Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila
When a 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 materials, and modern models have a lot to offer.
A benchtop drill press is an ideal addition to a workshop, making a clumsy, potentially dangerous job safer and more accurate. Instead of holding a workpiece precariously in hand, users 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.
For workshops without drill presses, it may be time to check into one of these remarkable tools. And to make sure these benchtop drill presses have what it takes, I performed hands-on testing with all of the following models. Keep reading to learn about what I liked and what I didn’t.
- BEST OVERALL: Wen 4214 5-Amp 12-Inch Variable Speed Drill Press
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Wen 4208 2.3-Amp 8-Inch 5-Speed Benchtop Drill Press
- UPGRADE PICK: Jet J-2530 15-Inch Bench Model Drill Press
- BEST MULTIUSE: Shop Fox 13-Inch Bench-Top Drill Press/Spindle Sander
- BEST MORTISER: Powermatic 3/4 HP Bench Mortiser
- BEST 10-INCH: Ryobi 10-Inch Drill Press with Laser
- ALSO CONSIDER: Dremel 220-01 Workstation Drill Press
Photo: Tom Scalisi for Bob Vila
How We Tested the Best Benchtop Drill Presses
To bolster my own research, I interviewed Paul Kropp, a master woodworker and the co-founder and COO of Bakes & Kropp, a nationwide kitchen design and cabinetry company, who gave his insight on the use of benchtop drill presses in a professional setting. His main advice to shoppers is to look for “adequate horsepower to spin a big hole saw or Forstner bit … and solid pivot points for adjustment.”
Taking this into consideration, putting together a list of the best benchtop drill presses was a lot of work, as I wanted to suggest only top-quality models with features that matter. So, I pulled several models from brands that had those features, and then I pitted them against each other.
The first test was assembly, as many large power tools can be difficult to put together. All of these models were fairly straightforward to assemble, with a few being just slightly easier. Next, I tested each by drilling through steel, adjusting the speed, and drilling through wet wood. Next, I checked out all of the additional features to ensure they worked.
Finally, I considered the saw’s weight, size, and price, and I assigned awards to the models that passed my tests. The result is this list of some of the best benchtop drill presses on the market today.
Our Top Picks
Benchtop drill presses are pretty standard, though there are some differences among brands, sizes, and features. Taking all the above tips into consideration, I carefully considered a variety of benchtop drill presses and then performed hands-on testing with the following models to ensure they were top-tier quality.
- Size: 12 inches
- Speed: 580 to 3,200 rpm
- Laser/light: Both
- Lots of travel, allowing for drilling through two 2x4s
- Digital speed readout was helpful when keeping track of the speed
- High-quality worktable compared to other options on this list
- Speed adjustment lever is very stiff
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 users always know the exact speed of the drill, which adjusts between 580 and 3,200 rpm in very fine increments. It has 3⅛ inches of travel as well as an adjustable depth stop for repeatable results. The 2/3-horsepower motor has plenty of power for most 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.
I really enjoyed working with the Wen 12-inch drill press during the hands-on testing. The motor was quiet, the long travel was a plus, and the digital speed readout on the front of the drill press helped keep track of the speed.
This Wen has a laser guide and onboard work light, but it lacks a bit guard for safety. Old-school drillers will appreciate this, but it might be intimidating for new users. However, the one area the Wen could use some work is speed adjustment: The lever was incredibly stiff and difficult to manipulate, even with the drill running. But the worktable, its crank, and the roller certainly made up for it.
Get the Wen 4214 drill press at Amazon.
- Size: 8 inches
- Speed: 740 to 3,140 rpm
- Laser/light: None
- Was the easiest model to set up out of all the options on this list
- Lightweight and compact for crowded benchtops
- Affordable price point compared to some comparable options
- Worktable does not have a crank system
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, but many DIYers are likely to find it serves their needs just fine.
This model from Wen was one of the easiest in the bunch to assemble. I also liked that it’s lightweight and compact, allowing for picking it up and moving it with ease. However, the 4208 drill press has two areas of limitation: the ½-inch chuck and its 2 inches of travel. As such, it’s best for light-duty use. And while it doesn’t have a crank to lift and lower the worktable, the affordable price point can buy some forgiveness.
