The Best Benchtop Drill Press for Your Workshop

Recent safety improvements and technological advances make these drill presses ideal for DIY workshop projects.

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The Best Benchtop Drill Press Option

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When your DIY project requires some precision drill work, only the best benchtop drill press will do. These handy tools are excellent for boring precision holes in wood, metal, and other items. A benchtop drill press is an ideal addition to a workshop, because it helps make a clumsy, potentially dangerous job safer and more accurate. Instead of holding a workpiece precariously in your hand, you can clamp it to the drill press’s worktable. DIYers can use them for sanding and grinding as well. Some specially designed models, known as mortisers, can even create perfect joinery. If your workshop doesn’t have a drill press, it’s time you checked into one of these remarkable tools.

  1. BEST OVERALL: WEN 4214 12-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press
  2. RUNNER-UP: JET J-2530 15-Inch Drill Press
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: WEN 4208 8-Inch 5-Speed Drill Press
  4. BEST MULTI-USE: Shop Fox 13-Inch Bench-Top Drill Press/Spindle Sander
  5. BEST MORTISER: Powermatic 3/4 Horsepower Benchtop Mortiser
The Best Benchtop Drill Press Option

Photo: depositphotos.com

What to Consider When Buying a Benchtop Drill Press

If you’ve never owned a benchtop drill press before, you probably aren’t sure what to look for in your new purchase or how exactly to use it. While drill presses aren’t necessarily a niche tool, they’re less prevalent in home workshops than they used to be. Here are some things to consider when looking for the best benchtop drill press for your shop.

Drill Size & Travel

Drill size and travel are the two most important measurements to compare benchtop drill presses.

Manufacturers measure drill size by the “throat distance,” or the distance between the drill bit and the stand that supports the motor. Manufacturers like to double that distance to size their drill presses. For example, a drill press with a length of 6 inches from bit to stand would be a 12-inch drill press.

Travel refers to how far the chuck can be moved up and down. For instance, a 2-inch travel means that the user can lower the tip of a drill bit 2 inches. The greater the travel, the thicker material a drill press can potentially drill through.

Variable Speeds

Drill presses commonly come with speeds varying from 200 to 3,600 RPM. Generally, the harder the material, the lower the required speed. This reduces the heat generated by the drill to help maintain a sharp cutting edge on the bit. Some materials require higher speeds than others. For instance, you can drill pine at a high rate, a piece of oak at a medium rate, and various metals at low rates of speed.

Pro Tip: When drilling metal, it’s a good idea to keep a can of lubricant or cutting oil nearby. A quick spray on the bit helps to keep the heat down on the tip and maintain a sharp cutting edge.

Horsepower

Horsepower is a nice-to-know number, but it’s not as crucial for workshop benchtop drill presses as it is for floor models in production settings. Speed variability is far more important than horsepower when it comes to a benchtop drill press.

Standard benchtop drill presses range from 1/3- to 3/4-horsepower models. Either will do for most workshop-based projects. If a drill press starts to bog down, it means you’re putting too much pressure on the bit. This is bad for the bit, the chuck, and the spindle, so lighten up.

Laser Guide & Onboard Light

Even the most seasoned drill press operators can use a bit of guidance now and then. Choosing a drill press with an onboard light will help you see better in the darker corners of your workshop, ensuring more accurate drilling.

Look for a model with a laser guide to really take your drill press game to the next level. These guides are often crosshair-shaped lines you can align with exactly where your drill bit point touches the workpiece. Once you adjust it, you’ll be able to pinpoint every drop of the drill press.

Safety Features

While drill presses are kind of an old-school tool, they have gotten some recent updates to make them a little safer. Features like bit guards help to keep your hands away from a spinning drill bit and prevent scraps of metal and wood from flying towards your face. Oversized on/off buttons help you to quickly shut a machine off if something does go wrong.

Clamping devices not only hold your workpiece in place for better accuracy but also prevent it from kicking loose and hurting the drill press user. Most of these devices are accessories you have to buy separately, however.

Accessories & Attachments

There are a lot of handy attachments and accessories available for benchtop drill presses. From sanding kits to mortising chisels, the right accessory kit can turn a standard, run-of-the-mill drill press into a highly functional production machine. Many of these accessories simply tighten in place in the chuck.

Other helpful accessories include clamps and jigs that can bolt to the drill press’s table to hold workpieces at specific angles for safe and accurate drilling.

