Drill Press

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The workshop has a Delta Model 17-965 Standing Drill Press.

up - plastic knob on right side motor tension screw is loose. Suggest replacing with an all metal thumbscrew [davidl @ 1/4/18 20:13]

Drill Press Basic Rules

  • Only use the drill press if you are properly trained to do so. Otherwise, ask for assistance or training.
  • Wear eye protection.
  • No Freehand Cuts! Clamp your work to the table or use a cross-vise or drill press vise. Otherwise you risk the work spinning free and injuring you or breaking the bit.
  • Run the Dust Collector.
  • Do not wear clothes or jewelry that can get caught. Tie back long hair.
  • RECLAIMED MATERIAL MUST BE SCANNED FIRST. We have a metal detector. Use it. Members will replace bits damaged by metal.
  • If you want to drill something besides wood, check with the Steward. Plastics, aluminum and other materials can be drilled but require a different blade and different dust collection. If you are not sure about what blade or bit to use for your material, please ask or do some research. You may need to bring a specialty bit. 
  • If you are looking to drill a bunch of steel, please consider going to the Department of Spontaneous Combustion open shop night on Tuedays, as they have a heavy/hot metal setup.
  • Use sufficient support so that your work is stable while being drilled without you holding it yourself.


  • Clamp your work to the table – don't use the drill press freehand.
  • Holes at an angle can only be safely made with a forstner bit. Yes, you can do it with a spade bit, but it makes ugly holes and it can damage the drill press by creating a lot of side load on the chuck.
  • Adjust the height of the table to suit each hole you drill (if needed).
  • Go slowly.
  • For twist bits, periodically back the bit out of the hole to allow sawdust to escape so that it doesn't build up in the hole and cause friction which can heat and break the bit.
  • Adjust the speed to suit your material by moving the belt to different pulleys.
  • To reduce tearout with any bit, place a piece of sacrificial wood underneath your stock and drill slightly into it.
  • The table has a hole in it so that the bit can go through that and descend beneath the level of the table, allowing you to drill completely through something that is clamped to the table. Be sure to align the bit with the hole before drilling.
  • If you use a drill press vise or a cross vise, be sure to put sacrificial wood or empty space underneath your stock if you plan to drill all the way through it, otherwise your bit will encounter the steel work table of the vise itself. 
  • With twist bits, it is sometimes necessary to work up to larger holes. With spade and forstner bits, it is the opposite: you cannot easily enlarge a hole using a spade or forstner bit because its central point will have no material to guide it.
  • If you plan to drill many evenly spaced holes, you can create a jig that uses the last hole to control where the next hole will be placed. Attach a 3-inch-long piece of 1x1 onto the bottom of your jig so that it can be attached to a cross vise or drill press vise.

Forstner-Bits.jpg A Forstner Bit

AMT Certification Course

This is a summary of what is taught in the AMT Certification course for the Drill Press.

What Does a Drill Press Do?

This tool can drill holes of various sizes perpendicular to the stock or at up to a 45 degree angle.

Drill Press Adjustments

  • The table can be adjusted in both height and angle.
  • The chuck holds various sized bits.
  • The depth wheel or levers control the chuck and move it down toward your work, driving the drill into your work at a pace you control.
  • The speed of the bit can be controlled while the machine is off by shifting the belt (see below).

Changing the Drill Press Speed

Different sized holes, different kinds of materials, different kinds of bits and different conditions such as drilling at an angle all affect your choice of drilling speed and also the speed at which you plunge the bit into your work. While you control the latter at your whim throughout the process, the bit speed cannot be changed while the drill press is operating. It must be set before you begin each operation if needed.

To change the drill press speed:

  • Unplug the drill press
  • Open the top to expose the pulleys and the belt
  • Loosen the belt position locking bolt on the side by the motor (ours has a blue head)
  • Move the chrome belt tensioning lever to the left loosen the belts
  • Move the belts onto different pairs of matched pulleys so that the belt ends up taught again
  • Move the chrome belt tension lever to the right to the tighten the belts as much as possible
  • Tighten the belt position locking bolt with medium force - not extra hard!
  • Close the lid
  • Plug in the drill press to use it at the new speed

In general you want to use the fastest speed that won't lead to failure. You might need to experiment with some scrap material to understand what works best.

