No matter the project, chances are that you’ll need at least a few holes drilled. Why do you need a drill press? For one, they’re incredibly versatile. Secondly, a drill press much more accurate than your average handheld electric drill. If precision is required for what you’re working on (and it should be), then you’ll be very happy to have a drill press in your shop.
Drill presses come in large floor models and units designed to save space by sitting on your work table. We’re going to focus on benchtop drill presses this time around. Large drill presses have their place but benchtop drill presses pack more power than you might think and they fit nicely on your workbench.
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1. Jet J-2530 15-Inch Benchtop Drill PressPros:
- Large 15-inch swing can accommodate large projects
- Worklight is a nice feature
- Big, stout, and heavy-duty
- Weighs around 150 pounds; get a friend to help install
- Bit guard is cumbersome; get safety glasses instead
- Don't lose that chuck key!
The Jet J-2530 15-Inch Benchtop Drill Press is a no-frills, heavy-duty machine that is made to work long and hard to drill as many holes as you need. The entire drill press is made of solid cast iron and, boy, does it look like it. It weighs around 150 pounds so get a buddy to help you install this beast.
For starters, this drill press has a 3/4 HP motor that’s more than a match for any material you throw at it. Speed can be changed via belts at the top of the head; the process is quick and easy with a lot fewer headaches than you might think. Simply release the tension, change the belt according to the diagram, and re-tension. That’s it.
The swing is 15 inches so you can work on extremely large pieces of material with bits up to 5/8″ in size. That 15-inch working capacity is the largest I’ve seen on any benchtop drill press. The oversized 15-inch square worktable can be moved up and down easily and rotated 45-degrees from side to side.
No, it doesn’t have storage for the key and it doesn’t have a fancy laser sight to show you where the bit will go. What it lacks in bells and whistles is more than enough heft and solid durability to last for years if not decades. The Jet J-2530 is an incredibly strong consumer-grade monster of a benchtop drill press that will most likely outlast you.
2. Shop Fox W1668 13-Inch Benchtop Drill PressPros:
- Doubles as an oscillating spindle sander
- 12 speeds between 250 and 3,050 RPM
- Nice dust collection feature
- Vague assemply instructions
- Column is painted; paint comes off when worktable is moved
- Almost too large to be considered a "benchtop" drill press
There was a lot of thought that went into the Shop Fox W1668 Benchtop Drill Press. It’s large, almost too large, to be an effective machine used on a standard workbench. But that’s okay because it can handle a lot including doubling as an oscillating sander. Indeed, this model comes with a three-piece drum sanding kit with a variety of sanding pieces.
For the home handyperson, this feature alone makes it a great value for the price. The entire model is robust, the parts fit together very well, features easy-to-use controls, sports a strong 3/4 HP motor, and is cast and milled extremely well.
The chuck is a large 5/8-inch with 12 available speeds from 250 to 3,050 RPM. The base, table, and head are all made of strong cast iron and because of its size, be sure to mount this drill press to a worktable or bench of some kind.
It runs smoothly with a superb dust collection feature when used as a sander. The Shop Fox W1668 fits a great niche in between hobbyist and full-blown professional. This benchtop drill press would be an amazing addition to any semi-pro workshop.
3. Skil 3320-01 3.2 Amp 10-Inch Drill PressPros:
- Tilting work surface
- 10-inch working height with 1/2-inch chuck
- 2-3/8-inch spindle stroke length
- Good press for the price but it's not the most accurate press out there
- Motor is not reversible
- Depth adjustment system is a good idea but the execution is unreliable
If you need to bore holes but need greater precision than what you can get out of a handheld drill, consider the Skil 3320-01 3.2 Amp 10-Inch Drill Press. It features a two-beam laser to help ensure precise hole alignment and a depth adjustment system to drill down reliably and consistently.
Five speeds are available to cut holes cleanly through wood, metal, and other materials. The press accepts larger diameter bits for woodworking and cutting as well. The square work surface can tilt from zero to 45 degrees. A three-year warranty simply places that cherry on top of your workshop.
4. Grizzly Industrial G0925 8-Inch Baby Benchtop Drill PressPros:
- Seems a little more tightly-made than other foreign models
- Lightweight and portable
- Great for do-it-yourself and hobby projects
- Two to three-hour assembly
- Small 1/3 HP motor
- Some plastic pieces, like the spindle drop collar, are easy to break
Grizzly Industrial makes some really great power tools designed for the do-it-yourselfer that isn’t expecting commercial-grade equipment but doesn’t want to cheap out on quality. The Grizzly Industrial G0925 Baby Benchtop Drill Press is a great option for small workshops or hobby rooms in the basement. The 8-inch swing and 1/3 HP motor are strong enough to handle most projects using a variety of materials.
