A quality drill press can be worth its weight in gold for your shop. From drilling different materials, to additional tasks like mortising or sanding, a drill press can be a welcome addition to any shop.
Today, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the best benchtop drill press options on the market, and show you what to look for when you’re deciding on the best benchtop drill press for your shop.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Instead, we’ll jump right into discussing our five favorite benchtop drill presses available today. Whether you’re a professional carpenter or a DIY enthusiast, you’re sure to find something that fits your needs on this list.
For the weekend warriors among us, the SKIL 3320-01 may be the perfect drill press. This model features many high-end features while maintaining an affordable price point.
This press features five speeds ranging from 750-3,050 RPM so that it can make quick work of many different materials. The X2 laser alignment system ensures precise alignment of holes regardless of the material you’re working with.
The 3320 also features a tilting table, which makes compound drilling a breeze. A ½” chuck accommodates a wide variety of woodworking bits. While this model doesn’t offer the capacity of a floor model, at ten inches, it’s more than large enough to tackle most residential jobs.
SKIL backs this press with a solid 3-year warranty against defects in workmanship or materials.
- Laser alignment system
- Tilting table
- Solid warranty
- Doesn’t offer a low-speed option
- Not as accurate as higher-end models
If you’re looking for a high-end press with all the functionality you’d expect from a floor model, but you just don’t have the space available, the W1668 from Shop Fox may be just what the doctor ordered.
This proven performer features an impressive ¾ horsepower motor with 12 variable speeds from 250-3,050 RPM. The large 13-inch size is significant enough that the W1668 can tackle almost any job that other bench mounted presses are too small to handle.
The W1668 features a table that tilts a full 90-degrees in either direction for easy and precise compound drilling, and a massive ⅝” chuck ensures that you’ll be able to use any woodworking bit on the market with your press.
One thing that separates the W1668 from most competitors is its oscillating function, which allows you to convert the press into a full-featured sander. There’s even a 2 ¼” dust collection port incorporated to help you work cleaner as you sand.
Shop Fox warrants this product for two years from the date of purchase.
- 12-speed operation
- ⅝” chuck size
- Oscillating spindle for sanding
- Includes many sanding accessories
- High capacity
- Warranty is mediocre
- Poor factory packaging – May be best to buy this one in person
If you’re in the market for a drill press, but you’re hamstrung by a tiny budget, the 4208 from WEN may be a good option for you.
This bare-bones model doesn’t pack many impressive features, but it’s available at a sub-$100 price point that’s truly unbeatable when it comes to drill presses.
At the heart of this press is a ⅓ horsepower engine with five variable speeds from 740-3,140 RPM. With a paltry 8-inch swing, this isn’t a press for large or demanding jobs, but it can make quick work of the basic tasks you’d want a drill press for.
The table bevels 45-degrees in either direction for easy compound drilling. A ½” chuck is large enough to accommodate virtually all woodworking bits. WEN backs this drill press with a 2-year warranty.
- Large chuck size
- Beveling table
- Mediocre warranty
- Low capacity
- Not as accurate as higher-end models
The JET J-2530 is another heavyweight performer that’s perfect for busy shops and demanding professionals.
This press features a ¾ horsepower engine with an impressive 16-speeds for operation from 200-3,630 RPM, making it ideal for working with any material you can dream up. Permanent spindle lubrication with four stainless steel bearings makes this one of the smoothest operating drill presses around.
The large work table bevels 45-degrees in either direction for compound drilling, and the table feels especially well supported beneath the ground steel column.
This press is especially heavy, weighing in at over 150 pounds, but that’s a testament to its industry-leading build quality. The head and base are both made from cast iron, and most every other component is solid steel. This machine is certainly built to last, although it only carries a two-year warranty.
- Industry-leading build quality
- High capacity
- 16-speed operation
- ⅝” chuck size
- Lacks the bells and whistles of other high-end presses
General International is one of the most trusted names when it comes to drill presses, and their M1 model is a solid choice for anyone looking for a blend of both performance and value.
This press boasts a ⅓ horsepower motor with variable speeds between 500-3,000 RPM, and a digital display lets you know the drill’s speed at a glance. While this press is underpowered compared to its high-end contemporaries, it does offer some fantastic additional features.
The M1 features a laser alignment system to help you drill more precisely, and an adjustable depth stop which allows complete control of drilling depth and upstroke travel, as well.
Both the head and base of the press are made from cast iron while the column is steel and are built to stand the test of time. However, General only offers a two-year warranty on this press.
While this press is less than half as powerful as the higher end JET and Shop Fox models we covered, it does offer similar build quality and features. These aspects make the General M1 a compelling choice for anyone who needs a professional quality press but doesn’t necessarily need a ton of power.
- Solid build quality
- Laser alignment
- Adjustable depth stop
- ⅝” chuck
Only ⅓ HP motor
Whether you’re interested in one of the awesome models we covered above, or you’re planning on doing some more research before purchasing, there’s plenty of info to familiarize yourself with when it comes to drill presses. Here’s what you’ll need to look out for.
Drill presses all serve the same function, but they fall into two distinct categories: benchtop, and floor mounted.
Benchtop drill presses are the most popular. They’re affordable when compared to floor mounted presses, and they’re versatile enough to tackle most jobs. That said, they lack the top-end features that some professionals require.
Benchtop presses mount to a workbench, and they’re considerably smaller in size than a floor-mounted press, which allows you to save on space in your crowded shop. They’re also significantly more affordable.
Benchtop presses vary in size and power, and while they feature the same functionality as a floor press, they aren’t capable of handling high volume jobs, or oversized pieces of material.
