The drill press is a fairly simple machine, but if you don’t know what it can do then it may as well be useless.
I feel like this is kind of my history with the drill press. I used it, but never really knew what all it could do until I started researching it to buy a new one.
In this episode I go over all the things I wish I had known when I started using a drill press to give me a better idea of what to do.
Plus I also talk about the drill press I ended up buying, which I think is an amazing value for the price.
The drill press I just ordered is the: WEN 4214 12-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press
Hello, and welcome to the 29th episode of the BudDIY Podcast. I’m your host, Buddy Lindsey and today we’re going to talk about drill presses and kind of a quick introduction of things that I wish I knew when I first started learning how to use drill presses that would have saved me some heartache and time. But before that, if you’re new and you want to subscribe to us, we’re available on most major podcasting platforms, also on YouTube, and you can subscribe to us there and then you can visit the website at buddiy.net and keep up to date on that site. And if you want to sign up to the email newsletter, you can find out when new stuff is released as well. So with that, let’s jump into what’s going on around here.
Well, last week I released my chicken video on doing the chicken mobile watering station. That’s up on YouTube, you can go check it out on there. Outside of that, this week I got some more progress made on the bookshelf. That was interesting because I needed to cut down some 4′ x 8′ foot piece of plywood down to have some 80-inch strips so that I could double the size of the bookshelf that I’m making from The Weekend Woodworker course, and that was kind of an interesting exercise. One thing that I’m definitely going to have to figure out how to do and learn more and it’s just a skill that’s got to be upgraded on my part, and that is feeding a really long board through the table saw to kind of rip it down and get nice flush cuts. I think I did okay but when you go look at the board, there’s definitely some problems, but I think it’ll be good enough for this project. Again, it’s just the scale I got to level up on.
Outside of that, I did a church event and went fishing with my family. We took the kids there. My daughter is three years old, she caught the first fish of the day, which was awesome, and she loved it. One and a half year old daughter went over and started poking the fish like, “What’s that?” That was kind of funny. But my oldest daughter caught three fish, which was really cool. And I caught three or four, and one of those was a three and a half pound catfish, which is the largest fish I have ever caught. So, that was super exciting and it tasted really yummy. So, I really enjoyed that, other than that, just kind of chugging along on projects. And one of the problems I’ve had this week has been the heat, and I’ll get to that in my failure of the week at the end of the podcast episode. But with that, let’s jump into the main segment and that is on drill presses.
I kind of wanted to talk about this because I have an old Harbor Freight drill press that I use for things every now and then, I don’t like using it because it’s terrible, and it’s so bad you have to turn the little switch on and then grab the chuck and spin it by hand to kick the motor on to actually start spinning it and then I can actually use it. It’s quite annoying, and so I don’t use it for a lot of projects. And then it’s also just not very big and I’ve had some bigger stuff that I’ve wanted to do, and it’s just like an inch too small in various ways. And so I’m like, I just hated it. It’s terrible. And I’m like, I need to upgrade.
Actually, last year or the year before that, I think it was last year… No, I don’t remember when. I bought a floor standing Atlas drill press that needed to be fixed up and restored, and had full intentions to do that, and I was really looking forward to doing that. I guess that was last year, early last year. Anyway, I just never got around to the project which really kind of bummed me out, but I need a drill press now and soon, and that thing is going to take me probably a month to do. And so, I just decided, I’m just buy a new drill press and I’ll restore that later for a DIY video, because I also enjoy restoring tools, like I did in my unisaw, and so I started re-researching out drill presses and I realized while I was doing it, I’ve always used a drill press, but I’ve never known anything about them, and I’ve always had really odd results at times in projects that I’m working on, because I didn’t know anything about the drill press, I just used a drill press.
A part of that is growing up we would have projects and my dad’s like, “Okay, I have the half-inch drill bit on there. I need you to go put a hole here, here and here.” And so I’d just run over there and [inaudible 00:04:31]. Pulled the bar, [inaudible 00:04:32]. Pulled the bar [inaudible 00:04:34]. “Holes done.” “Good job.” Continue on with the project, I never really learned much about the drill press and, even to this day, it was just put the drill bit in, pull the thing. “I don’t know why it’s not cutting great, but hey, it eventually cut it. Awesome.” But then I see people on YouTube and they’re like using it and doing all kinds of… And it doesn’t look like they’re having near the trouble I’m running into on some things.
