While you can drill a hole through wood or metal with a variety of tools, there is only one way to roll for industrial use. That would be a drill press, a machine not often found in home garages until the last few decades.
As prices came down, ownership went up which led us on a quest for the best drill press. Our experts dug through hundreds of models to come up with a handful that should suit almost everyone’s needs. That includes professionals that need a heavy-duty unit and homeowners that need something in the benchtop class.
The 3 Best Drill Press
Considerations before buying a drill press
Power and speed
Do you plan to work with thick metal stock or will the press sit in your woodshop? You can handle both types of materials with even the most basic press, but some are built to deal with one material better than the other.
That has to do with speed to a degree. For metal, you need a press that you can slow down. That’s also important for intricate work or when you’re drilling through brittle material.
On the low end, you may be able to find a top-rated drill press that can dip down to 200 RPMs. That said, 500 RPM is far more common, and the high side is always around 3,000 RPMs. There are machines that can do more, but not in this class.
With the motor, look for a press with at least a 1 HP motor if you want the best. Smaller sizes will still do the job, but 1 HP should be the guideline to go by in terms of power.
So you’ve just picked up a new drill press that can spin a bit at 3,000 RPMs. That’s impressive, but you may be wondering how to go about changing the speeds.
That is simple on “some” models and difficult on the rest if you are a beginner. For ease of use, look for a drill press with a speed control knob or system. These allow you to make quick adjustments without popping the top off and tinkering with belts.
The chuck isn’t the heart of the drill press, but it is just as important as it acts as the machine’s hands in a sense. This is where you put your bit, and unlike handheld drills, all these chucks are metal.
If you want a versatile chuck, look for a press that can accept bits up to 1/2” in size. With other styles of saws or drills, you’ll find that 3/8” or 5/8” is common, but you’ll want to go large for bigger presses. Size matters in the benchtop world as well, but not nearly as much as you can’t work with larger stock.
Also, pay attention to the key that comes with the chuck. They may not be unique, but can easily be lost. In some of drill press ratings, you’ll find models that have holders to help you keep track of the key while others leave that task to you.
Quill travel and Depth Stop
This refers to the distance the quill can travel which affects how deep you can drill a hole. A few other factors come into play as well, but quill travel is key and something to always keep in mind.
There is no magic number for this area, so it comes to user preference. That means you need to consider the size of the stock you plan to work with and the depth of the holes you plan to drill. The depth stop is one of those “other factors” and something that also varies from drill to drill.
A depth stop allows you to set the depth for your hole. How the drill handles this depends on the manufacturer and the quality put into the machine. Needless to say, you want a high-quality depth stop if you care about precision.
You will find a depth stop on all our or picks for the best drill press, but you can’t say the same for lasers. While they have become more common, this popular feature is mainly found on larger machines in the floor class and occasionally on benchtop models.
We’re still not sure if we classify this as a necessity or an extra as drill presses are accurate as long as they are stable. A laser ensures you stay on point, and some of the classier models come with two instead of one.
Simply put, you probably don’t need a laser, but it is a great feature to have if you don’t have to spend up to get it.
Whereas lasers are nifty, a good work table is a must. You won’t get far without one, and you’ll regret not choosing a model with a high-quality work table if you decide to go cheap.
This is where the action happens, so you want a stable work surface for your stock. They all adjust, and most will swivel, so pay attention the mechanism that locks them in place. Cast iron tables are the best way to go as well, although stamped steel is also an option.
The other area to consider is an obvious one – the size. A good drill press will have a stable table, but it should be large enough to accommodate the materials you need to work with.
Drill Press Buying Guide
We’re almost to the good stuff where we’ll give you our options for the best drill press for the money. Before we go down that road, we’re going to discuss safety and tell you the proper way to use these machines if this is your first time buying a press.
How to use a Drill Press
While some may argue this point, we feel that a drill press is by far one of the simplest tools you can own. You won’t need to take a course to learn the ropes, and setting it up for the first time will be the most difficult part.
