Drill Press For Woodworking

What Is A Drill Press Used For?

A lot of people just think that the drill press is used for drilling straight perpendicular holes in wood and that’s true. Well believe it or not the press has more than one function especially when you add other attachments to it like the drum sander for example. The drill press makes it easy to drill consistent holes of a set depth and can handle drilling large holes with no problems.

With accuracy comes speed and a lot less effort to drill a bunch holes. Trust me it’s a pain in the neck to drill many holes with a hand a drill because of the energy that it takes from pressing down on the drill while keeping it straight at the same time. A person can get tired pretty quick when using a hand drill if they’re drilling through thick and or hardwood. With a drill press you have better visibility while pulling down down on the drill press handle. It’s definitely a tool to look into if you the space and money for one.

Drill Press Components

To understand how the drill press works we need to go over the basic components. To start there are two types which are the bench top models and the floor stand models. I personally prefer the bench top models because they’re less expensive and easier to move. The horse power ranges from 1/3 to 3/4 with a spindle travel of 3 1/8″ on most models. Try to get one that has a 3/4 horse power motor to drilling larger holes easier.

Drill Press Swing And 5/8″ Chuck

The throat measurement varies from model to model so make sure that you buy the drill press that will exceed the width of wood that you’ll be boring into. I like the 12 inch swing myself. For those who don’t know what the swing is, it’s the distance from the center of the chuck where the drill bit goes to the column of the press. Also try to purchase a drill press that has a 5/8 inch chuck to accommodate those larger drill bits and forstner bits. This size chuck will be fine for anything under 1 inch.

Variable Speed Or Belt System

All good drill presses will either have a variable speed control on them or a belt system so that you can adjust the speed of drill. Whichever one you decide to buy will be fine. One note to make is the variable speed will save you a bit of time because you don’t have to change any belts to increase or decrease the speed. You can speed up or slow down on the fly by turning a knob that will have a digital readout to tell you how many RPM’s you’re drill press is running at.

Drill Press Speed Chart

One piece of advice that you may want to keep in mind when drilling is that you shouldn’t drill at the same speed all of the time. If your press doesn’t come with a speed chart, it would be a good idea to obtain one either from the place that you purchased the drill press from or print one out from the internet. This is important because just the different types of drill bits require different speeds and a speed chart will tell you what RPM to set the drill press to. For example when looking at a speed chart, a regular drill bit RPM is much different than forstner bit.

If your going to be drilling into different types of material such as metal or acrylic that will play a factor in speed as well. The speed chart can also help save wear and tear on all your bits because if the drill press is set correctly according to the speed chart, then friction should be cut down significantly. We should by now know that friction in woodworking is usually never a good thing because it dulls and wears things out quickly.

Drill Rack And Pinion

The smaller presses are equipped with a rack and pinion system so you can raise and lower the work table by the use of a hand crank. The travel of the work table in most instances is more than adequate for most drill press projects that you do. If your into working with long pieces of lumber then you’ll need a floor drill press that has a longer rack and pinion travel length.

2 Bench Top Press Downfalls

Bench top drill presses do have a few downfalls though. The work table that comes with it is not as big as the ones that come with a floor stand drill press but there are better work around’s that will be talked about here in a minute. The table itself is pretty handy in the fact that it can swivel from side to side. It can also tilt to any degree that you want. The drill press that you buy should come with a dial that tells you what degree you’re at. So don’t buy one that doesn’t have this feature.

Floor Stand Drill Press

Normally the floor drill presses come with a larger work table and the downward stroke of the spindle is more than the bench top models. They also have an increased swing to accommodate wider pieces of wood. The added weight of the floor stand type gives it more stability. The only downfalls of this type is course the price is a little more than a bench top and they aren’t as easy to move.

As always I like to go bigger with my tools for future projects but that’s just me. If your budget or work shop won’t allow a floor stand drill press then the bench top model is the way to go as long as the projects don’t get too big.

Is That All It Can Do?

Looking at this drill I have to admit that it’s rather boring. So what makes it so special and why so many want to buy one? To put it simply, it’s the attachments that really make it shine. Starting with a homemade or store bought work table. I encourage you to try and make a work table yourself because you can tailor it to your own needs. As with everything in woodworking it can be something simple or complex. There are many youtube videos and plans that you can find to walk you through how to make one.

Features Of A Drill Press Table (Fence And Tracks)

To Start you can extend the width and length of the existing drill press table to anything you want. This makes working with longer and wider pieces of wood a lot easier and more accurate. A lot of the drill press tables you see today have or come with tracks built into them. This is for accommodating a fence that will always be straight in relation to the table itself.

The table tracks are really handy for the use of hold downs to keep the work piece in place when drilling. The fence comes in handy to keep all of your holes that you want to drill in a straight line. With the fence, stops can be added so that you don’t have to keep measuring out every hole that has to be drilled. Of course with a larger table to work with, you now have more area to clamp down bigger work pieces when needed.

On a side note, why not build some small storage bins on the under side of the drill press table? These can serve for storing all kinds of bits like the regular drill bits, forstner bits and the key for the chuck. I hate walking across the wood shop to change out the drill bit. So it makes sense to keep all tools pertaining to the drill press as close as possible right?

Turn Your Drill Press Into A Drum Sander

The drill press can be made into a drum sander for small and medium projects where it makes sense. This handy trick is great for sanding hard to reach curves that a belt and orbital sander just can’t do. All it is, is a strip of sandpaper wrapped around a round cylinder made out of plywood that is in turn attached to a rod that can be inserted in the chuck of a drill press. I’ll provide a link here to show how to do it which I think is pretty easy to follow.

Some woodworkers just lower the drill press down to where it’s just above the table and lock it into place and sand away. While others will take a scrap piece of plywood that’s at least 1/2″ thick, find the center and either take a whole saw or forstner bit that is just slightly bigger around than the drum sander itself and drill a hole there. That way you can lower the drum sander just barely into the hole then it can be clamped down to the table. I like this idea better because it provides an even sanding from top to bottom of the edge that you’re trying to sand.

Drill Press Mortising

In woodworking mortising and tenon work is a pretty valuable skill to learn especially when building furniture at a ninety degree angle. This process has been used for thousands of years because you don’t need any fancy tools to make them. Even though the mortising joint is not very appealing to the eye like a dovetail joint that’s made by router, it is still to date one of the strongest.

What I like about the drill press is that it makes mortising a lot easier to do. The press can be slowed down so that the wood doesn’t smoke and it also gets rid of that God awful screeching sound that would be made from a wood router. For this method all you need is a good forstner bit and fence on your table to keep all the holes in precise straight line. If you don’t have a fence built into your table a piece of wood clamped down to the table will work just fine. See the video below for a better understanding.

Cutting A Mortise With A Drill Press

Drill Press Projects

If you think about it there are many projects that you can do with a drill press that’ll make you life a lot easier. What are some examples you ask? Well how about cribbage boards that have 121 holes per player and each hole has to be drilled to the same depth. That’s where a press would come in handy.

What about a simple pencil holder to keep track of your pencils? Pretty darn easy if you think about by starting off with piece of 4X4 that’s four inches tall. Then all you have to do is measure out all the holes evenly spaced and drilled out just a little bit bigger than the diameter of a pencil.

Alright for all the wood turners out there that are thinking about doing some pen turning. The drill press is pretty much a must have tool for boring out the wood blanks for the pen. Yea, you can bore out the holes on the wood lathe itself, but it still won’t be as accurate as the drill press. If your holes aren’t drilled out accurately, it could mess up the whole pen.