Substitute for a drill press? Favorite benchtop tools?

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Forum topic by HarveyDunn posted 02-04-2014 02:08 PM 7482 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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328 posts in 1928 days

02-04-2014 02:08 PM

I’m setting up a new, small shop on a budget. Not my “forever shop”, but it will have to do for now.

I’d like to see if I can get by without a drill press. I don’t think I want a benchtop model because I don’t have enough benchtop real estate to leave it set up all the time, and at >100 lbs I’m not thrilled about retrieving it from its storage shelf and heaving it up onto the bench.

I’‘ll continue to scan Craigs List to see if a good floor model appears in my area. In the meantime, can anyone recommend guides/jigs that will help me get drill straight and accurately with just a hand drill? And for that matter…a good hand drill, as my Harbor Freight model seems to have gone walkabout.

And, for what it is worth: if you have any favorite benchtop/portable tools, I’d love to hear about them. I’ll put them on my list for future expansion.

23 replies so far

View Tedstor's profile


1678 posts in 2830 days

#1 posted 02-04-2014 02:39 PM

-Drill Guides are available for about $30. But they don’t typically get very good reviews. If a drill press isn’t in the cards, you’d probably be better off just free-handing for the time-being. Afterall, once you do get a DP, the drill guide would become yard sale fodder.
- I bought a Makita, 3/8” corded hand drill about 12 years ago. I’ve used the hell out of it and it’s still going strong. I paid a bit extra for the Makita over cheaper brands, but considering how often I use it… was money well-spent. I also have a Craftsman Nextec cordless drill that I use for standard-duty stuff. It works well too.
- A drill press is a VERY useful tool for woodworking and a variety of other trades. While I bought my floor DP for woodworking, and thought I’d only use it occasionally, I find myself using it WAY more often than I thought I would for all kinds of odds n’ ends. That said, you should definitely try to add one to your shop.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3168 days

#2 posted 02-04-2014 03:53 PM

I absolutely hate those drill guides. I can do better freehand.
You can make more accurate holes using a block of wood with a guide hole in it.
I have a large bench top type DP. 12” 16 speed, 3/4hp, 42” tall model from HF.
It does not save any space, because it requires a small 24” tall table to mount it on.
But, it was a bit less cost and I use the base/table for storage.

View HerbC's profile


1790 posts in 3056 days

#3 posted 02-04-2014 04:01 PM

Seems like if you have room for a floor stand model drill press you could also use a benchtop model with a shop built stand…

Just saying…


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1928 days

#4 posted 02-04-2014 04:06 PM

The benchtop machines all involve compromises. In return for that, they are “portable”. But I think they are in fact too heavy to actually move around. So rather than buy one and and buy or make a permanent stand for it and give it a permanent piece of real estate, I’d buy a used floor model instead. Not too much difference in cost, no difference in footprint, and fewer compromises.

View dbhost's profile


5767 posts in 3429 days

#5 posted 02-04-2014 04:09 PM

I started out with one of those drill guide things, Vermont American, that you clamp your drill into. Not worth the scrap metal price I got for it when I was done… What a piece of junk! Too hard to make useful, and when I could get it to work I could easily get better results freehand… I honestly wish I hadn’t wasted my money on that stupid thing.

I don’t know how cramped you are on space, or funds, but just for consideration… I bought my floor model drill press from Craigslist for $75.00. I see bench top models all the time for $50.00. A typical 10” bench top drill press averages a little over 50 lbs.

I have back problems, and a tool stacker system where I keep my bench top tools on a series of shelves and simply pull them out, albeit carefully, when I need to use them… The system works very well for me. scroll down to about mid page to see the tool stacker. I have since put the Ridgid sander on there. I didn’t have enough brackets when I took that pic is all…

If even that bit of weight is more than you want to deal with, you might consider building a flip top cabinet and using it to hold your drill press, and another bench top tool like a mortiser, or lunch box planer.

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View HarveyDunn's profile


328 posts in 1928 days

#6 posted 02-04-2014 04:18 PM

I also have back problems. How on earth do you get those things off those shelves and to your bench.

The flip top idea interests me. I’m off now to Google it!