Before you hit the start button, you will want to set the table height and check the speed. We can’t tell you what to dial it in at, but consider your stock and the thickness as well.
Adjusting the table is far easier as you simply need to find the right height (or angle) then lock it down. You also need to ensure you have the right bit on hand and then place it in the chuck. Tighten it down with your key and ensure there’s no “wiggle” and it is firmly in place.
When you have your bit and table locked down, it’s time to do the same with your stock. This is where a good clamp can come in handy, and it’s something you should buy along with the press if you don’t own some already.
Clamping your stock down is key in preventing spinning, and setting the depth is equally important. We briefly discussed this above, so you know what you need to do with your depth setting.
When you are finally ready to fire up you press, take things slow and steady. If you feel like you need more detailed help, we have you covered with our guide to drill press usage.
Drill Press Safety
We’re going to get a little repetitive here. As mentioned, drill presses are easy to use, even for beginners. Well, we are also pleased to say they are safe than other tools due to their design.
A floor model bench press may take up more space in your shop, but they are safe and stable machines. You just need to keep your hands out of the way, and your eyes covered. A tip we recommend in all of our safety guides is to wear eye protection at all times, and that certainly applies here.
The other thing we feel we need to mention are gloves. You don’t necessarily need them for a drill press, but you will want them afterward.
Unless your press has a built-in blower or your shop-vac is top of the line, you’re going to have dust or debris on your table. It may be tempted to simply swipe it away with your hand, but we advise against that.
Metal shavings are tiny and can embed themselves in your hand in an instant. Wood dust won’t hurt you, but metal, glass, and other materials can be used with drill presses as well.
Drill Press Reviews
Best Drill Press Overall: JET 354170/JDP-20MF
Our top option for the best drill press comes from JET. The company is a fan favorite for a reason, and the JET 354170/JDP-20MF is a press we think you’ll dig for its mix of power and performance. The price is also quite nice…
Power and capabilities
For reasons we can’t quite understand, JET decided to give this press the worst moniker of all time. 354170/JDP-20MF isn’t a name that rolls off the tongue, but nobody can argue with its power.
This press has a 1.5 HP motor which is considerably larger than other models. There are 12 spindle speeds that can take you from 150 to 4,200 RPMs in seconds which is impressive, to say the least. The speed range is below and above the average on both ends – another reason this one is a top rated drill press.
At 20-inches, this press is a good size, and you will get plenty of stability considering it weighs in at around 325 pounds. The table is tough and tiltable up to 45-degrees, and you can rotate it as well. The crank on the side is sturdy, and make adjustments a breeze on this machine.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the table capacity. This monster can handle up to 80 pounds, which should be more than enough for most folks.
When it comes to “extras,” you’ll get quite a few on the JET 354170/JDP-20MF. It has a built-in work light to illuminate your work area on those late nights in the shop. The positive depth stop with a three-nut locking system is a nice perk as well.
Hate dealing with belts? We feel your pain, but you will be able to get to the belts easy in the JET 354170/JDP-20MF thanks to a hinged cover.
The obvious draw for the JET 354170/JDP-20MF would be the power as you’ll be hard-pressed to find another model that can do this much damage for the same price. It can put a hole in 1” cast iron or through 3/4” mild steel. We also like the spindle distance as it’s listed at 29-1/8” while the table is spacious at 18-1/2” x 16-inches.
On the flipside, you will only get a 2-year warranty on this drill press which is a downer in our eyes. We also were disappointed that the chuck size is standard at only 3/4-inches.
Right behind our top choice, you’ll find the Delta 18-900L. We gave this drill a full review previously, and it’s certainly an option for the best drill press. It’s arguably the most stylish machine on our list to boot if you appreciate sharp looking tools.