Failure is caused by:

  • The bit heating up
  • The heat caramelizes wood pulp
  • The caramelized wood pulp has much higher friction which creates more heat and leads to one or more of:
    • Broken bit
    • Work torn loose from clamps
    • Broken work piece
    • Smoking and burnt hole
    • Ruined drill bit

Some tips on selecting speed:

  • Small twist bits should not be run too fast - they can bind and break
  • Big forstner bits should be run fairly slowly - remember how much faster the edges are moving than the center because of their size
  • Consider the fastest speed to be used for exotic needs and use the other speeds
  • Don't cut plastic on our drill press, but hypothetically if you did you'd want to use the lowest speed
  • A 3/8" twist bit can be run at top speed through a 2x4, but not rosewood

Drill Press Accessories

  • A clamp of some kind is often necessary to hold the work from spinning while being drilled.
  • A drill press vise can be attached to the table and then work can be secured in its vise portion with two degrees of freedom: (up and down a little bit, and along the jaws of the vise, which are smooth.
  • A cross vice serves ca be attached to the table and then work can be secured in its vist portion with three degrees of freedom without loosening your stock from the vise!. It has a micro adjuster for position in X and Y.
  • There are a variety of bits for drilling holes:
    • Twist bits are good general purpose bits
    • Spade bits are good for fast cuts where you don't care about tear-out
    • Forstner bits have minimal tear out and are the only bits that can drill a hole at an angle.

There are other kinds of bits for different materials that we don't use in the woodshop because we primarily cut wood. There are masonry bits, glass bits and side-cutting bits.

Common Techniques

Drilling a Hole

  • While the drill press is off loosen the chuck to accommodate the bit of your choice.
  • Tighten the chuck using only finger strength with the key attached to the drill press.
  • Choose one of the other two tightening points on the chuck and again tighten the chuck
Yes, it is necessary to tighten the chuck from two positions. 
This is true of all keyed chucks. 
  • If you plan to use a drill press vise:
    • Clamp it to the table loosely at first and attach your stock with a sacrificial piece of wood (say 1/4" MDF) underneath it.
    • Position the work and the vise so that the bit will drill exactly where you want. You can lower the bit as if you were drilling even when the drill press is off. Do this so you can see precisely where the bit will meet the wood
  • If you plan to use a cross vise:
    • Attach it to the table approximately where it's working range would allow you to position your stock for the cut. You have about 4 inches of room to play with so you don't need to be very precise.
    • Attach your stock with a sacrificial piece of wood (say 1/4" MDF) underneath it.
    • Position your work by using the microadjusters on the cross vise. You can lower the bit as if you were drilling even when the drill press is off. Do this so you can see precisely where the bit will meet the wood
  • If you plan to clamp your work directly to the table:
  • Position your work on the table. You can lower the bit as if you were drilling even when the drill press is off. Do this so you can see precisely where the bit will meet the wood
  • Clamp the work to the table at two points if it is large enough to accommodate two clamps. One is minimally acceptable.
  • Set the height of the table if needed so that the bit can both enter the stock and also reach its desired depth (or go all the way through).
  • Set the speed of the drill press to be compatible with the material and bit you are using.
  • Set a maximum depth on the drill press so you do not drill farther than you expect
  • Turn on the drill press and let it come up to speed
  • Open the dust collector
  • Slowly lower the bit into your work
  • Periodically back the bit out so that sawdust in the hole can escape
  • Work slowly and don't force the bit
  • When you reach the maximum depth you've set slowly back the bit out of the hole
  • Turn off the drill press off and wait for it to come to a halt
  • Close the dust collector
  • Remove the bit if you have no more holes of that size to drill now: CAREFUL - IT MIGHT BE DANGEROUSLY HOT!
  • Unclamp your work and remove it
  • If you are done working with the drill press remove the drill press vise or cross vise that you had attached, if any.

Drilling a Hole at an Angle

Drilling a hole at an angle involves adjusting the angle of the table and using a bit capable of successfully drilling a hole at an angle. Twist bits cannot do this reliably and attempting it can easily break the bit. And, while it is possible with a spade bit, only forstner bits excel at drilling holes at an angle.

A small hole can be drilled at an angle if you first create a divot exactly where the hole will go. From the bit's perspective it drills mostly perpendicularly into the side of the divot, so it can work reliably and safely. Larger holes (say, over 3/8") require a forstner bit.

A pin makes it easy to set the table horizontal; however, if you remove the pin and loosen the handle that clamps the table you can rotate the angle up to 45 degrees in either direction. The pin hangs on its chain and is not reconnected when you do this.

  • Begin by setting the table to the angle of the hole you want to drill. You are limited to 45 degrees so you may need to drill at a complementary angle after rotating your stock.
You will have to adjust the height and the angle to work together
to bring the bit to the work at the right angle.
  • Secure the table at the new angle and follow the procedure above for drilling a hole to perform a test of your setup to be sure it is correct before you put your precious work at risk. Using the same size and kind of wood helps minimize surprises. You should assume that the small scale on the drill press table that reports its angle is inaccurate.
  • When you are satisfied that the angle is correct, cut the hole in your work by following the same procedure above.

When you are done, return the drill press to its nominal, horizontal position. There should be a preset for this, but if not, you can ensure it is perpendicular to the table by inserting a large twist drill bit while the drill press is off, and using a small square to ensure that from all angles the table is perpendicular to the bit.

