Drill Press recommendation

We need recommendations for a drill press that can work well in the back of our classroom (we have room for floor or desktop) for FRC projects.

Required Attributes:

-easy for rookies to learn and use (not looking for extra features)
-relatively easy to operate safely
-“good enough” accuracy*
-robust enough to tolerate years of use by beginners
-preferably $500 or less but could go higher if necessary

Background info:

Our current drill press “wobbles”. Not the whole machine but the shaft and chuck and thus drilling precise holes is impossible.

It is a low-end machine and we intend to upgrade (rather than replacing parts on the existing one)

*I know that a “milling machine” is what we eventually want but we don’t have space or expertise to run it. Higher precision machining is not part of our curriculum right now and won’t be for awhile. We visit the machine shop of a sponsor when we need more than what we can do with hand tools and a drill press.

If I were on your budget, I’d probably go buy this one: https://www.harborfreight.com/16-speed-floor-drill-press-43389.html locally and avoid shipping charges. In the <$500 range, I don’t think you’re going to find a lot of variation in quality in drill presses. My recommendation for this Harbor Freight drill press comes as someone who owns and regularly uses a lot of very high end equipment. It’s a drill press…

You can get it tomorrow for $300 with their labor day 25% off coupon, or any other time for $320 with their 20% off coupon. Put the extra money into a decent vise, maybe some clamps, some drill bits, an Ideal brand 1-1/8 TCT hole cutter, and maybe some Lenox bi-metal hole saws.

I like that this drill press goes down to 200 RPM. That’s important for big stuff. Also, it has a 5/8" chuck which can come in handy for certain thingas at times. The downside is you won’t be holding bits smaller than 1/8 in it. If you need to, take the money saved and get a second little benchtop drill press with a smaller chuck, or just get a different chuck. For students, it’s also not ridiculously tall. For me at 6’3", it’s a little short. The work light is a nice touch. Don’t worry about drill presses with lasers. They’re useless and annoying.

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The following is a long rambling story, your best bet is to scroll past …

I had an experience a few months ago that had a very nice ending. In my area (Wilmington DE) there are a HUGE number of people that were machinist for a major chemical company in the area. They loved what they did and were great at it, an a surprising number built shops in their house / garage / basement. And because these people are the real deal, it’s not cheap HF or other stuff, it’s things built in the 60’s that was designed to out live most other hardware.

As the leading edge of the “Baby Boomer” generation, they are getting older. And with that comes the unhappy moment when their beloved workshop becomes “junk to get rid of” as they downsize. It’s a soul crushing experience for them to have some guy in a truck “Cash for Junk” to offer them pennies on the dollar to “haul away” machinery that they loved almost as much as a child.

As someone that is on the trailing edge of the Boomers, I’ve met, and know some of the Leading boomers. I was able to broker a deal that worked for both sides. The receiving side got some just amazing hardware, the sending side got to teach new people how to use it and a life time pass to use it in the new location. (*) It’s a huge win for both sides.

The OP is in Utah, so while not as population dense as where I live, there are Boomers out there that don’t know they are looking for you. This will require you to do some digging, but the results may be more than you are looking for.

Good luck on your search!

(*) The lifetime pass caused some issues, he’s only 70, so the deal is that if the group can’t use the stuff and needs to get rid of it (space, funding, etc.) before he dies it goes back to him. OTOH the guy is magical, so the teaching part is a win-win.

Hate to be the guy that recommends a mill, but there are options available that are inexpensive, don’t take up much more space than a drill press, and are easy to use.

We have a small desktop mill. 90% of the time we just use it as a drill press, but it is extremely nice to be able to move the table around for accurate hole spacing and every so often we actually do a little milling with it. (Plenty of tutorials for getting started). Drilling with a mill is pretty much as easy as drilling with a drill press.


Just a suggestion. Little Machine shop and Harbor Freight both have options that are a little cheaper than this one, but I cannot speak on the quality of those machines.

If you are still 100% set on a drill press, the harbor freight variety would probably be a good low cost option.

Searching on Craiglist found a couple of nice Delta drill presses in your area. Those will probably be better quality than the Harbor Freight ones.

I second the recommendation for a “mini-mill”. They do just about everything a drill press does, but much more - especially working with aluminum. We have one of these that we even take to competitions. https://www.harborfreight.com/two-speed-variable-bench-mill-drill-machine-44991.html Very similar to the one from “The Little Machine Shop”, but about $700.

We also have one of these. http://www.grizzly.com/products/Mill-Drill-with-Stand-and-DRO/G0759 More money, but a much more capable machine (DRO is great).

I will second Grizzly products - but you MUST read the reviews. Grizzly is a one-off seller (as in they don’t build what they sell) - purchase models that have a long history of great reviews. We purchased a lathe a few years ago from Grizzly and we did the due research. We like it - and it has been great thus far. We are looking to upgrade in the next couple of years.

Good Luck!

Thanks for the comments and recommendations.

What are the top 3 advantages of a mill (mini or not) over a drill press?

What makes a mill a mill?

I didn’t know they could be small and could be relatively inexpensive and now I’m considering it instead of drill press.

The defining feature of a mill is a table that moves repeatably and holds its position in the X and Y axes, and a spindle that moves repeatably and holds its position in the Z axis. Using a mill allows you to control the distance between two holes by precisely moving the table with the part attached, rather than by moving the part relative to the table by hand. Mills are also usually sturdier than drill presses, and generally will hold better tolerances.* Depending on the type of mill you get and what kind of pieces you’re making, mills can also let you make accurate slots, which you can’t do in a drill press.

  • See the discussion about the difficulties of making precise bearing holes using a drill press here

If you are interested in going this route, go through the steps necessary to have some cash available so you are ready to buy it as soon as an ad appears. The good ones that are at a reasonable price are typically sold quickly so by the time you go through approvals and other paperwork, you will have missed out.

You can also set up a search in Craigslist with appropriate keywords. Craigslist will send you an email when a post is made that matches your search criteria (ads with words you want and without words you don’t want). You can then be the first one calling the seller, increasing your chances of getting what you want. It may be necessary to tweak the search criteria to fine tune it i.e. I have a search for a paint shaker and get ads for shaker furniture.

An important thing to note is that one should not cut in the X or Y axis with an endmill (or similar) when using a drill chuck. A drill chuck should only be used in the Z axis. i.e. That is, one should only drill with a drill chuck.

The drill chuck only has 3 line contact vs an endmill holder designed for more circumferential contact and lateral loads that milling will produce. The bearings and the drill chuck arbor are not designed for the lateral loads.
I know many of you (I’m in that camp too!) have milled with a drill chuck. I can only say that with 30+ years of prototype machining, I knew exactly what I was doing and suggest you “do as I say, not as I do”.

The Grizzly mill mentioned above does use an R8 collet and is appropriate for milling or drilling. Non of the drill presses mentioned above should be used for milling, with/without an additional XY table.

free from old man down the street, just ask.

Man! Haven’t seen you around here in a while. I remember way back in the day you would come up with some pretty crazy CAD models you’d post on here. Welcome back!