Drill presses are stationary tools–some stand on the floor while others sit on a workbench–with a sturdy and adjustable platform to hold the object being drilled, and an overhead chuck that holds the drill bit in place. Like a portable handheld drill, a drill press is a tool for making holes in wood or other hard materials, but drill presses go far beyond handheld drills in terms of power and precision.
A handheld drill is sufficient if you merely need to occasionally drill holes into wood for simple repairs or construction. But for drilling into very hard wood or metal, drilling through thick pieces of wood, producing large holes, drilling at an angle, or achieving the utmost in accuracy, a drill press is the tool of choice.
When choosing a drill press, there are a couple of numbers to consider. One is the swing, which tells you the widest board or other material the drill press can hold while drilling a hole right in the middle. The other is the stroke distance, which is a measurement of how deep a hole the drill press can create without having to flip or reposition the material being drilled.
We researched the top drill presses available today, and then whittled down the choices to those we feel are best in their categories. Here are the best drill presses on the market.
What Are Drill Presses Used For?
Drill presses are popular in woodworking, metalworking, masonry, and gunsmithing, and are used to build furniture, toys, and other household items, like coat racks, pegboards, spice racks, and many, many more. Small craft business owners also use drill presses for their various creations, especially when there are a lot of items to get through as a drill press can cut down boring time by providing efficiency, accuracy, and speed.
There are many different drill bits available for purchase, but some drill press kits come equipped with the basic bits needed for drilling into many materials. For small drilling tasks and repairs, a regular power drill would be better suited; a drill press would be overkill as they tend to cost more than regular drills and take up much more space.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Drill Press
When shopping for the best drill press for your needs, consider whether you have sufficient space on a workbench to mount the tool or if you’d prefer a freestanding floor model. All drill presses operate on the same basic principle, but differences can be found in power level and in optional features.
Benchtop vs. Floor Model
A benchtop drill press is usually mounted to the workbench with bolts to keep it from moving during use, while a floor model can either be bolted to the floor or weighted down with something heavy, such as sandbags. Both are considered to be mostly stationary tools once a location is decided upon, but either one—with some effort—can be moved to another location in the workshop.
A floor model is larger, topping out around 60 inches in height, but when mounted to the workbench, the top of a benchtop model reaches a similar height. Floor models are often found in commercial workshops, while benchtop models are designed more for the home workshop.
The power of the motor—horsepower—determines how long the drill press will run without undue stress on the motor. More powerful motors will withstand frequent use without overheating, but in most home workshops, a drill press with a 1/4 horsepower to 3/4 horsepower motor is usually sufficient. In commercial shops, it’s not uncommon to find drill presses that feature 1 horsepower or even more power in larger motors.
The chuck is the assembly that holds the drill bit. The average benchtop drill press is likely to come with a 1/2-inch chuck. This means the chuck will accept any drill bit up to 1/2-inch in diameter, including a 1/4-inch bit, a 3/8-inch bit, and so on. Some floor models also come with 1/2-inch chucks, but many floor model drill presses come with 3/4-inch and 1-inch chucks for accepting larger bits. The majority of drill bits are 1/2 inch or less in diameter, so unless you plan on using larger bits, a drill press with a 1/2-inch chuck will be sufficient.
Most drill presses come with a variable speed adjustment that allows the user to increase the speed up to about 3,000 rotations per minute (rpm) or reduce it to around 250 rpm. Lower speeds are desirable when drilling through some types of material, such as steel, to keep the bit from heating up and breaking.
Drill presses are sized according to their “throat distance.” The throat distance is the space between the center of the chuck (the part that holds the drill bit) and the front of the tool’s supporting column. That distance is doubled to indicate the drill press’s “size.” So if the throat distance on a particular press is 6 inches, we say that machine is a size 12. The throat distance, sometimes called “swing,” indicates how far the user can drill a hole from the edge of the material.