While that may seem like a dealbreaker for some people, benchtop drill presses can be incredibly useful, and there’s a good chance you’ll never need the extra power or capacity that a floor mounted press would provide.
You can think of a floor mounted press is a benchtop drill press on steroids. They’re substantially larger, more powerful, and offer a larger capacity than benchtop models. Many even come with wheels to make it easier to relocate the press throughout your shop.
While floor mounted models have clear advantages, most DIY-ers, contractors, and even some woodworking professionals will never need the additional power or capacity that a floor-mounted press can offer. Unless a drill press is a serious money maker for your shop, there’s a strong chance you’d be better served with a benchtop model.
Regardless of whether it’s a benchtop or floor mounted drill press, both types maintain the same basic components. Every drill press can be broken down into four parts:
- The base
- The Column
- The Table
- The Head
Starting with the base, this is the portion that supports the drill. The base is usually made from heavy cast iron or another particularly durable metal. On floor models, the base is larger and may have wheels. On benchtop models, the base is smaller, and it gets attached to a workbench with either bolts or clamps.
The column is the cylinder that extends from the base, and it determines the size of the press. Presses with longer columns will have larger capacities.
The table is attached above the column, and it’s the surface on which you’ll be drilling. The table can move in different directions, allowing you to center your work before drilling.
Finally, the head contains the motor of the drill press, along with all of the other components, such as the chuck, feed handle, and all of the different adjustable points of the press.
When you’re evaluating different models, there are a few key specs you’re going to want to look at.
One of the most critical specs to look at is the power of the drill press, which is measured in horsepower. As you’d imagine, the more powerful the drill is, the more easily it will be able to bore into your material. More powerful presses also place less strain on the motor, since they’re rarely working at full capacity.
As a rule of thumb, drill presses that are ½ horsepower or above will have ample power to tackle most jobs. For professional shops, a press with at least one horsepower may be required.
Stay within your budget, but look for the press that offers the most power for what you’re willing to spend.
The speed of the drill press refers to how quickly the motor spins the drill bit. Higher end models feature multiple speed settings or fully variable speed. Drill speeds vary from as low as 200 RPM to upwards of 3,000 RPM. Keeping in mind that different materials will call for different speed settings, a drill with variable speed is virtually a necessity.
The chuck is the apparatus which holds the bit in place as you drill. Chucks are available in a variety of sizes, usually from ⅜” to ⅝”. A larger chuck is capable of accommodating a wider variety of drill bits. If possible, opt for a ⅝” chuck size, as you’ll be able to use virtually any bit with this chuck.
The throat depth measures the difference between the center spindle of the drill press, and it’s column. This measurement helps to indicate the size of the drill press. The size of a drill press is indicated by twice it’s throat depth.
So, if a press has a throat depth of five inches, the size of that press will be ten inches. The bigger the throat depth, the bigger the press will be, and the more capacity it will have for different materials.
Beyond the critical specs we covered above, there are some handy features you’ll want in your drill press. These features will maximize the usefulness and versatility of the press, and allow you to tackle the widest range of jobs.
A depth stop is an important feature, especially if you need to duplicate your work on many pieces of the same material. This is a critical feature for furniture and cabinet makers to have. With a depth stop, the drill will automatically stop once it’s reached a set depth in the material.
We touched on the importance of variable speeds earlier, but it’s worth reinforcing. The more speeds the drill has, the more materials you’ll be able to drill into while achieving professional results.
Cheaper presses usually offer four or five different speeds, while more expensive models provide almost variable operation, allowing you to drill at 12-20 speeds from just over 100 RPM to over 3,000 RPM.
High-end drill presses feature compound heads which are capable of moving 45-degrees in either direction, which allows you to accurately drill compound angles with little fuss or extra work on your end.
A work light is another handy feature to have, as it makes it much easier for you to see what you’re doing as you work. Today, LED work lights have become the most popular, and they produce a ton of bright, white light, making it easier than ever to get a good look at the piece you’re working with.
Q: Is a benchtop or floor mounted drill press better?
A: Your needs, the size of your shop, and the demands you’re placing on your drill press will dictate. For most people, a benchtop model is ideal, as it provides functionality and value. But, for professional shops that use the press daily, a floor press will serve you better.
Q: What speed should I run my drill press?
A: The speed of your press should vary per the material you’re working on. Most people tend to use lower speeds when drilling metal, or plastics, and higher speeds when working with wood, unusually dense hardwoods.
Q: What other tasks can I use a drill press for?
A: Some drill presses offer a litany of accessories and add-ons you can purchase to get even more use out of your drill press. We’ve seen drill presses that double as plunge routers, arbor presses, and even sanders. If you’re looking to get additional functionality out of your drill press, look for a model that offers many compatible accessories.
A quality drill press can be worth its weight in gold, whether you run a machine shop, do carpentry work, or are just looking to be more precise in your jobs at home. While there’s a lot to learn when it comes to selecting the best drill press, the five we’ve chosen above are some of the most capable and popular models on the market.
While all five are solid options, only one drill press earns our title of the best benchtop drill press, and that’s the Shop Fox W1668. This press provides a balanced mix of high-end features with more than enough power, and capacity to tackle even the most demanding jobs. It also allows for low RPM operation, which is a must for working with certain materials.
Additionally, the build quality is high, ensuring that this press will be able to stand up to years of abuse in your shop.
While the W1668 is our favorite, you may find that another model fits your needs more closely. If you’re looking to save a bit of money without skimping on features, the General International M1 is a great option. Or, if you’re really working on a tight budget, the SKIL 3320-01 may be your best bet.