When your woodworking plans call for holes to be drilled in pieces of stock, you could certainly use a hand-operated power drill or cordless drill. However, if precision is a concern or if you have large-diameter holes to drill, you should consider using a drill press. There are a number of features that make a quality drill press a real asset to any woodworker. First of all, with a drill press, you can preset the depth of your hole and cut numerous holes at the same depth consistently. Second, with a drill press, you can use forstner bits, spade bits, and hole saws to smoothly and safely bore wider diameter holes. Also, with a floor-standing drill press and a long bit, you can bore out very deep holes that would be next to impossible with a hand-held power drill.
The first thing to decide when looking for a drill press is whether you want a floor-standing model or one that can be mounted on a workbench. Floor-standing models can not only drill into much larger pieces of stock, but they also tend to have larger motors, which make for smoother boring of holes.
Look for a unit that has the ability to change speeds. Most units are belt-driven, with a series of pulleys above the motor housing. Changing the belt to a different pulley configuration will change the speed of the chuck. Drill hardwoods and metals at slower speeds, but softwoods require faster speeds.
The feed lever on your drill press should have two or three handles around the spindle to allow for the greatest amount of control. When you let go of the handle, the feed mechanism should automatically raise out of the stock slowly. However, you should be able to lock the mechanism at any depth should the need arise.
If you choose a floor-standing model, look for one that has a table that can be tilted to at least 45-degrees and can be swiveled out of the way if necessary. The table should also have some slots that allow you to clamp jigs or fences to the table.
Look for a model with as large of a throat (the distance between the vertical column and the center of the table) as possible. The wider the throat, the larger the stock you’ll be able to work with.
As with all woodworking tools, be sure to read and follow the instructions that accompany the power tool. Safety should always be at the forefront of your mind when woodworking, and using a drill press is no different. Serious injury can occur when working with a drill press, particularly if loose articles of clothing were to be caught in the chuck or any moving part of the tool. Therefore, it is wise to always dress appropriately for woodworking.
Finally, as always, you should never perform any task in the woodshop without wearing proper safety glasses.
When drilling holes in stock, you want to secure the stock to the table as best as possible. If using larger-bore drill bits, consider clamping the stock to the table, as the motor for the drill press can produce a considerable amount of torque. If the piece of stock is relatively long, you may be able to brace a portion of the stock against the column of the drill press to prevent the stock from moving.
When drilling, always make sure that you have the stock placed securely on the table of the drill press. Never, ever try to “free-hand” the stock into the bit.
One helpful accessory available for some drill presses is a mortising attachment. This consists of a square chisel with a drill bit housed inside the chisel and requires an additional attachment just above the chuck to hold the chisel. With this tool, you can cut square or rectangular holes for mortises. This mortising chisel attachment can replace a dedicated mortiser and makes mortise & tenon joints a snap.
When you need to drill holes in the same spot of a number of pieces of stock, try clamping a fence with a stop block in position on the table of the drill press. In this manner, you simply place each piece of stock against the stop block and drill the hole.
When you need to drill a hole in a round piece of stock such as a turned leg or dowel, try making a v-shaped jig to hold the stock in place while drilling.
If you need to cut small pieces of metal on your drill press, try securing the piece of metal to the table with a drill press vise. This will prevent the workpiece from moving while it is drilled.
Clamping your workpiece to your drill press table will also allow you to drill an offset hole. Offset holes are ideal when attaching a tabletop to a carcass, and you must allow for the tabletop to expand/contract with the seasons.
Your drill press can also act as a drum sander. By inserting a sanding drum into the chuck, then adjusting the height of the table, you can sand almost any curved cuts you made with your band saw or jigsaw.