For example, a 10-inch drill press will drill a hole up to 5 inches from the edge of the material, and a 12-inch drill press will drill a hole up to 6 inches from the edge of the material. Most drill presses are 10-inch or 12-inch, although larger ones are available for commercial use and much smaller ones can be found for crafting use.
Mini drill presses, which are used more by crafters than by mechanics or woodworkers, can weigh as little as 2.5 pounds, while benchtop models range from around 35 to 65 pounds and floor models can weigh 130 pounds or more.
Drill presses don’t have a lot of extra safety features, but some come with a plastic see-through safety guard that encircles the drill bit to help keep wood chips and metal shavings from flying in all directions. In many cases, the clear safety guards are sold separately and can be attached to most models.
Before operating any power tool, study the owner’s manual and follow the safety instructions. A drill press is one of the safer power tools, but never wear gloves, dangling jewelry, or loose clothing that could become caught in the spinning bit. If you have long hair, pull it back and secure it out of the way. It’s also important to wear safety goggles to keep wood chips or metal shards out of your eyes.
Our Top Picks:
It is all too easy to find the wrong drill press for your needs while shopping. Plenty of options promise the power you need for most construction projects but fail to deliver when needed. The WEN 12-Inch Variable Press, with a 12-inch swing and 3-1/8-inch stroke distance, is designed to skip the overselling and simply offers a powerful, straightforward drill press for your shop. With a maximum speed of 3,200 rpm and variable speed dial, the power and control this top choice press offers is clear.
The benefit of a variable speed dial is you can change the speed while maintaining the same power and torque you may need for denser materials. Using high-quality bearings and a rigid frame, the body of this drill press will withstand heavy use without damage to the inner workings of the power tool. If you need a drill press you can count on to work time and time again, this option is hard to beat.
If you just want a drill press for precision work on small items such as jewelry, shells, wood trim, or model making, there’s no need for a large tool that will take up lots of space and provide more muscle than you need. Instead, consider the Eurotool DRL-300.00 Small Benchtop Drill Press.
With a platform measuring a mere 6.75 inches x 6.75 inches, and an overall size of 10 x 12 x 8 inches, the drill press easily fits into any workspace. But while it may be small, it’s not without power, although it’s certainly not designed for tackling the toughest drilling jobs.
The 110-volt motor achieves a top speed of 8,500 rpm, and there are three speed settings to choose from. The ¼-inch Jacobs chuck accepts bits up to 6.5 mm.
The Bilt Hard 8 inch 5-speed drill press is ideal for the DIY-er or hobbyists looking for a tool that will make drilling a dream. This tool is solidly made and it’s about as good as you will get for the price. It’s ideal for lighter projects as the speeds and motor won’t handle hard steel work, but it’s easily adjusted and ideal for a home workshop.
The Bilt Hard will definitely make your life easier if it’s replacing a hand drill, especially for woodworking. It provides the basic functions of a drill press without any bells and whistles and it comes with some useful accessories out of the box.
This benchtop drill press will be right at home in your workshop if you’re looking to supplement your existing floor press or simply want to get into some fun, small to medium projects. You won’t need too much know-how to set up and operate it, this tool comes with simple instructions and user friendly controls.
Solidly built to minimize vibration and provide additional accuracy, the G0925 remains lightweight enough to be easily carried around but sturdy enough that it will provide the stability you need. It’s quiet, reliable and overall the best portable option in its price range.
Great bang for your buck, the SKIL 3320-01 has a lot of the features you will find in more expensive models, without breaking the bank. A great drill press that can offer accuracy without taking too much space and stability without adding on too much weight, this is the tool for you if you’re looking for a versatile drill press right at home in a small to medium workshop.
It’s easy to assemble, simple to operate and it can handle a variety of jobs both in a professional and amateur setting. Definitely a top contender!
