Introduction: Drill Press Restoration (Refurbishing Techniques)

Picture of Drill Press Restoration (Refurbishing Techniques)

This instructable is a general overview and comparison of different restoration techniques. The object of experimentation is a drill press. Not all steps are in detail, but information can be found elsewhere on the web for exact instructions on different techniques.

Step 1: Find a Tool to Restore

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Hunt around on craigslist or other sources for used tools that people are trying to get rid of. I picked up this rusty old drill press for only $50. Know what to look for and how to bargain. I try not to pay any more than 50% of the asking price.

Step 2: Inspection

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Do a general inspection of the project and start the disassembly.

Step 3: Rust Removal (Cup Brush With Oil)

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I used a cup brush on an angle grinder, with motor oil to keep down the dust, on the main column. It worked pretty flawlessly.

Step 4: Rust Removal (Cup Brush Without Oil)

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I tried the cup brush without motor oil on the base plate and it seemed to work just as well. There was a little dust produced, but that was better than oil splatter.

Step 5: Rust Removal (Oxalic Acid)

Picture of Rust Removal (Oxalic Acid)

I tried bar keeper (oxalic acid) on the slotted table. You can see the circular area where it was applied on the first photograph. It removed some of the rust, but the angle grinder with a cup brush was much better.

Step 6: Rust Removal (Electrolysis)

Picture of Rust Removal (Electrolysis)

Electrolysis is another option for rust removal. I did not get around to testing it until the drill was mostly finished but it works well. I run the system over night then scrub the items with a wire brush. Instructions and explanations on the set-up can be found online. It is a more complicated method than the others, but still quite simple and once you have the set-up it can be used repeatedly.

Step 7: Degreasing

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I tried degreasing some of the parts. Surprisingly the best method I found was vegetable oil. With vegetable oil the grease came right off. I then rinsed the parts in dish soap to remove the grease/oil slurry.

Step 8: Painting

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I sanded the surface of the orange paint of these parts and wiped with acetone. I then painted over the top of the paint with a few coats of spray paint.

Step 9: Painting

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I used the angle grinder to remove the paint from these parts and cleaned them with acetone. I then laid down 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint. I will see how much better this painted surface lasts compared to the previous method. I also created a painting room in the basement with painters plastic so that the parts would not be affected by wind or dust.

Step 10: Nuts and Bolts

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I dropped the nuts, bolts and other miscellaneous parts into a bowl and covered them with vinegar. It took about 5 days for the full film on top to from, but the method worked really well. I rinsed them with water and scrubbed with a wire brush. I then baked them in the oven to remove water. A blow torch could also be used to heat them up and prevent oxidation.

Step 11: Chuck and Spindle

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I tried bar keeper and a metal brush on a dremel to clean up the chuck and spindle. The rust removal was insufficient so I went back to the angle grinder to finish the job.

After testing the reassembled drill with a dial indicator I found the chuck to be very true. The bits however showed significant run out, so there must have been damage to the teeth. I replaced the chuck entirely and the problem was absolved. The instructable is at the following link.

Step 12: Motor Disassembly

Picture of Motor Disassembly

Disassembling the electrical motor was probably the most complicated step in the project. It required a gear puller to remove the bearing. Always remember to take pictures along the way. You may think you can remember how to reassemble, but it could be months before you reassemble the project. Taping or painting the wires is also helpful with the electrical. I even found a little insect nest in the motor housing.

Step 13: Paint and Reassemble

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Paint the motor housing and reassemble. I drilled a hole in a piece of wood to apply equal pressure when pressing the bearing back in place.

Step 14: Paint

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Paint the remaining parts. I painted them outside and brought them in to dry by putting them in a box. This protected them from dust and prevented the fumes from circulating in the house.

Step 15: Polishing

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I tried a number of metal polishing methods none of which worked flawlessly. More experimentation is needed.

I first tried sanding with successively finer grits of paper. This method was OK for removing large scratches, but left more to be desired.

