Drill press vs. Hand Drill: What’s the Difference?

Drill Press and Hand Drill are the most common types of drills for woodworking. Knowing the difference between the two is essential in doing the right work.

These drills differ in size, functionality, mechanism, power, capacity, effectiveness, and price. A drill press is more powerful, accurate, and faster in drilling because it has an automatic motor. Meanwhile, you have to spin the crank by your hand when using a Hand Drill.

How are you going to determine which device is appropriate for a specific project? Well, you can find definite explanations after reading this guide.

Drill press vs. Hand Drill: An In-Depth Comparison

What’s the difference between Drill press vs. Hand Drill? Here’s an in-depth comparison of the two drills. Let’s start by comparing the features of each.

  • Size. A hand drill is smaller than drill press for easy storing and portability. On the other hand, a Drill Press is bigger often used for penetrating thicker woods.
  • Mechanism. A hand drill has a manual mechanism since human hand controls and determines the speed of the machine. As opposed to this, a Drill Press has automatic motors with automated speed. It has a speed control dial to increase or decrease the drill’s speed.
  • Accuracy. The accuracy for using a Drill Press is higher because it ensures stability at the right angle that results in accurate and equal holes. It can lock the drill bit to the place where you want to drill a hole.
  • Power. Drill Press has a powerful motor mechanism, so it provides more dynamism and better aim in drilling. On the contrary, a hand drill only requires you to use a significant amount of physical energy to drill through the material, and it can be exhausting.
  • Speed. The speed of using a hand drill depends on how much force you can give in drilling versus the angle and depth of the hole. The process is slower and limited by your control. A Drill Press allows you to set angles, depth, and speed before drilling. So, the process becomes faster, with little to no fatigue at all.
  • Functionality. A Drill Press can penetrate holes at any angle with efficiency, while a Hand Drill may give inconvenience and it’s more challenging. So, when you’re running out of time, it’s always helpful to have a Drill Press at your working station.
  • Safety of Use. Safety is one of the best benefits of using a Drill Press. First, it has a clamp used to hold the material in place, so you don’t have to sacrifice your hands holding it. You can also control the speed better, which eliminates the risk of breakage and accidents during drilling.
  • Price. A Hand Drill is cheaper, that’s why more woodworkers who are on the little budget would prefer using it. The Drill Press is, unfortunately, expensive. The price of both drills depends on the brand, but it won’t change the fact that Drill Press is more costly than a Hand Drill.

What is a Drill Press? 

Drill Press

A Drill Press is a powerful tool for drilling holes. An excellent tool for drilling bigger diameter holes or harder materials.

It is a popular choice for woodworkers who needs power and accuracy in drilling holes. A Drill Press has a support column attached to a sturdy base and has a powerful motor assembled atop the support column.

The weight is a lot heavier compared to conventional hand-held drills. It may not be portable, but a Drill Press reduces side-to-side movements that usually happens in using Hand Drills.

What Are the Advantages of Drill Press?

  1. Drill Press is more accurate, thanks to its adjustable height, and bevelling tables. It becomes a lot easier to drill holes.
  2. Drill Press is faster and more efficient because of its pre-setting elements that allow you to work simultaneously with fewer mistakes, although it doesn’t guarantee 100% without proper guidance.
  3. Drill Press is stalwart because of the powerful machine that makes your job faster and easier.
  4. Drill Press is safer to use. It has a fixed drill press with a sturdy frame for support, which provides greater control and stability. You don’t have to use too much force to push hard, so you can reduce the risk of injury.

What Are the Disadvantages of Drill Press?

  1. One of the most noticeable drawbacks of a Drill Press is portability. Since it has a built-in automatic machine, it’s heavier. There are smaller models that you can find today, but they are more expensive.
  2. You will have less control in drilling since it is not movable. So, there may be some moments that drilling at an angle will be challenging because you can’t move the Drill Press properly.
  3. It is more difficult and complicated to fix the motor when it’s broken. Since the machine has different elements inside, you need a professional technician specializing in drills to repair it.

What is a Hand Drill?

Hand Drill

A Hand Drill is a small device to drill a hole manually. In using a Hand Drill, you have to spin the crank to penetrate the material. Still, many woodworkers are using it until today.

The greatest disadvantage of using a hand drill is fatigue. Spinning the crank for a long period can be exhausting, which may cause inaccuracy in your work.

What Are the Advantages of Using a Hand Drill?

  1. A Hand Drill is a lot quicker to use in drilling thinner materials. No need to be fancy, and you can do the job in a minute or two.
  2. Versatility is another notable advantage of using a Hand Drill. You can effortlessly drill a material at different angles. Plus, it’s very handy that you can bring it anywhere. 
  3. A hand Drill gives you the sense to drill multiple shapes with better control. Non-circular holes can be tough when using a Drill Press because you have to angle it right. It will provide more comprehensive choices in drilling.

What Are the Disadvantages of a Hand Drill?

  1. It would be almost impossible to use a Hand Drill on thick materials. You can either risk and end up with an exhausted hand, or, worse, having an injury.
  2. You will have a limited reach because the jaws only have restricted depth. You can only drill a hole at a certain distance.
  3. It is harder to create a hole in the center of a large piece of material because of the drill’s limited reach.
  4. Physical fatigue is the greatest drawback in using a hand drill.

Which Drill Should Do I use?

It depends on the type of wood that you’re drilling. For drilling thinner woods, a Hand Drill should work perfectly well. If you’re drilling thicker materials, a Drill Press is ideal. It would save you more energy and time.