Dust Collection

If there is a dust collector inlet near the drill press you may need to adjust its position or possibly even hold a collector inlet with your other hand. There is a slider to open and close the inlet. It should be pulled out to allow it to suck in dust. The dust collector should be turned on if it is not already on.

When you are done you can use the dust collector to capture the remaining sawdust on the table, and then close it off.

Drill Press Safety

All power tools have the potential for harm when misused. While the drill press is no exception, it is an intrinsically safer tool than power saws, jointers and planers.

Drill presses are not so loud that you must use hearing protection, but other tools in the shop are, so it is good to have them handy even if you choose not to use them while you are using the drill press. In any case, you must always wear eye protection when you use a drill press.

Safety Concerns

There are a few main risks:

  • Your work piece can break free and spin as fast as the bit. This can break the bit and send the work spinning in a random direction with a sharp piece of metal sticking out of it.
  • The bit or your work can break and send pieces toward someone or their eyes (probably you)
  • Something on you (your hair, your jewelry, your clothes) can get caught on the bit and drag you into the spinning chuck faster than you can possibly react, which can cause a life-threatening injury

As with any tool, your hands could get in the way of the bit, but it is always visible so it will be obvious when your hand is in the way of the bit.

Safety Features

  • The belts that drive the chuck are concealed.
  • The tool can be run at various speeds for safer use in different materials.
  • The table has numerous attachment points for different clamping strategies.
  • The table can be adjusted in height to suit needs.

Failsafe Hand Positioning

Failsafe hand positioning is where you put your hands so they are not injured should the unexpected occur.

One hand on the drill depth wheel or arm, the other on the bench to steady yourself or at your side. Don't hold the work or put your hand anywhere near the bit or your work.

Failsafe Stock Handling

Failsafe stock handling is how you hold and move your work (aka stock) throughout the entire life cycle of drilling the hole.

The stock must be clamped or secured to the drill press table, or be held in a cross vise or drill press vise.

Never work used materials unless you have checked them thoroughly for metal (nails, screws, tacks, etc) using the workshop's scanner.

Go slow - speed reduces the quality of the hole and safety of and can easily lead to breaking smaller bits.

Use a sacrificial piece of wood under your stock to reduce the chances of running the bit into the table, a vise or clamp. This sacrificial piece also has the benefit of reducing tearout.

Default Configuration

When you are done with the drill press:

  • Turn the drill press off and unplug it
  • Remove the bit and return it to its location. CAREFUL - IT MIGHT BE VERY HOT!
  • Use the dust collector hose to clean up the area and and close the dust collector inlet.
  • Remove your work
  • Any clamps or drill press vise or cross vice you have used should be put back where they belongs.
  • If you moved the drill press from its normal, horizontal table alignment so that you could drill a hole at an angle it is your responsibility to put it back to its normal horizontal position when you are done.
If there is no foolproof, preset position for horizontal table positioning,
you'll have to check the alignment using a large bit and a square. Check it
from two positions 90 degrees apart.  If it is perpendicular from both, it is
properly aligned.

Protecting the Drill Press

  • Keep the table clean and dry
  • Periodically remove dust from inside and outside the machine, and under its base
  • Periodically inspect the belt for signs of significant cracks and replace if needed
  • Keep all woodworking vises and clamps clean and free of glue, stain, paint or sap
  • Unless the drill press is yours and you don’t mind the potential for damage to the tool, do not use a drill press as a mill by using a cross vise and changing positions under a moving bit that is capable of side cutting, such as carbide router bits. This does work in hardwoods with router bits; however, the side load can damage the drill over time, especially if it is used on softer woods or if the work is moved too quickly.


Cross Vise
a vise has two micro-adjusters that allow the vise portion to be adjusted in two dimensions. The drill press itself provides the third dimension with its depth wheel or handles. With a cross vise the drill press becomes a wood mill; however, the drill press isn't designed for side loads the way a mill is, so we do not want you to use this capability of the drill press at AMT.
Drill Press Vise
A vise that is designed to be clamped to the drill press table
something you make that allows a specific cut to be made more safely, more efficiently and more repeatably. For example, if you were making a cribbage board, a jig would help ensure even spacing.
the piece of wood to be cut


  • •Lubricate with dry film lube
  • -Chuck (first blow out inside of wide open chuck)
  • -Quill
  • -Depth stop
  • -Motor slide
  • -Table rack and pinion, including the rings top and bottom
  • •Table
  • -Any new holes?
  • -Align
  • •Check run-out
  • •Inspect chuck and key
  • •Check quill travel
  • •Rack slides smoothly
  • •Belt condition
  • •Pulleys secure
  • •Inspect cord

•Table -Any new holes? -Align

•Check run-out •Inspect chuck and key •Check quill travel •Rack slides smoothly •Belt condition •Pulleys secure •Inspect cord