1001 Words



Drill Presses

Have had a bit of a look at drill presses out there, particularly given that it has been a while since I purchased mine (a fair few years ago now!)

I have a Woodman Drill Press as it happens, which cost under $300 at the time (and comparable models seem to still be around that price).  I haven’t tried any of the current models (across the range), so thought I might contribute my experiences of my current model in a hope it will help anyone going through the decision process.

Woodman Drill Press

Woodman Drill Press

I went for a full height pedestal drill press, not wanting a bench mounted version (not having a bench was probably a factor, plus the increased capability of a full height (and they are not that much different in cost)).  It is belt driven, 3/4HP, 16mm keyed chuck with a MT2 morse taper, and speed range from 220 to 3480 RPM.

I was convinced by a sales guy at the time to go for this model because of the increased number of speeds, rather than a very similar press with 12 speeds and a larger table.  Always regretted that.  I only use about 3 speeds when I bother changing it at all – dead slow, medium, and maximum.  Unless I was drilling a wide variety of speed sensitive materials that needed all the precise intermediate speeds, I can’t see that it is a real advantage compared to a decent sized table.

This is less of an issue now because I’ve added the Pro Drill Press Table, but until I did that, I was always frustrated by the small table size.

3/4 HP is an absolute minimum.  I don’t recall being particularly limited by that sized motor, but I have gotten close on a number of occasions for needing more power, so I’d never go for one smaller.

The chuck is keyed, which I don’t mind, but may readdress that if I ever upgrade the chuck.  It is a 16mm chuck, which gives it good capacity for the larger diameters, but at the same time the larger chucks are limited in the size of the smallest bits they can take.  I think mine cannot grip smaller than around 3.5mm bits, which has occasionally been an issue.

The column itself is fine, but has a pretty basic method of securing top and bottom – a single grub screw top and bottom, and that has lead to slippage on occasion – with the head of the drill press being able to twist off-centre.

The other couple of variables that impact on the use of the press, is how far the centre of the bit is from the column – the further it is, the larger the item is that you can drill into.  The other is the range of the plunge.  Some people claim that there is no point having a particularly long plunge because the bits are only a certain length, but the typical length of plunge is too short to my mind.  For two reasons – some bits are longer (spade bits for example), and it would be good to be able to use their range without having to change the table height partway through drilling a hole.  The other is the number of times you have to change the table height.  For example, if I change from a 6mm bit to a 12mm bit, the chances are I am also going to have to change the table height because of the short plunge length.  This particularly impacts if drilling into metal, where you do work up through bit sizes, and especially when drilling multiple holes in the same project.

It would always pay to test the drill press runout when purchasing – shaft runout, chuck runout.

I’ve always had problems (from new) with my drill press chuck.  I even replaced the first one for the issue, but the replacement has still had jamming issues – occasionally it sticks, really badly, and I’ve found the only way to free it is to pound the daylights out of it with a wooden mallet.  One day I will toss the thing in the bin and buy a decent chuck.  At that point I will again decide between keyed and keyless, and the minimum and maximum bit sizes it can cope with.

I guess some of these frustrations I’ve had are to do with having a $300ish pedestal drill press, and not one that costs $800 and upwards.  So long as it drills accurate holes (when the chuck works), for the amount I use it, it’d be hard to justify a really expensive model (some exceed $2000, but they tend to be geared head models, not belt driven).

The Woodman Drill Presses are available in Australia, but at least a couple of suppliers (Woodman Group) of them have not listed them on their websites. Not sure if this is an omission, or means something else.

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