Introduction: Drill Press Clamp

About: If a tree falls in the woods...make things!

Let's start this instructable off with a question: How do you clamp materials to the drill press? Or don't you? Look buddy, I'm not judging, trust me, I'm not. I've got my own safety demons that stare at me while I'm welding in shorts and flip flops. One of these days, we'll learn though, right?

*cue time haze and harp music*

It was a few years ago when I was drilling a square piece of metal stock when I lost the finger on my left hand due to a spinning piece of metal that I had lost control of--

Okay, that's a lie. No fingers were lost...but yowwie did that hurt. I mean hurt. I ended up getting a beautiful blood blister and thinking, Man, I really should clamp these suckers down. But how to do this task? If you have a drill press, look at the underside of it. If it's some metal drill press that is meant to hold a sea of oil, this project isn't for you (at least, I can only think that that's what those tables are for). The underside of my drill press isn't has four large groove channels that get in the way of being flat.

But why does flat matter? Flat matters as clamps require two surfaces for clamping, both of which should, in theory, be parallel to each other. Using claps on my drill press was a balancing that I never seemed to win.

So I turned to that magnificent google machine and shook the magic 8-ball, my question quickly pounding out on the keys of my computer.

Google genie, show me drill press clamps!

Luck was on my side! There sat a device that would safely attach through those channels (that's apparently what the channels were there for, right?) and safely clamp my materials down. Quickly I jumped into the Make Things two tone magical mobile and hit the hardware store. I threw cash at the cashier before doing a "duke slide" over my car hood and returning to the Make Things lair.

The joke was on me, though. This thing was not only a menace in size, it took almost luck to thread the bolt on to get it to lock in the right place.


But the mice in my head began turning the wheels...and an idea stretched forth in my noggin. The result of that is listed here in this instructable...and boy does it ever work!

Step 1: Gather Materials / Tools Needed and Used

Material List

Part 1 -- Jig Clamp

  • 3/8" (or less, size is based on the width of your drill press slot) Toggle Bolt
  • 7" (width is again going to be based on the above dimesions of your toggle bolt anchor) Threaded Rod
  • 3/8" (or less, size is based on the width of your drill press slot) Raised Knob (explanation to follow)

Part 2 -- Hold Down (Bonus!)

  • 2 1/2" x 9" x 3/4" piece of hardwood (I used hard maple (STRONGLY RECOMMENDED))
  • 2" x 2 1/2" x 3/4" piece of hardwood (again, hard maple (STRONGLY RECOMMENDED))
  • Raised Knob (explanation to follow)
  • Toggle clamp (I used a horizontal one but a vertical should do fine)
  • 3/8" x 1" Carriage bolt
  • (4) #10 Sheet metal hex head screws
  • 1" Black rubber furniture tip
  • Washer (ID 7/16", OD 1")
  • 1/8" x 1 1/2" Cotter pin
  • 3/8" lock nut
  • metal epoxy


  • Drill Press (it had to be said)
  • Bandsaw
  • Drill (not necessary, but helpful)
  • 1" & 3/8" Forster bit
  • 1/8" & 3/16" drill bit
  • Socket wrench + 9/16" socket
  • Screw Driver
  • Grinder / Dremel / Steel File
  • Drill Press Vice (Optional)

Step 2: Part 1...Part 2...? a Little Clarificazium

This jig really is a two parter, depending on what you're planning on doing. If you already have some sort of jig you've rigged up for your drill press, Part 1 is all you need. You will, of course, need to create a channel in your jig so that you can slide your jig below the Part 1 clamp.

But...let's examine this a little closer, because I feel like I'm still fuzzy.

There are probably a million jigs out there that fit on the drill press. All need should be clamped to the surface; but using a clamp runs into the same problems I mentioned at the beginning. Adding a small 1/2" track in your jig would be all that's needed to clamp your jig with Part 1.

Okay, if that's not understood, please leave me a comment and I'll try to dive deeper into this subject for you, although I'd probably have to create a video to show what I'm talking about...

Part 2, used in conjunction with Part 1, is an excellent way to hold a piece of wood or steel down to prevent run away materials (the yowwie effect, in essence). Yes, it is a toggle clamp, but it is easy to adjust and doesn't require a pair of wrenches. Depth of the stopper is controlled by a knob which makes adjusting it perfect.

