Introduction: A Simple Drill Press Tray

About: For work I am a scientific instrumentation consultant and my hobbies are woodworking, electronics, gardening, etc ... anything that serves as a creative outlet.

I have a bench top drill press for which I built my own mobile stand/cabinet many years ago, but I still wanted more space to put bits and parts I work with a bit closer by. I’ve seen several different trays (magnetic and otherwise), but could not find one that I liked until I saw one that could clamp onto the column itself. It had plenty of blind holes though and I didn't want those. I decided I could just make a similar one myself out of plywood with a tray/dish only.

Step 1: Design Details

My drill press had one hinderance to attaching a tray to the column. The rack was quite long and the top portion (not usable as it had no teeth) would block any effort to clamp a tray in place. The first thing I did was remove the rack and cut off a section of the top (untoothed) part of the rack. You can see the piece I had to cut off in the photo. That portion of the rack also extended up well past the chuck, so it would never be used even if it were toothed.

The column on this drill press (a 12” Delta) is 2.35” in diameter (about 60mm). I designed the tray with that in mind as I made a 3D model. I did not need any holes for bits (for now!), as I keep those in cabinet drawers below the press. I just wanted a simple dish small parts could not roll off of and still be easily accessible. I made the tray only ¼” deep, this would leave me some material in case I decided in the future to have some blind holes after all.

Step 2: Parts Needed

I used the following parts to make this clamp-on tray:

  • Some ¾” thick plywood. Try to find something without too many defects.
  • ¼”-20 female threaded knobs and some ¼”-20 threaded rod.
  • Two ¼”-20 cross dowels (3/8” diameter, 16mm long is what I used)
  • Wood glue, 5 min epoxy and perhaps some wood filler if the plywood had defects
  • Spray paint (I used clear semi-gloss Varathane) or other finish to protect the plywood.

If you make this yourself, you must adjust for the drill press column diameter, as they are not all the same. Also, you can make the tray larger or smaller and add other features to it as well (blind holes, more than one dish/well, etc).

Step 3: Making the Clamp

The clamp was cut out first. I printed out the tracing template at actual size and marked the inside curves with a ½” end mill shank. I then predrilled the inside curves with a ½” diameter Forstner bit and then cut out the rest on the band saw.

Step 4: Making the Tray Part

To cut out the dish (or well) in the tray part, I decided to attach a template to the plywood and rout it out using a template guide in my router table. I used strips of ¼” thick hardboard tacked in place with some small nails. I used an oversized piece of plywood and tried to place the nails where the holes would later be trimmed away. However, as can be seen later, one of those nail holes managed to make its way just inside the cut line. The strip you see inside the template was used as a spacer to help position the template strips while nailing them in place.

I routed the dish out in several passes until I reached the final depth. I started with a very shallow pass to try and have clean cut edges at the start and then at the end again to clean up the bottom. I also had to stop frequently to clean out the saw dust that managed to get stuck on the template corners. Once the dish was routed out, I trimmed the piece to its final size and then used the clamp to lay out the mating cut-out for the column. Again, I pre-drilled the inside curves and cut out the shape with the band saw. Right there in the middle of the curved cut-out in the tray part you can see the one nail hole that was asking for wood filler.

Step 5: Threaded Knobs and Assembly

The threaded knobs were made from 2-3/4” long pieces of ¼”-20 threaded rod that were epoxied into the female threaded knobs I had left over from an old drafting table I disassembled. At the bottom of the photo is a long-handled knob I considered using but found it might get in my way and decided on the compact ones instead. I then drilled the holes for the cross dowels with a 3/8” diameter Forstner bit and test fitted everything.

Finally, after all the edges rounded over, the parts were sanded and then sprayed with a few costs of semi-gloss clear finish.

Plywood Challenge

Participated in the
Plywood Challenge