Drill Press 101: What It Does and Why You Need One

Drill Press

Thinking of upgrading your power tools, and buying a Drill Press? Here’s a complete Drill Press 101 guide for you. This article will give you an answer to what does a Drill Press do, and why you should need one.

A Drill Press or sometimes called a Drill Machine or a Pillar Drill is primarily for drilling pr enlarging cylindrical holes in a workpiece. It ensures that drilled holes are aligned precisely with the exact depth even in various materials like metal and wood. You need a Drill Press for more accuracy, efficiency, and versatility in boring holes.

If you think Drill Presses are just another ordinary tool compared to handheld drills, you might want to rethink it again. There are other essential things that you need to know when using a Drill Press, and that’s what you’re about to find out as you read through this guide.

The Basics of a Drill Press – What Does it Do? 

A Drill Press is for drilling small to large circular holes or enlarging an existing cylindrical gap in a workpiece. It can also perform other operations such as reaming, countersinking, counterboring, and tapping. We will talk about the other Drill Press operation in a while. It consists of various types depending on the application, which are for both home and industrial use. 

A Drill Press uses drill bits and vertical pressure to bore a hole or cut a circular area into the material. Among all drilling machines, it is the most common type with an estimate that 75% of all metal and wood cutting material removed comes from a Drill Press.

What Are the Parts of a Drill Press?

Drill Press is a stationary drill with an attached workbench and it includes fundamental parts. Regardless of the brand, the type, and its size – these are the components that you should familiarize with. They might change in style, but the purpose and positioning are always the same.

  • Drill Head. It contains the motor and variable speed mechanism, which may be adjustable up or down for accommodating different heights of materials.
  • Motor. It is the power that supplies the capability of the Drill Press to cut materials. Some Drill Press have engines at the rear end of the head to balance the weight of the machine.
  • Spindle. It holds the tool and responsible for its rotation, which moves up and down by manually or an automatic feed.
  • Speed Adjustment. It adjusts the cutting speed from a low, medium, to fast depending on the material.
  • Chuck. It holds the drill bits securely in place.
  • Table. It is adjustable to high and low to secure the material in place, and the tip of the drill bit.  It is also for supporting the workpiece.
  • Table Clamp. It adjusts the table up and down.
  • Column. It is a long rod that stands 90 degrees on the base and serves as the backbone of any drill press that supports the table, and the head. 
  • Base. It serves as the guide of the entire machine, which usually consists of cast-iron or steel. The primary function is to support the column and stabilize it.

What Are the Other Drill Press Operations?

  • Boring. It is about enlarging a hole to bring it to the required size. A single-point cutting tool helps in completing it. This method is suitable when the suitable sized drill is not available, or the hole diameter is too large that it’s hard to drill. It is a slow process, which also requires several passes of the toll.
  • Ream. It is the process of finishing a pre-drilled hole with a specific size and diameter. The material removed is approximately 0 to 375 mm. It requires excellent accuracy because you need to bring it with the same size. The tool used in this process is a Reamer that has multiple cutting edges. 
  • Counter Boring. It is the process of drilling a second hole with a larger diameter than the first one, but concentric to each other. The giant hole creates a square shoulder, which is necessary to accommodate some unique bolt heads, studs, and pins. Usually, the cutting speed for counterboring is less than 25% compared to other drilling operations.
  • Countersinking. It is the process of creating an angular surface or cone-shaped enlargement at the end of the second hole. The goal is to have a recess for flat head screw or countersink rivet. The angle depends on the purpose, which may range from 90 to 145 degrees. It has the same cutting speed as the counterboring.
  • Spot Facing. It is the process of smoothing and squaring the surface around a hole to provide a seat for the bolt head, nut, or washer. It uses a particular spot facing tool or a counterbore to operate this procedure successfully.
  • Tapping. It requires a specific attachment called a Tap held by the spindle for cutting internal threads into a hole. A Tap is almost like a bold with accurate threads cut on it.
  • Deburring. It is the process of removing burrs, especially at the bottom edge, using deburring tools inserted in the hole with moderate pressure.
  • Lapping. It is the process of finishing and sizing a small diameter hole that’s already hardened. There’s a tiny amount of material already removed using a tool called lap. It moves up and down of the tunnel as it revolves around, digging a hole successfully.
  • Trepanning. It is the process of removing a part of the material along the circumference of a hollow cutting tool, to produce large holes. The goal is to drill with fewer chips getting removed to save more of the material. The cutting speed is high, while the narrow cutting edge limits the vibration. 

