We all know of hand-held drills, and we all probably have one in our woodworking shop. They’re great for a quick drill, maybe to create a starter hole for a screw, when we don’t need exactness of any kind. But, what if you need a precise depth, angle, and width?
Enter the drill press. But, it goes deeper than simply to say “drill press.” (pun intended)
Let’s, well, go deeper, then. (okay, too much?)
Types of Drill Presses
A drill press is also a power tool but differs from the hand-held version in that the head, which contains the motor, chuck assembly, and controls, sits atop a column with a sturdy base attached to hold it in place you drill. It is not necessary to steady the drill by hand, and thus you are able to achieve a more exact hole into the wood for your intended purpose.
There are two primary types of drill presses:
- Benchtop Drill Press: this has a short column that sits atop your workbench; and,
- Floor Drill Press: a much longer column that either sits upon or is installed/attached to the floor of your workshop.
Each is belt-driven, with the belt housed in the head of the drill press. Each has its advantages and strengths, and which you choose for your workshop will depend on both budget and purpose, as in what types of projects you are likely to take on.
Since either your bench or floor will support the drill press rather than your hand, drill presses will come with bigger and more powerful motors. This has the advantage over hand-held drills as it allows you to drill larger holes through different materials beyond just wood.
The stability offered by both bench drill presses and floor drill presses enables you to drill more precise holes both in depth and width without the drill traveling from side to side or with changing angles, as sometimes happens with hand-held models.
Speed Ranges of Drill Presses
Drill press speeds range from between 2000 rpm to 3600 rpm, and the speed you use will depend on the material being drilled. Most new drill presses now come with variable speed capability that you can set yourself. However, the wider the speed range, the more expensive the drill press will be, as you’d expect. Larger, more powerful motor and broader speed range (high and low) = higher price.
How Are Drill Presses Measured?
It’s not the height that matters with drill presses. Rather, it’s the size of the material being drilled.
The column holds the drill head from which the drill bit itself is lowered into the material being drilled. That column limits the size of the material you are drilling in that it acts as the stop against which the material will fit.
The drill press, then, is measured from the column to the point at which the drill bit enters the material being drilled. This is referred to as “swing.”
For example, a 10” drill press will drill a hole in the center of a 10” piece of whatever material is being drilled.
How Deep Can A Drill Press Go?
Typically, a bench drill press will be able to drill down between 2-4 inches. They are smaller in size and lighter in weight than floor drill presses for the convenience of lifting them to the benchtop, as well as moving them from bench to bench in your shop.
Larger floor drill presses, though, can reach a drilling depth of 4-6 inches. Their larger and more powerful motors enable them to drill larger holes into tougher materials.
How Do I Choose A Drill Press For Woodworking?
Which drill press model will be best for you and your woodworking shop? The first answer is the same for everything you equip your shop with: What types of projects are you likely to take on?
The right tool for the right job is always the rule to follow. Do you even need a drill press for the projects you’ll be working on? Will a hand-held drill press suffice? What is a good HP for a drill press?
But, if you believe you need a drill press, price is the next consideration.
Bench drill presses will have smaller, less powerful motors in the 1/3 to 1/2 HP range. But floor drill presses can house larger and more powerful motors, ranging from 1 to 5 HP.
The former will be fine for smaller drilling needs and smaller materials to be drilled; the latter, obviously, is for larger jobs and bigger materials. The price differences between bench drill presses and floor drill presses are vast:
- Bench Drill Press: These models can run from $100 to $1000, depending on the features and size;
- Floor Drill Press: These can begin at around $20,000, depending on the motor, “swing,” and other features.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Each
Bench Drill Press
- Less expensive
- Requires less space
- Easy to move
- Good choice for the beginner DIYer
- Regular electrical outlet provides sufficient voltage
- Slower speed and power output
- Not suitable for larger materials
Floor Drill Press
- Good for more precise work, especially repetitive tasks
- Larger chuck sizes allow larger holes to be drilled
- Deeper drills, so you can work with larger materials
- More powerful motors, so they can generate higher bit speed
- Come with more features, including a larger variety of holes, including angle drilling
- More money
- Require greater space
- Require equipment to move
- Can be much more than the occasional hobbyist needs
What does this all tell us? Pick the model that best suits your shop and your project needs. The beginner woodworker is most likely to find a bench drill press will meet their needs, their budget, and the space it will require. More advanced woodworkers will likely find plenty of uses for a floor drill press.
Match your purchase to the purpose in your shop. This is a handy rule of thumb for any tool purchase, and it certainly applies to drill presses as well.