Drill press – help us find the best one…

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We are going to get a (better) drill press for the Adafruit shop, as we do research we’re wondering what all you folks use or have some good suggestions – We’d like it to be a stand-up type, run on 120V and not break after 31 days. We’ll be using it to drill holes in enclosures and stuff, some of which are cast aluminum. Post up in the comments, if we go with your suggestion we’ll send you some type of nice gift, perhaps something made with the drill press 🙂

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  1. depends on what you’re looking for. I can’t afford good, so i have to use cheap. Harbor Freight has a benchtop 5 speed for $80 + shipping. that one also occasionally goes on sale as well. I’ve has 2 of them stolen, so they must be worth something. They are light duty, but have served me well. it’s ‘good enough’ You can find similar ones on eBay. You can of course go to your local home improvement center and get a ‘name brand’ if you want. if you don’t want that Dremel one… consider giving it away. some of us are not as fortunate ( i don’t have one at the moment.)

  2. You often get exactly what you pay for with machine tools like drill presses. If you don’t need to do any heavy metal drilling you probably don’t need something on the high end but still little things like the quality of the lock that allows you to angle the drill table and how centric the quill is all vary according to price.

    The JET drills from northern tool are pretty reasonable http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_637_637

    Feeler drill presses have a good reputation for being cheap and decent http://www.practicalmachinist.com/vb/general-archive/feeler-drill-tapping-press-any-good-bought-ebay-73075/

    If you can afford to get stuff shipped and shop around the new england area RISD machine shop manager Steve Santaniello has a good handle on where to get machine tools and what they should cost. The shop number is (401) 454-6197. Tell him a RISD ID grad sent you to ask.

    Also the Steel Yard in Providence http://www.thesteelyard.org/ is constantly rotating through machine tools. They might be able to recommend a good deal in New York.

  3. Drill presses are often easy to find on the used market and you can get an older high quality cast iron one. Make sure it has a quality chuck (i.e. make sure it says Jacobs on it).

  4. Another consideration would be how thick are the aluminum enclosures. Found this one on the net. It looks like it could do the job but i have no personal experience with it.


  5. does that mean the pictured one did break after 31 days? good to know. (my cheap dremel knock-off didn’t do much longer either, but now I guess it’s not a brand thing)

  6. Joseph Lamoree

    I can sure tell you want not to buy. I have a Delta Machinery Shopmaster. It’s not top-of-the-line, but not disposable either. The variable speed belt drive is a total disaster.

    If I was looking for a drill press today, I’d seriously consider JET/Powermatic or Laguna Tools.

  7. +1 for the harbor freight model, I bought one on sale for $40 about three years ago, and it has served me well in drilling wood and light metals.

  8. The next step up from the Dremel press in your picture is the 1/3 HP benchtop press. They run $80-120, and are good for the kind of work you described. Delta, Grizzly, Porter-Cable, and Rockwell all make good industrial-quality tools, and will be comparable in terms of quality and price.

    I’d personally advise against a Harbor Freight special, not because I expect the quality to be that much lower, but because one from a known manufacturer won’t be that much more expensive. You’ll also get a warranty and a name brand’s customer service in case you do end up needing parts.

    The next step up from a benchtop press is the 1/2 HP floor press. One of those will probably fall in the $250-300 range. It’s massive overkill for light drilling, but you get the capacity to work larger pieces, and hey, I’ve seen the pictures of your sewing machine. 😉

    The best thing you can do is find a store where you can actually look at the machine, run the quill up and down a few times, grab the chuck and see if it wiggles, look at the pulleys, and generally get a feel for how solid the thing is. If it feels good, it probably is. If it feels flimsy, move on to the next machine.. like I say, a good one won’t cost all that much more than a piece of junk.

    A couple of notes on accessories:

    You probably want an extension table. The standard drill press table is fairly small (maybe 8″ square for a benchtop unit), and that can make it awkward to position anything bigger than a paperback book. You can just bolt a piece of MDF on top of the existing table if you want, or you can spend $30-50 for a table with t-slots.

    If you plan to drill metal of any kind, you *do* want a drill vise. They don’t cost much (Grizzly has them starting at, like, $10), and the fun of having the bit bind in the metal and start whipping the workpiece around wears off really quickly.

    I’ve personally had good luck with Grizzly equipment, both in terms of product quality, and service when I pushed hard enough for something to break. I do *not* have one of their drills (mine’s an old Rockwell monster), but I do have a Grizzly metal lathe/milling machine. Here are a few links to give you an idea of what I think you’d probably want:

    Benchtop press:

    Floor press:



    And the most important accessory of all:

  9. Well you haven’t quite provided enough information to make a singular recommendation. Based on the “pick and place” and epilog laser, I’m assuming you don’t mind paying for tools. So I’d stay away from the harbor freight. Grizzly tools carries decent machinery at reasonable prices. For the most part the castings will be almost the same on the Chinese manufactured tools (including most of the “name brands” you would find in the home stores). So if you are looking at those the thing to look at would be how clean are the castings and where was the motor made. Some of the Companies Delta make both low and high end machines (you can spend 4k on a basic drill press).

