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Updated October 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best benchtop drill presses

As a homeowner, it’s a given that sooner or later you’ll have to drill some holes somewhere. Many times, the task at hand is simple: you might need to drill a hole to hang a picture, for instance. Eventually, unless you’re paying someone to do all of your home maintenance projects for you, you’re going to need to drill more than just the odd hole or two.

For example, during the standard DIY kitchen upgrade, you may need to drill straight holes in cabinet doors to a specific depth. You may need to deburr those holes. Theoretically, you could do these tasks with a handheld drill, but it’s nearly impossible to achieve the kind of precision you’d need. A drill press can help you get the job done in a fraction of the time and with minimal effort.

Homeowners and hobbyists generally don’t need a floor model drill press. Those machines, laudable though they are, are both big and expensive. A benchtop drill press can give you the results you want without eating a hole in your budget.

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It’s a good idea to test your settings on scrap material before drilling on your production material.

Key considerations

Amount of work

The first thing you should consider when looking for a drill press is how much work you’re going to be doing with it. If you’re the type of person who is out in the shop or garage working on a dozen projects at once, you should get a top-of-the-line model. It’ll cost more, but the long-term durability will be worth it. If you just need a benchtop drill press for the occasional light-duty project, however, you might not need to invest in a top-shelf tool.

Expert tip
Never attempt to drill through wood or metal without using the vise or clamps. Holding it by hand risks injury to the user and damage to the item.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Type of work

The type of work you’ll be doing — and the material with which you’ll be doing it — are major factors to keep in mind when choosing a benchtop drill. For example, if all you need to do is punch precision holes in some cabinet doors for the hinges, you probably don’t need to worry about beveling on an adjustable table. In that same vein, if you’re working with metal more than wood, you will need a benchtop drill press with greater horsepower (hp) in the motor. But if you’re only working with wood, hp isn’t as big of a concern.

Features

Drill speed

There are plenty of drill speed charts available online, but as a general rule, you want higher RPMs with thinner drill bits and slower RPMs with wider drill bits. The type of material you’re drilling will factor into your choice as well. Let’s look at some examples when you’re using a 7/16-inch vs. a 1-inch drill bit on various types of material.

  • Softwood: The smaller drill bit moves at 1,500 RPM; the larger drill bit moves at 750 RPM.
  • Hardwood: The smaller drill bit moves at 740 RPM; the larger drill bit moves at 500 RPM.
  • Brass: The smaller drill bit moves at 750 RPM; the larger drill bit moves at 400 RPM.
  • Aluminum: The smaller drill bit moves at 1500 RPM; the larger drill bit moves at 1000 RPM.
  • Steel: The smaller drill bit moves at 600 RPM; the larger drill bit moves at 350 RPM.

Think ahead to the type of material you’ll be drilling and the bit sizes you’ll be using. That will give you an indication of the range of drill speeds you’ll need when you choose a drill press.

expert tip
Keep a vacuum or air hose handy so you can quickly clear debris from your work area.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Motor power

The hp of the motor on your drill press determines the drill bit sizes you can use. The larger the bit, the more hp you need to cut through the material. For most home and hobby uses, 1/3 to 3/4 hp is sufficient. You can use a 1 hp drill if you like, but this would probably be overkill. It will also make your drill top-heavy and prone to tipping over unless it is securely bolted to your workbench.

Drilling depth stops

If you need to drill a series of holes to a specified depth — for instance, for inserting dowel rods — you will need a drill press with good depth stops. This is an area where a handheld drill simply can’t compete. Be sure to check if the depth stops are infinitely adjustable or limited to set distances between each depth.

Beveling angle

If you need to tilt your table to drill holes at an angle, be sure to get a drill press that has an adjustable table. The normal amount of tilt to the left and right is 45 degrees. If all you’re doing is punching straight holes, you can save money by choosing a drill press without an adjustable table.

Accessories

Step drill bits: CO-Z Multiple Hole 50 Sizes Step Drill Bit Set
When you need multiple sizes of holes drilled in thin material, such as steel or aluminum, this five-piece set of step drill bits from CO-Z is just the thing.

Sanding drums: Hiltex 10342 Sanding Drum Kit
This 26-piece set from Hiltex has assorted sleeves and rubber drums. With these, you can quickly turn your drill press into a freestanding sander for putting the finishing touches on your woodworking. Smooth the rough edges for a professional look.

Expert tip
If the drill gets caught in a hole, stop the machine and turn the spindle backward by hand to release the bit.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Forstner bits: Irwin Tools Wood Drilling Forstner Bit Set
When you need to drill precision flat-bottomed and pocket holes for your next project, this eight-piece set from Irwin Tools has ultra-sharp teeth for cutting both soft and hard wood.

Hole saw bits: ryker hardware 10-Piece Hole Saw Kit
This hole saw kit from ryker hardware has 10 bits from 1 inch to 2 1/2 inches in diameter. They’re perfect for drilling holes in wood, PVC, plastic, drywall, and plywood.

Benchtop drill press prices

Inexpensive

Under $70 is the low price range for benchtop drill presses. This is where semi-drill presses are often found, including models that convert hand-held rotary tools into benchtop drill presses for light-duty work.

Mid-range

For a little more, from $70 to $150, you will find yourself looking at the majority of benchtop drill presses for sale. These products tend to have cast iron bases and stainless steel columns and handles. Some may not have adjustable tables for beveling.

Expensive

If you want a top-end benchtop drill press, expect to pay $150 to $300, though truly professional models can cost upwards of $600. These drill presses have powerful motors, a wide range of drill speeds, depth stops, and adjustable cast iron tables.

Tips

  • Long hair can get caught in a drill press. Keep it tied back or under a hair net or hat.
  • Wear protective glasses when operating any kind of drill press.
  • Never put material on the table or make any adjustments to the drill press while the power is on.
  • Most benchtop drill presses have pre-drilled bolt holes in the base. Use them to secure the drill press in place before using it so there is no danger of it tipping over.
  • Avoid wearing baggy clothes when you’re working with a drill press. If your clothes were to get caught in the spinning spindle, you could be injured before you had a chance to turn it off.
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Don’t over-torque a drill bit when you’re putting it in. If you do, you’ll have trouble getting it out again.

FAQ

Q. Should clamps be used to hold the material in place?

A. On small pieces where your hand would be close to the drill, yes. On larger pieces where your hands would be farther away, this is not necessary.

Expert Tip
Give yourself a 2-3 foot radius work zone around the drill press for safety.
BestReviews Home Improvement and DIY Expert

Q. Should I turn the power on while the drill bit is touching the material?

A. No. Once the material is on the table and the correct bit is in place, turn the power on and start the drill. Once the speed is stable, use the lever to lower the drill until it begins drilling through the material.

Q. What is a stop depth?

A. Stop depth refers to the depth of the hole you want to drill. The drill has to be stopped when it reaches that depth in the material. Once the stop depth has been set, each drill hole will be the same depth.

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