Get the Wen 4208 drill press at The Home Depot.
- Size: 15 inches
- Speed: 200 to 3,630 rpm
- Laser/light: None
- Very smooth and quiet, despite the high speed range
- Heavy-duty motor won’t bog down in tough materials like
- Wide speed range for a variety of preferences and project needs
- It’s the most expensive pick and may be more than many DIYers need
- It weighs more than 150 pounds so it’s not as easy to move as others on this list
Jet tools are just as at home in a production setting as they are in a DIY workshop, and that includes this powerful 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 worktable tilts 45 degrees left and right and swivels up to 360 degrees when the user needs 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 3⅜-inch travel to complement its wide throat. It also features an oversized on/off switch and a bit guard.
During the test, I found the Jet to be incredibly smooth and quiet compared to the other models. I also liked that it offers many pulley combinations for adjusting speed (which was a little confusing at first). Also, the heavy-duty motor didn’t appear to bog down at all, regardless of what I threw at it. The only real concerns with this model are that it’s expensive and very heavy (over 150 pounds).
Get the Jet J-2530 drill press at Amazon, or The Home Depot.
- Size: 13 inches
- Speed: 250 to 3,050 rpm
- Laser/light: No
- Quality spindle sander attachment provides ease of use
- Wide speed range of 250 to 3,050 rpm; suitable for a variety of projects
- Worktable is well designed and operates smoothly
- Power button is located in a strange location
Shop Fox knows that most hobbyists need their workshops to be as versatile as possible. The brand’s 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 13¼-inch swing allows easy manipulation of large workpieces without issue, especially when sanding.
The table tilts either side up to 90 degrees, making drilling endgrain on woodworking projects a snap. It includes the drum kit with 1-, 1½-, 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.
I found a lot to like about the Shop Fox drill press during the test. First, the wide speed range and high-quality worktable made drilling easy and accurate. Also, I liked the spindle sander attachment as it attaches easily and does a great job of smoothly sanding. My biggest complaint is that the power button is on the left of the machine rather than the front like most other models, which could be a safety issue.
Get the Shop Fox drill press/spindle sander at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Northern Tool + Equipment.
- Size: Mortiser (range of sizes)
- Speed: 1,725 rpm
- Laser/light: No
- Lots of power; can operate at up to 1,725 rpm for heavy-duty materials
- Accepts different chisel sizes for excellent versatility
- Accurate depth stop provides ample ease of use
- Requires longer drill bits that some DIYers might not own
For those building their workshops around furniture and cabinet making, there’s no replacement for a good benchtop mortiser. While this isn’t exactly a drill press, DIYers can remove the mortising chisel and use it for some of the same functions (albeit with a longer bit). This makes it versatile enough to offer a drill solution 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 but only runs at one speed (1,725 rpm).
During the test, the first thing I noticed was the Powermatic’s advanced hold-down system, as it can slide back and forth to clamp a workpiece in place. Also, it had lots of power, not letting the bit bog down at all while drilling through wet wood. The accurate depth stop is a plus, and the fact that it can handle different mortising chisels sizes is as well. My only complaint is that it’s not exactly a drill press, so it will require longer bits, but it’s more than capable of most drilling needs.
Get the Powermatic bench mortiser at Amazon or The Home Depot.
- Size: 10 inches
- Speed: 620 to 3,100 rpm
- Laser/light: Both
- Lightweight and compact unit is ideal for DIY workshops as well as jobsites
- Worktable features a crank and can tilt 45 degrees left and right
- Built-in laser and light for ease of use and visibility
- Motor fan chattered, which can be distracting
DIYers looking for a 10-inch drill press that they can rely on but also lift on and off their benchtop may want to check out this model from Ryobi. This drill press features five adjustable speeds between 620 and 3,100 rpm, and the ½-inch chuck has a travel of 2⅛ inches, allowing this relatively compact model to handle some bigger drilling jobs.
