DIY Tools Workshop

Operating a Drill Press

Follow these guidelines to operate a drill press the right way and achieve optimal results in your DIY woodworking project.
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How to Use a Drill Press


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The controls vary from one drill press to the next, but there are a number of ele­ments that remain largely the same.

Read and follow the instruc­tions provided by the manufac­turer of your drill press. The drill should be unplugged while you are setting it up for use.

Set the Speed.

The speed on most drill presses is adjusted by moving the drive belt from one pulley to another. In general, the smaller the pulley on the chuck axis, the faster it spins. A rule of thumb, as with any cutting operation, is that slower speeds are better for drilling metal, faster speeds for wood. Again, consult your manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Fit the Bit.

Open the chuck, slide in the bit, snug the chuck by hand around the bit’s shaft, then tighten the chuck’s three jaws with the key. Make sure to remove the chuck. If you don’t, it’ll become a dangerous projectile when you turn on the drill. When drilling large holes, drill a smaller, pilot hole first.

How to Use a Drill Press - Drill Press Tool

Adjust the Table.

Some models have a crank that adjusts the table height, others move freely once the clamping lever has been released. Set the table to the desired height for the operation you are to perform.

Gauging the Depth.

If you are simply drilling a hole in a piece of stock, you may not need to adjust the depth gauge, the threaded rod that controls the distance the spin­dle travels. However, if you are concerned with a stopped hole of a fixed depth, lower the bit to the desired height, and ad­just the pair of knurled nuts on the depth gauge to the proper stopping point. One of them should stop the spindle; the other locks the first nut in place.

Secure the Workpiece.

Before operating your drill press, be sure that the workpiece to be drilled is fixed in place. The ro­tation of the drill bit may try to spin the wood or metal workpiece, so it must be clamped to the worktable, braced against the supporting column at the rear of the machine, or other­wise secured. Never operate the tool without firmly anchoring the workpiece.


Once the drill press setup has been completed, put­ting it to work is easy. Make sure the drill is spinning at full speed, then present the bit to the workpiece, lowering the bit by swinging the rotating lever. Once you’ve finished drilling the hole, release the pressure on the lever and its spring-loaded return mechanism will return it to its original position.