The great thing about drill presses is that they can be used for a variety of materials. Which is why it makes sense to look for a press that can handle wood, metal, or any other material that you might want to drill. If this sounds like you, then you’ve got to check out the NOVA 5800 Voyager. It has one of, if not the, most powerful motor on the market today. If you wire it for 220V, it can provide you with 2 HP of power. This can, obviously, produce some extremely high RPM. In fact, it can go all the way up to 5500 RPM, which is perfect for precision work on thin materials.
Thankfully, the manufacturers of this drill were not only thinking about powering through on every drilling project. If you do that, you are liable to mess up any project you are working on. This drill has a soft start feature that helps to keep your drill under control when you are first getting started. The operation is also ridiculously smooth, thanks in part to its direct drive system.
The WEN 4210 Drill Press is a bit more powerful than our top pick and is a bit more expensive because of this. It has a 3.2-amp motor, providing enough power for most uses. It also has a cast iron worktable that is decently adjustable. It can bevel up to 45 degrees in either direction.
The speed on the press is also adjustable. You can choose between 5 different speeds from 600 RPM to 3,100 RPM. This provides you with plenty of control over the speed of the machine. You should have no problem slowing down or speeding up enough to do most projects.
The locking depth stop is accurate and allows you to do repeatable drilling. It is relatively easy to read, so you should have no problem setting it precisely the right depth you need.
For the price, this drill press is fantastic, which is why we rated it so high. It won’t cost you an arm and a leg, while also being able to perform most jobs.
Even compared to the other inexpensive drill presses we reviewed, the EURO TOOL Benchtop Drill Press is quite inexpensive. It is much cheaper than even some of the other budget options. It comes with a 1-year warranty and has a variable speed up to 8,500 RPM. This is way higher than other drill presses we reviewed.
It is very tiny, which does limit some of the jobs it can do. But it only weighs 13 pounds. It is very easy to move around as you need to, so it doesn’t have to take up a permanent place in your shop. If you need to store it away, you should encounter no problem. It is space-saving and very budget-friendly.
However, there are a few circumstances where we could tell just how cheap this machine is. The drive belt isn’t excellent at all. It breaks often and isn’t particularly powerful when you are using it. The chuck is very cheaply made too. In some cases, the chuck comes slightly damaged and bent – a defect that is likely caused when it is fitted.
This Shop Fox heavy-duty floor drill press comes with a 1/64–5/8-inch chuck and an impressive choice of mechanical variable speeds ranging from 250–3,050 RPMs. It contains an oscillating spindle with a sander and drum kit, including 12 different speeds, and is one of the top choices for the best drill press for metal around.
Since this Shop Fox power tool is so large and heavy (some parts are made from cast iron), it works best as a stationary staple in a designated area of a shop or garage.
10. DEWALT DWE-1622K
Exploring the handiness of this drill press, we need to point a few peculiarities. Let’s begin by stating that the press is compact and lightweight, weighing just 33 lbs. Still, the magnetic base is its main advantage. The press bottom features an electric magnet that is engaged by pushing the button. So, put the press on a metal surface, press the knob, and the press will be drawn securely. Thus, the tool is lightweight but stable at the same time. Next, we’d like to highlight the convenience of the Quick Release feed handles. The point is that these handles can be attached to either side of the tool, just push the button, remove handles, and install them on the desired side.
This is a truly convenient option, particularly if you are a leftie. Lastly, we’d like to draw your attention to the wisely designed protection system – if you apply too much load on the gear, the green LED indicator light will turn red and will be flashing until the load is reduced. Also, there is a handy carrying case that contains all the accessories requisite for a proper tool operation.
In all, this is a useful tool for homeowners who do some woodworking (during repairs, for example). Featuring the overload protection, this magnetic drill press is suitable even for beginners!
- A light coating of oil on the column will fight rust, and it makes table movement easier.
- Some assembly will be required. The drill head with the motor attached is heavy, so it’s useful to have a friend help you lift it.
- Make sure the drill is unplugged when changing speeds. Be careful of the belts. Trapping a finger is very painful.
- Never stop a drill with your hand. A drill’s motor provides significant torquing power, and it can do serious harm.