Step 3: Knob's, the Easy and Hard Way

Okay buddy, we can do this the easy, commercial way, or we can do it the hard, but-I-made-it! way. You could run out and buy a plastic knob with a metal insert (they do make plastic inserts...but why, oh why would you want that), or you could follow the link to my knob making instructable (See Step 5: Creating a Knob With a Neck). Here, I won't explain the 'knob making' process as I would just be repeating myself. I will, however, suggest you place the t-nut on the top of the of the knob if you plan on throwing screws into it (which is something better explained in the link) or just epoxy on the bottom side of the knob (I have included an image to show top and bottom).

Let's bring in Part 1 & Part 2 again. Both will need knobs. Both knobs will need to be raised, that is, both will need to have a neck below the knob. This is important in different ways for each part. Part 1 will need a raised knob to give you the ability to easily loosen and tighten your clamp. Part 2 needs a raised knob to allow a hole to be drilled through it and the bolt, wherein a cotter pin will be able to be inserted. You might be able to bypass the neck on the knob and drill a hole through the side of the knob itself, but then your fingers will have to contend with the cotter pin. No thanks.

A quick example of making your own knobs (if you choose to make your own).

And a more detailed explanation.

Step 4: Part 1: Modifying the Toggle Anchor

Okay, we have either spent our hard earned money on a knob or made our own at this point. We've made sure there is a raised neck on it, for ease of tightening and loosening. Now you'll need to determine the size of the toggle bolt anchor you'll need, which will be predicated on the size of the slot width in your drill press. The slot width on my drill press is 11/16", which is big enough for a modified 3/8" toggle bolt anchor to fit through. If your slot width is less...don't fret! There are a number of sizes that will fit.

I suggest buying a 3/8", 5/16" and 1/4" size toggle bolt. They're relatively cheap and are good to have around the shop anyway.

Whichever size you choose, it will still need to be modified. Modification will allow the toggle bolt anchor to not only fit through a drill press table slot if it's slightly too big, it will also allow it to actually clamp down and bite into the bolt, keeping the bolt from spinning as you turn the knob on the top.

To modify the toggle bolt, all you'll need to do is remove the shoulders of the anchor. I've included images in this step to show what I mean by 'shoulders' as well as before and after images. Once you've taken a file or a grinder and removed the 'shoulders', it will make the profile of the anchor more flat, which is also good because it'll catch better on the bottom of your drill press.

Grind them shoulders flat!

Once the shoulders are removed, we'll do something that will keep the toggle anchor from skidding off the ridges of your drill press table: we'll make notches exactly where the ridges are. Now, we could measure these things out...but I like working with patterns and allowing objects I'm working with to print themselves, giving me a more exact, less mistakable procedure. So what do I do?

Paint transference!

No, no, this isn't a shameless plug for another of my videos, this is a technique that has saved my hiney in more ways than I can count.

So what we'll do is use a little paint and paint wide enough strips under our drill press table, on the ridges, that will be long enough to place our toggle anchors onto. We'll press the anchor onto the ridges and make sure that the bolt is in the center. Once the paint has been transferred, we'll want to remove about an 1/8" of metal so that the ridges on the underside of the drill will fit in the anchor. Again, you can do that with either a file or a grinder.

After this has been're set! It's simple and doesn't need anything else.

Painting, grinding, oh my!

Step 5: Part 1: Assembly

Assembly, at this point, should be fairly obvious. The threaded rod (in my case is 3/8's of an inch, yours will be different if using a different size toggle bolt anchor) should be 7" long. The knob threads onto the top of the bolt and the anchor, like an upside down 'v', through the bottom. If you find that the neck of your knob is not larger than the opening of your drill press table, use a fender washer to ensure the knob won't go into the drill press ridge.

And...that's it! For a quick way to attach a jig, Part 1 should suffice. I know this as I've used it as is for many different jigs. From the top down you need to only fold the toggle anchor and press the assembly through the drill press slot. Once it is secured on the bottom (where you ground indentations into the anchor), you merely slide your jig in and twist the handle, locking the jig down to the table.

Assembly and installation...

Oh, but what do we slide the jig 'in to', you might ask. Well, I've got a few example pictures listed above as well as a link to show you what your jig will need to have to add this clamp.

