Drill Press Help

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Could someone please recommend a decent drill press?

I want it to be accurate and bench type which is a bit more portable (!) and takes less room than the floor types.
These things are heavy! I actually picked one up (Ryobi DP121L) last night and am still hurting in the back! Got it from a local hardware store. Did not like the sound of the motor after set up. I took the top off (single screw) and had a look at the belt driven motor. I could see that the rear bearing had issues with the shaft having a bit of play. Changing speed, 'the play' was more visible even the pulley shaft vertical travel (to adjust belt tension/speed) did not appear perfectly vertical. The unit might have been damaged in transit. The package was the last one on the floor. The box had taken a beating but I went ahead and purchased it trusting the contents would not be damaged if well packed which is a reasonable expectation I suppose. Well I found some nicks in the metalwork too...I would overlook the cosmetic flaws if the thing worked well. Well I could hear the rear bearing and didn't like that one bit so I returned the thing still mounted (!) back to the store today. And now I am back to the square one again looking.

I need a decent drill press to do some precision drilling in wood and some not too terribly thick metal as well. I need help from crafty people who have experience with these monsters. I wonder if the magnetic motor types are better in terms of accuracy, setting the work piece depth and/or the overall operation. This type typically draws more current than the belt driven jobs so I guess they work harder and so have to be better in terms of build and operation. Not necessarily so? I know when I work hard I get exhausted and I am no good from then on!

Cheers everyone and thanks for any feedback.
Google "drill press review" and look for comments in woodworking forums.
Figure out what you need one for and may want one for, and choose accordingly.
My overall opinion - you won't get good accuracy or power in a benchtop drillpress. Put a regular drill press on a mobile stand so you can move it out of the way.
Good luck.
Joined 2009
Paid Member
I like my Jet JDP-12 drill press. It's about $300. I got mine via Amazon.com - I have Amazon Prime so I got shipping "for free" (i.e. pay $70/year for free 2-day shipping on all orders fulfilled by Amazon).

I like that I can change speeds by moving a lever rather than having to move the belt around. The DRO is nice, though a scale on the side of the machine by the gear lever would have done the same job. The laser sight is cool! It makes it very easy to hit the target and is a big time saver when drilling many holes.

The belt does rumble a bit and this causes a little vibration in the machine, but the chuck runs smooth and none of the vibration seems to translate into the drill. I've drilled everything from big holes in wood to tiny holes in a PCB with this thing.

My criteria for the drill press were that the press needed to be reasonably priced (<$500) and movable without a complete disassembly. The Jet is heavy (100 lbs I think) but it is movable and fits in the back of my VW Golf... I have it mounted permanently on a tool stand from Harbor Freight that I mounted some wheels on. That makes it easier to move around the shop/garage.


Thanks for the reply. Hopefully others with the same predicament will also benefit by extracting the important aspects of a drill press as suited to their needs. A drill press is inherently far more accurate for drilling through a designated point. For larger holes a smaller pilot hole is recommended. The runout (wobble) of a fairly well made drill press is typically under .005 inch. This is great accuracy! I think every hobbyist should own a Drill Press.

Your criteria matches mine. I will look up your Jet. I am also going to our local Harbor Freight today to have a look at stands and see what they carry in terms of DP's. I think Harbor Freight has unfairly been given bad rap. Sometime you can find well made equipment and tools there at very reasonable prices.

Based on my ongoing research so far, Jet is one good brand. Others are Delta, General, and Steel City. However, feedback from a user of a particular brand is most valuable. BTW, Delta DP300L qualifies for Amazon's free shipping. Regardless, I will get an American made drill press as the parts availability is more of a sure thing than the ones made in other countries.


Joined 2009
Paid Member
With respect to Harbor Freight's rep, just remember that you get what you pay for. We have one of their drill presses at work. It's a complete POS. The chuck doesn't even run true so the tip of the drill bit will actually scribe a circle with a diameter of about 1 mm. The belt is too long so on some of the gears you ether have to allow the belt to slip or you can't close the top. Granted, it was only $40 but in my opinion it's $40 wasted. Or actually more like $58 wasted ($40 for the drill press, $18 dump fee to get rid of it).

About the depth stop. That's one of the reasons I chose the JET over Delta, actually. I played with the Delta at Home Creepo and found the depth stop was difficult to set accurately and tended to slip. The depth stop on the jet is real basic. It's a threaded rod with a couple of knurled nuts on it. Real basic. Fool proof. And it works.