With a cast-iron base, it is remarkably stable for a little drill press and also lightweight and portable. It only weighs 34 pounds so you literally can take it anywhere. If you have one, this benchtop model will complement a big floor press that’s too big to set up for quick, little jobs such as drilling a few holes for a scroll saw pattern or something similar.
This benchtop drill press provides five speeds from 740 to 3,140 RPM
The keyed drill chuck is fitted to the spindle taper well and will accept drill bits as small as 1/16-inch up to 1/2-inch. The spindle has two inches of travel available with a standard nut and bolt adjusted depth scale that allows for predetermined and repeatable drilling.
The work table measures 6-1/2 inches square and tilts 45 degrees left and right. It swivels 360° around the steel column, made of cast iron, and has two 5/8-inch T-slots, 4-3/8 inches on center. The table height lock handle allows for easy adjustability up, down and around the column.
Grizzly Industrial also offers up a limited one-year warranty (standard on all their products) on the G0925. They might call it a baby benchtop drill press but it will handle most anything you want to work on for that weekend project.
5. WEN 4214 12-Inch Variable Speed Drill PressPros:
- 9-1/2-inch-square worktable with roller extension
- 5/8-inch keyed chuck features onboard key storage
- Laser pattern feature for more accurate drilling
- Motor can get hot after extended drilling
- Variable speed feature may wear out belts faster
- Depth gauge should be better for this level of a machine
The 8-inch benchtop drill press from WEN is our top of list model but if you’re looking for a lot more punch and a feature-rich tool, allow me to present the WEN 4214 12-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press. This benchtop drill press is packed with amenities found in larger, commercial-grade floor drill presses.
Maybe my most favorite of these is the variable speed adjustment complete with an LED display to change motor speed on the fly without messing around with belts. Hallelujah! Work slow at 580 RPM to get through thick steel or crank it up to 3,200 RPM to bore through some softwood.
The motor is a stout 2/3 HP to drive through metal, wood, and pretty much everything else. The drill chuck can accommodate up to a 5/8-inch bit and also has onboard key storage so you (hopefully) won’t lose it. Pretty much everything on this drill press is made of cast iron so it’s going to last a very long time.
The induction motor features ball bearings for extended life and it all comes together with smooth and balanced performance even at high speeds. The worktable bevels 45-degrees left and right for consistent angled hole drilling. The base of this benchtop drill press has predrilled holes for mounting it onto a workbench.
If you are looking for some help with precision drilling the WEN 4214 features a laser crosshair that eliminates guesswork. If you’ve got a larger budget and want an amazing variety of bells and whistles in a compact benchtop drill press that’s a perfect size for your workshop, the WEN 4214 is the one for you.
6. Ryobi DP103L 10-Inch Benchtop Drill PressPros:
- Capable of speeds from 570-2,800 RPM
- Integrated work light
- Mortising attachments are no problem
- Composite pulleys should be made of steel
- Nice hobby press; not meant for accuracy to the thousandths of an inch
- You may have to tighten up some screws and bolts when you receive your drill press
You’ve got five speed selections (from 570-2,800 RPM) with the Ryobi DP103L 10-Inch Benchtop Drill Press to help you with a big range of drilling needs. The heavy-duty induction motor is constructed with Ryobi’s typical quality and the drill press swivels 360-degrees.
There’s also a laser alignment system (something Ryobi calls “Exactline”) that makes precision drilling simpler to accomplish. Reviews are mixed about this however the system may need to be adjusted out of the box to dial it in.
The work table features a decent rack and pinion method of adjusting the height and the it tilts 45 degrees for angled hole drilling. A storage compartment to hold the chuck key is a really nice addition. There’s also an integrated work light to illuminate your workspace.
The Ryobi DP103L is a great hobby press for your workshop. If you’re looking for a precision drill press that will get you tolerances of thousands of an inch, there are other machines out there for you. However if you’re like the millions of weekend do-it-yourselfers that are looking for a simple benchtop drill press to get some holes bored out, this is a nice option.