This silver and black beauty stands 18-inches tall which is about average. Nothing else about the Delta 18-900L is, however, and for us, it all starts with the speed. This machine has an auto-tensioning belt system which allows you to quickly find the perfect speed for your project. This keeps constant tension on your belt so you’ll have stable performance every time.
Want a drill with a long quill stroke? You will get 6-inches with the Delta 18-900L and 16 drilling speeds from 170 to 3,000 RPMs. While it’s not a negative in the usual sense, the motor is only 3/4 HP. This is weaker the JET which is a disappointment considering the price.
The table is “oversized” and capable of tilting a full 90-degrees to both the left and right. Other features to note include a non-tip base, an LED light, and micro-adjustable depth stops. The particular model also sports a removable center insert for when you need to drill deep.
Delta pulled out all the stops with the 18-900L, even if they did go with a lower powered motor. It’s a highly accurate machine with a 5-year warranty and a great option for any shop looking for a top quality tool.
If your budget is a little tight or space is a concern, benchtop models are a fine option. Our first mini drill press comes from RIKON in the form of the 30-120. This one is a 13-inch press, but we think you will be pleasantly surprised by its power.
While the RIKON 30-120 is listed with a 1/2 HP motor and it’s only 13-inches tall, it still has 16 speeds. It packs a punch, and almost any material can be drilled with ease. That’s not necessarily due to the power, but the speed range.
If you want drill press capable of lower speeds, you will be thrilled to know the Delta 18-900L can hit 200 RPM. On the top end, you’re looking at 3,630 which is well over the average or benchtop models. Want a cast iron table? It has one of those, and the rack & pinion system makes the table easy to maneuver.
Overall, the RION 30-120 is a fine option and can fulfill all your needs. It may struggle to get through some material due to the motor size, but it will make short work of most materials put in its path.
Best Benchtop Drill Press
Top pick: WEN 4208
It isn’t often you find a drill press for under $100 bucks. Generally when you do, they aren’t worth the metal they are made with. Thankfully that is not the case with the WEN 4208; a benchtop drill press made for savvy consumers with tight quarters and a tight budget.
This is the smallest machine our list at only 8-inches. Just let that sink in for a minute. It won’t take up much space and is as portable as you can get for this type of tool. Obviously, there are going to be a few drawbacks with its size, so you’ll only get 5-speeds and a smaller 6.5” x 6.5” work area.
The WEN 4208 has 2-inches of spindle travel with an 8-inch swing. A 1/3 HP motor keeps those belts spinning, and while you can’t go as low as 200, you can get it down to 740 RPM on the lowest setting. It has linear locking depth stops for increased accuracy, and while the work table is small, it will swivel both directions to 45-degrees.
While the WEN 4208 is the perfect choice for crafters and hobbyists, it’s not what you want if you need a wide range of speeds or a more durable machine. That said, it is very impressive for its size, and nobody is going to complain about the price.
Runner-up: Shop Fox W1668
We dig the Shop Fox W1668 so much it got its own full review, and it’s well worth a spot on our list of the best drill presses for your money. It has the distinction of being one of a handful of models that give consumers a choice as well when it comes to size.
The Shop Fox W1668 comes in two flavors. You can opt for a floor model or a benchtop version. While both have a 3/4 HP motor, there are some significant differences between the two. With that in mind, we’re going to focus on the taller of the two with its 13-1/4” swing and 2-inch dust port.
The larger model weighs in at around 130 pounds, so it’s far from heavy, but has more than enough weight to keep it nice and stable. The spindle travel distance is listed at 3-1/4,” and the machine has a 5/8” chuck. The biggest draw of Shop Fox W1668 would be its oscillating nature, which is ideal for sanding.
You don’t see drill presses come with too many extras, and the fact the Shop Fox W1668 comes with sanding drums and oscillates is tough to beat. If you dig those features but are tight on space, the smaller model doubles as a sander as well!
Best budget drill press
Top pick: SKIL 3320-01
Now we are going to focus on something affordable and small. This one is from SKIL and is a 10-inch model with a 3.2 amp motor. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in performance, and it certainly won’t break the bank.