How to use this with drill press jigs.

Step 6: Part 2: Bring in the Toggle Clamp!

Each and every time I use this Part 1 clamp with a jig, I'm really blown away by how easy it is to use. But the one thing it really is terrible at doing, all by its lonesome, is holding wood down you plan on drilling into. I mean, no offense to the toggle anchor or the clamp it rode in on, but the edge of the neck just isn't enough to clamp down a board you plan on drilling into...that is, of course, unless you plan on cutting a channel into the edge of that board first.

Instead, we're going to do something a little bit differently with a toggle clamp. Toggle clamps, at their basic core, have the ability to move their vertical clamping bolt, but what a hassle! Between two nuts you have two plates and a bolt. You set the bolt into its desired position by moving the top and bottom nuts and then jamming them onto the bolt, locking the bolt into place. This is such a poorly designed idea! Today, maybe for the first time (?!), we are going to retro design this clamp to work with a knob, allowing us to position the rubber clamp exactly where we want it to be, without needing a pair of wrenches to lock it in place.

To do this, we're going to do away with the rubber clamp and bolt it came with and create our own. Yep, we're going to start from scratch as we'll be able to hold larger thicknesses down with our newly improved, toggle clamp.

But this is where it might get a little hairy, as not all toggle clamps are the same. My toggle clamp came from Harbor Freight and the inside channel (that's where the previous bolt resided before we kicked him out) is just slightly smaller than a 3/8" bolt. To fix this problem, I modified the clamp by drilling a 3/8" hold at the end, where I want my new bolt to go. It wasn't difficult and really only needed to be clamped in a drill press vice while I slowly lowered the spinning bit.

That was the harbor freight clamp. Your clamp might be different, and that's okay. Different is good. Instead, you'll want to, again, dabble in sizes. If the toggle clamp you have is a long way away from allowing a 3/8" carriage bolt clamp, try a 5/16". If the slot is too big for that, go down to 1/4". We generally just want the bolt thickness to nearly match the toggle clamp channel thickness.

Beyond that, we're going to fit a nut into the bottom end of the toggle clamp by carefully grinding out a channel for our nut to fit into. We'll fit it to the underside without fear of it being jarred loose as upward pressure will keep it in place. Besides just the upward pressure, we'll use some sort of metal epoxy mixture to glue it into place. Now, I've made a couple of these (one with the metal epoxy and one welded), and have to admit I'm more partial to the spot welded nut, but the epoxied nut hasn't failed me yet.

Grinding, drilling, epoxyifying our clamp to perfection!

Step 7: Part 2: the Rubber Meets the Road

Now wait a minute, Rob, you made us throw away the old bolt with rubber attached to it. How is this thing going to clamp anything?! Easy, easy toggle explorer, we've got this covered! For a modified toggle clamp we'll use a modified carriage bolt and a black rubber furniture tip. You'll find the tips in the furniture magic movers aisle where felt, rubber and maybe wheels can be found. These rubber tips are normally attached to the bottom of chairs to keep them from sliding around, but we're going to seize them up.

Now, it's fair to mention that the ones I bought fit very neatly on a 3/8" carriage bolt (it's 1" in diameter). If you plan on using a 5/16" or 1/4" carriage bolt to match the nut you implanted into the toggle clamp, you might have to do a little more searching for a rubber solution. You might try a rubber tool dip if you aren't able to find a small enough rubber furniture tip, or even scrap the carriage bolt completely and go with a threaded rod of the same size with a pre-drilled hole in a rubber stopper.

Once we've found a rubber solution to the business end of our bolt/threaded rod, we'll head on over to the next step.

Adding the carriage bolt and rubber end.

Step 8: Part 2: Adding a Stationary Knob

Now that we've create the rubber end, we'll turn our attention to the opposite side. This is where our knob (this is the second knob and entirely different from Part 1's knob) with a neck on it is so handy. We'll find the center of the neck and drill a hole. Once the hole has been made we'll thread the bolt through the handle and find the exact place where we want it to be, mark it through the hole on the knob, remove and drill the same size hole in the metal bolt. It is extremely important that we get the center of both the bolt and the neck of the knob and that they're in the exact spot.

Once we've done this we'll use a cotter pin through the hole and bend the ends...but don't do what I did and assemble the knob onto the bolt without first running it through the toggle clamp (from the last step).