    Now if you aren’t wed to the idea of a new machine you could probably get a better machine by finding a reputable used machinery dealer and asking their advice. Being in Seattle I can’t point you to a good one in NYC, but if you can’t find one I can ask around on the knife making/blacksmith lists I’m on for recommendations. In fact you have a better chance finding good used machine tools on that coast then I do here.

    Drill presses are pretty simple machines and you results will primarily be dependent on machine setup, spindle run-out and quality of drill bits. Figure out your budget figure out how much space you need under it (including distance from the post to the hole center) and buy the best you can afford. Then make sure the machine is level and bolted down. Get a really good square or a dial indicator and make sure the table is at perpendicular to the spindle front to back and side to side. Don’t buy cheap bits, and always use sharp bits (especially with lexan). When cutting metal you should probably also use a cutting fluid (WD40 works too) to keep the bit cool sharp and cutting cleanly.

    Ok, I’ve rambled enough for a blog comment. Feel free to mail me if I can be of additional help.

  10. I forgot the fields and this ate my long, thoughtful comment. I rave about my proxxon, it’s the prefect size for PCBs, has multiple high-speed settings, the action is smooth, the holes are as clean as any I’ve seen, and it stores perfectly under a bed. I got my little one for slightly less than $200, which is about the same price as the sloppy Dremel+press that I returned before buying the Proxxon.


  11. Hi. I’ve had my best experience with Proxxon drill bench and with their Micromot(tm) drills. The bench is _very_ robust compared to Dremel one I have (same as in the picture) and not very expensive in comparison. Proxxon has all kinds of bells and whistles to improve the drill bench like X/Y tables etc.
    I advice you to take look at their products.

  12. The folks at Hack a Day liked the Proxxon TBM115 drill press (review). I haven’t used it personally; but it looks great for small machine/PCB use. Probably not too useful for larger stuff.

  13. I use to use a dremel one and wasn’t too happy with it. Too much vibration and play. Upgraded to a nice stand-up model (with lasers!) I picked up a 17″ Craftsman at Sears. Problem with Harbor Freight stuff is while it’s cheap…well it’s cheap. I use them for tools I can’t really justify spending much money on, like something I’m rarely going to use. A drill press is something I wouldn’t skimp on, since you want it to be accurate.


    I’ve been pretty happy with it. One thing to keep in mind is the head is quite heavy, so you need a couple people, or one really excited and strong with adrenalin geek to assemble.

  14. If I were you, I would get a decent Mini Mill/Drill. It will last forever, has an XY table that will give you precision down to 0.01mm and will also allow you to perform milling operations (which is very useful for casework).

    In the USA, the Seig X2 Mini Mill gets good reviews and is more or less the “standard”:


    The X/Y table is REALLY nice to have!

    You can get smaller drill presses that also have XY tables, e.g.

    but these are expensive, and have no advantages whatsoever over the Mini Mill/Drill. I had one and sold it.

  15. Excuse me if this is a bit off topic, because it’s not a dedicated drill press, but it is a very special tool:


    This is a modular machine kit! Every Maker should have one. You can configure it to make any kind of machine you want for a specific task. I use it to make machines to create bridges and pegs for baroque guitars (amongst other things). It makes a great little drill press.

  16. Hi, I went with the Dremel Press myself and I’m not happy that I went cheap. I done some really tiny stuff and I had a lot of scrap. I had the chance to use the “Proxxon 38128 TBM Bench Drill Machine”. It is great, sturdy and most of all very precise for its size. It is on the pricey side but you really have to look at how much you need it and how important it is to your operation.

    Proxxon 38128 TBM Bench Drill Machine link on Amazon:
    Hope that helps. Regards, Michael

  17. harbor freight — good for the price

    Save your money and buy good drill bits.

  18. +1 for Jet.

    I do a lot of woodwork as a hobby & bought the JET 12″ benchtop model for $300 from Woodcraft. It comes with on-the-fly variable speed adjustment w/ digital readout, laser centering, & built-in lamp.

    It was pretty expensive, but I have other JET tools & they all have been what I’ve felt to be the last tools that I’ll ever need to buy.


  19. http://hackaday.com/2009/02/27/tools-proxxon-drill-press-tbm115tbm220/

  20. My college had a nice Delta on a floor stand that I frequently used to drill through steel. It’s about six years old now and has survived drilling through wood, steel, and being abused by actors.

    I can’t remember the model, but I also can’t conceive of a full size drill press that can’t bore a 5/8″ hole through 1/4″ plate steel. Aluminum should be a walk in the park.

  21. Another +1 for JET.

    Good stuff.

    Or you could just get a Bridgeport. The large X-Y table would provide adequate napping space for your web development team.

  22. I would get a Taig Micro Mill:

  23. As has been mentioned above, the BIG consideration is how the tool is going to be used. For production work – making a lot of holes in material, I would focus on one of the big three Jet / PowerMatic / Delta. With one of these, you should get a decent tool at a “fair” price. Again, the tool itself is not really the governing factor on the quality of your results. I would focus on 1.) variable speed (based on the materials you are working on) 2.) a generous table size that accomodate your work jigs, and 3.) good sharp bits.