Our Top Picks

Benchtop drill presses are pretty standard, though there are some differences between brands, sizes, and features. The following recommendations for some top-rated models that possess the important features needed for your chosen project, hobby, or trade.

The Best Benchtop Drill Press Option: WEN 4214 12-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press

Photo: amazon.com

1. BEST OVERALL: WEN 4214 12-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press

WEN makes some powerful electric tools, and the 4214 variable speed drill press is no exception. This 12-inch drill press has a digital display, so you’ll always know the exact speed of the drill, which adjusts between 580 and 3,200 RPM in very fine increments. It has 3 1/8-inches of travel as well as an adjustable depth stop for repeatable results. The 2/3-horsepower motor has plenty of power for nearly any shop project, and the worktable is adjustable up to 45 degrees left and right. The table also features a crank handle for raising and lowering.

This WEN has a laser guide and onboard work light, but no bit guard for safety. Old-school drillers will appreciate this, but it might be intimidating for new users.

The Best Benchtop Drill Press Option: JET J-2530 15-Inch Drill Press

Photo: amazon.com

2. RUNNER-UP: JET J-2530 15-Inch Drill Press

JET tools are as at home in a production setting as they are in a DIY workshop, and that includes this beast of a benchtop drill press. The J-2530 from JET has a 15-inch throat and 3/4-horsepower motor for drilling through some serious materials. The work table tilts 45 degrees left and right, and swivels 360 degrees if you need it out of the way. The motor has 16 speeds, adjusting from as low as 200 RPM to as high as 3,630 RPM. It has a 3 3/8-inch travel to complement its wide throat. It also features an oversized on/off switch and a bit guard.

Two things made the JET the runner-up instead of taking our top spot: its lack of a digital readout and its heft. It weighs over 150 pounds, so make sure your benchtop is sturdy.

The Best Benchtop Drill Press Option: WEN 4208 8-Inch 5-Speed Drill Press

Photo: amazon.com

3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: WEN 4208 8-Inch 5-Speed Drill Press

The 4208 drill press from WEN packs quite a few features into a package with a small price tag. This drill press has five preset speeds; 740, 1,100, 1,530, 2,100, and 3,140 RPM. Its 8-inch throat is large enough for most projects. It has 2 inches of travel, and the worktable tilts up to 45 degrees to the left or right. The 1/3-horsepower motor might seem light by industrial standards, DIYers are likely to find it serves their needs just fine.

The 4208 has two areas of limitation: the 1/2-inch chuck and its 2 inches of travel. As such, it’s best for light-duty use, but at this price, it’s an excellent tool.

The Best Benchtop Drill Press Option: Shop Fox 13-Inch Bench-Top Drill Press/Spindle Sander

Photo: amazon.com

5. BEST MULTI-USE: Shop Fox 13-Inch Bench-Top Drill Press/Spindle Sander

Shop Fox knows that most hobbyists need their workshops to be as versatile as possible. Their 13-inch Benchtop Drill Press/Spindle Sander is designed for both drilling and sanding, which is why this 3/4-horsepower drill press turns the spindle at speeds between 250 and 3,050 RPM. The 13 1/4-inch swing allows easy manipulation of large workpieces without issue, especially when sanding. The table tilts to either side up to 90 degrees, making drilling end-grain on woodworking projects a snap. It includes the drum kit with 1-, 1 1/2-, and 2-inch drums and sandpaper. When used in sanding mode, the drum oscillates up and down. The unconventional round worktable features a circular cutout for the sanding drum—perfect for fine, detailed sanding jobs.

The only complaint we have is that there’s no mechanism for switching between drilling and spindle-sanding. Users have to open the lid and remove or replace a belt to make the switch between the two modes.

The Best Benchtop Drill Press Option: Powermatic 3/4 Horsepower Benchtop Mortiser

Photo: amazon.com

6. BEST MORTISER: Powermatic 3/4 Horsepower Benchtop Mortiser

If you’re building your workshop around furniture and cabinet making, there’s no replacement for a good benchtop mortiser. While this isn’t exactly a drill press, you can remove the mortising chisel and use it for most of the same functions. This makes it versatile enough to be the only benchtop drilling tool you’ll need to get by in a pinch, with the ability to cut perfect mortises in sturdy stock. The 3/4-horsepower motor has plenty of power for hardwoods like walnut and locust.

There are two areas any mortiser will fall short in comparison to a drill press: They don’t have adjustable tables, and very few have variable speeds. This Powermatic benchtop mortiser will only run at 1,725 RPM, which is a nice meet-in-the-middle speed.