How to use a Drill Press

Humans have been putting holes into objects for millions of years, but it took a while for us to add electricity to the mix. While there is a style of drill for every consumer, drill presses hold a special place in many tool aficionados’ hearts.

Whether you’re shopping for a replacement or looking to purchase your first piece of shop equipment, we have our covered as our guide will teach you how to use a drill press.

Drill Press Features 

Before you can operate a drill press, it’s important to understand how they work.

While you can’t see the motor, every machine has a motor tension lever and lock knobs on the exterior. These components help you lock in the tension while the motor drives a spindle which has a chuck attached.

Just like with a regular drill, you put your bit into the chuck, and it usually requires a key. You move the spindle up and down with a handle when you’re ready to drill while the depth stop controls how far your bit will eat into the material.

It’s a simple process really, as you move the handle to lower the spinning bit into your stock, but there are several other adjustments to make and areas to consider. The quill housing would be one of them as it keeps the spindle secure and there are also table and table lock levers to contend with as well.

Step-by-step guide how to use a Drill Press

The first thing you want to do is take a look at the material you want to drill into. You don’t want to waste a metal bit on a piece of oak or vice-versa, so the bit is the first step in our journey. Once you have the proper bit in mind, it’s time to turn our attention to the table.

Adjusting the Speed and Table

From here we will want to set our speed and table height. The latter depends on the model you’re using but generally involves a crank or locking lever of sorts.

When it comes to speed, you’ll want to set it according to the material you are drilling into. If its metal, you will want to take it slow and easy. For regular old wood, feel free to speed things up as it will provide very little resistance to the constant (and precise) pressure of a press.

Fitting the bit 

Remember that bit we told you to choose? Well, this is where you put it to good use. You will want to open the chuck with your key provided it uses one then place your bit inside.

Slide the bit all the way into the chuck, then tighten it back up using the key. You won’t want to use all your strength, but it needs to be a bit tighter than “snug” in our opinion. Just don’t over torque it, and you’ll be good to go.

You also want to remove the key and keep it in a safe spot. Otherwise, you’re going to run into a problem when it is time to change bits.

Secure the workpiece

Regardless of the material you’re using, you need to make sure you cinch it down tight.

Drills spin and a drill press put out plenty of force which can easily “spin” your wood or metal on the table. If you lock things down securely with clamps, it won’t be an issue. Stability is key when you’re drilling a precision hole, so always keep your material secure and your table steady.

Setting the Depth Stop 

How far do you need to go? Is it a 1/4” hole in a thick piece of wood or do you need to drill all the way through a piece of metal?

Setting your depth is key if you want your hole to hit the right depth. If you don’t, you could end up drilling further than you intended and ruin your stock. If you’re on the job, that can be a costly mistake to make.


Now that you have everything in place, it’s time to fire up your drill press. If your speed is set properly, simply turn the drill on and slowly lower the bit towards the piece with the lever.

The drill takes care of the hard work, so you just guide it to the proper depth with your lever and then release. If you have multiple holes of the same size to drill, simply rinse and repeat as necessary while locking your stock down between each hole.


As you can see, learning how to use a drill press isn’t hard, and it’s something even the most inexperienced craftsman can master.

Just remember to choose the right bit for the job and keep your hands and anything else away from the spinning bit while it’s in motion. If you are looking for a great drill press, but sure to check out our list of the top models currently available.

You should also check some of the product reviews for Shop Fox or Delta drill presses.


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