The stationary knob.

Step 9: Part 2: the Rotating Jig

The jig we're about to make needs to swivel and rotate so that we are not limited in where we can place the toggle clamp. To do this, we're going to use a short carriage bolt, a washer and a nylon lock nut. I stuck with the 3/8" carriage bolt width and used a 1" long bolt to tackle this jig. Using these dimensions I was able to create a movable block of wood that easily allows me to rotate the toggle clamp. Because I used maple hardwood, an excellent hardwood for jigs, I was able to create something that will have a long life.

For this part of the jig we're going to need a 1" and a 3/8" Forstner bit. The 1" Forstner bit will be needed for the carriage bolt head, which should measure nearly 7/8" in diameter. The 3/8" will be for the carriage bolt shaft to fit through both blocks of wood.

So we've put our 1" Forstner bit in our drill press. Now let's take the 2" x 9" x 3/4" piece of hardwood and we'll drill two holes in it. The first will be the 1" hole (we all want to start large and go small with Forstner bits), followed by the 3/8" hole. The 1" needs a depth of a 1/2" while the 3/8" will drill the rest of the way through. I have made a few drawings in sketchup that will give you the exact dimensions. Also consult the video as it will give you all the information you need.

The second block of wood (2" x 2 1/2" x 3/4") will be drilled identically. You've got this! First drill your first hole at 1" diameter, 1/2" deep; then the 3/8" diameter the rest of the way. See? Identical!

Forstner bitn' all the way.

Step 10: Part 2: the Construction and Channeling

Part 2 is now finally taking shape, be proud of yourself! No, this isn't complicated...but it always puts a lump in my throat to complete something and being able to say, "I did that!" Now it's time to complete this instructable and call it yours.

We'll take the 2" x 2 1/2" x 3/4" rectangle (the small of the two pieces), add a washer with an inside diameter of 7/16" and an outer diameter at 1". Don't be surprised if you have to wack it a little to get it inside the hole (in the video I used another carriage bolt with the rounded end down and was able to put it where it needed to be). Now we'll take the 2 1/2" x 9" x 3/4" piece of wood and we'll push the 1" carriage bolt through. It won't be flush with the inside of the hole--yet--as it'll need to be pulled into the wood. At this point you'll thread the other half of the carriage bolt through the 2" x 2 1/2" x 3/4" block (containing the washer) and thread on the lock nut.

Inserting the washer and the carriage bolt.

Grab your socket wrench and a 9/16" socket and tighten that puppy down. But WAIT! Be easy, calm. Don't go overboard. Remember! This is suppose to move. Tighten only enough that you can slightly turn the smaller rectangle.

Tightening it up.

Now let's take our pre-made, new and improved toggle clamp and center it over the top of the smaller rectangle. We'll mark the four holes that are part of the base of the clamp, drill 3/16" holes (check that the drill bit isn't wider than the screws), and screw this down. You'll notice that the pilot holes are fairly close to the 1" diameter hole that you drilled. Everything will work just fine so long as you give yourself about an 1/8" of wood from the outer diameter of the screw hole to the outer diameter of the Forstner bit hole. That's what makes hard maple so is extremely durable.

If you find that the top of the nut hits the bottom of the toggle clamp, go ahead and grind off part of it so that it fits right. If you need to take off a lot of the nut, invert the lock nut and allow the nylon to go head first into the bolt.

Installing the fabulous toggle clamp YOU made!

Now let's add the channel in the wood, the one that will slide between your drill press table and under your Part 1 clamp. This channel needs to be 1/2" wide and about 5" long. I found it easy to find the center of the 2 1/2" board (1 1/4"), mark a line and then mark a line on either side of it that's 1/4" wide. From here the easiest thing to do is hit the bandsaw and carve it out. Easy peasie.

Step 11: And...You're Done!

Congratulations, you've made the very simple drill press clamp. Sit back and bask in your new creation!

If you liked this clamp and jig, please give me a follow here and on YouTube as well as a like on the video. These projects are made and the plans are free, but I love a little appreciation if you are happy with my creations.

YouTube and Instagram.

And finally, if you find any problems with this instructable, including not being able to get something to work, please leave me a comment so that I can fix any errors there may be.