How Does a Drill Press Work?

A Drill Press is already an integral part of woodworking because of the operations that it can do several tasks. While it is imperative to refer to the machine’s manual created by the manufacturer at all times, here’s an explanation of how a Drill Press works. 

  1. Locate. Before drilling a hole, make sure to identify first where you want to bore. Draw two crossing lines, and use the center as an indication of the drilling or starting point.
  2. Choose the Right Drill Bit. Pick the relevant drill bit according to the size of the hole that you want to make. There are many types of drill bits with various sizes and styles.
  3. Secure. Once you have the right drill bit, attach it to the chuck to properly secure it in place. Adjust the table, so the edge of the drill bit align correctly and carefully to your drilling point.
  4. The Right RPM. Determine the correct Revolution-Per-Minute (RPM) for your drill bit, which varies depending on its size, the hole depth, and the material that you are drilling.
  5. Use an Interrupted Feed. When drilling, use an interrupted feed called Peck Drilling. It helps in breaking up the chips produced.
  6. Cleaning. Always clean the Drill Press and is the surrounding area once done. Eliminate all piles of dust and maintain a clean working area. It is also beneficial in maintaining the quality of the Drill Press.

How to Align Your Drill Press Correctly?

It is essential to have the proper alignment of the Drill Press to keep every cut accurate and efficient as desired. Otherwise, it may result in uneven cylinder cuts or low quality drilled holes. A Drill Press has a powerful motor, but it is useless without the correct aligning.

  1. Base Positioning. Make sure that the base and column of your Drill Press are secure to one another. They need to have a solid foundation at the bottom because Drill Presses are naturally top-heavy. So, secure the base on the floor or a tabletop by tightening all bolts attached. 
  2. Check the Motor Mount. Whether the engine mounts directly on top of the column or behind the drill head – verify its sturdiness. Make sure that the motor is correctly attached to the column. Tighten the bolts securing the head to the column, and see if it will not rotate or rise up and down.
  3. Adjust the Table Rotation. Most Drill Presses today have a rotating table for more versatility. The job for you here is to check if the table rotates freely and securely. Adjust the set screws and bolts if it’s either too loose or too tight.

What are the Types of Drill Press

In our article about How to Use a Drill Press as a Lathe: a Step-By-Step Guide, we have tackled the different types of Drill Press and describe them in General. There are different types of machines available on different brands and for a specific job. In a glance, here’s a summary of the various kinds of Drill Press and their definitions.

  • Portable Drilling Machine. It is the most popular kind and a top pick for most woodworkers who don’t have a considerable working station. The type of drill bits used depends on your workpiece and the diameter of the hole that you want to drill.
  • Sensitive Drilling Machine. It is a particular type of Drill Press known for its spindle head with a belt drive perfect for light to moderate projects. Also, it includes two fundamental types – the Bench and Floor Mounting.
  • Upright Drilling Machine. It is notable for the spindle head that features a gear drive. There are two types based on its purpose – Round Column Section, and Box Column Section Machine.
  • Round Column Section. It features a circular column for doing lighter projects. The circular column makes it sturdier, more stable, and robust in drilling holes.
  • Box Column Section Machine. It features a box column section for working on more rigid and demanding projects. It is almost the same as the Round Column.
  • Radial Drilling Machine. It is another popular type of drilling machine because of its flexibility, versatility, and dominance in drilling larger and larger projects. There are three kinds of Radial Drilling Machine – Plain, Semi-universal, and Universal drill press. 
  • Gang Drilling Machine. This type is unusual for its numerous single spindle columns located on the same machine base, and the perfect drill for industrial purposes and mass production.
  • Multiple Spindle Drilling Machine. It is the best type if you need a drilling machine that can drill many holes at the same time.
  • Automatic Drilling Machine. Automatic Drilling Machines are suitable for repetitive and automatized production with identical results on similar pieces of material.

