A drill press is one of the most dependable tools a woodworker or metalworker can own. It’s an extremely easy tool to use, but it also simplifies otherwise difficult cuts to make, compared to using other tools. If you don’t already have a drill press in your workshop, then you’re missing out on a lot.
Major Benefits of a Drill Press
A high-quality drill press takes out many variables that could ruin your stock. Here are just a few of the benefits you can get from having a dependable drill press in your workshop.
The main reason why any craftsman should consider investing in a drill press is accuracy. Imagine needing to drill precise holes with a certain width at a certain depth in hundreds or thousands of wooden board. With a drill press, all you need to do is attach the right bit, set up stop blocks, and adjust the drill press’ depth gauge. With each plunge, the drill press will insert the bit to the desired depth every time. Repeat the process, and you can complete repetitive, time-consuming tasks in no time.
You could argue that a drill press is just a glorified power drill. In a sense, this is true. However, when it comes to drilling repeated holes quickly, a power drill has nothing on the drill press. Drill presses come with heavy-duty motors that allow users to remove greater amounts from their stock with each plunge. Basically, apart from making precise holes with a turn of the feed lever, you can reduce the amount of time needed to make complicated measurements, significantly increasing your productivity.
With the right bits and attachments, your drill press can be used for a wide range of different applications. You can use a drill press to sand if you have a rotary sanding disc or spindle smoother attachment. With a mortise bit, you can punch square holes into your stock. Moreover, a drill press isn’t just for drilling holes in wood, but with the right bit, you can use it to punch holes into metal and plastic.
Finally, the most important benefit that a drill press has to offer is maximum safety. A variable speed feature gives the user complete control when plunging the bit into a stock of any size. You can use built-in clamps or a vice to attach your stock onto the work table of a drill press, so your mind and hands are focused entirely on plunging the bit with extreme precision.
This also means that your hands and fingers are out of harm’s way when a sharp, quick-spinning bit removes material from your stock.
Types of Drill Presses
If you’re considering purchasing a drill press, it’s important that you know the different types of drill presses that are available. Basically, there are two options for you to choose from. Below, we’ll describe what each of the types are and what unique benefits they offer.
Freestanding Floor Model
A floor drill press is the more powerful of the two options. They come with beefier motors that let you punch deep holes into thicker stock. There are also more attachments available for floor models, so versatility is not a question. Floor models are designed to handle the roughest, toughest drilling jobs, and are thus better suited for heavy-duty construction jobs.
They also come with their own large, heavy stand which helps keep the unit and work table steady while drilling holes into thick stock.
There are two drawbacks of a floor drill press. The first is that it takes up quite a bit of space. If you operate out of your garage, you’ll need to allocate several square feet in your work area so you can run this machine comfortably. The second drawback is the price tag as floor drill presses are rather costly and not worth the investment unless you’re a professional craftsman or construction worker.
The drawbacks of a floor model won’t be an issue if you get a benchtop model. They are relatively inexpensive and don’t take any floor space. You will need to mount the machine on your bench or cabinet, but at least you won’t have to tiptoe around the machine to avoid accidentally bumping into it.
Although benchtop drill presses have smaller motors, it doesn’t mean that you can’t complete your woodworking or metalworking projects with one. However, they do have smaller throat and spindle capacities, so you need to keep your stock size within the machine’s limited capacity. Benchtop models also have a wide range of different attachments for you to use, making these machines just as versatile as a floor model.
Drill Press for Metal Buying Guide
Finding a drill press isn’t all that difficult considering the seemingly infinite number of manufacturers and models. However, like any power tool, picking a drill press shouldn’t be done without a bit of knowledge. The following section will focus on the most important specs to consider if you’re planning on investing in a reliable drill press for metalworking.
The first thing you need to consider when searching for the right drill press is which type you need. Freestanding floor models are the heavy-duty, industrial-grade, floor space-hungry type that comes with unlimited drilling power.
Benchtop bandsaws are more appropriate for home workshops and small-scale commercial craftsmen since their motors are somewhat limited in what they can deliver. Performance-wise, they’re not bad, but they are just limited in what they can do and what size stock they can handle.
When it comes to drill presses, more power is always better, especially when working on dense materials like metal and hardwoods. However, how many amps or horsepower you actually need depends on what you do on a regular basis. You don’t need a super-beefy motor if you’re only drilling small holes in thin sheets of metal.
We feel that you can get a tremendous amount of value out of drill presses that come with at least 3-amp motors. This is about the sweet spot for handling minor construction jobs and drilling in metal frames. The more you do with a drill press, the more power you’ll need.
