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Press Basics
Countless uses turn the drill press into the most interesting of boring tools. 'though the drill press is a less glamorous tool than some other stationary tools, its precision and the availability of a wide range of accessories make it a true workshop workhorse. A drill press gives you exact control of the diameter, depth, and angle of a hole. Whether you're drilling holes for a dowel joint or countersinking pilot holes for screws, you'll rely upon it constantly for its accuracy and consistency.

In addition to precision drilling, you can sand, mortise, grind, and shape with the drill press. With the proper accessories and supporting setups or jigs, the drill press will perform as precisely in any of these other applications as it does for drilling.


The ability of the drill press to do precise work begins with its construction. A cast-iron base and sturdy steel column support the adjustable table and the motor and drill head assembly in exact alignment. The large spindle and chuck can hold almost any type of drill bit or drill accessory with shanks up to 1/2", or even 5/8", in diameter.
The chuck and spindle are raised and lowered by the quill feed lever, which includes a depth stop that lets you control boring depths exactly. The depth of hole you can bore depends on the maximum quill stroke and the length of your drill bits. Most models have a quill stroke range between 3" and 5". The chuck and spindle are rotated by an adjustable V-belt and pulley system connected to the motor. By moving the V-belt to different slots on the pulleys, you can control the speed of the drill to suit the material you are drilling, whether it's wood, metal, or plastic (see photo, opposite).

•Motors range, from 1/4 to 1 hp. For general purpose use, buy a drill press with a motor that is at least 1/3 hp.
•Get a drill press large enough to handle your work comfortably. The capacity of a drill press is limited to the distance between the column and the bit (see photo, above). A 12" drill press (that will drill the center of a 12"-wide workpiece) is a good choice for general use.
•Choose a model with a rack-and-pinion table adjustment mechanism on the column. This system offers smooth and precise table movement, and won't slip.

Choosing a drill press
Drill presses come in a variety of sizes, typically ranging from 8" to 20", and are available as bench models or floor models.
Bench models, while smaller, often perform identically to floor models. They can be mounted on a workbench or any stable surface, but are too heavy to be truly portable.
A floor model's longer column provides a work area that accommodates larger workpieces without sacrificing table space, but they cost about $50 to $100 more.
Most drill presses also have tables that tilt to one or both sides, to let you drill at different angles. To get the most out of your drill press, make sure you get one with a tilting table that can lock in any position from 0° to 90°.

Drill press bits
Drill presses can use the same standard bits used in a portable power drill, as well as bits with thicker shanks. A host of specialty bits and attachments are also machined specifically to fit in a drill chuck (see photo, above), enabling you to perform a variety of tasks beyond basic drilling.

Any bit or accessory will likely perform the best mounted in a drill press, simply because of the tool's accuracy. Specialty bits such as drill-and-countersinks, counterbores, and Forstner bits, already designed to enhance the quality of your work, excel in a drill press.

Basic drill press use
Before you use your drill press, adjust the speed setting for the material you're cutting. Drilling at too high a speed can burn up your bits, so be sure to refer to the manufacturer's setting information. A speed setting chart is commonly found on the inside of the pulley housing cover.
1 Clamp the workpiece to the table to prevent accidents or mistakes. The force of the spindle in motion can make holding a workpiece by hand difficult.
2 Mark the drilling point or points on your workpiece.
3 For precise depth setting, mark the depth on the side of the work
piece. (Otherwise, you can use the depth gauge.) Lower the quill next to the workpiece and align the tip of the bit with the mark on the workpiece, then set and lock your depth stop.
4 Center the drilling point under the bit, then lower the bit until it almost contacts the workpiece. Make any further adjustments, then turn on the drill and let it reach full speed. Lower the bit into the workpiece to cut the hole. Raise the bit and turn off the drill.

Drilling in a cylinder. To drill accurate holes in the sides of a cylindrical workpiece, make a V-block (see photo, below) to cradle the cylinder. Make sure the sides of the block are squared up, and the angle of the "V" is between 50° and 90°.