What Should I Look for in a Drill Press?

For approximately $150, you can get a good-quality Drill Press. It’s enough to take on sturdy materials and has a long life. Aside from the price, here are the other factors that you should take into consideration when looking for a Drill Press. These features will enhance your accuracy and efficiency in drilling.

  • Model Type. Choose between a floor model and a benchtop model. The first one is for large projects, while the latter is suitable for small projects that will save you more space in your workshop.
  • Horsepower. Higher horsepower means more powerful in digging deeper holes over sturdy materials. Usually, 1HP is enough for woodworking and home use.
  • Speed Adjustment. As you may have already known, the slower speed is for metalwork while the faster rate for wood. For a better option, look for the adjustment that ranges between 500 and 4000 RPMs.
  • High-quality table. It is where you will put your workpiece, so you want a stable and adjustable one. It will allow you to work with more versatility at almost any angle.
  • Depth Stop. It is a feature that ensures that all holes have consistent depths if you’re mass-producing.
  • Weight. When it comes to Drill Press, a more massive unit is better than a lighter one. It’s because of its ability to eliminate the shakiness and vibration so that you can work smoothly. 
  • Accessories. See if a Drill Press can accommodate some accessories designed to improve your work. For example, drill press clamps, sanding, and mortising attachments.

Why Do You Need One?

One significant advantage of having a Drill Press is its stability and more accurate procedure. Also, angled drilling is achievable for precise results. Apart from it, here are the other reasons how can a Drill Press will make your job easier and faster.

  1. High Efficiency. If you need to drill beautiful and beautiful holes fast with fewer mistakes, you need a Drill Press. It helps you to be more efficient in time, material, and effort.
  2. Stability. A Drill Press has an adjustable table that offers maximum security. It is one of the essential factors in drilling to hold the workpiece in place. It also helps in eliminating vibration to avoid any damage on your project, and get a clean cut.
  3. Versatility. Drill Press can cut circular holes with various materials. You can also install other extra accessories to get your desired result. For example, some modern Drill Press has several speeds of adjustments for a specific material.
  4. Creativity. Using a Drill Press helps you expand your creativity because of its rotating drill bit. For example, you can create swirl patterns on different surfaces, even if it requires some experience, practice, and patience.

All About Drill Bits for A Drill Press and Other Automated Machine

You have thousands of sizes to choose from when it comes to drilling bits. It may sound overwhelming at first, but once you get to know them, it gets quite more effortless. Generally, there are three major types of Drill Bits by use. It includes the following categories.

  1. Wood Drill Bits. It is the most versatile type of bit, which most of them feature a small and pointed tip at the end, with spurs on each side. This set-up helps in grabbing the wood and carve through the material. As a rule of thumb, steel wood drill bits are best for softwood, while Titanium-coated tends to last longest.
  2. Masonry Drill Bits. It is more durable that features a gently sloping tip. This type works best with stone, tile, and cinder block. Most Masonry bits have a carbide coat to prolong their sharpness and effectivity.
  3. Metal Drill Bits. They are highly versatile that have a titanium or cobalt coating, and feature a wide-angled tip. When buying this kind of drill bit, look for the “high-speed” steel (HSS) label. It will let you drill for other metal types.