I used jeweller’s compound of different grits, with a buffing wheel on a dremel, next. This method definitely removed the very fine scratches, but is definitely a finishing method because it will not remove anything other than fine marks.

I tried polishing with Simichrome both by hand and with a dremel, but didn't have much luck removing scratches. It seemed to work better as a general polish. I think this method definitely needs more exploration, because from what I have read it can be used to polish scratched surfaces.

Step 16: Woodworking

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The handle for raising and lowering the slotted table was very awkward and weak. I turned a wood handle on my lathe and fitted it with some hardware.

Step 17: Reassembly

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This is where the photographs come in handy. Reassemble the machine with a generous dollop to grease and hit the switches.

Step 18: Complete Restoration

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Use the beast in your next project.


Moltroub (author)2017-07-13

very nice job! I'd also try evapo-rust and I really like the Klingspor Sandflex hand blocks to remove rust and get the scratches out.

svigness (author)2016-08-22

cool it really look so good at last

MuddyGiraffe (author)2016-04-23

Thnx a lot

MuddyGiraffe (author)2016-04-22

I like the colour, do you know rhe paintnumber ? Very nice work!!

djpolymath (author)MuddyGiraffe2016-04-22


Old School JKL (author)2016-03-11

Well done!

JoelBennett1 (author)2016-02-25

That's really impressive! Even with the time investment, it looks like you got a much better drill press than what could have been purchased for two or three times the price. This makes me want to try something similar! (It also makes me want to get around to fixing the wobble I've got in my drill press...)

Another option for rust removal would be a commercial rust remover. I've been wanting to try to Evpo-rust, but haven't had a project that requires it yet.

sanagnos (author)2016-02-25

Great job, well done! Excellent instructable with nice fotos and explanations

KSnoop (author)2016-02-20

That looks great. I've got a 1960s era Delta/Rockwell press that still works but it looks like hell with all the rust and dirt. I was thinking of just replacing it but I hang onto it for sentimental reasons. Could be a fun project.

professorsmurf (author)2016-02-10

well done, nice job I think i might just convince my brother to do this with his drill press

Eh Lie Us! (author)2016-02-08

man. great work!

littlejohn411 (author)2016-02-07

Awesome job, If I had the time I would love to clean up all of my equipment I just have to many projects and can't afford to have any of my tools down. Great work though.

coasterboy (author)2016-02-07

Excellent Instructable. Great photos and techniques for rust removal/restoration. Definately a Bookmark/Favorite for me.

Alywolf (author)2016-02-05

wow, thanks, especially for the rust removial comparisons. I am about to start restoration on a roller printing press, that my mom put out in the shed for a year and yikes.... So now I need to clean it all up in order to use it.

taykam9 (author)2016-02-05

wow looks like a thousand dollar drill press to me,after all the work done,,awesome restoration,,,

MichielD99 (author)2016-02-05

Thank you very much! I've just found a new project.

You have my vote!

mary.beheler (author)2016-02-04

Thank you. I had to quickly put my tools in storage for a few years, and was greatly disappointed when I got them back. The drill press was a rusty mess. The table saw had a little rust, but most of it was made of aluminum. This will help.

manuel bernal (author)2016-02-04

Have you ever tried sand blasting? Excellent rust and old paint removal. Even chromed parts shine as new. I have a small and cheap gun that works grate for this purpose... Anyway greate job!

pellingrini45 (author)2016-02-04

Fantastic job, you must be very proud of what you have achieved.