Compound angles: Boring compound angles can be tricky, but the drill press and the right jig can simplify the job. Essentially, the jig is an auxiliary table pitched at one of the angles of the compound angle. This auxiliary table can also be attached to the underside of a larger auxiliary table if you need to support a large workpiece.
1 Cut two pieces of plywood about the same size as your drill press table.
2 Cut two wedges to match the first angle of your compound angle (for instance, 15'°) from scrap wood, then attach them with screws to one piece of plywood. To accurately arrive at the desired compound angle, make sure both ends of the wedges are flush with the edges of the plywood pieces.

3 Dry-fit the other piece of plywood on top and check the angle to verify that it is still the desired 15°. Screw the plywood top in place.
4 Add a straight strip to the jig to form a fence.
5 Clamp the auxiliary table to your worktable, and verify that it is perpendicular with a try square.
6 Tilt the table to match the second half of your compound angle, then recheck the compound angle. Next, drill your hole.
Drilling end grain: To drill the end of a piece of stock, tilt your table 90'°, until it is vertical. Stand the workpiece vertically, then clamp it to the table. Center the pilot marks on the workpiece under the drill bit, then drill the hole.
Drilling deep holes: If you need to drill deep holes or drill completely through a thick workpiece, you may find yourself unable to complete the job if your quill stroke is too short. Long bits or bit extensions are available, but you can still only drill as deep as your quill stroke will allow in one pass.
With long bits or bit extensions, you can get around this limitation by working in stages. Drill the hole as far as the quill stroke will allow, then raise the quill all the way up. Next, instead of lowering the bit into the workpiece, raise the table until the bit bottoms out in the hole you just drilled. Then you can bore the distance of your quill stroke once more. This method can be used up to the length of the bit.

When you're drilling at an extreme angle, sometimes the sides of the bit will engage the workpiece before the sharp point of the bit can make contact and establish the hole. To ensure the bit makes a clean entry, clamp a scrap block to the workpiece so it slightly overlaps the entry point on the workpiece. This way, the bit will contact the scrap first and establish a cutting path. Make very small workpieces easier to handle by clamping them in a handscrew. Secure the bandscrews to the table with a clamp for safe and accurate drilling.

To protect the drill table and prevent tearout, clamp apiece of scrap to the backside of the workpiece.
When you drill deep holes, work in stages, rather than drilling as deep as possible in one pass. Interrupt your work to raise the bit and clear chips and sawdust. This produces cleaner holes and keeps the bit from burning up.
Spherical workpieces: If you need to drill a hole in a spherical workpiece, first drill a hole in a piece of scrapwood just slightly smaller than the diameter of the workpiece. Place the workpiece in the hole in the scrap, clamp it in place, and drill.
Cutting tenons
Tenon-cutters, plug cutters, and plug-and-tenon cutters are ideal for use in a drill press, because of its accuracy for repetitive work. It's a simple matter for you to cut any number of uniform plugs from the wood of your choice, instead of settling for commercially cut plugs cut from wood that doesn't always match the workpiece.
While the drill press is capable of using many different accessories, some of them do require the aid of a jig. Cutting tenons on a drill press, for example, is best done with the help of a jig and a bit of preparation ahead of time.
To cut repeated tenons for fitting spindles in chairs or benches, make a jig to save yourself repeated setup time. The jig we made is basically a plywood frame that surrounds the spindle blank and holds it in place while you cut the tenons at each end. This jig works best with spindle blanks with square sides, before they are shaped on a lathe or with a spokeshave.
1 Cut two extra spindle blanks, making them 2" shorter than the rest. These will be used to form the sides of the jig.
2 Cut the front and back pieces for the jig from plywood, making both pieces as long as the short spindle blanks, and about 4" wide.
3 Cut a small hole in the plywood front piece, centered on its baseline, so dust won't clog in the bottom of the spindle slot of the assembled jig.
4 Clamp a spindle blank between the side pieces, then attach front and back jig pieces to the sides with glue and finishing nails. Take care not to get any glue on the middle spindle. Remove spindle after glue dries.
5 Cut a base for the jig from plywood, then attach it to the jig with glue and finishing nails. It is now ready to use.

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Updated: 02/2018   copyright 2012 U-Repair.com