Materials and Finishes Used for Drill Bits

Materials Used to Make Drill BitsCoatings Used on Drill Bits
High-Speed Steel (HSS) – Suitable for drilling wood, fiberglass, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other soft metals like aluminum.Black Oxide – It is the most economical coating, which makes it the most affordable and ideal for drilling hardwood, softwood, aluminum, magnesium, or similar materials.
Cobalt Steel – It is extremely tough and can dismiss heat quickly. Ideal for drilling aluminum and hardened metals such as stainless steel.Titanium Nitride (TiN) – It is a more expensive type of material that increases the toughness of the bit. It also provides a thermal barrier for increased production rates and longer tool life. 
Tool Steel w/ Carbide Tips – It has a sharp edge, and extremely useful for drilling tile and masonry.

What Are the Different Kinds of Drill Bits for Your Drill Press?

Always remember that the secret here is to determine the kind of result that you want to get, before searching for the right drill bit. More importantly, you don’t have to buy all types of drill bits. We will breakdown various kinds of drill bits with simple explanations for a better and clear understanding. 

  • Twist Drills. It is an end-cutting tool and the most common type of drill bit for almost all types of materials. However, it is also the most confusing because of its broad classifications in its number size, tips, and material specifications. Overall, twist drills have spiral flutes that run lengthwise around its body. They have different groups according to the type of shank, length, and distance for drilling.
    1. Tip Styles. There are various tip styles for twist drills, which we’ll discuss later in a while.
    2. Flute Styles. Most twist drills have twisted flutes to remove chips at an angle, and suitable for almost all applications. 
    3. Shank Styles. Drill bits designed for machinery have a fixed diameter of approximately ½ inch or 10 mm. General-purpose twist drills have shanks that have the same width as the bit size. Meanwhile, more significant diameter bits incorporate a reduced shank size of about ¼ inch, ⅜ inch or ½ inch. On the other hand, some twist drills with three flats on the shank to prevent spinning too fast under high torque loads.
    4. Materials. Twist drill bits for automated machinery are usually from carbon steel, high-speed steel, carbide tipped, solid carbide.
    5. Coating. Twist drills for automated machinery are usually not coated.
  • Counterbore Drill Bits. They are for creating a flat bottom blind hole with a small diameter center. The primary purpose of Counterbore drill bits is to conceal a fastener head by covering a hole or prevent it from pointing above the surface of the material.
    1. Tip Styles. It has a cutting tip consisting of one or more flat blades that extend from the center drill to the outer edge. Counterbore bits are available both with or without teeth. Those that have teeth on the outer side prevent splintering and chipping.
    2. Flute Styles. Some counterbores have flutes while others have a similar style compared to a twist drill bit with no tip angle.
    3. Shank Styles. It uses a ½  inch or 10 mm shanks.
    4. Materials. Counterbores are from different materials like Carbon Steel, High-Speed Steel, or Carbide-Tipped.
    5. Coatings. Some have layers, while others do not contain even a single one.
  • Countersink Drill Bits. These create a tapered surface hole with a smaller center hole and allow a conical head fastener to sit flush on the material’s surface.
    1. Tip Styles. Its cutting tip consists of two or more flat blades that extend from the center drill to the outer edge. Countersink drill bits have angles from 60 to 120 degrees. Choosing the right corner depends on your project, the material, and your desired outcome.
    2. Flute Styles. It’s almost the same with counterbore drill bits wherein some have flutes, while others don’t have.
    3. Shank Styles. Countersinks for Drill Press and other automated machinery have an approximately ½ inch or 10 mm shanks.
    4. Materials. These types of drill bits are available in Carbon Steel, High-Speed Steel, or Carbide-Tipped.
    5. Coatings. Some have layers, while others do not contain even a single one.
  • Flat Bottom Boring Bits. They have flat-bottom boring bits that are almost similar to counterbores, but Flat Bottoms don’t have a center drill. They are for drilling large diameter thru-holes. Usually, they are for locks, doorknobs, wiring holes, etc., Some common types of  Flat Bottom Boring Bits are Forstner Bits, Three Wing Drills, Door Hinge Bits, Mortising Bits, Spade Bits.
    1. Tip Styles. It consists of one or more flat blades with a center spur to keep the bit from walking during the initial cut.
    2. Flute Styles. Most large-sized Flat Bottom Boring Bits don’t have flutes, but they do have a cutting surface. It keeps the chips in the hole until you pull out the bit.
    3. Shank Styles. Large-sized Flat Bottom Boring Bits consist of fixed size hexagonal shank. It is to prevent spinning in the chuck under excessive loads.
    4. Materials. Flat bottom boring bits are also available in various materials including Carbon Steel, High-Speed Steel, or Carbide-Tipped.
    5. Coatings. Some have black oxide, bronze oxide, or Tin coatings while others don’t have.

