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A drill press is one of the most common machine tools found in any garage-home shop (that and a bench grinder).

While the drill press itself is common, it seems common knowledge on what to look for when buying one isn’t so common.

So we will look at a few things to consider before choosing your new drill press.

If you are a first time buyer chances are you aren’t quite sure what type of drill press you require. 


Drill Press Specifications To Know

Speed Range –

if you do any sort of metalwork or engineering you will want to look at a drill press that is capable of slow speeds – less than 300 RPM. The reason is big drill bits and hole saws require slow speeds. 

For woodworking in some cases its ‘The higher the speed the better’. Woodworkers also tend to have a wider range of tools to fit in a drill press and most will have speed specifications.

Chuck Size –

Many drill presses come standard with a 5/8″ (16mm) chuck but it is not uncommon for one to be fitted with a 1/2″ (13mm) or on a small press a 3/8″ (10mm) chuck.

If you use really small drill bits, 1/8 (3mm) or smaller, a 5/8 (16mm) chuck maybe to big, though some will hold down to 1/32 (1mm) drill bit.

From my personal experience drill presses with a 5/8 chuck are held in place by either a Jacobs Taper or Morse Taper. A machine with a tapered spindle provides a lot more flexibility.

Especially when using drill bits larger than 1/2″ (13mm). The chuck can be removed and a tapered shank drill bit can be inserted. These taper shanked bits have more positive bite and tend not to slip like the straight shanked bits can do in a chuck. 

Using taper shank tooling also eliminates any sort of runout the chuck may have.

Quill/Spindle Travel –

this is the length of the stroke, how far the drill press can drill down.

Had I thought about this more before buying my current drill press I would not have to mark both sides of 4″ (100mm) square tubing. My drill press has 3.5″ (90mm) of travel. There are work-arounds but you get the idea.
So, just consider what the thickest material is that you will commonly drill through.

Changing speeds –

this is not a biggie but it can be tedious if you have to constantly change drill speeds. Some machines this can be done in a matter of seconds while others it is a test of your patience removing and changing belts on pulleys. 

Those intending to upgrade will have a list of what is wanted and possibly not wanted.

I know budget is a big thing we all try to get the best we can for our budget.

But any drill press that is under a thousand dollars is probably not going to give you everything you want.

Runout – most drill presses made for the home shop and garage will have a small amount of runout on the spindle end and in the chuck. Some are worse than others. If you are looking for absolute zero runout these drill presses are not for you.

Reverse – Something I wished most drill presses had but unfortunately they don’t. Gear driven ones do, though likely, they would be an overkill and over budget item.

Autofeed – sorry, mostly on gear drives again and not common on single phase machines.
A drill/mill maybe your best option.

Keyless Chuck – Probably best they don’t fit these to a sub thousand dollar machine because they would only fit a cheap one and they can be more annoying than a keyed chuck. A quality keyless chuck is definitely worth the upgrade. (Just don’t use those burred up drill bits in it) 


The choice is yours.

Metal workers and engineers tend to favour floor standing while woodworkers, carpenters often opt for a bench top model.

It really comes down to personal choice and the type of work you will put through the drill press.

As a rule of thumb floor standing models tend to have slower low end speeds.

If you tend to drill holes in the ends of longer pieces of material a floor standing with a 90° tilting table is a good starting point.

This decision also depends on where you intend to place the drill press in your shop/garage and the space you have.

If you have been wondering how a drill press is sized, it’s done by the distance from the column to the center of the chuck, multiplied by two. Example: if the distance is 7.5 inches, then multiply that by 2 and you get 15. That number is also known as the Swing. 

Magnetic Drill Press

You will have noticed that there is an option of Magnetic drill press at the top of the page.

Generally they are for specialized work.
Engineering shops, riggers and construction are among the biggest users of these.


Buying a drill press is only part of the equation. The other part is the accessories needed to support, clamp and hold work.


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