7. WEN 4208 8-Inch 5-Speed Benchtop Drill PressPros:
- 1/2-inch keyed chuck with onboard key storage
- Oversized power switch
- Cast-iron construction
- 1/3 HP motor is a little weak
- You may have to spot clean some rust from the cast iron base
- Slight chuck wobble and a tiny bit of column flex
The WEN 4208 8-Inch 5-Speed Benchtop Drill Press is at the top of our list because it’s the perfect combination of capability, size, and price for the average workshop. It’s small but strong enough to drill through metal, wood, and plastics without too much stress.
The keyed chuck can handle up to 1/2″ drill bits and can accommodate accurate, repeatable holes in your material. The WEN 4208 is the perfect size for your shop and portable enough to take with you to a job site. The entire thing is constructed of cast iron including head, table, and base to ensure consistent results.
The induction motor features ball bearings for extended life and it all comes together with smooth and balanced performance even at high speeds. The 6-1/2-inch square worktable bevels 45-degrees left and right for reasonably precise right angles. The base contains predrilled holes for mounting onto your workbench.
Is the WEN 4208 Benchtop Drill Press a commercial-grade unit that will take an overabundance of abuse? No. Is it a little rough around the edges? Yep. But here’s the thing: it’s a solid-performing drill press that is a great size for a shop. And it’s super-cheap. Buy it already.
8. Milescraft 1318 Drillmate Drill Guide with ChuckPros:
- Attaches to all 3/8-inch and 1/2-inch power drills
- Includes 3/8-inch chuck with key
- Centering channels built into bottom of base
- Not professional-grade
- There is some slight chuck wobble
- Not actually a "benchtop drill press" but it will do in a pinch
The Milescraft 1318 Drillmate Drill Guide isn’t exactly a benchtop drill press in the strictest sense…well, in any sense, really. This tool is a great jig to use with your cordless or corded power drill in order to drill straight holes into pieces of stock. It’s one of those unusual tools that end up being quite handy. If you’re a seasoned do-it-yourselfer, this drill guide can really help keep your bits straight especially out in the field.
Let’s say you need to drill out a hole for a doorknob assembly. Take out your power drill, attach the chuck to the Milescraft 1318, set in place, and use it. That’s really all there is to worry about. The support rods keep your bit or hole saw straight and you won’t throw any tools because you drilled at a slight angle.
The drill guide features settings for 45, 60, 75, and 90-degree angles and it can even take on rounded stock up to three inches like metal or PVC pipe using centering channels built into the base. There’s an adjustable depth stop and the head features spring-action control. For jobs out in the field where you need to drill with any sort of accuracy, the Milescraft 1318 Drillmate Drill Guide will be incredibly handy to have with you.
9. Dremel Rotary Tool WorkstationPros:
- On-board storage of bits, wrenches, and tools
- Base is marked with inch and Metric measurements
- Great for crafts and smaller, detailed projects
- Dremel tool an additional cost
- Meant for hobbies; not a professional-grade tool
- Features a lot of plastic parts and they could be a better grade
So, first thing’s first: the Dremel Rotary Tool Workstation doesn’t come with an actual Dremel tool. You’ll need to pick that up in addition to this drill press workstation. Luckily, you may already have a Dremel that it’s compatible with: Models 100, 200, 275, 285, 300, 395, 398, 400, 800, 3000, 4000, 4200, 8100, 8200, or 8220.
What this workstation does is to act like an articulating drill press with a Dremel tool to drill perpendicular and angled holes in 15-degree increments and up to 90 degrees horizontal. At that point, the tool holder is good to keep the Dremel stationary for tasks such as polishing metal objects, sanding different shapes, and grinding metal pieces.
The workstation also allows for telescopic adjustment to any height between 16 and 29 inches. A crow’s nest provides on-board storage for drill bits, wrenches, and other Dremel accessories. When used as a drill press, the base is marked with inch and metric increments for accurate drilling.
What is a Benchtop Drill Press?
Drill presses are ideal for making holes into whatever material you’re working with, be it wood, metal, or plastic. Sure, you could use your trusty handheld drill but the results you’ll get won’t be nearly as neat or accurate as using a drill press. And who wants to be a reckless amateur?
Benchtop drill presses provide most of what larger table drill presses can offer in a smaller package. They can save a tremendous amount of space in a shop. Placed on a workbench, a benchtop drill checks off many of the boxes any handy person needs.
They’re made up of four main components: the head, column, table, and base. When you think of a drill press, the head is probably the first thing that comes to mind. The head contains the motor, the power switch, included work lights or lasers, and the chuck. The chuck holds the drill bit and quickly spins around to make holes.
