Complete Buyer's Guide and Unbiased Reviews of the Best Drill Presses On The Market
Upgrading to a drill press will not just make your drilling more accurate and efficient in your woodworking, it will have applications in metal working, gun smithing and can be used in a similar fashion to a plunge router.
While a drill press is not a “must have” for newcomers to woodworking or metalworking, it will come in handy and prove itself to be valuable.
I mainly use my drill press to make straight holes through several pieces of lumber. While I use to use my hand drill for this, I have found that the drill press makes much straighter holes and even holes through thick and hard woods.
Why purchase a drill press?
Drilling both small and large holes with precision requires the stability and power of a drill press. Advanced metalworkers and woodworkers use their drill presses as often or more often than they use their hand drills.
If you ever find yourself needing to drill and angle into wood or metal, you’ll find yourself needing a drill press.
Drill presses allow you to:
- Drum sand with ease. If you want to use your drill press for as many applications as possible, make sure you pick up a sanding drum to put a smooth finish on your projects.
- Drill a mortise. Mortise and tenon’s are one of the most common joints used by woodworkers, especially those that make furniture. If you are looking for a way to make accurate mortises without a specialty mortise machine, the drill press with a small hollow chisel or mortise attachment will do the trick.
- Depth control. If you are looking to drill a series of holes to the same depth, the drill press is really the only tool in your shop that can reliably do the job. The only other option is to put a small piece of colored tape on a bit with your hand drill and try to drill exactly up that piece of tape. You’ll almost always be off at least a sixteenth of an inch, but if that’s close enough for you, just use your hand drill.
What should you look for in selecting the best drill press.
Knowing what specs you’ll need in a hybrid saw will help make an informed decision. Here is a list of specs that you should look into before purchasing.
- Horsepower. Make sure that your drill has enough power to go through thick stock with ease. Saws with less than .5 HP can vibrate while cutting through thick wood which makes for uneven cuts
- Sturdy table. While this isn’t something that you can guarantee by looking at the drills’s specs. Know that I’ll only recommend drill presses that have solid tables. Your woodwork can be secured easily and there will be very little or no play in the table.
- Size. There are great benchtop drill presses available that may meet your requirements. However, most of the drills we recommend are full height and designed to be suitable for commercial woodworkers.
1. Powermatic - 18" Drill Press
Winner for: Best Drill Press
This Powermatic drill press simply checks all of the boxes. A simple design with modern elements that have been very well engineered. The sturdy table is able to lock in at up to 90 degrees.
Variable speed drive is a must for high end woodwork and delicate holes as well as for those cutting mortises. The Powermatic offers simple speed adjustments without any major alterations such as belt changes.
- Very low vibration (due to single belt drive)
- Unbeatable brand with a 5 yr. manufacturer warranty
- Competitively priced
- Blade guard & riving knife built-in
- I typically favor Jet products as the industry leader, but Laguna is the best band saw on the market.
2. Jet - 15" Benchtop Drill Press
Winner for: Best Benchtop Drill Press
If you have read my other woodworking product reviews, you know that I’m a big fan of Jet’s products. This benchtop press is unrivaled in my view. I’ve long viewed benchtop equipment as only viable for the at home woodworker and hobbyist. This is one exception to that rule.
I was skeptical about both power and stability. Not only did it have as much power as many full-sized models, I found it remarkably sturdy and easy to use. This is one of the few benchtop drills that you can’t go wrong with.
- More power than other benchtop models
- Very easy to use
- Surprisingly sturdy
- Benchtop drills don’t offer as much clearance
- Limited power
- Higher priced than other benchtop models
3. Jet - 17" Drill Press
Runner-up for: Best Drill Press
The ease of use that this Jet provides pushes it ahead of the Delta and Grizzly models in my book.
The Jet’s easily programmable interface and easily adjustable table make this a great choice for hobbyist woodworkers and professionals alike. Just like the competitors, this has plenty power and stability for and thickness and type of wood.
- Easily adjustable, large table
- Simple electronic interface
- Competitively priced
- 5 year warranty
- Some buyers report missing parts on delivery (Jet will solve this problem)
- Changing bits could be a bit quicker.
Drill press buying mistakes
If you’re anything like me, you want to know what rookie purchasing mistakes are made before you buy something expensive. Knowing what to avoid is important to making an educated purchase.
Band saw purchasing mistakes:
- Low Horsepower. Depending on what you used your drill press for and how often you use it, you’ll need a drill with plenty power. Low HP drills that are pushed too hard with dull bits will end up vibrating your piece and making imprecise holes.
- Not Sturdy. You won’t have this problem with any drills we recommend, but there are budget drill presses that vibrate at high speed or going through thick wood. These drills will prove worthless for quality woodworkers.
Top uses for your drill press
Here is a brief video that shows some of the many uses and tips for brill presses. Some of these reasons you will have thought of or read above, but it will help to see them walked through as well.
As mentioned previously, Drill presses are not a “must have” unless you are a professional woodworking or millworking facility. When you look to get any piece of professional equipment, I am an advocate of getting one, well made, brand name piece of equipment that will last you decades.