BrightSolderJoints (author)2016-02-04

Great Job! Fantastic looking final product, but a lot of work. Next time you might try Muriatic Acid for super fast rust removal. You can buy Muriatic Acid at any building supply store. It is used by bricklayers to clean the mortar slop off bricks. You must wear eye and skin protection. You must work on a limestone gravel driveway. The limestone gravel is an acid neutralizer. You simply paint on the Muriatic Acid with a paint brush and let the acid do all the work. It works very fast. Then you rinse off with water and the acid is neutralized by the gravel driveway.

weldor (author)2016-02-04

Nice restoration. Your drill press looks like new! If you are bored, i have some tools that need a little cosmetic help...
If you had been able to pull the bearings out of the head they are usually pretty easy to find. A farm store, auto parts store, a machine shop, or an industrial supply/bearing store can use the numbers on the bearings and grab you a new set. The cost for these smaller bearings is usually pretty low.

billbillt (author)2016-02-04

WOW!!... What a wonderful job!.... It is great to see people recycle/reuse things....

WoodCrafts 67 (author)2016-02-04

Nice Restoration work you have done here The Drill press looks stunning. Very Well done on that A huge Thumbs up ...

namora (author)2016-02-04

One of the first rules of polishing anything is to totally clean the work piece before changing to a finer grit. This also entails changing the polishing pads and the equipment to be use. The home shop can go only so far in this process but for rebuilding a drill press good results should be manageable. But remember one touch with the wrong grit to the pad will mean a trip to get a new pad. You can go courser but never finer.

alarbacn (author)2016-02-04

Very... very god job. Thhnaks for sharing. (From Brazil).

georgemorgan (author)2016-02-04

VINEGAR !?! Never knew. Thanks for that tip. Have a number of piece's of hardware that could help.

It's also a staining technique used in woodworking: equal parts water and white vinegar plus 'all the rusty iron you can find' , a trick I picked up from 'The Furniture Guys' show a long time back. so it's a twofer: restore your drill press and stain the furniture you make with it! :-)

Ancient Android (author)2016-02-04

There are a lot to take notes from each step of your project.

Vinegar for rust removal, Vegetable oil for degreasing, and all kinds of money saving tried and true methods for scratch removal ...

Many thanks for sharing

Chrisflugsvamp (author)2016-02-04

I think that it is a great project that I'd like to try a hand on restoring some tool. I do not see how you restore the motor. Where do you find a motor if your motor needs to be replaced? I'm seeing your instractables as a tutorial for my future projects. Thank you so much for sharing with us what you've done with this excellent tool!

mlawing (author)2016-02-04

Nice Job!

BeachsideHank (author)2016-02-02

You didn't miss a thing on this resto, nice work. The last drill press I acquired was a Craigslist buy of a 1950 Duro benchtop model, sold dirt cheap because the quill return spring was broken. It's an easy fix if you know how: anneal the remaining spring steel (they usually break at the bend that fits into a slot of the rack's arbor shaft) for about an inch, let cool, bend a new tab, reinstall, job done.

Phil B (author)2016-02-02

I very recently acquired a drill press almost identical to yours, except the column is shorter and the drill press rests on a stand rather than the floor. The hints for the top were broken and I had to make new hinges. The idler pulley set had been slipping downward off of the ball bearing and grinding a groove in the idler arm. I developed a solution for that. The bearing for the idler pulley was dry and noisy. I gently pried the top seal from the bearing and worked new grease into it. Then I used a punch to flatten the portion of the seal that was distorted and carefully installed it. Now I am wondering about the bearings in the quill. They are not noisy, but I would like to check the condition of the grease in them. Today I made a 1 3/8 inch wrench to remove the retaining nut above the pulley set that drive the quill shaft. But, I need to know more about how the pulley comes off. I am guessing I need to use a puller.

jdavis8 (author)2016-02-02

yes, very good job!

jdavis8 (author)jdavis82016-02-02

You should definitely enter this in to the before and after contest, if you haven't already!

peterconnor (author)2016-02-02

Great post. Driller killer. Ha.

mkojovic (author)2016-02-02

Great job!

jaksherry (author)2016-02-02

Wow, nice job! Very clean restoration

seamster (author)2016-02-02

Oh my, this is a fantastic restoration! I'd be incredibly proud to have this drill press in my shop. Well done, this is very inspiring!

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