Introduction: $30 High-Speed PCB Drill Press

Picture of $30 High-Speed PCB Drill Press

Want super clean holes in your latest PCB? Want your PCB drill-bit's to last much longer? Tired of using your dremel as the drill press it clearly isn't? For around $30, you can build this simple PCB drill-press.

Step 1: Planning / Materials

This started when we (me and some fellow modders / hackers) realized we wanted a simple high-quality PCB drill dress, but didn't want to pay $400+ for something that would only run at around 20,000 rpm. We also did not want to use the standard dremel drill-press for drilling PCB's as they tend to break bits fairly fast, and PCB drill bits can be expensive.

The solution that we arrived at was to use a Harbor-Freight Pneumatic 1/8" Micro Die Grinder, and attach it in-plane with a precision linear slide rail. The Micro Die Grinder runs at 56,000 RPM and has the 1/8" collet that I needed for the PCB drill-bits.

The keep the die-grinder in-plane with the rail, we decided to mount the linear rail to a self-centering drill-press jig.

The parts list:
1.5" Square Steel Tubing - Scrap from Around the Shop
56K RPM Micro Die-Grinder Drill - Harbor Freight - $10.00
Self Centering Drill Press Jig - Harbor Freight - $6.00
THK Linear Slide Rail - $10.00
- Ebay, Search for "THK Slide" or "Linear Slide"
MDF for deck - Scrap from Around the Shop
MISC. Screws - Scrap from Around the Shop
Springs - Home Depot / Lowes - $5.00

Step 2: Build the Drill Mount and Attach It to the Slide

Picture of Build the Drill Mount and Attach It to the Slide

Start by cutting down the Auto-Centering Drill Press Jig. We cut it down to a couple of inches high. This allowed it to provide a good amount of support for the drill, but still be short enough to clear the twist-on/off valve on the drill.

We removed the excess sides of the self-centering drill press jig, and sanded all the rough edges smooth. The THK rail mounts vertically along the center. We used the measurement between the holes to drill through the drill mount.

The holes are easily centered along the mount by drilling in the V in the center of the mount with a small bit, followed by a larger bit and finally using a tap and die set to tap out the threads from the back of the mount.

This is the most critical step of the process, the Drill-Mount MUST be in-plane and square with the Linear Slide.

We then attached the other side of the rail to a small section of angle-iron. We did this by drilling out four holes that I had previously marked. Get these as close as you can to square with the Linear Rail.

If your angle iron isn't square (ours wasn't), then use a square and a sander to square it up.

This piece of angle-iron will be used to mount our Linear Rail / Drill Mount to the Frame.

Step 3: Build the Frame

Picture of Build the Frame

At this step of the process we are going to build the frame.

I won't go into exact dimensions, however you do want the drill to be forward enough from the back plate to allow for whatever size boards you would like to drill. It will also need to be high enough to accommodate the drill and have enough room to move at least 1/2" above the board to just below the boards surface.

We will also be attaching 3/4" MDF for the deck, so don't forget to allow for that in your vertical measurements.

After you cut the pieces you need (you can see how we did it below), you will need to weld them together. If you don't know how to weld see if you can get a friend to weld it for you. Failing that you can take it to a metal-shop and they should be able to do it for fairly cheap.

Step 4: Mount the Deck, Slide, and Drill

Picture of Mount the Deck, Slide, and Drill

Almost done, now we just need to mount the deck, slide, drill, and return springs to the frame.

We started by cutting the Deck out of some MDF we had around the shop. We cut a notch out of it to fit around the back of the frame. We mounted the drill to the drill-mount/slide with some zip-ties that we had around the shop, and then attached the slide to the small piece of angle-iron that was welded to the frame.

We drilled and tapped a couple of holes near the middle of the upper arm and also in the drill mount and ran the springs between them. This provided the auto-return for the drill.

We also tapped and drilled to holes into the base of the frame to attach the deck to. The screws in the deck are counter-sunk (see finished pictures on next step) so that the PCB's can slide around the top of the deck easily.

End-caps were installed to keep everything looking neat.

Step 5: Finishing Thoughts

Picture of Finishing Thoughts

We ended up attaching a spring to the slide and the back of the upper arm. We did this to remove any excess slack in the linear rail that might appear over time.

The only changes we may make is to add a handle to lower the drill. Currently you simply press down on the top of the drill which works great for now.

Our holes came out perfect, and there was absolutely NO noticeable wobble or tilt in the drill. Just straight, clean holes every time.


dagenius (author)2010-08-22

You say it's 30$, but in reality, you also need to get an air compressor, and a welder, etc. This could end up costing many hundreds of dollars if you have nothing but the parts for the drill press. Call back when you have one that doesn't need to be welded, and runs off of electricity.