American made vs others. I can't say I care much as long as they have a local service center. I had to send my Jet in for repair due to a loose connection in an electrical module. Jet has several service centers in my area, which made it real easy. No expensive shipping anywhere and they honored the warranty. It took a couple of weeks to get parts as they've just updated that module to avoid the issue in the future. The drill press has worked flawlessly since then. The module only controlled the work light and the lasers so I was never dead in the water.

The LED work light on the Jet is handy by the way. I like it.

Don't forget to check your local Craigslist listings. You could get a nice old piece of American iron for less that what you'd pay for a pretty shoddy modern import, even a US-badged one like a Delta. People get rid of Dad's old tools all the time. Seriously, they don't make 'em like that anymore.


No Kidding.

CL would be the only place that I would look. People are sometimes practically giving them away and the old Delta/Rockwell/Powermatic/Sears, etc etc stuff is very good. Patience is a virtue, though.

Also, for the price of a new reasonable quality drill press, you may be able to find a used import benchtop mill-drill.
I went to Harbor Freight today to just have a look and was totally unimpressed with their drill presses. I did buy some decent wood working clamps though for next to nothing.

Next I will be looking into our local CL. Who knows I might get lucky.

Thanks for the suggestions everyone.
Well my local CL search was uneventful.

I am heading out in a few minutes to a couple of woodcraft supply stores to hopefully see a Jet JDP-12. All reviews I have read on this machine have been positive. The only question is parts availability and/or warranty work. I am not sure if there is a service center in my area and who to contact should the machine require any sort of repair or parts.

Tom: do you know of web site for Jet, customer service contact info., etc?

Buy a table top one.

Mine is a Craftsman. The important thing for me was that the chuck close down to "nothing." That is important if you are drilling circuit boards because those #60 drills are awfully small. Some chucks will NOT close down that small.
Also if you get a table top drill press, you will most likely have to bolt it to the table for stability.
Good point on the chuck which can be easily overlooked. This is an essential part of a drill press and has to be of the highest possible quality that one can afford.

I actually looked at a couple of Craftsman models this morning. They appeared to be well made. However, the person over the power tools section who himself is well known woodworker was not in yet. So I will be calling him later to discuss various models. Buying a drill press definitely takes quite a bit of home work before hand. Unless one has worked with a drill press, one may not be aware of certain limitations of a given drill press.

Some chucks will NOT close down that small.

The vast majority of chucks will not close down that small, especially 1/2" consumer grade chucks. The good news is that chucks come in a couple of std threads and tapers. so upgrading a chuck is fairly straightforward if needed.

I changed out the chuck on my Makita Cordless drill for the exact reason mentioned above........enlarging PCB holes.
So would a smaller chuck say meant for 3/8" drill bits and smaller shaft size bit be better in terms of closing--regardless of build quality?

Not necessarily, it's a bit of hit or miss. The 3/8" chuck that I removed from my cordless makita did not close all the way. We have chucks for our Bridgeport mill at work that close completely in 1/4", 3/8', and 1/2" sizes, although they are fairly high dollar Albrecht's, etc. If you have tiny number sized drills take a small one with you when evaluating drill presses.

Of course, you could always set up a hand drill for the tiny holes and not worry about it on the drill press...........

The ones that close all the way are typically precision machined chucks; I'll see if I can snap a picture or two to show the difference. IIRC, the ones I bought for the makita were old stock Kawasaki chucks that someone was selling on Ebay.

Edit: Pics attached. First picture is a relatively new stock chuck that came on my makita cordless drill; no chance of holding tiny numbered bits. The second picture is the Kawasaki keyless chuck that I put on my old makita drill, closes pretty much to zero. Third pic is a Chinese Albrecht knockoff 1/2" keyless chuck from my Bridgeport, also closes pretty much to zero.


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IMHO a drill press needs very few features:

1) A high quality 1/2" capacity chuck that closes down reasonably small. I don't expect it to hold a #67 drill without a pin vise or a sensitive drilling attachment.

2) No significant run-out or vibration.

3) A table that's perpendicular to the drill bit in both planes.

4) Some easy means of adjusting the speed.

5) A robust depth stop.

It doesn't need lasers or digital readouts. Almost anything American made over the last 50 years or so will beat the pants off today's imports. If you have a used machinery dealer anywhere close by, try them first.
Conrad, used machinery dealers or auctions where machinery from businesses gone belly-up is hammered off for cigarettes money - paradise!...hell - everybody has access to the yellow pages in the phone directory, why not use them?
I´m proud owner of a Festool router - handles nicer than someone I might once have married.
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