It’s important that your drill press provides enough speed for the drill bit to enter into the stock without damaging both the stock and the bit. For drilling into metal, there are specific bits that you should have on hand, and they should be spun at a specific speed to ensure that the bit enters the metal stock without wandering.
Drilling through metal requires the bit moving at a slow pace. However, when working with wood, you need speed. To satisfy both of these requirements, we recommend finding a variable speed drill press that lets the operator adjust the drill bit speed to suit whatever materials he or she is working on. Try and find a model with several different gears that provides between 500 RPM on its lowest gear and at least 2,500 RPM on its highest.
A depth stop is a mechanism within the drill press that guarantees every opening you drill will be at the same depth. This is essential for making identical holes (width and depth) in numerous pieces of stock. Having a depth stop beats manually measuring each hole before moving to the next piece for the next plunge.
You only need to consider the weight of a drill press if you’re looking for a portable tool. This means that freestanding floor drill presses that stay stagnant in one position in your workshop can weigh whatever they like, but portable benchtop drill presses need to be light enough to move but sturdy enough to overcome vibrations.
Luckily, almost every benchtop drill press is lightweight and won’t require multiple people to lift. However, keep in mind that that, in general, the heavier the unit, the more power it packs. Lighter units will oftentimes feature weaker motors, rendering them incapable of handling many medium-duty drilling tasks.
Drill presses usually don’t come with large tables, but they should be made of a heavy-duty material to withstand downward pressure coming from both the user and spindle. There’s really no right or wrong sized table, and it all depends on your personal preferences and how large a stock you plan on drilling. A drill press table can come with its own set of special features, such as the ability to tilt, rotate, and move up and down depending on your desired drilling depth.
There are several accessories that can come with a drill press. These include clamps for keeping your stock in place while you penetrate its surface with the drill bit; onboard storage space to keep your chuck key, tools, several bits, and even lubricant; LED lights to illuminate your work surface for enhanced visibility; and a laser guide to show you where the bit will enter into your stock.
These accessories won’t do anything to improve a drill press’ performance, but they help in improving the user’s experience while operating a drill press. We recommend making a list of the accessories that are most important to you and find a drill press based on that list.
Top 5 Drill Presses for Metal
In the previous segment, we’ve listed the most important specs and features to consider when looking at possible drill presses to take home with you. However, just like any power tool, there are several drill press manufacturers who produce several different models, making the task of picking the right one that much more confusing.
To help you in your search for Mr. Right-Metal-Drill-Press, we’ve included five of our favorite drill press models for you to consider. Note to the reader: these are all benchtop models.
5 BUCKTOOL Drill Press
The first drill press we want to share with you is the 10-inch, 5-speed machine from BUCKTOOL. This is a benchtop model with a ½-inch chuck for heavy-duty drilling. With the right bit, you can use this tool to drill through metal like it was warm butter.
This drill press features a hefty 6.2-amp motor and five different speeds, ranging from 610 RPM to 2,800 RPM. This versatile drill press is able to bore holes into metal, plastic, and wood with very little resistance.
This BUCKTOOL drill press has a maximum travel distance of 2 inches. You can increase the drilling depth of this tool by adjusting the height of the worktable which can bevel up to 45°. To help with repeated cuts, you simply need to spin the two nuts located on the left-hand side opposite the three-spoke feed handle.
There are several special features that come with this drill press, including a handy LED light that illuminates your work surface and a cross-laser guide which gives you an accurate estimate of where the bit will enter your stock. Some customers have complained that the cross-laser guide isn’t exactly centered, but you’ll get used to it after a couple plunged.
4 WEN 4212 10-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press
The next item on our list is the powerful, benchtop 4212 from WEN. This drill press works extremely well on metal, let alone wood – both soft and hard – and plastic. It features a 4.5-amp motor that delivers up to 3,100 RPM.
There aren’t any precise gears on this machine, but instead, the user has the freedom to choose how quickly the bit will spin starting from 530 RPM. An LED digital readout lets you know the maximum speed in which the bit while you adjust the variable speed wheel.
The 4212 has a maximum spindle travel distance of 2-3/8 inches. The worktable can go up and down to increase or decrease how far the spindle travels into your stock. To help limit the depth of the drill and make accurate repeated cuts every time, you can couple the adjustable height of the table (can tilt up to 45°) with the reliable depth stop.
Like the BUCKTOOL model, this drill press from WEN also has a laser guide in a cross pattern to let you know where the bit will enter your stock. Like the BUCKTOOL, the laser guide shouldn’t be your only way of determining where the bit will penetrate your stock since, out of the box, it may come misaligned.