When it comes to accuracy, most woodworkers would say that a Drill Press is faster and more precise. However, a Hand Drill should work well if you want portability and you’re not a hardcore woodworker.

How To Use a Hand Drill?

Step 1: Choose the Right Drill Bit. Loosen the chuck, it is part of the drill that holds the drill bit. Then, insert the appropriate bit into the chuck and tighten it. Drill Bits have different kinds according to a specific use, so make sure to pick the right one for the material.

  • How to Choose The Right Drill Bit?

You can find many Drill Bits, and come into three categorizations. More often, it is applicable to both Drill Press and Hand Drill.

  • There are Masonry Drill Bits for stone, tile, and cinder block. 
  • Metal Drill Bits drill through soft aluminum.
  • For woodworking, we have Wood Drill Bits. Wood Drill Bits have a small pointed tip and the most versatile and most commonly used drill bits. 

Wood Drill Bits have two kinds which include Steel Bits for softwoods, and Titanium-coated which are the most durable and can last longer. All kinds of Drill Bits come with pilot hole charts, which identify the Right Drill Bit for a specific job. As a rule of thumb, use…

  • A Drill Bit 1/64″ smaller than the target hole size for softwoods.
  • A Drill Bit with the same size as the hole when working on other materials.
  • If you are unsure of the size, choose a Drill Bit 1/64″ that is bigger than the hole that you will drill. It will estimate some variables, such as wood density and screw type.

Step 2: Mark Your Hole. Before drilling, mark where you will start your hole. It will serve as your guide in drilling. Without a starting point, it may be confusing along the way, and it tends to “walk” across the material.

Step 3: Clamp Your Material. Make sure to clamp your material to a workbench or table, so it becomes stable. Put a piece of scrap wood under the wood that you’re going to drill to avoid any damage to your workbench.

Step 4: Start Drilling. Position the hand drill perpendicular to the material. Grasp the handle firmly and apply pressure from your palm into the center of the handle. Begin cranking slowly, and add a little speed as you see that tiny hole. Do it slowly, and with precision for every crank.

Step 5: Clean Out of Wood Chips. Whenever you see wood dust and wood chips near the hole, pull the drill bit out and blow them away. Once the gap is clear, continue cranking until you create that hole.

Step 6: Remove the Drill Bit. After drilling, make sure to remove, and clean the Drill Bit as well as the Hand Drill itself. Wipe some accumulated wood dust or chips to maintain a sharp drill bit. As mentioned, always keep your drill bits properly, so it would be easier for you to choose the right size next time.

How to Use a Drill Press

Step 1: Prepare All Essentials. Here are the essentials that you need to start using a Drill Press.

Center Punch Adds accuracy, and helps in marking your wood. It creates a tiny divot to help you find the location of your cutting point.
Hole Size Guide It works well if you can’t find the right size for your drill bit or in finding the right hole.
Different Sizes of Drill Bits Pilot Point Bits is more common for Drill Press. It has a cone shape that helps in finding the center punch in drilling. 

Brad Point Bit has little spikes with angled down cones for a cleaner drill. 

A Forstner Bit is excellent if you’re not going through the other side of the hole because it has a flat bottom. 

Mortise and Tenons work like adaptors for cutting square holes.
Wooden Woodworkers Clamp For holding the wood in place when drilling and avoid getting your fingers close to the drill bit.

Step 2: Hold the Wood in Place. Never use your hand in holding your material in place when using a Drill Press. Use a wooden clamp to lock the wood, that way you’re not holding it close to the drill bit. Plus, it provides a more stable grip. Always remember to clamp EVERYTHING – especially the material and backer board – on the table.

Step 3: Use a Backer Board. Don’t forget to use a backer board, especially if drilling through the wood. It acts as a zero clearance on the table saw. When the drills start penetrating the backer board, it stops drilling and eliminates tear-out.

Step 4: Stable Your Drill Press. Once you’re done marking your drilling point, line up the drill bit, and lock your drill press. Most Drill Presses have a micro-adjust feature, to help you in targeting and close your drill bit at the perfect spot.

Step 5: Adjust the Speed. The speed usually depends on the thickness and hardness of the wood or the kind of material you’re going to drill. Don’t worry because Drill Press has a guide at what pace you can set the machine. More often, medium speed is always better for woodworking.

Step 6: Choose the Right Drill Bit. Choosing the right drill bit depends on the kind of hole that you are working on.

There are specific types of drill bits for small to large circular holes, and even square holes. It’s all about picking the right size. Once you have the right Drill Bit on hand, lock it up on the Chuckle and start drilling. 

Unlike Hand Drills, you just have to turn on the Drill Press, and it will automatically drill on its own. Your job is to make sure that it’s drilling the right hole, and that the wood clamp holds everything tightly in place.


What Tools Should Every Woodworker Have?

Aside from Drills, you’ll also need chisels, different kinds of saws,  Random Orbital Sander, and wood clamps are some of the fundamental tools. Additionally, don’t forget to wear safety gear and clothes whenever you’re in your working area.

What Is a Good Drill for Home Use?

A hand drill is always suitable for home use. A Drill Press requires some space, but if you have extra space in your home, then, go for it. A cordless power drill is versatile for any drilling job at home.

Final Words

A Hand Drill is perfect for simple woodworking jobs. If it involves smaller wood, it is the best tool to use. When your woodworking project calls for large-diameter holes, precision and speed, a Drill Press is the better tool. It has a sturdy motor and has more advanced features. Overall, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of their distinction and when to use each tool. In the end, you want precision to get the right size and a clean hole.

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