Tacking on a Laser

In recent times, it has become quite a fad to take a tool and whack a laser into it as if that will make it a better tool.  For some tools, this is just plain silly – a jigsaw with a laser for example makes a mockery of a potentially quality tool.  Some tools (like jigsaws, bandsaws etc) track (cut at an angle) – that is their nature, and there are a variety of reasons why that is so.  What it means though is they will never follow a laserline, so it is pointless having one.

However, and this is a big HOWEVER!, there are tools that can really benefit from the use of a laser to not so much improve their accuracy (although this can be the case) but to significantly improve their ease of use.  The drill press is definitely a tool that falls into this category.  Of course, you don’t need a laser to make accurate use of the tool – I’m certainly not claiming that, but I had a job just recently where I wished I had a laser positioner on the drill press.  I was using a forstner bit, and I wanted it to be precisely centred on a mark, and in the end I had to guess that I was close enough.  I’d rather not have to guess!

Now you don’t have to go out and buy a new drill press (and really, there are not many that come with a built-in laser).  Instead, there is a very easy retro-fit that takes a whole 15 minutes to accurately fit and align. The unit comes from Professional Woodworkers Supplies and costs $140.  It is powered by a single 9v battery.

Now I know that all sound like a typical sales review, but I do know there is a lot of resistance out there in certain corners to lasers in woodworking, and the inappropriate implementation in some instances has tainted the technology in other areas, so I wanted to justify the viewpoint.

Laser Kit Components

Laser Kit Components

The kit comes with the laser module, a couple of different size hose clamps (for different size drill press posts), a hex key, an alignment bar, and some easy-to-follow instructions.

Fitting the Hose Clamp

Fitting the Hose Clamp

The hose clamp feeds through a couple of slots in the back of the unit, the V shape of the unit means it centres on the drill press post when the clamp is tightened.

The two lasers are adjustable to ensure they are vertical, and also so they meet at a specific point.

Laser Mounted to Drill Press Post

Laser Mounted to Drill Press Post

Laser mounted.  It is completely out of the way, so will not interfere with drill press operation when the laser is not required, and the retro-fit is completely reversable.

Laser in Operation

Laser in Operation

It’s a bit hard to see in the photo (the camera doesn’t see the laser as easily as the eye), but the laser is now centred directly below the centrepoint of the drill chuck.  In this photo, you can also see the alignment bar mounted in the chuck.  It has a vertical slot cut for the first part of the laser alignment, and then the end point of the bar is used to mark a point that the lasers are aligned so they cross precisely at that point.

Total operation, including laser alignment was only 15 minutes (and that included following the laser alignment instructions and taking the photos!)

It is not something I will use for every hole, but it is going to be indespensible when I do need it and who know, I may find that I start using it every time I use the drill press!

6 Responses

  1. Hi Stu,
    What happens when you move from a thin piece, say 6mm, to a thick piece like 100mm+. Because of the offset of the two lasers, I would have thought that the aiming point would be adjusted to one but not both possibilities and that it would therefore be appreciably out of aim for the other. Does this occur?

  2. Hi Robert, i have the same laser and it works a treat, i had the same concern myself.

    The laser fires down vertically so the location of the laser doesnot move with different height materials and as its fixed to the post even moving the table has no effect on the location.

    Joe

  3. Joe nailed it 🙂

    The first part of the laser alignment I referred to, using the slot in the alignment rod is to get each laser shooting a vertical line.

  4. Hmm (he says with a pedants hat on), I suppose I’d just say that it’s physically impossible for the laser beams to indicate the same spot at different heights when there are two lasers offset from each other and the centre, both by being on the column and sides 🙂 So I’m taking what you mean to be that there’s no _discernable difference_ in accuracy in using the lasers for our purposes (phew).

    Or perhaps I’m misunderstanding entirely and the lasers are on the column but project onto a mirror right next to the centreline. But I’m thinking that won’t work either since then they wouldn’t be a nice visible convergence between the two lines (it would simply look like one point). Ah, but of course you could then have *another* two mirrors sitting on the sides to provide the visible convergent lines. But somehow I don’t think you’re seeing this 😉

    Rob

  5. Except that I didn’t mention that the lasers each pass through a fresnel screen which produces a line, rather than a point. It is these vertical lines that then produces the intersect at the centre of rotation of the drill

  6. Aha! I knew there must be a trick to it. The rabbit was in the hat all the time.

    Thanks for that Stu. A year or so ago I bought a laser for the mitre saw. It tucked itself away and I only just found it. Clearly I didn’t really need it 🙂 The $140 is a bit offputting, although the idea is nice.

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