View pintodeluxe's profile


5797 posts in 3010 days

#7 posted 02-04-2014 04:46 PM

A self centering doweling jigs can substitute for a DP in a pinch.
I actually bought a benchtop mortising machine before I bought my drill press. I use them both, but I use the mortiser much more frequently. It is a Delta brand, but there are several good brands available. Woodcraft typically sells their Wood River brand mortiser for around $200 on sale.
Suddenly mortise and tenon joints become fast, easy, reliable joints.

As far as the drill, for building furniture I can’t imagine a better fit than a compact 12v Li-Ion drill. I have the Dewalt 12 volt driver and impact wrench, and really like them. I use the driver more than the impact wrench because it has a clutch.

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

View Kaleb the Swede's profile

Kaleb the Swede

1875 posts in 2166 days

#8 posted 02-04-2014 04:47 PM

A drill guide will get you far. I used one for about 8 months before I found a cheap drill press. I still pull it out occasionally when i need to drill a straight hole in something I can’t take to the drill press. It’s very useful.

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

View HarveyM's profile


106 posts in 2219 days

#9 posted 02-04-2014 05:09 PM

The Big Gator Tools V-Drill Guide seems to get the best reviews. I have the two rod with plastic base kind that I still use occasionally, if I absolutely need to- but it wasn’t my finest buy. i later got a cheap but useable 11” benchtop DP that I’m happy with. I can still lug it around (barely).

-- Just a Duffer

View Woodknack's profile


12430 posts in 2577 days

#10 posted 02-04-2014 05:51 PM

Don’t get by without a drill press. You can, I did for many years and when all I was building was furniture it wasn’t a big deal. But now I have a drill press and can’t imagine working without it. It isn’t true for everything but sometimes a cheap tool is better than no tool and it is true of a drill press. Now mine isn’t “cheap”, it’s just old, an old Jet that I bought fairly cheap from a local woodworker. Keep an eye on Craigslist and contact your local WW club if you have one.

-- Rick M,

View darthford's profile


612 posts in 2121 days

#11 posted 02-04-2014 11:23 PM

I just purchased a drill guide to drill some holes in a 2×4 foot RAS table…probably the worst product I ever purchased just completely useless. I could drill without it more accurately. I pitched the thing in my land fill bucket and rigged up stands to drill it on my drill press instead.

View bondogaposis's profile


5086 posts in 2548 days

#12 posted 02-04-2014 11:57 PM

I think the big advantage of bench top drill presses is that you can build a nice cabinet under it with drawers and shelves and you can put it on wheels. You get more storage and portability for the same real estate.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View MT_Stringer's profile


3183 posts in 3428 days

#13 posted 02-05-2014 12:12 AM

Here ya go Harvey. There is no difference in my bench model vs the floor model except for the longer post. I saw them sitting side by side.

Mainly I didn’t want a floor model because I have a small work area so it needs to be portable. I built my own cabinet and now have everything I need for drilling/sanding operations in that cabinet.

I agree with others, the little drill guide sucks big time (I have one).

Hope this helps.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Rick S...'s profile

Rick S...

10906 posts in 3230 days

#14 posted 02-05-2014 03:43 AM

Hey Harvey:

Below is a picture of my DP. Use it Constantly. Very happy with it. Lowes $148. Never use the Lasers.

This is a LINK to a Project on here for a DP Table I Designed and Built. Actually there are 2 Parts.

It’s now sitting on an Auxiliary Table (2’x4’...4 Hour Build) Along with my Table Top Bandsaw. Might have a Pic in here of that also.



Hope It’s of some help.



Just thought about making them easier to move around. I Bolted 1/2” Bases on both of them and Epoxied some Old Useless Sanding Pads on the Bottom (Sanding Side In) that they easily Slide around on and also cut down on the Vibration, therefore Noise.

Found a Pic of that also and added some Notes to make it more understandable.

-- I Chose "The Road Less Travelled" Now I'm Totally Lost! (Ontario, CANADA)

View jdh122's profile


1052 posts in 3015 days

#15 posted 02-05-2014 11:53 AM

I find I can drill more accurately with a brace and bit than I can with a handheld electric drill. Probably because of the slower speed and the fact that your hand is in line with the bit instead of being at a right angle. I have a (floor model) drill press, but often find myself using the very old-fashioned method of setting two squares up (or a square and a bevel for angled drilling) and using my hand and eye.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

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