JohnathanW15 (author)dagenius2017-06-15

ever heard of rental? I can get an air compressor for 4 hrs for 15 bucks at mennards. if you are doing so many you need it for more than 4hrs, you should probably be sending out to have your boards made. also, If you dropped the attitude you have you might manage to make friends with someone who owns a welder. in my experience most people that own them are happy to do a project as small as that for you/with you for a 6er of beer you will probably consume with them...or just conversation

vharihar (author)2015-09-27

Can someone explain to my *what/why* exactly is the problem in using the Dremel workstation as a drill press jig? Why do the drill bits keep breaking off?

I was considering buying the Dremel workstation for making PCB holes, and wanted to know its drawbacks in this regards, before buying it.

vharihar (author)2015-09-27

sanoberr (author)2015-09-05

I want to buy $30 High-Speed PCB Drill Press.

hyratel (author)2014-01-30

part numbers on HF's website have changed. drill press jig is now at

armorer243 (author)2013-09-08

I built this and it does work GREAT for drilling PCB's. I attached the springs a bit differently, but that's the only mod I made. I have drilled over five hundred 25mil holes and haven't broken a single carbide bit. Huge improvement over the dremel drill press attachment.

Z.K. (author)2012-05-06

Interesting project though the harborfreight links no longer work and if I look on line for a similar device it is very expensive. Still, this has given me some ideas. I will probably use 2x4s instead of steel tubing and use a rotory tool as it rotates quite fast. I saw a few advertised on Amazon as being able to rotate up to 30,000rpm which is close to what you are using and good enough for my use. As for the slide, I think I can make something out of non-threaded steel rods or a drawer slide. In any case, your project looks good.

pfred2 (author)2011-10-21

It is too bad Harbor Freight doesn't sell the mini press I bought off of them anymore. It was only $29.99 Plug it in and go.

electronicdude (author)2009-11-06

Do you think a piece of angle iron would work in replace of the self centering jig? I am trying to save as much money as possible

dagenius (author)electronicdude2010-08-22

You say it's 30$, but in reality, you also need to get an air compressor, and a welder, etc. This could end up costing many hundreds of dollars if you have nothing but the parts for the drill press. Call back when you have one that doesn't need to be welded, and runs off of electricity.

bombmaker2 (author)2010-07-06

To anyone who says $30 is not reasonable: It is actually because if you get Harbor Freight's coupons, the grinder is only $15 and the drill press rig will be $6. The linear rail will be about $10. That's $31 which is reasonable. I just got some stepper control stuff from one of my dad's friends so I only need to buy the two Harbor Freight items.

bobbyrae (author)2009-06-21

Nice idea for those that really NEED 56k rpm. But I'm looking at the links you gave and eBay listings, and quickly coming to the realization that the $30 target price is NOT achievable. The grinder is actually $25 (+$8 shipping). The LOWEST price on eBay for that slide is $10, yes, but shipping is another $7. And so when I think about all the costs and efforts here, it seems a lot smarter to just buy a used bench drill press off Craiglist for $50 - $100. Of course it will only do 3000 rpm...

Davad (author)bobbyrae2010-01-27

I've got one of those drill press that do a max of 3100 RPM. I haven't broken any bits yet but the quality of the holes is not the the best. The carbide bits others have spoken of are designed specifically for PCB drilling and are supposed to be use at 35,000 RPM minimum. The pneumatic drill/grinder is a cheap solution for a high speed drill.

However, I agree with your findings of the prices. This instructables must have been written 20 years ago when thing where cheaper.

lancandy (author)bobbyrae2009-08-11

Yeah, prices have gone up. This was posted almost two years ago. Keep an eye out for specials though.

wildo (author)2010-01-04

 Looks pretty awesome to me. I just bought a $45 dremel drill press, and ended up breaking 2 #71 drill bits. Pissed. The drill press is going back, and I will buy one of these linear slides. Nice instructable!

electronicdude (author)2009-11-06

I am planning on building it, and I went on you tube to see if you had a video on how to make but you didn't. I was wondering if it was ok with you if I made a video on how to build it. I aske because I didn't know if you were planning on posting a video or not. If it is O.K. with you I would like to.

technopenguin (author)2007-06-19

Also you could add a potentiometer to adjust the speed, and have an LCD or digit display to show the RPM, with the help of a small circuit or a microcontroller.

adnimo (author)technopenguin2009-10-04

unless it's a humongous pot you won't be able to do that, you'll need PWM to drive the speed of the motor.

lancandy (author)technopenguin2007-06-19

You can adjust the speed with the on/off twist switch, however I run it at full speed all the time. As it is air powered, I guess you could paint half the output shaft black or something and then use a sensor to read in the RPM. It would be neat, but not really needed IMO.

thowardtf1 (author)2009-10-03

I buy all my carbide bits with .125 shank to drill FR4 pcb material. I use 'Drill Bit City' ( ). They seem to be priced ok, but have availability of all bits I need. (#67 (.0320) 10 for $15.00 at my last order.