What Are the Different Types of Twist Drill Bits?

As mentioned, Twist Drill Bits are a common type of Drill Bits. The Standard Indian Institution classified various classifications of twist drills. However, due to its wide varieties, we have to create a separate section for a more explicit discussion. We will classify Twist Drill Bits according to different tip styles.

Conventional Drill PointIt is the most common and most economical tip style for general purposes, which has 118 degrees. It is convenient to re-sharpen and suitable for wood, non-ferrous metals, and mild steel.
Split Drill PointSplit Drill PointIt is an advanced drill point type that improves the most economical. It is available in 118 to 135 degrees angle, which is ideal for drilling curved surfaces or alloy steels. However, Split Drill Points are more expensive and harder to sharpen. 
V-Point DrillIt is a highly unique drill bit used for creating thru-holes in sheet stock for dowels or other assembly hardware.
Brad Point DrillBrad Point It is mainly for creating blind holes in wood and other soft materials. It has spurs on the outer edges and a center spur.
Fishtail DrillFishtail PointIt’s another special drill with a V-shaped tip for drilling into a surface at an angle.
Taper Point DrillTaper PointIt has a colossal taper that extends far up the drill to create a tapered hole for old-style wood screws.
  • Other Specialty Drill Bits that You Should Know
Plug CuttersThey are for creating a hole without a center drill. It is for cutting round plugs to fill a counterbore. 
Glass and Tile DrillGlass and Tile DrillsFor drilling holes for fasteners that have carbide tips and straight shanks.
Masonry DrillMasonry DrillsUsed for drilling holes in concrete, brick, and wood using a special “hammer-drill” that pounds the drill bit as it rotates. 
Auger Drill BitAugersIt is for boring broad and deep holes in the wood or other materials. 

How To Choose the Right Drill Bit?

Choosing the right drill bit depends on your project, use, and application. It’s about matching the drill bit with the material that you’re going to use, depth and diameter of the hole, and the volume of work required. Most importantly, take into account the size that matches the chuck of your Drill Press. These are the factors that will help you increase your productivity for each kind of drill bit.


Should You Wear Gloves When Using a Drill Press?

It’s a matter of personal preference wherever you are comfortable. Wearing gloves will protect your hands, but make sure that they are form-fitting and not baggy. Avoid loose and slippery gloves because it can stick at the Drill Press. Find something that has a firm grip.

What Do Drill Press Settings Mean?

It’s about the overall settings of your Drill Press on how it should run. More often, it involves the depth stop, a specific amount of torque, and the depth of the cutting hole. You may also see numbers on the dill driver, which refers to the amount of force to drill a fastener. Once it reaches the torque settings, it will eventually stop driving the bolt or a screw.

Does Chuck Size Matter?

It matters in choosing the right drill bit since size may differ. For example, a 10-mm chuck is ideal for smaller bits. A 13-mm chuck is suitable for more significant drill bits. Hence, a larger chuck requires a bigger shank of drill bits.

Final Words

All Drill Press may come from different manufacturers and may possess various features. However, its purpose and the process of drilling holes all remain the same regardless of the brand. Before using it, you should refer to the manual of your machine and have a better understanding of its basics. Then, follow the tips and techniques we’ve mentioned here to maximize the use of your Drill Press.

Drill Presses only differ in its motor, which should also be a basis of cutting power. In woodworking, a 1HP Drill Press is enough for both amateur and professionals. Depending on how massive you work, you can always upgrade. Overall, a Drill Press is there for drilling or enlarging holes faster and more convenient.

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