Drill presses are versatile machines used to drill deep holes into wood, metal, and plastic. They come in all shapes and sizes, and the best part of these machines is that they can produce identical holes at identical depths across numerous pieces in hardly any time at all. After setting the depth adjustment, clamp down your workpiece and pull the lever. No trouble at all.
That is, of course, unless you’re working with large pieces that can’t be lifted. Or worse yet, you need to drill holes into vertical-standing pieces metal support beams that are too large and are already fixated to the ground. So what do you do thenYour best bet would be to use a magnetic drill press machine.
What is a Magnetic Drill Press Machine?
A magnetic drill press machine – mag drill for short – is a compact, lightweight, and versatile tool that you take to the workpiece and not vice versa. It’s considered a specialty tool to most so you may not always need it for every project, but when it is needed, it makes the drilling task much easier and quicker to complete.
Mag drills are comprised of four major components: a magnetic base found on the bottom of the tool, a drill stand, an arbor or chuck to hold the drill bit, and a motor. Several types of bits can be fitted into the machine, like twist drills, annular cutters, reamers, and countersinks.
Why use a Magnetic Drill Press Machine?
The convenience of using a mag drill is astronomical. When working in hard to reach places, a mag drill shines brighter than a regular drill press with the same metal-cutting drill bit. The most common places where contractors opt for a mag drill are I-beams and other vertical-standing, stationary pieces of thick metal. The magnetic base keeps the mag drill adhered to a ferrous metal surface in any orientation (horizontally, vertically, and even upside down) and prevents it from slipping and sliding while you make the cut.
Limitations of a Magnetic Drill Press Machine
Even though we stated that a mag drill is a versatile tool, it’s not something that every metalworker needs, especially if you’re a hobbyist or don’t need to drill wide holes into thick pieces of metal. Since these are specialty tools, for the average DIY-er, using one may not be as cost-effective as you might have originally hoped. For the most part, if you’re working out of a garage workshop, then you can get by with a regular drill press – either a floor model or a benchtop model – fitted with annular cutters for drilling wide 1- to 2-inch holes.
Magnetic Drill Press Machine Buying Guide
If you’re interested in purchasing a mag drill, then take a look at our brief buying guide on how you can get the best deal. We’ll go over the various specs and features that need careful consideration when shopping for the right tool for your line of work.
The three types of mag drills available are electric, pneumatic, and hydraulic.
Electric mag drills can be further divided into corded-electric and cordless (battery-powered) mag drills. Each has their own sets of pluses and minuses. Corded models have an uninterrupted source of power which translates into reduced downtime. However, they may not be able to reach every piece in restricted areas due to their power cords.
Cordless mag drills solve the problem of portability but come with significantly weaker motors. Not to mention their batteries provide very limited usage per charge – typically around 20 to 25 minutes. They can also be heavier than their corded brethren, making it a bit more difficult to maneuver and stick into high places.
Pneumatic mag drills draw power from compressed air produced by an air compressor. Situations that would call for a pneumatic mag drill rather than electric include drilling in damp rooms, and in the presence of highly inflammable materials. Pneumatic tools are generally more powerful than electric, and pneumatic mag drills are no exception. The only issue we have is that you need to invest in and lug around an air compressor to use it.
Unless you’re drilling underwater, you most likely won’t need a hydraulic mag drill. They are equipped with a closed loop system which prevents water from seeping into the delicate components hidden under the casing. Apart from being highly specialized tools, they also cost a fortune. We recommend sticking to electric or pneumatic mag drills for everyday use.
The power output is one of the most important considerations. The power of each model varies greatly so spend some time researching what you need and which tools can provide. A good place to start would be a 1,000-watt or 8-amp tool, though drilling through thicker pieces of metal will require more motor power. Smaller motors with fewer watts and amps may be suitable for your line of work, but be aware that weaker motors are for lighter jobs, and more demanding tasks can cause the motor to burn.
Even though looks aren’t everything, they do mean a lot. Things to look out for are light models of around 50 pounds or so, dual handles for easy lifting, and a removable handle that accommodates both left- and right-handed users.
The most overlooked feature of a mag drill is ironically the magnet. It’s easy to forget that the magnets are there to hold the unit in place on ferrous metals until testing out the machine only to find that gravity has a greater hold on it than the magnets. Check and make sure that the tool can adhere to metal surfaces without the slightest drop in height.
Another thing to consider is investing in chains. A set of chains serve as extra insurance to keep the unit in place in case the magnets somehow fail to do their thing. They also help tremendously in preventing the drill from smacking the ground during power failures or when the battery is suddenly out of juice.
For specific metalworking tasks, a magnetic drill press machine can be an invaluable tool to have. It allows you to drill deep, wide holes in any metal pieces that are too heavy to carry to a regular drill press – you take the tool to where the hole needs to be drilled, pull the lever, and you’ve got yourself a perfectly de-burred hole. Admittedly, mag drills aren’t exactly a must-have tool for everyone, especially if a regular drill press fitted with a metal-cutting drill bit can suffice, but for more demanding jobs on site, a mag drill pays for itself in performance and convenience.