F7 (author)2008-05-19

Can you recommend a source for miniature drill bits with an 1/8 shaft, suitable for drilling PCBs? Fiberglas will dull a drill pretty fast...

Blackice504 (author)F72009-09-05

this cost a lot more then normal drill bits but get Titainium drill set i managed to find a good one from the local $2.00 asian shop and it was $7.00aud and they must be real the deal the brand name is duramax yes to the Russians this will be a funny brand name.

lancandy (author)F72008-09-11

EBay is where I found my bits.

Blackice504 (author)2009-09-05

very nice work looks like something you got off the shelf thank you so much for idea's. PS i love my air tools over electrical tools.

DYLEGO (author)2009-02-11

Just a simple question, not to be rude or anything, but is there a reason to have a specialized PCB drill press when you already have one? I think I see one in the backgound... :P I am wondering if this would be useful since I already have a drill press. DYLEGO

tamakid (author)DYLEGO2009-05-30

yea i thought that at school, we have a big drill press and then we have a smaller one for drilling pcb's. but then i figured out its just because the big drill press cant hold some of the tiny drill bits, like 1mm is way to small for the big drill press.

nikremt (author)2008-10-25

What is the diameter of the main part of the Micro die-grinder? That is, the red part of the die grinder in the picture from the link above. I want to know so that I can see if it will fit securely in a drill stand attachment that I already have.

joshcube (author)2007-06-13

Instead of welding up a metal tube frame, you could build it out of 1" plywood cut with a jig saw or scroll saw. Bolting multiple thicknesses together would give added strength... not that you need a lot of strength to drill out PCB's. Just cruise the scrap bin at your local Home Depot periodically. I get 2 foot by 4 foot pieces of different thicknesses there all the time for 50 cents or a dollar.

Smartbomb (author)joshcube2007-06-14

My first thought was "Hello, 80-20!" You can build the frame from their super-light, super-strong materials without any welding. For anyone not familiar with them, go to - they call themselves "The Home of the Industrial Erector Set". Aluminum frame T-slot pieces. Extremely lightweight, extremely strong, and VERY well-made (i.e. everything you expect to be 90 degrees is exactly 90 degrees). Their website has all the information you need. Their solutions aren't rock-bottom in price, but as I get older I take more pride in my work, place a value on convenience, and I place a (small) value on asthetics too. Functionality first, but if it can look professional too, so much the better. If I end up doing this anytime soon (with 80-20), I'll post here with as much detail on kit pieces and assembly instructions as possible. Right now I'm getting killed at work so it might be a while... P.S. I have absolutely no affiliation with 80-20 at all, other than as a satisfied customer.

lancandy (author)Smartbomb2008-09-11

80-20 would be a nice way to go, just a little more costly.

Smartbomb (author)Smartbomb2007-06-14

Sorry - first post above, I didn't realize the link needed to be marked as such explicitly. (I mentioned above that I am getting older :-) )


_soapy_ (author)Smartbomb2007-09-30

Getting old is hard on you. But the other option is worse.

SacTownSue (author)Smartbomb2007-06-17

Cool Stuff Bomb. Surely cost more than stuff lying around the shop. But then I don't have any of that stuff lying around the shop. I did buy a gizmo to hold my power drill for a press ?$20? at Orchard Suppply Hardware. Not the precision and ease of use as a real drill press tho. To pay to buy all those pieces and pay someone to weld not so cheap. I'm looking for a way to build a bike trailer and don't want the hassle of trying to cut and weld the pieces for my design. Do you think 80/20 would hold together well enough for a bike trailer? Lots of bouncing around and 30-50 lbs of load. It looks like it would be good for prototyping stuff. Not as cheap as pvc pipe, but stronger. I was thinking about using the slotted bar type ?steel? stuff at the hardware store. You're the Bomb, Smartie.

Smartbomb (author)SacTownSue2007-06-18

Hey STS,

If I had welding equipment & some scrap iron, I'd probably weld the frame like in the instructable (which is a great one, I should have mentioned that in my first post). But I don't have welding equipment & I'm not good at searching out that kind of help, so 80-20 is the path of least resistance for me. I got addicted to the 80-20 T-slot stuff (not the HT) at my previous employer, and since then I've never looked back.

