Written By
Published Oct. 13, 2021

You’ll find a drill press (also called a pillar drill) everywhere from home woodworking shops to factories. They are either bench-mounted or floor-standing, and due to their rigidity, allow for accurate, consistent drilling of different materials. They usually sport powerful motors, multiple speeds, and the ability to easily adjust the depth. Most plug into a standard household electrical outlet.

We’ve curated some of the best drill presses currently available. We also discuss important features you should consider when choosing the right model for your workshop.

How We Picked the Products

Methodology

As an engineer and former wood shop owner, I have broad experience of drill presses in metalworking and woodworking environments. I focused on these key features when making my selections:

  • Construction: Drill presses must offer repeatable accuracy. That requires rigidity and stability. Models that can’t achieve these basic requirements were not included.
  • Capabilities: Clearly some drill presses are bigger than others, but not everyone needs a powerful, floor-standing model. My choices didn’t necessarily focus on which bench drill offered the greatest capacities or performance, but rather whether the specification was suitable for the user the machine was aimed at.
  • Value: Several brands in this marketplace stand out for their consistent high quality, though that sometimes comes at a premium. I was careful to look at tools from lesser-known producers who offer high value.

The Best Drill Press: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: JET JWDP-12, 12-Inch Benchtop Drill Press

Versatility and Precision

The feature-packed Jet delivers accuracy, ease-of-use, and reliability. Jet

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut: The Jet combines power, accuracy and durability with several user-friendly features that make it a great investment for amateurs and professionals alike.

Specs:

  • Power: 1/2 HP
  • Swing: 12 inches
  • Speed Range: 530-3,100 rpm, fully variable.

Pros:

  • Compact but supportive cast iron base
  • Laser guide for precision drilling
  • Easy-to-read digital speed readout

Cons:

  • Table could be larger
  • Price will be beyond some home users

Jet is one of the leading drill press brands and offers a range of benchtop and floor-standing models for the enthusiastic amateur or professional user. They are reliable, high-quality tools.

The cast-iron base on this Jet drill press provides solid stability with a footprint is small that requires minimal bench space. The table is cast iron too, and features a pull-out roller that supports longer workpieces.

A 1/2 HP motor provides plenty of power to the fully variable gearbox, which is operated by a lever on the side of the machine. A clear digital display tells you what speed you’re using, and you’ll find the bump-action stop switch just below it. A ⅝-inch chuck can handle even larger-than-average drill bits. A generous 3-⅛-inch of spindle travel allows deeper drilling than many rivals. Finally, A laser guide ensures fast and accurate positioning of the bit, a feature that underscores the Jet’s focus on precision and productivity.

Best Value: WEN 4208T 2.3-Amp 8-Inch 5-Speed Benchtop Drill Press

Durable and Affordable

A very affordable drill press for the home woodworker. WEN

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut: The WEN drill press is a well-made tool from a company with a reputation for offering reliable and durable equipment for home workshops at modest cost.

Specs: 

  • Power: 1/3 HP
  • Swing: 8 inches
  • Speed Range: 740-3,140 rpm in five steps.

Pros:

  • Cast iron base and table provide good stability
  • Light enough to move off the bench if necessary
  • Very competitive pricing

Cons:

  • Modest capacities
  • Inconsistent quality control

The WEN 4208T drill press is perfect for woodworkers with a modest budget who nevertheless expect a robust and durable machine. It is a basic model with few user-friendly features, but in our opinion there is no better drill press for the money.

The cast-iron base and table provide excellent rigidity. The finish might be a little rough, but that has no bearing on performance. The chuck is a standard ½-inch model found on many drills, and the WEN includes a convenient spot to tuck the key. Spindle travel is a reasonable 2 inches. The 1/3 HP motor delivers sufficient power for woodworking and plastics but lacks the oomph you need for metals.

The WEN is ideal for anyone who wants the benefits and versatility of a drill press but who won’t be using it day-in, day-out. It delivers reasonable accuracy, which is all many home workshop users need.