So, before I got my drill press and before I ordered it, and I’ll tell you which one I ordered at the end of the episode, I was like, “Let’s go figure out some of this stuff?” What are these things that I’m seeing? What are some of the features that I see on here that I’ve never messed with? And how do you actually use a drill press? And what are some of the basics that I need to know, and some of the things that I don’t?
First, let’s start with the things that I don’t need to know. I don’t need to know about most other drill presses, except floor standing and bench top drill presses that you would buy for a couple of hundred dollars. All the rest, I mean, there are radial drill, there’s a sensitive drill and there’s couple of others that I can’t remember off the top of my head and like, I don’t need to know about any of those because those have different uses and those aren’t what I’m using.
So, with that, I am sticking to floor standing and bench top drill presses. And kind of the first thing is like, what’s the difference? Well, in some of the research and someone looking at specs, the floor standing and the bench top, usually if you buy the same model, they’re the exact same thing except the pole that holds it up from the base to the main top of the drill press, it’s called the column, usually one is just longer and that’s generally it. In a few cases in some of the more expensive, there were some slight variances, but that’s about it. Normally it’s just that column is bigger and that’s it.
Which actually made a lot of sense when I was doing some of the research for the Atlas drill that I have, because I was like, I forget the number that I have on there, but I was researching and every single thing that I kept finding on it showed that it was a bench top drill press. And I’m like, “All I can see are the bench top drill presses. Why do I have one that has a full column so it’s standing off of the ground? Like, what’s going on?” And now I know it’s literally the same thing and there’s nothing to be concerned about, there’s no different parts for it than with the bench top, it’s just a taller column. So, there’s that. So, that’s a good thing to know. There isn’t really a lot of difference other than price, because that column is a lot more metal and costs more money, and sometimes they can put a little bit more of a premium on that product as well, because, hey, you don’t have to go do a bunch of other stuff, it already stands on the floor, you’re good to go. And so, sometimes there’s a cost variance that is more.
So, now that I got that out of the way, one of the next things I was curious about is I see my Atlas drill press has pulleys on it up in the top in the head. And actually, I guess I should go over that first like, what are the different parts of a drill press? There’s a few parts that really matter. There’s the base at the very bottom that holds it up, there’s that pole that goes up that holds everything to it, that’s called the column. At the top is the head of the drill press. Then usually on the backside, you have the motor. And then if you’ll come back to the front, generally on the very front is the power switch. You also have the spindle and the chuck that holds the drill bit or whatever tool you have in place in the spindle that goes up and down. Then you have a table, and that’s attached to the column with some sort of a clamping device of some sort. And that’s really about it. Those are really the parts that you need to be aware of in it.
And so, I noticed that on the Atlas in the head of the drill press, there were pulleys. And I’m like, “What is that? I know intuitively that that’s about changing the speed of the drill bit, but when would you do that? And why would you do that? How do you do that? How do you know?” Well, as I was researching other [inaudible 00:08:48], I saw these variable speed drill presses, and I’m like, “Wait, what is that? Is that the same thing?” No, it’s not. So, generally you will adjust the speed of how fast that drill bit spins based on the application that you’re doing. If you have like a really thin drill bit, you might crank up those RPMs, because that’s what it’s doing, is it’s changing the RPMs of that drill bit so that it does different things. So, this is general advice, the smaller your drill bit the faster the RPMs and the faster you’re going to get your hole drilled because it doesn’t have a lot of pressure. It doesn’t have a lot of material to take away.
And so, on the pulley system, you’re going to look at a little chart generally in the [inaudible 00:09:32] and you’re going to find, “Oh, this pulley needs the belt at this part and this part,” and you adjust it, turn it on and boof, you’re good to go.
Well, on the variable speed, generally you have a bar or a lever or a dial or something like that. On the one that I purchased, it’s a bar, and you just move it up or you move it down and it changes the speed or the RPM of the drill bit. And because of what it’s doing in this case, is generally there’s a VFD from what I’ve read in them, and it’s a variable-frequency drive, and that’s changing the amount of electricity that’s going into the system, and the more electricity the faster that drill bit spins, the lower the electricity the slower it spins.
One of the interesting things is, is by changing the speed, you change a couple of different things about the drill bit. One is, again, the faster you spin it the faster you’re going to get through it, but the less torque that the system has, and so you’re generally going to go with a thin drill bit. However, if you crank the speed down and you turn it on, it’s going to be spinning slow, say 500 rotations per minute, but there’s going to be a massive amount of torque in there, and so that’s when you would use your hole saws and you’re Forstner bits and things like that, where they’re going to hog out a lot of material, but it’s not going to spin as fast, so it’s not going to cut through as fast and it’s going to take out larger chunks than potentially what the smaller, faster speed will do.
