Choosing a Drill Press

A drill press is an essential tool for drilling precisely spaced holes or boring to exact depths. With the right set-up you can bore at almost any angle without fear of the drill bit walking or reaming the hole out of round. With the right attachments, a drill press can also serve as a spindle sander, mortise machine or a pocket hole machine. Given their versatility and relatively low cost, a drill press is an excellent investment for most any shop.Lowe’s is happy to provide this information as a service to you.

Model Variations

When shopping for a drill press, you’ll have to choose between two basic models:

  •   • Bench-top drill presses mount directly to a workbench or on their own stands. Their compact size makes bench-top models good choices for small shops.
  •   • Floor-model drill presses usually have more powerful motors, more attachments/accessories and greater material handling capacities than bench-tops. The extra versatility makes floor models good choices for serious DIY and commercial shops.

Major Considerations

When you’re looking for a drill press, compare the following:

  •   • Horsepower (HP) is the maximum power produced by the motor. Higher horsepower allows you to bore larger holes through tougher material. Drill presses are available with motors from 1/4 to 1 HP.
  •   • Size/center drilling capacity is determined by the distance from the centre of the chuck to the column. Since the press can bore a hole in a circle with a diameter two times the distance from the centre of the chuck to the column, the size is listed as twice the distance from the column to the centre of the chuck. A 16″ drill press can drill a hole up to 8″ from the edge of a straight board or at the centre of a 16″ diameter circle.
  •   • Variable speeds allow you to drill different diameter holes through different materials without damaging the material or drill bits. Drill presses are available with five to twelve speed settings. The more speed settings, the more versatile the drill press.
  •   • The table on most drill presses can be raised and lowered along the entire length of the column. It can also swivel 360° around the column for boring oddly shaped pieces. Better presses have large, tilting tables with fences.
  •   • Quill travel determines the depth to which the press can bore holes. Greater quill travel allows you to bore deeper holes.
  •   • Depth-stops control the depth to which the quill descends and limit the depth of the hole. Depth-stops are good for repetitive boring and dowel holes. The more precise your depth-stops, the more accurate your boring operations.


When choosing a drill press, check to see what accessories and attachments are standard and find out what other attachments the drill press accepts. If you’re just starting out, all the extras may seem unnecessary, but as your skill level rises, you’ll appreciate the added functions. Look for the following things:

  •   • Fences attach to the table and help position stock for repetitive holes.
  •   • Mortising attachments connect to the quill for drilling precise mortises.
  •   • Sanding drums attach to the chuck for sanding irregular edges or patterns.
  •   • Planer heads attach to the chuck for squaring the edges of stock or cutting rabbets.

Drill Bits

The bit is the most important part of the drill press. Without quality, well-maintained bits, the best press won’t function properly. When choosing your bits, match the bit to the material you’re boring.

  •   • Steel bits are inexpensive and work well for boring in softwood. Steel bits dull quickly in hardwood.
  •   • High-speed steel bits (HSS) are harder than steel bits and stay sharp longer.
  •   • Titanium coated bits cost slightly more than HSS bits, but their titanium coating is tougher so the bit stays sharp longer than HSS or steel bits.
  •   • Carbide-tipped bits are more expensive than other bits, but they stay sharp much longer than steel, high-speed steel or titanium bits.
  •   • Cobalt bits are extremely hard and dissipate heat quickly, they’re most commonly used for boring in stainless steel and other metals.

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