3 SKIL 3320-01 3.2 Amp 10-Inch Drill Press
Next, we’re going to take a look at the 3320-01 from SKIL. This drill press is designed to tackle all types of materials with a twist of the feed lever. It has enough power to handle whatever you put on the worktable, including nonferrous metals, and won’t give up.
First, this 10-inch drill press comes with a 3.2-amp motor and offers five different speeds for use on different materials. This 5-speed operation starts at 570 RPM and can be cranked all the way up to 3,050 RPM.
The 3320-01 has a spindle travel distance of 2-1/2 inches. Like any drill press, you can deepen the drilling capacity of this machine by adjusting the height of the 7-5/8 x 7-5/8-inch table which bevels up to 45°.
To help ensure maximum precision, this tool also comes with a cross-laser guide. We found that the laser, though quite dim, is actually perfectly squared straight out of the box. However, the most surprising thing about this machine is despite being a corded-electric model; the laser runs off of AA batteries. Weird, huh?
Anyway, the power that is packed in the 3320-01 is nothing to scoff at. It’s perhaps one of the best-rated benchtop drill presses out there.
2 WEN 4208 8 in. 5-Speed Drill Press
The second to last item on our list is another of WEN’s awesome creations – the 4208 benchtop drill press. This 8-inch machine comes with a 2.3-amp motor that can power the machine at five different speed levels, ranging from 740 to 3,140 RPM. To change gears, you need to adjust the belt, unlike in the larger 4212 model where you can set the speed to whatever RPM you like within its capacity.
This machine comes with a 6-1/2 x 6-1/2-inch cast iron table that can tilt up to 45° to the left and right. In order to deal with vibrations, WEN has included a cast iron base which is mounted onto your workbench or cabinet.
This is one of the simpler drill presses out there with very few bells and whistles. Unlike the 4212, this model doesn’t come with a cross laser and LED light. This makes this machine more appropriate for more experienced users who don’t need to rely on laser guides, but first-time buyers may have to undergo a long learning curve in order to get the feeling of where the bit will penetrate.
This is one of the smoother operating drill presses we’ve tested. However, despite being simple to use and easy to adjust, the drilling capacity of this tool only allows you to work on small-sized stock. For larger projects, you’ll need to refer to the other drill presses on our list.
1 WEN 4214 12-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press
Finally, the number one product on our list of the top 5 drill presses for metal is another of WEN’s beast machines – the 4214. Although this is a benchtop model, there are plenty of ways that this model has surprised us.
First of all, the 4214 comes with a beefy 5-amp motor that offers a wide range of different speeds, starting from 580 RPM for metal and plastic all the way up to 3,200 for wood-based stock. This model doesn’t require you to toy around with a belt in order to adjust the speed. Instead, you just need to spin the speed lever of the left and the LED readout will show the maximum RPMs the tool will deliver. This offers maximum versatility when dealing with different materials of varying thicknesses.
The WEN 4214 is one of the larger benchtop models on the market, coming with a humungous 9-1/2 x 9-1/2-inch cast iron table for maximum support for large stock. It has a spindle travel of 3-1/8 inches, allowing you to dig deeper into you stock with each plunge. The cast iron table, which can travel up and down, can help further increase the spindle distance if needed. One thing we need to add about the table is that you can extend the throat capacity by pulling out the table roller extension.
This machine comes with both an LED light that offers maximum visibility when drilling dark metals and a super-precise cross-laser guide. There have been some complaints about the LED light suddenly powering off for minutes at a time, but the manufacturer is more than happy to help solve this.
Having a drill press can really help you up your woodworking and metalworking game significantly. With a good drill press in your shop, you don’t need to worry about spending a ton of time measuring, re-measuring, then drilling in order to produce repeated drills in several sheets or bars of metal. Instead, just set the depth stop to the desired depth, pull the feed lever, and you’ll produce identical holes in no time.
If you’re looking for a drill press, there are two types that you should consider. The first is the freestanding floor drill press which takes up a bit of space in your shop but has all the power you’ll ever need for huge projects. Benchtop models are more popular due to their compact size, portability, power, and (of course) reduced price tag.
Choose a model based on what you need, though the price will definitely play a role in determining which type of drill press to get.
There are also several features and specs to consider when choosing a good drill press for your metalworking shop. These include the strength of the motor, speed adjustability, accuracy in setting the depth stop, weight (for benchtop models), sturdiness of the worktable, and special features and accessories.
We’ve included our picks of the five best drill press models for metalworking, but they also work beautifully on plastic- and wood-based stock.
The drill press that tops our list is the mega 4214 from WEN. This machine, though a benchtop model, offers a tremendous amount of power, versatility, and ease of use that you might not find in other brands and models. Basically, it’s a heavy-duty machine encased in a mini 36-1/2-inch body that doesn’t take up much space.