And so, those are just two different ways to adjust those speeds. And then you can kind of look up, “Hey, I have this, how fast should I spin?” And you start to get a feel for it, from what I understand. And then you just adjust things as they go. Most people are going to do very similar projects and they’re not going to change it. In fact, a lot of people that I read about, they’re like 90% of the time, 95% of the time, and in a couple cases a hundred percent of the time, they just found a speed that they liked and they just stuck with it and they just dealt with it as they did it. And most people, they never adjust because they’re doing the same type of projects. I find that I do various different projects with different materials, and so I’m going to need to adjust the speed a little more often, and so I made my decision accordingly.
So, with that in mind, kind of some of the things to consider is the pulley based adjustments are actually going to be cheaper drill presses and are what the vast majority of drill presses that exist are.
Okay, you may have noticed a jump just then. Something was bugging me about what I was telling you and some of the research that I was doing. So, I want to tweak a couple of things of what I’ve said. So, I was saying the pulley systems are generally the most common drill presses that exist and they’re cheaper to make so they’re cheaper for the consumer to buy and generally have a couple of different pulleys and they’ll have four to five different settings. Sometimes there’ll be three things in there with two different belts. It all is just different.
Well, one of the things I was saying is you have variable-frequency drives and another kind, so I was thinking for the WEN that I bought, why is it that it has a pull bar to change the frequency or change the speed and change the [inaudible 00:12:47]? Because I figured if it’s using a VFD, then it would probably be digital since VFDs are a digital device changing the amount of electricity that flows in. And I was wrong, it does not use a VFD, it actually uses what they call is a mechanical variable speed system, which doesn’t actually use pulleys, and so I thought that was interesting. It actually uses a gear system through a transmission of sorts to give you that variable speed. So, it’s all mechanical and not electrical like I was originally thinking it was. I don’t know where my brain went on that, but I just wanted to update that there are other types besides pulley and variable speed drive, and this particular WEN has that, and it could be an interesting aspect of why it costs the way it does. Who knows?
So, with that I think I’ll move on. I just kind of wanted to get through there are multiple types of ways that are to do adjustment, the two primary ones that I found in my research was through pulleys or a VFD. Apparently there’s another one, I’ll be interested to get this WEN and crack it open and take a look and see how it works.
Let’s jump through why you might want to get a drill press. There are a bunch of reasons. It’s one of the things that I found that growing up when I needed to drill a hole, if the piece was small enough that I was working on, the thing was small enough, a would run over to the drill press and use that because it was a lot less pressure on my hands, it was a lot less effort because it has a rack and pinion system to apply pressure. Again, there’s more torque, so it’ll cut through wood and other material a lot easier, and it was an easier thing to do. If I could get away with using it, I would, and because of that, I found a lot more projects than just a few small things I can’t think of off the top of my head. One of them was I had to drill a whole bunch of holes for Christmas ornaments for our youth group to make Christmas ornaments, things like having to drill a hundred holes through these little blocks of wood, so things like that. And I just found that I used it a lot and I get really frustrated when I can’t use the old crappy one that I have now, and again, another reason I am upgrading.
But some of the benefits for more precise work is that if you set your table up, you can have a perfectly 90 degrees between the work surface and the drill bit so that you can drill a perfectly 90 degree hole and you can repeat that over and over and over and over again so you can have more precision in your work.
Another thing is, and this is something that I’ve never used, but I always suspected was a feature, and after doing research, it truly is, is you can tilt the table at a specific angle and you can secure your work piece there so you can drill a hole at a specific angle in your work piece, which is really cool and I wish I would have known about it a long time ago because I could have done it a few times. Anyway, this is why I had some kind of primer on drill presses whenever I was growing up, but I understand why, it was just something my dad used, and so I just did what he did, and I never saw him really deviate from the work that he did. Anyway, so that’s one of the other things, that you can do angled, and then you can just do it straight again and double check for 90, and you’re good to go.
Another thing is you can… So, generally on the side, I always noticed this piece of threaded something with a bolt on it, and it totally makes sense now that I know what it’s for, is you can adjust the bolt on there so that the drill press only goes down so far into your workpiece so you get a very precise depth of hole in whatever the material that you’re drilling a hole into, and you can do it over and over and over and over and over. Totally cool, didn’t know that was a thing because actually thinking about it, I have wrapped tape around a drill bit several times to make sure I get that proper depth. Man, I feel dumb. So, again, another reason to have a good primer on a drill press. Those are just a few of the great things that kind of showoff the features of a drill press and why you might want to use them, and you for sure find more uses for a drill press once you have them.
