Reasons to get a top-quality drill press
Using a drill press, rather than a hand-held drill, is all about accuracy. When looking for accuracy in any form, in any aspect of woodworking or metalworking, you sacrifice some of the precision you’re looking for if you look toward the lower end of the price range. It’s as simple as that with drill presses, and with tools in a wider sense. Accuracy in tools comes out of how well they are engineered. Something with a lot of slop in the mechanisms will result in less precision in your work. There’s really no way of getting around that. In any area of engineering or trade work, sacrificing on quality will mean that your workmanship suffers somewhere down the line.
When selecting a drill press, great attention should be paid to the quality of craftsmanship that went into the design and the build of the unit. You’ll be able to produce far better and more accurate pieces of work with a good quality drill press than with an inferior quality drill press.
Features to consider when looking for a drill press
Depending on how you require to or intend to use your drill press, you’ll need to consider a pretty wide array of different features, as we’re going to look more closely at below. Things like speeds, power, bench or floor standing models will all come into your decisions, but a lot of these things will have various degrees of importance to different people. So, have a good idea of what you need to do with the press before you choose one.
Type of drill press
The two basic types of drill press will be floor standing or benchtop models. After that, you’ll be looking at various features rather than specifically different types of press.
Do you need a drill press for metal or woodworking?
Depending on what projects you do, or even plan to do with your new drill press, you may well need one. And that goes for both woodwork and metalwork. You can’t always drill holes with the precision of orientation that you need for a lot of projects with just a hand drill. The drill press has been around for a heck of a lot of years for a reason, and it isn’t going away any time soon. In so far as joinery and workshop carpentry goes, even the die-hard old school hand tool joiners, the ones who scoff at the very idea of most electric tools, will often have maybe just a drill press and a good quality bandsaw in their workshop.
These guys can probably do 90% of their work without those two electric tools, but they’ll often opt to include the bandsaw and the drill press because they make sense and can knock days of preparation and hard work off a lot of projects. The fact is that although some tools in the workshop are a luxury, and viewed as lazy by some, often just making jobs easier and quicker rather than offering a unique ability, the drill press and the bandsaw can be viewed as more of a staple necessity in the workshop, and you’ll get much use and benefit from having them around.
Motor power is always good to have. If you’re a woodworker, then hardwoods can be like concrete if you go at them with a drill that has inferior power. If you’re a metalworker, then harder metals like steel require good levels of power and speed and a sharp drill bit. You definitely won’t go wrong with our Editor’s Choice, the Baileigh DP-1500G with its 3.5HP, or even the NOVA 58000 Voyager with an impressive 2HP. You’re nearly always better off having more power than you need when it comes to electric tools, and that’s an almost universal rule. Which brings us to the next point….
Speed range and number of speeds
This is more important than a lot of people think it is. You need power, we’ve already discussed that. Once you’ve bought a drill press – or any machine – with more power than you’ll mostly need, then the next logical and necessary step is having a good means to control and adjust that power.
For woodworkers, power and speed are vitally important because different wood types need different speeds of attack when you’re cutting them – otherwise, you can mark, chip and burn them and it’s not always possible when drilling precision woodwork pieces to get rid of burns and chips in the finish.
Good speed control is absolutely essential for all woodworkers. Once you have control, sharp tools and accuracy in your marking out and approach to your work – you have it all.
For metalworkers, when drilling, the same sort of principles apply to speed and control. You’ll damage your work and even jam up if you work at the wrong speeds and you risk breaking bits, which is not ideal when they’re moving at thousands of RPM. For safety, accuracy and for a great finished product, speed control and power are a must in any workshop, on any tool.
This will be related to the size of the chuck, the power and the speed of the drill press. You’ll also be restricted by the space available between the tip of your drill bit and the table. Work out which tasks and which materials you’ll be using your new drill press for, and always make sure that what you’re buying has a capacity that is in excess of what you’re going to need it to do.
Different sized chucks will hold different sized drill bits. If you mainly work with smaller bits and you don’t need to drill massive holes, then this isn’t going to be such a big factor for you. If you do bigger jobs that require the use of big drill bits to drill larger holes, then you need to make sure that the drill press you buy has enough capacity built in to hold drill bits of the appropriate diameter to do the job. Check the specs carefully before committing to buy.
Work table and work light
Some drill presses will have a handy work light that is built into them. This is a great thing to have, because sometimes no matter how well your workshop is lit, you’ll be bending over a drill press and the nature of how they’re built sometimes blocks out the light and makes it difficult to see what you’re working on. This is not an ideal situation from a safety point of view, or in terms of getting the most accurate results possible. You can buy aftermarket magnetic and clip-on work lights for tools like the drill press, but it’s great and means finding fewer power outlets if you can get a drill press with a light built in.
The table on a drill press will either be fixed flat and just be adjustable up and down the column, or it may be a tilting table. Tilting tables are a very good feature to have because they open up more uses for the drill press. You may be wanting to do tasks that need angled holes drilled in work pieces. If that’s the case for you, then a drill press with a tilting table is going to be very handy.
Build and durability
This applies to drill presses and tools in general, more than it does to most things. For precision, you need a good build. Every error in manufacturing knocks on, and it’s hard to eliminate an error once it’s in your work. You’ll also be operating machinery that spins at a lot of RPMs, and the last thing you want when you’re close to any such machine is for anything at all to break. That’s because if something does give, metal parts will be flying through the air at speeds which are extremely dangerous and unpleasant for any human in the vicinity.
Dimensions and weight
You’ll need to take dimensions into account for the same reason you would with any machine for your workshop. You need to have enough space to site the machine and have enough room around it to comfortably and safely work with it. If you’re a hobbyist with a tiny garage shop, although that massive industrial drill press looks great, does lots of stuff and sounds fantastic when you fire it up, there’s not much point in having it if you need to move your bench outside to fit it in. If you’re short on shop space, look for the best small drill press you can find, such as a bench-top drill press like the JET J-2530.
If you’re in a really small shop, then you may opt for portability and either a nice floor standing drill press that you can wheel about when you need it, or a bench-top drill press that is lightweight enough to move on and off the bench, or even a multi-use, multi-tool stand when you require it.
It’s going to come down to your circumstances and what you need to do with your drill press. Weigh everything up before you buy and choose accordingly.
A warranty is always desirable, and when you get one, a lengthy and comprehensive one is the best one to get. Especially with tools, they take a lot of hard use and do a hard job, so the warranty is important where an investment is relatively large. It’s also important to maintain and use your tool completely within the recommended scopes of the manufacturer, because if you don’t, and let’s say you break it using it for something that it’s not designed to do – then you can say goodbye to your warranty cover. So, be smart.