    Now I think you will be using the tool for prototyping – low volume precision work. If it were MY dime, I would put it down on a decent milling machine. This will not only make you all the holes you want, but provide you lots of other nifty ways to make chips and shavings.

    This one from Grizzly is probably a little more than you will need, but once you get familiar with it, I’m sure you’ll find lots of other applications. Plus, it will tap.


    Good luck and thank you for doing what you do. It’s very inspiring.

  24. My dad has used an older model one of these (http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00922900000P?keyword=craftsman+drill+press) for the past 15 or so years and it’s always worked every time he’s turned it on.

  25. Is weight a factor? I have one of the Grizzly Mini-mills and it’s heavy! Heavy is good for dampening vibration, tool rigidity, etc. but if you don’t have an elevator or a permanent spot on the bench then light weight will be your friend. Definitely a 2 person lift if you want to be safe.

    The Microlux from Micromark looks nice for the money. No first hand knowledge of build quality or expected tool life. Popular with the model railroad and dollhouse crowd.

    $218 delivered, 27lbs – http://www.micromark.com/MICROLUX-BENCHTOP-VARIABLE-SPEED-MINI-HOBBY-DRILL-PRESS,8283.html

    X/Y table available for an extra $100 but will really cut into your Z.

  26. Adrian Bissaillon

    I’ve used a number of different machine tools from Harbor Freight and have been very pleased with their performance. I currently have one of their bench drill presses and have had no problems. I use it for building bikes and it gets a lot of use. Check this floor mount, http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=43378. Also get one of their milling vices, very handy.

  27. Adrian Bissaillon

    Oops, forgot to mention, Harbor Freight also has retail stores. Prices are slightly higher than catalog, but can save a lot in shipping.

  28. For the hobyist, I love the dremel drillpress that you pictured here. I’ve just gotten into board fab, and it’s really great for light work. It’s cheap, you screw in your own dremel, and it’s accurate. I just wish it had a 10x diopter lens!!!

  29. John Gotthardt

    Delta model 20-950 has been getting good reviews on the woodworking sites. Table flatness, bit run-out, and table to bit perpendicularity all get high marks (important qualities for precision work.) It is a big (20″ bit to column) and heavy (you’ll need lots of help assembling it) variable speed floor standing unit and should easily handle any job you throw at it. Plus it has a large (14″ x 24″) table suitable for Mosfet’s cat naps. Street price is in the $800 range.

  30. The old Dremel 210 press is awesome for drilling boards, but they don’t make them anymore. Ebay, I guess. I wasn’t too happy with the new one(pictured) that I got for work. I have a Grizzly table-top for bigger things. Worth every penny of the $85 I paid for it(practically free, I thought).

  31. “Plus it has a large (14″ x 24″) table suitable for Mosfet’s cat naps.”

    I can’t imagine letting a cat sleep under a drill…! *shudders* It wouldn’t start drilling on its own (or would it), but just the thought…

  32. I remember being in my grandfathers shop when I was young and making all kinds of things with metal and wood and he always used an Craftsman freestanding floor press. He was a teacher for drafting and shop back in the day and you know what ? I am 29 and my dad still has, and uses that same press to this very day. I remember the Chrome depth stop and the wonderful sound it made when on. I would also recommend a very good vise but also keep in mind that freestanding ones have T-slots or other areas for clamps and other hold downs that can be useful when needing to hold something bigger than you vice will allow. Also if you can get an extra key for your chuck. Helps to have a backup. 🙂 In short new does not always reflect a better product.

  33. If you’re looking for something better than a Dremel but more for fine-detail than the large floor/bench models, have a look at the Foredom line: http://www.foredom.com/

    I have a Foredom TX kit (http://www.foredom.com/foundations/store/shopdetail.asp?params=K%2ETX300*57) with drill-press mount (http://www.foredom.com/foundations/store/shopdetail.asp?params=DP30*110) on order. Came highly recommended by jeweller friend. Never mind aluminium, if the bit’s strong enough it’ll do titanium!

  34. Clearly you probably want a table top drill press.

    If not buy a table top one first. Buy a really good chuck (Jacobs) (Remember you can mount a smaller chuck in a larger one) that can take your smallest bits. Pay $50 for it if necessary. After that just go for a Delta, Craftsman or Harbour Freight unit. Remember an old craftsman with a new chuck (and everything is intact) is better than a new drill press. If you have to buy a new drill press they are all made in China so make really sure the drill stand is at right angles to the post and the drill table is at right angles to the post. You would be surprised at how many are not straight!

    Look for the gearing on the press moving up and down properly and the depth stop working properly.

    Get a AC induction motor with single speed with the standard 5 pulleys on top to shift the belt up and down to change speed.

    Make sure you have return privileges. All the China ones are unassembled and you have to assemble them to see if they are properly made (the store sample is just an indicator). Make really sure the drill actually stays in one place as it turns!

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