I work really close to an OSH, I should shoot over there & see what they have. Tomorrow I'll be in the vicinity of a Harbor Freight so I figured I'd pop in & spend some money. I haven't had the best luck with their stuff holding up but it's so inexpensive, I know that going in... :-\

Anyway, I'm an EE and not an ME, so all those courses that taught things like load shear and tensile strength & static & dynamic loading are long forgotten ( :-( ), but I know that the 80-20 materials are incredibly strong and used in a LOT of industrial applications. The reason I mention shearing etc... is that (as an avid mtn biker myself) I know that the dynamic environment of a loaded bike rack going over bumps, potholes, rutted dirt roads, etc. is different than a static load of say 1 ton on a cart.

My only concern would be the joining points during heavy transient loads/bumps. The extruded aluminum material is extremely strong & rigid, the question would be if the connectors are strong enough & can be tightened enough to ensure nothing would come apart during travel. Funny enough, I have a Bones 3-bike rack that I bought about 10 years ago, before I became aware of 80-20. Were I to need a new rack today, I might consider a similar project.

Anyway, I want to mention that the support folks at 80-20 are EXTREMELY knowledgeable & helpful & don't turn their noses up at you if you aren't BigCo. They (in my experience) treat all (potential and current) customers well. So my point is that if I were in your shoes, I'd call them up & mention what you want to do, and see what they can do to help you. I've never done a CAD design, all of my needs have been simple and I order simples pieces that come together at right angles.

The nice thing about the extruded aluminum, in addition to the light weight & cool aesthetic (IMHO), is that is doesn't rust.... kinda nice for an application like a bike rack.

Anyway, here a couple of links that *might* be of additional assistance:

The 802- Deflection


The 80-20 Design Resource Center

Sorry, I kinda feel like I punted on this, if I was a stronger designer I'd take a shot at your bike rack myself.

One other thing (then I'll stop the rambling) is there are a couple other places, at least, that offer strong lightweight aluminum construction pieces. I don't have firsthand experience with these 2, but they may have reference designs or assistance that get you going:

Faztek T-slotted aluminum solutions and TSLOTS extruded aluminum materials

I have a feeling that it's only a matter of time before some industrious Instructable fan will make the bike rack!

_soapy_ (author)Smartbomb2007-09-27 is a bike rack made from 8020 stuff, showcased on their own website. So it can be done!

Dave Wilson (author)2008-06-23

I got all the bits for about $30 and built it just as you said but the drill wont turn, am I missing something?

lancandy (author)Dave Wilson2008-09-11

Read the instructions on for the drill. Did you check the on/off on the top of the drill? Also make sure your compressor can run it. They should list the required specifications on your drill.

You do have a compressor, right? =) Check if the compressor has enough pressure; the drill really doesn't work unless it's close to 110 psi (or whatever it was rated, check the harbor freight site).

John Smith (author)2008-07-20

cool and i have to say, that is some nice welds....TIG? MIG?

lancandy (author)John Smith2008-09-11

MIG. Thanks!

shortman (author)2008-04-25

Sears has a drill press for an electric drill and also a drill guide for one. This is the only way i could (BUILD) one.

mrx23dot (author)2007-12-29

I've bought the same drill, it has a very precise shaft. How much pressure I need, to drive at full speed? Is this 12V tire compressor enough for the job? Maximum Pressure: 300 PSI (?fake?) Or I need a bigger one like this: Max pressure(BAR/PSI): 8/115 Tank(L/GAL): 50/13.2 Power(KW/HP): 2.2/3.0

lancandy (author)mrx23dot2007-12-30

You would definitely need the bigger one. the little tire compressor does not have the throughput (in the US it's called CFM) to run the drill.

mandy_modded (author)2007-07-23

a cheap laser pointer would be nice to help align the pcb under the drill. great idea

_soapy_ (author)mandy_modded2007-09-27

Go for two, so you can put one either side, allowing you to compensate for the change in position of the spot when you change the work height. Have them cross at the exact point the drill hits, and you will always be that bit better and more exact than those without a parallax compensation system built into their laser guidance system. :-)

threepointone (author)2007-07-15

has anyone actually made this yet? I got the harbor freight drill, but mine doesn't seem to rotate very smoothly and I think it might be wobbling a bit. I'm not done with the mount yet, so I'm not sure if it'll work, but is this normal? Should I order another, is it fine, or should I try to disassemble it and fix it up?

xsmurf (author)2007-06-12

Wow I am very impressed! That sound like a great weekend project for the summer. Soldering might be a problem though. I wonder if it would be possible to build such a rig with only screws.
Nice instructables too!
kthxbai! .-

WesDoesStuff (author)xsmurf2007-06-12

or rivets

poprivet (author)WesDoesStuff2007-06-13

Pop Rivets are the capstone of the essential joining trinity with Duct Tape and Hot Melt glue.

Downside is that they tend to 'work' over time and loosen up. To get something to stay rigid with them use a LOT of them and over-engineer. Check out the rivet section at the bottom of this useful page: LOCKING DEVICES, KEYS, SPRINGS, RIVETS AND WELDING

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