Drill-Press Recommendations Please

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Forum topic by PG_Zac posted 03-31-2009 05:40 PM 1203 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View PG_Zac's profile


368 posts in 3386 days

03-31-2009 05:40 PM

Hi Guys, Gals, and any Others

Sometime in the next few months, I’ll be buying a drill press, and I’d like to pick your collectives brains.

I have NEVER used a drill-press before. Oh yes, I have had a press thing that I used to fix my hand drill in, but never a dedicated drill-press.

Space will not be an issue, and the budget is fairly generous. This machine won’t be limited to wood working, but any metal or plastic work will be minimal, so I’m not really going to make allowance for that work.

Unfortunately, in South Africa we have a very limited selection of makes and models, so I’m hoping you can give me pointers to desirable features and capacities, rather than specific makes and models.

For example,

  • I would like a tilt table, but how much tilt is useful, and in which direction/s?
  • What plunge depth is good to have? I’ve seen one with 80mm plunge, but that seems very limiting to me.
  • Am I being unreasonable?
  • What range of speed is good to have?
  • Should the spindle have a Morse taper, or is a plain chuck good enough?

Plus all sorts of other things I haven’t even thought of because I’ve never used one.

I have some pretty decent machines, and I’d hate to go and buy a POS drill-press because I’m dof or just inexperienced. Any and all suggestions are welcomed. As you can probably see, I know nuttin’ about drill-presses, so please don’t yank my chain and send me in the wrong direction.

(dof=stupid in Afrikaans)

Thanks for your time and willingness to share.

-- I may be schizophrenic, but at least I have each other.

4 replies so far

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3670 days

#1 posted 03-31-2009 05:54 PM

80MM of plunge seems a bit light. 4” or 6” is the standards I’m used to seeing on larger presses. 4” is fine for most things.

For non wood, or large bits in wood you want a good low end speed range. I have an older press with 8 different speeds with a 250RPM low end, and a blindingly fast high end. Tiny drill bits need super fast speeds, large bits need super slow speeds. A good speed range would be my main consideration.

A morse taper is a good thing to have, mine is a plain chuck with a locking collar (JT 33C) which is a good compromise that didn’t go far in life.

I don’t have a tilt table but wouldn’t mind one, Left and right seem the most useful to me, I’ve seen some that tilt forward some.

View PurpLev's profile


8535 posts in 3646 days

#2 posted 03-31-2009 06:58 PM

~6” plunge is good, some people prefer the most they can get, but I think 4”-6” is good enough for most work, if you need more you can always take it in a couple of passes (for those rare cases).

tilt table – so far all the DP I’ve seen (mine included) have a rather crappy table trunnion and adjusting it to angles, and back to 90 can be a pain- I find that 0, and 90 are 99% of the operations of the drill press I use, and for those other cases (mostly 45) I’ll just setup a fixture that will hold the workpiece at an angle while leaving the table at 0 degree. if you’ll go to my blog about making the drill press table you can see that I’ve made my aux.table to accommodate for 0 and 90 degrees without having to tilt the table at all.

If you want to work with metal, make sure your drill press can work at lower speeds (~800rpm?) (also good for boring large holes in wood) and for intricate work in wood have a speed at ~2000rpm – I personally am lazy, and unless I bore really large holes, I’ll just settle for the ~1200 mid range speed on my DP, and leave it at that (I shouldn’t, but I do).

One more thing to consider is whether you want a keyless chuck, or a keyed chuck, while some people will stick to the keyed chuck saying that it holds the drill better (which it does) I find that after upgrading to a keyless chuck that I do not have any problems with bits setting loose, and replacing bits is a peace of cake – I will never go bask to keyed chuck.

Also on the chuck issue – make sure you get a 5/8 chuck that can take larger shank drill bits if you intend to bore larger holes, OR, if you won’t use larger bits, and plan on using very fine drill bits -use a 1/2” chuck as it can hold small drill bits better.

size of the drill press represents the ability of the drill press to drill in the middle of a piece of that size – meaning – a 12” drill press can reach the middle of a 12” piece (hence the center of drill bit is 6” away from the drill column). depending on the type of work you plan to do with it – plan ahead, so that you are not limited by this factor, although for most work, you don’t really require a wide reach. I have a 16.5” DP and find it more than enough for all my work. never reached anywhere close to fully utilizing it’s size.

If money is not an issue – I’d opt to get a Variable speed DP.. makes things easier, and no need to mess around with pulleys.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3670 days

#3 posted 03-31-2009 09:12 PM

He brings up some good points. I have a 15 1/2” DP and it just misses sometimes in terms of depth. A 17ish DP would be really nice.

A used Clausing or Powermatic VS (or a couple others with reeves drive) will be a lifetime drillpress.

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3761 days

#4 posted 04-01-2009 03:26 AM

The best bang for the buck that I know of is the Steel City 17” drill press.

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