This drill press has a 1/2” keyed chuck and sports 5-speeds from 570 RPM up to 3,050 RPM. It has an adjustable depth stop and not one, but two laser beams. The company has utilized the X2 Laser system which definitely increases accuracy.
Other features we love on this model include a sturdy table which tilts 0 to 40-degrees and a bump-off switch. Throw in an adjustable depth stop, and you’ve got yourself a little workhorse that will be right at home on your bench.
Runner-up: WEN 4214
Our second option from WEN brings a bit more to the table than the first. It’s the WEN 4214, and it’s 4-inches taller than the 4208. Needless to say, it’s a beefier machine that packs more punch, but still manages to remain affordable.
This 12-inch press has a speed range of between 580 and 3,200 RPMs. It has a mechanical variable speed system, and an LED display to ensure things stay at the proper rate. The motor is rated at 2/3 HP while the spindle travel distance is set at 3-1/8”.
Like a machine with a quality table? The WEN 4214 has one made from cast iron measuring 9.5” x 9.5” square. It tilts, and we think you’ll appreciate features like the laser and table roller extension as well. If you want to learn more about the WEN 4214, give our full review a good look.
Best small drill press
Top pick: WEN 4208
Another drill press, another solid option from WEN. If this one look familiar, you do not have double vision. The WEN 4208 was also our choice for the best benchtop drill press overall.
We’ll keep this short and sweet as we’ve covered this one in depth. Highlights for this machine include a 6.5” x 6.5” square work table, a 1/3 HP motor and a 1/2” keyed chuck. It has 5-speeds ranging from 740 all the way up to 3,140 RPMs as well so wood and metal won’t be an issue. As long as they aren’t too thick, that is…
This is a light-duty machine that is easy on your wallet although not built to withstand the rigors of heavy use. If you want a daily driver in the shop, there are better options in this range, but when it comes to size and power for the price, this one is hard to beat.
Best drill press for woodworking
While all of our choices will work with all types of material, certain drill presses are made for woodwork. Our guide to the best drill press for woodworking will take you down the rabbit hole, but here are a few quick tips to remember.
Ensure it has large enough table to suit your needs and while the low-end of the speed range is important, the top end is key. You want lower speeds for metal, while wood can be drilled at a faster rate. That’s provided you have the right bit – you don’t want to scorch your wood.
Also, keep the throat depth in mind and check to see how much of an angle the table tilts at. 45-degrees is common, but a few models buck that trend.
Best drill press for metal
When shopping for the best drill press for metal, look for lower speeds.
You will want a machine that can blow through things on the high side but needs lower speeds to deal with certain types of metal. A good range is 500 to 800 RPMs on the low end.
Things like drilling pressure control are key as well. This allows you to stop the drill on a dime so to speak, which greatly increases accuracy. Measurements like spindle travel and throat depth are just as important with drill presses built for metal as well. If you want to learn more, we have broken down all the areas to consider and threw in a few options to choose from as well.
Best floor drill press for the money
We’ve told you about wood and metal; now it’s time to talk about paper. Not the kind you write on, but the kind of paper you pay for drill presses with.
The best drill press for the money all comes down to one thing – your needs. If you work in a shop and will use the machine for a living, it pays to spend up and buy a top-tier machine. You don’t want a benchtop model, and you will want plenty of power.
On the other hand, consumers that just need to drill a series of holes for a project can get by with a wide array of machines at a variety of price points.
Simply consider your budget, and then think about the important buying areas we’ve covered in our guide. Once you do that, the decision will become much clearer.
Buying a new drill press can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be if you keep your buying tips in mind and follow a few golden rules. Always consider your needs along with the budget, and keep safety in mind at all times.
When in doubt, opt for the more expensive model. While that may sound strange, it’s easier to pay a little more now than to upgrade entirely a few months down the line.