Best Floor-Standing: Shop Fox W1848 Oscillating Floor Drill Press

Drilling And Sanding Capability

The versatile Shop Fox has features specifically targeted at discerning home and professional woodworkers. Shop Fox

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut: Those with the space for a floor-standing drill press can take advantage of the increased capacities this tool delivers. The Shop Fox quickly converts to a drum sander, extending usability.

Specs: 

  • Power: 3/4 HP
  • Swing: 13-¾ inches
  • Speed Range: 250 – 3,050 rpm in 12 steps

Pros:

  • Sturdy machine with excellent capacities
  • Rapid change to drum sanding mode
  • Table is fitted with a dust extraction port

Cons:

  • Occasional manufacturing faults
  • Poor packaging can result in damage in transit

Buyers of floor-standing drill presses often need to drill bigger holes in larger pieces of material and want the increased power and capacities the Shop Fox provides. The drum sanding feature is a nice extra that is particularly useful in busy workshops.

The base and table are cast iron, and the table offers a spacious 12-⅜-inch diameter surface (3 inches larger than the Jet). The ¾-HP motor drives a gearbox with at a dozen speeds. The range of lower speeds is especially useful with large drill bits and harder timbers. Chuck capacity is a hefty ⅝-inch, and spindle travel is an ample 3-¼ inches.

The oscillating motor allows the Shop Fox to operate as a drum sander. It includes 1-, 1-½-  and 2-inch drums, and switching between modes takes less than a minute.

Best for Pros: Powermatic PM2800B, 18-Inch Drill Press

Impressive Power And Capacities

The high-performance Powermatic is just the thing for busy, professional workshops. Powermatic

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut: Sometimes there is no substitute for size and power. The Powermatic is pricey, but makes things much easier when working with large dimensions and high productivity.

Specs:

  • Power: 1 HP
  • Swing: 18 inches
  • Speed Range: 250-3,000 rpm, fully variable.

Pros:

  • Big and powerful, yet user-friendly
  • Multi-purpose fence for rapid workpiece alignment
  • Handles can be reversed for left-handed users

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Inconsistent quality control, though customer support is good

However you look at it, the Powermatic drill press is an impressive piece of equipment. It stands 58 inches tall and weighs 246 pounds. An oversize cast-iron base ensures the stability and rigidity necessary for the kind of accurate, repetitive drilling the machine is designed for. The big 20-inch-by-14-inch table features T-tracks to fit a vise for light engineering work, but also comes with a 90-degree adjustable fence and stop, which help reduce set-up time when woodworking.

The 1 HP motor is as powerful as any in its class. It drives a variable speed system with a large digital readout for easy reference. The chuck is a ½-inch keyless version, which is faster and easier to use than those requiring a key to tighten bits. The time saved may be minor, but speed is important in professional shops. Spindle travel is a massive 6 inches, and achieving it requires just one turn of the handle. A laser pinpoints the bit position, ensuring precision drilling every time.

Best For Metal: DeWalt Drill Press, 2-Speed, Magnetic, 2-Inch

Superb For Steel

A powerful tool for cutting through steel and other ferrous metals. DEWALT

Check Price

Why It Made The Cut: Most drill presses are aimed at woodworkers but can handle aluminum, brass, and other soft metals. The DeWalt drill press is an alternative to expensive, heavy-duty mills used for cutting steel.

Specs: 

  • Power: 10 amp (approx. 2.6 HP)
  • Swing: N/A
  • Speed Range: 2 speeds, 300 or 450 rpm

Pros:

  • Rapid tool-free cutter changing
  • Relatively lightweight and maneuverable
  • Motor has overload protection to prevent burnouts

Cons:

  • Price is competitive, though still considerable.
  • Ferrous metals only.