Every drill press that I’ve ever used has featured a tool or key to be used with the chuck to tighten and loosen drill bits. Technology has gotten better to the point where the keyless chuck I enjoy on my cordless handheld drill is now offered on full-sized drill presses. Keyless chucks are so much easier and quicker to use and, even better, are just as safe as keyed chucks.
The head of your drill press is really the nerve center of the tool. It features all the moving parts, belts, and essential items required for you to enjoy the drill press.
The table is where your workpiece will reside to get a hole bored into it. Tables typically feature a crank mechanism that allows you to move it up and down to get your workpiece closer or farther away from the drill bit.
Don’t discount the importance of the table on your benchtop drill press. Depending on what you’ll be working on, its size will be key to your enjoyment of your power tool. Look to see if the table that is included with your potential drill press can rotate. There are third-party tables you can purchase and install but why do that if you can get a great one with your new drill press?
The column of your benchtop drill press is that metal cylinder that connects the head and the base. It will feature teeth for the table to interact with to move up and down.
Most of the force and pressure will be applied to the column so if it’s not made of steel, be sure to find out why. Chances are that if the column is made of something else that you should avoid that drill press.
Finally, the base is the anchor for the entire tool. It must be stout enough to make the entire drill press sturdy. It often is mounted to a workbench to increase the press’s stability. A drill press that moves around is going to cause you no end of hassle.
What Should I Look For in a Benchtop Drill Press?
If you’re not familiar with benchtop drill presses, let’s go over some items that will help you choose the right one for your workshop.
First, a note about safety. Drill presses, and especially benchtop models, aren’t really thought of as dangerous in the same vein as table saws and reciprocal saws. But make no mistake about it: you’ll never forget a piece of steel spinning out of control at 3,000 RPM with your tender fingers in the path.
Avoid that situation by choosing a benchtop drill press with a bit guard. Bit guards keep your hands away in case you inadvertently stick your digits where they shouldn’t be. They also help with keeping shards of metal or wood shrapnel from flying into your face.
Other safety features include comically oversized power switches to quickly shut down your press if something goes awry and a clamping device to keep your workpiece steady. A clamp will also help prevent that 3,000 RPM piece of steel, too. No one wants a part they're working on to fly loose and smack them in the head.
Another safety tip: I know that your workshop is well lit and everything but you might enjoy an onboard work light on your drill press especially with detailed work going on. Laser guides to help with accuracy are a double-edged sword; some models feature very good lasers that provide some real help. Others end up nothing better than a cat toy laser pointer that simply gets in the way.
Drill size is a term that you’ll see a lot of when looking for drill presses. Drill presses are measured by the distance between the drill bit and the base; tool makers call that drill size the throat distance. Take that measurement and double it, so a 10-inch benchtop drill press will have a length of five inches between the bit and the base.
Another term is travel. Travel is how much you can move the drill chuck up and down. The more travel a drill press has means the more material you can remove. A benchtop drill press with three-inch travel can lower the drill bit by three inches.
Speed is important to look at, too. You won’t need much speed to drive through steel but when it comes to softwoods like pine, it’s good to have a quick rotational pace so the wood doesn’t tear apart. It also saves time.
A good rule of thumb is that the harder the substance is that you’re drilling through, the lower amount of speed you’ll want to do it. The average drill press will be capable of turning the bit from 200 to 3,600 RPM.
Speed can be raised or lowered on drill presses usually by opening the head and adjusting the belt pulleys. These adjustments may require special tools however premium models allow for tool-free adjustments. You may not need to change up the speed much if you’re only working with one type of material. Still, it’s a good idea to acquire a drill press that has the option to change speeds quickly and easily.
Many toolmakers stress how much horsepower their respective drill presses can provide. That’s great and all if you want to brag with your buddies about it but for the average do-it-yourselfer, horsepower isn’t really important to your projects for the most part. If you can get three-quarters of a horse or more, you’ll have a decent benchtop drill press that will punch through most everything.
Drilling through material has much more to do with speed than it does power. As long as your bit is sharp, your drill press shouldn’t slow down on you. That said, any benchtop drill press should have at least three-quarters horsepower to be of much use especially to get through hardwoods and steel.
Toys (I mean tools) are a lot of fun but accessories to enhance their productivity can make them even more fun. A benchtop drill press is one of the most versatile workshop tools available. There are a myriad of jigs and tools to help facilitate more effective work, accuracy, and more at different angles. With the right add-on, your drill press can turn chisel out mortise holes or act as a power sander.
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