This website is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission.

How to choose the best drill presses

Last Updated: 22.01.22


If you are into do-it-yourself jobs, or want to explore a new hobby, or just want to own a new tool that can enhance your current workshop repertoire, getting the best drill press can prove to be a great solution. The drill press is one of the most versatile pieces of workshop equipment for your tool gear collection or home garage.

Primarily used to bore evenly sized holes into a work piece, this device can also drill hole sections to your selected depths. With a drill press, you can bore holes with exact and repeatable precision, even through hard materials and at a required angle. Buying this kind of tool requires knowledge of what to look for to ensure you’re getting a device you can actually use.


Features to know before buying a drill press:





When in the market for a really capable drill press, you need to think about the machine’s capacity. This is expressed in the maximum horsepower that the tool can deliver. Prior to choosing a unit, you will have to determine what the machine will primarily be used for. To bore large holes, the drill press needs to have greater horsepower. You can choose units having a range of horsepower ratings from ¼ to a full horsepower motor.




When deciding on capacity, you will also need to consider the machine’s size. The size is measured from the center of the bore or the chuck, where the drill is attached, to the column housing the motor. This distance or parameter is measured in inches multiplied by two. Thus, the size is twice the machine’s throat depth. For instance, with a 14-inch drill press, you can drill a hole 7 inches from the edge of the board positioned across the drill press table. 7 inches is called the unit’s swing (throat calculation), which denotes the width of the work piece that the machine can accept. Therefore, the 14-inch drill press can reach the middle of a 14-inch piece of material.

Remember also, that depth potential and quill travel basically signify the same thing: drilling capacity. The higher these numbers are, the deeper the holes that the tool can drill.



Variable Speed


Owning a variable speed drill press allows you to bore through a range of materials using different diameter holes without damaging the drill bits or the work piece. There are five to twelve speed settings on drill presses. For greater versatility, get a drill press with more speed settings. Clean cuts on hardwoods are ensured with adjustable drill speeds. When you adjust the speed, you allow the machine’s belt to be moved to a different set of pulleys inside the housing for the motor.

You will also need to consider if the machine has depth blocks or a depth-stopping mechanism. This ensures that the quill stops once the selected level of penetration is reached.

When considering spindle or drill speed, you have to consider the type of material being worked on, its hardness, the hole size, along with the sharpness, hardness and type of drill bit used. As drilling speed increases, so does productivity, but this also means a faster wear on the tooling.

Experts recommend starting off at about 75% of the recommended drilling speeds, which puts a balance between tool life and machining time. Generally, a slower spindle speed won’t be of consequence save for when using extremely small drill bits, which makes it hard to feel the resistance from the metal. Using the recommended rpm is best in this case, so that the device won’t chew off too much metal too quickly.





When shopping for a drill press, you will need to consider what attachments and accessories come with the machine, and what other components the unit accepts. As your skill level gets higher, you may find more use for a greater number of attachments and accessories.

Most machines feature drill press tables that can be lowered or raised along the full length of the column. The table can also swivel around the column to 360 degrees, which proves valuable when boring oddly-shaped pieces. Higher priced models feature large, tilting tables with fences, which help position the work piece for repetitive holes. Fences also enable you to complete more than one hole and to ensure accurate bit positioning. For drilling precise mortices, you will need mortising attachments that connect to the quill. For sanding irregular patterns and edges, you will need sanding drums that attach to the chuck.

For squaring the edges of your work piece or cutting rabbets, you will also need planer heads that attach to the chuck. With mortising attachments, you can quickly and easily make mortise and tenon joints. A high speed drill press allows you to attach several sizes of sanding drums for accurate operations when creating finely rounded ornamental shapes and circles.



Model Variations


Having the advantage of a movable table, a floor model drill press allows you to work effortlessly on unusual applications. A floor standing machine offers a swing that stretches from 13 to 20 inches, as well as a stroke from three to six inches. This type of machine provides greater power and capacity for regular or commercial, heavy-duty and professional tasks. A floor model also typically comes with more attachments and accessories.

There is also a wide array of bench top drill presses on the market. With a benchtop model, the machine can swing from 8 to 12 inches, and the stroke will reach from 2 to 3 3/8 inches. Storage is not a problem with a compact benchtop drill press. This type can help you complete simple household jobs and light professional applications.

A Magnetic model offers a swing from 4 to 8 inches and has the ability to bore through steel objects over 4 inches thick. A magnetic unit enables easy transport from one site to another.

A radial drill press provides a swing of at least 24 inches. This type is specially designed to allow angled drilling. The wide swing enables you to bore through broad work pieces, or anything wider than 17 inches.





When buying a drill press, you will have to establish the primary use of the unit. This enables you to determine what size, capacity or how powerful the machine should be. Variable spin speeds are a must, as they enable you to get a more versatile machine for a variety of applications. Consider too, the accessories, attachments and features of the machine to ensure they are a perfect fit for your workshop needs. Then you can decide if you’re going to get a floor-standing or benchtop model, or probably another type of drill press for special requirements.

One product worth considering is the SKIL 3320-01 120-Volt 10-Inch Drill Press, which is outfitted with a powerful 3.2amp motor, five speeds ranging from 570 to 3,050 rpm, a work surface/table that tilts 0 to 45 degrees left and right, a depth adjustment system, and a patented LaserX2 2 Beam Laser System. This drill press is designed for larger-scale building and furniture projects.