The DeWalt drill press is much like other models in that it uses a rotating handle and plunge mechanism. However, it is designed to attach to the workpiece using a strong electromagnet, so it only works with ferrous metals because aluminum, brass, copper, and the like are not magnetic. You can use it in a workshop, or on-site if the pieces you need to work with are too large to move.

The DeWalt delivers impressive performance. The 10-amp motor can cut steel as thick as 4-⅜ inches and bore a hole 2 inches in diameter. Overload protection prevents damage from overheating. The DeWalt accepts standard twist drills, and something called annular cutters that are popular in engineering. (Annular cutters often feature Weldon design shanks, which is not the same as an ordinary drill.) The DeWalt’s quick-change mechanism so it can accept both.

The design is increasingly popular among engineering and related trades, where this machine is recognized for its excellent value.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Drill Press

Drill presses vary in size and performance, but many aspects of their specifications are common. Buyers should focus their attention there.

Construction

Rigidity and stability are vital factors in drill-press accuracy. A cast-iron base is preferred. Though this can make the tool heavy, it ensures a solid platform and helps absorb motor vibration. Bases should be slotted so you can bolt the drill press to the floor or a bench. This is particularly important when working with large pieces to keep them from toppling the tool. A cast-iron table is nice, though steel and aluminum are perfectly acceptable.

The pillar (column) that supports the drill head is usually steel. A chrome finish is easy to clean and helps prevent corrosion. The gearing that raises and lowers the head should be substantial to resist wear. For other parts of the drill press, metal is generally preferred to plastic for durability, though handles are often plastic.

Power

Most general-purpose drill presses are rated in horsepower (HP) and run anywhere from 1/4 HP for an entry-level benchtop model, to 1-1/2 for a high-performance floor-standing tool. Craft models and mini drills might be rated in amps or watts. It can be confusing but manufacturers are usually good at matching power to purpose. You don’t really have to worry about this.

Speeds

Gearboxes allow the user to adjust speed to suit different drill bits and materials. More speeds means greater versatility, but it’s more important to choose a tool with speed ranges suitable for your purposes.

Adjusting speeds often requires removing the top of the drill head and moving a belt over a pair of pulleys. High-end drill presses sometimes feature a fully variable speed control that is much quicker and easier to set.

Capacities

Drill presses are usually rated by their ‘swing’—the distance from the center of the chuck to the pillar, multiplied by 2. For example, that distance is 6 inches on a 12-inch drill press. That means the largest diameter or width workpiece the tool can accommodate is 12 inches.

Spindle travel indicates the maximum possible depth of drilling. Table travel gives maximum workpiece height that can be accommodated. It is usually possible to move the table out of the way, but keeping a workpiece stable when resting on the base can be difficult and is not recommended.

Safety

Most drill presses have a shield around the chuck that you flip up and out of the way for setting things up, but it should always be properly positioned while working. You also should wear safety glasses. The tool should have a prominent stop button that is easily operated if something should go wrong. Use a vise or clamps (generally not included) to hold the workpiece securely. You may be tempted to hold it with a hand, but if the drill bit grabs the workpiece it could result in a nasty injury.

FAQs

Q: Are benchtop drill presses any good?

Absolutely. Many have similar capacities to floor-standing models. They are ideal for workshops with limited space.

Q: How do you pick a good drill press?

Solid construction is the key to long-term accuracy. The ‘Things to Consider’ section above provides an in-depth look at other important areas and will help you make the right choice.

Q: Do drill presses need special bits?

No. Any standard twist drill will fit, up to the maximum capacity of the chuck. Spade bits, Forstner bits, and hole saws (which are designed for making large holes) are easier to control in a drill press than with a hand-held tool.

Final Thoughts

The Jet drill press is a stable, accurate tool with impressive performance. Its user-friendly features raise it above most competitors. It isn’t cheap, but is a long-term investment for your workshop. The WEN is a more basic model, without the same power or precision as the Jet, but will be more than adequate for many home users. It costs less than many hand-held drills.

MORE TO READ