So I’ve been using a 60 year old Craftsman bench top DP for the past few years. It’s an old school, American beast and I’m sentimentally fond of it. However, it has a few issues.
-The table must be raised/lowered manually. I didn’t realize how important a rack/pinion table lift was when I bought this DP. But shoving a cast iron table (with an auxiliary table, jigs, work piece) up a steel column is a complete pain in the ass.
- Its only capable of three speeds. Slow speed, which is still too fast for large bits. Insane speed which is where I leave it set 99% of the time. And ludicrous speed, which I never use.
- Run-out. I’ve been putting up with the first two issues, since I couldn’t really justify replacing an otherwise operational tool. But the run-out has become a bit excessive to overlook. I’ve gone through the typical motions to correct the run-out, but I’m not prepared to go to any great lengths to fix a tool that I’ve been looking for a reason to replace.
All that said, I’m in the market for new drill press. Regrettably, I can’t go with a floor model due to spatial constraints. C-list in my area commonly offers floor models at reasonable prices. But bench top models, that meet my performance criteria are basically non-existent on CL. The new tool market doesn’t offer much either. Most bench top models are either pathetically small and extra-light duty (skil/ryobi), or out of my price range (pmatic/general).
At this point, the newly listed Craftsman 12” DP looks like the best candidate for me. I played around with a fresh display model at the store, and I liked what I saw. Everything seemed tight and smooth. Like many late model craftsman machines, it looks very similar to machines offered by Rikon. But the closely related Rikon has slightly better specs. Nonetheless, the Craftsman includes.
-12 Speeds. The slowest is 350rpms. A little faster than I’d like, but acceptable.
-1/2hp motor. Good n’uff.
-Rack/Pinion table lift. WooHoo!
-Gooseneck LED. Nice feature for the dungeon I work in.
The downsides to this machine, which might not actually be downsides include:
-Circular table. I’ve never understood how a circular table could possibly be better than a square table? I don’t get why all DPs don’t come standard with a square table. Especially DPs that are marketed as woodworking machines.
-Laser doohickey. I personally find these useless. And this one requires batteries. Wiring the laser thingy to the rest of the machine was apparently a technical challenge that couldn’t be overcome. Being a dumbass, I’ll undoubtedly leave the laser on and it will habitually have a dead battery. That’s what happened with my miter saw anyway.
-Depth-Stop. The depth stop on most DPs is comprised of a threaded/graduated rod, and is adjusted with a nut. Simple, effective. This DP, and several others on the market, uses a “clutch” system where a mechanical dial is set to the intended depth. For all know, this system is better than the system I’m familiar with. The stop on the model I saw seemed to work well and was easy to use.
-Unknown quality. Although Craftsman has introduced its fair share of garbage over the past couple decades, I’m of the opinion that they are steadily improving. Maybe they finally found a Chinese manufacturer that knows what they’re doing? Either way, most of the craftsman machines I have seen/used over the past couple years have been impressive. The latest bandsaw, “professional” router, and the mentioned drill press will compete nicely with any mid-range product on the market (imo, of course). But in the case of the DP, it is a new addition to the catalog and has not been tested and reviewed by the market. At least my local Sears is only 15min away, which will make a return easy, but hopefully unnecessary.
With all that said, I’m going to pull the trigger this weekend- unless someone knows of a better product under $250. The craftsman can actually be had for about $175 with coupons and discounts.
All thoughts, opinions, and insults are welcomed and encouraged.