One of them that I wasn’t aware about again, until I did more research, is you can actually get a thing, I forget what it’s called, to add to it that is basically like a round sanding block for your drill press, and you can turn it on, and now you have a really fast piece of spinning sandpaper and you can pay a lot of money for those. And so, there have been numerous times where I wish I had this ability, because I’m trying to just take just a little bit off at a very specific spot to get a specific structure on a piece of wood, and I’m like sitting there with a palm sander trying not to do too much rocking back and forth because I’m trying to get it exactly straight.
Oh my gosh, this little thing would have solved that problem had I known about it, and I am definitely going to be ordering one very soon for this drill press and it’s going to save me some effort. So, it’s just another use. And there are a bunch of other accessories that exist for drill presses to extend the usefulness that I have no idea about, but I definitely think a drill press is a great tool and I hope this primer has kind of given you ideas about it, a little more information about it so that you aren’t spending years of your life using a tool at 10% of the capacity that it could be used, like I did.
I’m super excited that I know about it and I’m super excited about the drill press that I got, which is the WEN 4214 12-inch drill press. And it is a variable speed, and that actually reminds me of something that’s kind of important about drill presses whenever you go to look at them, and that’s to know what does the size mean? So, in this case I have a 12-inch drill press. So, that means from the center of the drill bit to the column, to the back, if that’s six inches, then you double it. So, now you have a 12-inch drill press. So, that’s kind of what that number means. So, that’s good to know about when you’re judging the size of something that you need, depending on the distance of the depth.
Now, you don’t necessarily need a 12-inch drill press. That’s just the one that I went with because it was 260 something dollars when I bought it. And compared to some of the other ones that I was looking at that would have been like a 10-inch at a very similar price point, I went ahead and took the step and went with a WEN, and we’ll see how that goes as a tool in the shop because I wanted that little bit of an extra space, and why not get a bigger tool if you can? That said, the next step up on these drill presses, from what I bought, actually go to floor standing models, and that jumped a couple hundred dollars, and so I was like, “Hey, let’s get the best bang for the buck,” and I went with this 12-inch WEN drill press and hoping to be excited about it.
Once I get it in, I will shoot some video of me assembling it and doing some tasks with it. And I think one of the things that I’m going to do… Well, two things I’m going to do is one, I’m going to build a drill press cart and I’m also going to probably build a table to bolt on top of the metal table that exists for the drill press currently so I have a bigger structure to put stuff on, because that is something I ran into is sometimes I’d want to put bigger boards on there, then I had a stable platform to put it on so I had to do funny things to get it to work. So with that, I think that covers all of the stuff on the drill press that I wanted to hit. I think it’s a good primer, there’s some good information in there, again, that I wish I knew.
So with that, let’s jump into our final segment and that is my failure of the week. And that is, I did not account for heat very well this week personally, and I just drug myself down. So, I went fishing over the weekend at the thing, and I worked during that as well, since I’m a youth pastor and it was for our youth and other people in the church, and so I did fish and I did work. I did grilling and other stuff like that, and it just was a lot of work for like three, four hours, and it was about a hundred degrees for probably a quarter of that and in the nineties for most of it.
And so I’m usually fine when it comes to a lot of heat because I usually drink a lot and I usually know about how much I should drink because I have over-consumed water before, which is weird, but I have, and I thought I was nailing it about right, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t get dehydrated, but my body was working overtime trying to compensate for the heat and the physical exertion, and by the end of the day, I was just done. I just was tired. I could barely stay awake just sitting at my computer trying to do work, things like that. And I did not want to go out into the shop in that state and try to do work.
I went out I to the shop for a few minutes just to kind of see what it was like, and even though it was eight o’clock in the evening it was still over a hundred degrees in that shop because there’s no insulation and it’s a metal building and I knew I did not want to do work in there. So, just not taking care of myself was my failure this week, and I need to get better at regulating that, lose more weight, I’m doing good on that, but I need to lose more weight, drink more water, and I’ve got to figure out something for the shop to help keep it cool and potentially get some more cross ventilation to maybe blow out some of the hot air in there. I don’t know, but that was my failure. So, take care of yourself in this heat. We only have a couple months left and we’re good to go through the winter, which is my much preferred season of the year because I can put more clothes on.
So, with that, I thank you for your time, I thank you for your attention, and I ask that you join us on our next episode. Have a great day.