I really liked this model from Ryobi. The laser was bright and easy to see, even with the onboard light turned on. I also really liked that this model’s worktable had a crank system, as many smaller drill presses don’t. While my particular model did chatter a bit, the compact and lightweight design made it easy to lift on and take off the bench.
Get the Ryobi drill press at The Home Depot.
- Size: NA
- Speed: NA
- Laser/light: NA
- Compatible models attach easily for excellent versatility
- Works with a wide range of rotary tool models from Dremel
- Lowering motion is smooth for accuracy and ease of use
- Needs serious tightening to achieve accuracy
- Might not be useful for drilling metal, regardless of model attached
For hobbyists and folks who work on literally small projects, Dremel’s drill press rotary tool workstation can turn their standard rotary tool into a mini drill press. This workstation offers 2 inches of travel and features a telescoping pole for attaching the onboard bit and tool holder and other attachments. The rotary tool simply attaches to the workstation with a plastic nut.
When I tested this workstation, I quickly realized that it isn’t for everyone. First, the power and drilling capability falls on the attached Dremel, so speed and control will vary from case to case. But I liked that this model had 2 inches of smooth travel, though the handle did bottom out on the 2×4 I was drilling (which was only 1½ inches thick). When I attempted to drill through steel, the Dremel bogged down immediately, which will probably be typical for most models. Also, I found it important to really tighten down hard on the positioning knobs to achieve accurate drilling.
This model is compatible with Dremel models: 100, 200, 275, 285, 300, 395, 398, 400, 800, 3000, 4000, 4200, 8100, 8200, and 8220.
Get the Dremel drill press at Amazon or The Home Depot.
What to Consider When Choosing a Benchtop Drill Press
According to Kropp, these tools are “an excellent way to utilize the precision of a drill press in a compact footprint,” so shoppers with limited space in their workshop can still tackle projects that require a drill press without it taking up the entire space.
That said, DIYers who are new to benchtop drill press ownership may not be sure of what to look for in a new purchase or even how to operate a drill press. 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 a shop.
Drill Size and Travel
Drill size and travel are the two most important performance 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.
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, drilling through pine at a high rate is fine, a piece of oak requires a medium rate, and various metals require 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 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, the user is putting too much pressure on the bit. This is bad for the bit, the chuck, and the spindle, so lighten up.
Laser Guide and 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 them see better if the drill press is in the darker corners of a workshop, ensuring more accurate drilling.
Look for a model with a laser guide to really take a drill press game to the next level. These guides are often crosshair-shaped lines that align with exactly where the drill bit point touches the workpiece. Once adjusted, it will be easier to pinpoint every drop of the drill press.
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 hands away from a spinning drill bit and prevent scraps of metal and wood from flying toward the user’s face. Oversize on/off buttons help users quickly shut a machine off if something does go wrong.
Clamping devices not only hold a 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 that users have to buy separately, however.
Accessories and 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.
There’s a lot to know about benchtop drill presses, and there may be a few new or lingering questions. Check out the answers to some of the most common questions below.
Q. What do you use a drill press for?
Drill presses are most useful for drilling precision holes in materials like wood, metal, and plastic. These holes could be for furniture joinery, bracketry, and other custom projects.
Q. What is the ideal HP for a benchtop drill press?
The ideal horsepower rating for a benchtop drill press is between 1/2 and 3/4 horsepower. These ratings ensure the press is powerful enough to get the job done but still reasonable enough in terms of weight and size to place on a workbench.
Q. Can I use router bits in a benchtop drill press?
It’s a bad idea. While you can install a router bit in a drill press, it’s not safe. Drill presses run at much lower rpm, so the bit will likely grab the board and shoot it across the table, possibly leading to injury.
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Meet the Tester
Tom Scalisi is a full-time DIY and construction writer for many of the largest websites in the industry, including BobVila.com, This Old House, Family Handyman, and Forbes. He also owns and operates a pest control blog, RiddaBugs.com. He spent years working in the trades and industrial building maintenance, and has used many drill presses over the years.