the 15 speeds more than just 4 speeds?

2. Is there any merit in older tools are built better than newer tools?

Thanks for your time….

11 replies so far

View Loren's profile (online now)


10260 posts in 3613 days

#1 posted 07-07-2011 03:28 AM

1. no. Probably not for woodworking. It’s sort of like with a
18 speed bike you only use about 4 or 5 gears.

2. Many are.

View bigike's profile


4050 posts in 3253 days

#2 posted 07-07-2011 03:33 AM

No just get it and send it to me I’ll send you a drill guide so you can use a cordless drill those have two speeds.

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2936 days

#3 posted 07-07-2011 03:50 AM

I wish my 16 speed had fewer steps but still had the range.
But the main problem is the speed range.
You need to be able to go from 250 rpm to 3600 rpm for maximum versitility.
And, that requires an extra stepped pulley in between the motor and the quill.
About a 4 to 1 ratio is about the best you can get from a single pair of 4 slot stepped pulleys.

So, a 4 speed with a 3400 rpm motor can only get down to about 850 rpm.
That’s too fast for big forstner bits; they need 250 to 300 rpm for say a 1-1/2” bit..

If you start with a 1750 rpm motor then you can get down to about 437 rpm.
Still a little too fast, but acceptable if you don’t get over 1” bits..

If you start with a 1200 rpm motor, then you could get dowm to 300 rpm.
but, 1200 rpm is a little slow for small bits, especially in metal drilling.

Also, the multiple stepped pulleys that yield 12 to 16 speeds can provide speed for sanding or other jobs.

The best of both worlds would be electronic variable speed, but you won’t find that in older machines.
Otherwise, the older machines are far superior in quality to anything out there today.

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2598 days

#4 posted 07-07-2011 06:54 AM

I have a 1950s Craftsman DP. Perhaps the same model you’re referrring to. I’ve never felt the need for an additional 12 speeds. However, the owners manual indicates that additional speeds can be acheived by repositioning the motor pulley up/down (see below). I never thought it was worth the hassle of trying since the “stock” speeds work fine for me.

I’m sure there are plenty of great new DPs on the market. I almost bought a new Ridgid a few years back, before stumbling upon the Craftsman dinosaur. Seller was asking $50. It ran smooth and the chuck didn’t wobble. I figured the prospect of saving $250 made it worth my while to take a chance. I don’t regret my decision. I do wish my DP had a rack/pinion system to raise and lower the table. But I’m in no hurry to replace it just to gain that feature. Otherwise, I don’t see anything better about a modern machine. Unless you’re into those laser pointer things.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5620 posts in 2778 days

#5 posted 07-07-2011 08:35 AM

Not needed at all.

However, I would not buy an electric tool, or lamp for that matter, that was that old. A hand plane maybe.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3040 days

#6 posted 07-07-2011 03:26 PM

The answer is that no one really needs 15 or even 12 speeds on their drill press. However, it is my opinion, that you should have a very slow speed (less than 250 rpm) available and often you need to buy a 12 speed to get something below 250 rpm.

I often work with some relatively large forstner bits (up to 3”). You really need to slow the drill down for bits this large.

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

View wb8nbs's profile


164 posts in 2657 days

#7 posted 07-07-2011 03:39 PM

You won’t find a speed slow enough to handle large bits on those 5 speed cheapos. I have a Delta DP300 and yearn for slower speeds, to the point where I am considering a slower RPM motor swap out. There was an interesting article a year or so ago on adapting a variable speed DC motor salvaged from a treadmill to a small lathe or drill press. I’m looking for one.

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

View Bertha's profile


13521 posts in 2658 days

#8 posted 07-07-2011 04:07 PM

The age doesn’t scare me a bit. Cr1’s solutions range from $5 to $30, a drop in the bucket to rehab a quality tool. As for the speeds, they’d be lost on me but I’m not a frequent drillpress user. I’d be interested in a vintage drill press such as this.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Planeman40's profile


1151 posts in 2726 days

#9 posted 07-07-2011 06:26 PM

All of the guys are right except for the “don’t need the 15 speeds” part.

Its true that for most woodworking uses you don’t need that many speeds. However occasionally you will want to use a trepanning tool or a large circle cutter of some kind to cut a 3” or 6” dia. hole and you will REALLY need those very slow speeds then! Having them certainly can’t hurt.

I have mostly older light industrial power tools in my shop from the 1940s to the 1970s and much prefer them over the lightly built stuff from the “big box” stores these days. The cost is less and they give superior service. And like was said, as long as there are no broken castings or missing parts, the bearings can easily be replaced if necessary. And I have yet to find a bearing that needed it.

I have been woodworking for 50 years so I think I can speak with some experience to back it up.


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View eregister's profile


14 posts in 2657 days

#10 posted 07-08-2011 01:19 AM

Thanks for all the replies it has helped in my decision. I am planning on getting the DP on Saturday providing it checks out to be in good shape. It’s a good deal and I don’t think I can go wrong for the money as long as it’s not defective.

View helluvawreck's profile


30765 posts in 2832 days

#11 posted 07-08-2011 02:06 AM

I can tell you this: if you are going to do a little metalworking you can really use the lower speeds. Most woodworkers don’t know how easily you can drill and tap a hole -especially if you use a spiralpoint tap. If you are careful you can do a lot of things with steel and aluminum in the making of your jigs. All you need is some good measuring and marking tools and a little care in using your scribe. If you get some prick punches to mark your holes and then finish the holes off with a regular punch and then use a good sharp drill bit you can drill and tap some good accurate threaded holes. If you have a metal working vice fastened securely to your drill press table and your table securely locked in place then you can mark something like a piece of 3/8×3/4 steel with a cross scribe mark every 6 inches. This way you are accurate from the edge because of your vice and only need to position the holes along the length, I have found that you can easily put the drilled hole very accurately by eye with the scribed mark. Accurate enough for many things. If you have a cold rolled piece such as this with threaded or just drilled holes then you have something that can be used for a way. If you use your imagination a way is something that can be used effectively with all kinds of jigs and fixtures.

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

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