Length: 610 words (1.7 double-spaced pages)
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Drilling holes is something most of us have done, whether as part of a hobby, or for our jobs. One of the basic tools for the homeowner, the handyman, or a contractor is an electric drill. While hand-held power drills are some of the most used tools in the box, they are not necessarily the most accurate. When you need an exact hole drilled at a precise angle, or maybe a hundred of these holes, then the tool you want is a Drill Press.
The drill press is a larger version of a hand drill with additional features. The main difference is the amount of structure, with a hand drill, it is difficult to be sure that the holes you are drilling are exactly perpendicular to the piece, but this is not a problem with the drill press. Drill presses are stationary shop tools that are designed to drill precise holes. The operating principle is the same as for a hand-held power drill, a motor turning a drill bit, but the emphasis here is on accuracy as opposed to utility.
The drill press is not a very large machine, but it has quite a bit of flexibility built into it. Using the table, you can work on a part that is two or three feet long. But the table can be moved out of the way if you have parts longer than that. You will notice that the table has T-slots on it. On most drill presses there are similar T-slots on the base, so you can move the table out of the way and you have what is a second table, but placed much lower and giving you a lot more room.
A useful feature your drill press might have is a XY table. Normally when you are working on a part, you need to be sure the piece is placed on the table in an exact location before you clamp it down. This is often difficult and takes several tried before you get it right. With an XY table, since the entire table is adjustable, you can clamp down the piece anywhere and then move the table into position. It is called an XY table because there are two wheels, on which moves it forward and backwards, and another that moves it left and right.
A drill press is a fairly robust machine but it does have its limitations.
You should not drill holes larger than about one and a half inches in diameter. In aluminum you can drill a little larger, around two inches. Going beyond that risks damaging the machine. The drill press also looks like it could work as a milling machine, but it is a poor substitute. Both have spindles, but the spindle on a drill press is not designed to deal with the sideway forces that milling creates. If you were to use a drill press as a milling machine, and it would look to be cutting as a milling machine does, but the cutting tool would bounce around too much, giving you an unacceptable finish.
The drill press is a standard piece of shop equipment for many trades. It is about the only machine in the shop where the metal working version is almost identical to the woodworking version. There are models that stand on the floor, and some that sit on the bench and make by many manufactures with a wide range of prices from couples of hundreds to couples of thousands. So when you are ready to shop for a drill press, you better narrow the search to the machines that can do the work you intend it to do.