Introduction: Build Your Own Drill Press for FREE!
I've come to the point where can't build more advanced woodworking projects, due to the lack of a drill press*. I have a list of tons of projects that I want to attempt, yet am unable to complete them due to the lack of a proper drill press - one that can drill at a 90 degree angle.
I am unable to find a used drill press in my area, and with the amount of money that I'm willing to spend on a new one, I would get nothing - they are way too expensive!
I thought of asking for one as a birthday present, but the amount of money that would be needed for buying a drill press that isn't flimsy and would last long just isn't worth it - they are just way too expensive, and I don't even plan on using it so much. Even if a drill press was a tool that I would use every day, I still wouldn't feel comfortable spending a couple hundred dollars on one (way-too-frugal!).
So I need one. I really do need a drill press. I don't want to invest in one, as I think it's not worth it, enough. I try thinking of a plan for building one, but all of my designs require a drill press for building the drill press.
To build a drill press, I need to buy a drill press, but if I already have a drill press, why would I build a drill press? That's the problem with (many, if not most) homemade drill presses. You either need a drill press for making it, or you spend many, many hours working on one, but it turns out inaccurate. I practically gave up. Impossible, or not?
Well, in my case, many months later, all I had to do was well, nothing to get the problem solved. Out of nowhere, all I had to do was draw a quick sketch of the idea that randomly came to my head. This idea will be shown in the video below, and will be explained in the next step.
(Watch the YouTube video: LINK FOR MOBILE VIEWERS!)
Tired of skipping through boring DIY videos? In case you don't already know, I now make short, tightly edited Youtube videos about homemade tools, tool hacks, woodworking, electronics, metalworking projects and much more - Subscribe to so you don't miss out! :)
- You DO NOT need a drill press to build this drill press!
- Can be taken apart, and used as a regular drill for drilling. This drill press is powered by (hammer) drill whose intended use is for drilling into walls, which we do several times a year for all sorts of home improvement projects. Whenever that's needed, I can take it apart, and quickly re-assemble the drill press to its original state once I'm done.
- You can feel exactly how much pressure you're applying, which poses as a big advantage over store bought drill presses, where delicate work is hard to achieve because of the lack of control.
- The column does not need to be thick to resist bending- I used a standard table leg, and thanks to the design of this drill press, there will be a very minimal load on the column (unlike regular drill presses).
- You can use forstner drill bits, and other types of drill bits that require for a lot of force to be applied during the drilling process. You are unable to do this with most homemade drill presses, as they usually aren't meant for heavy work.
- Can be built with a drill that doesn't have a "handle thingy". I designed it this way since I think the "handle thingy" on my drill isn't at 90 degrees, and has a bit of movement too, since clamping tightly onto it is pretty difficult.
- Don't have all of the necessary parts and material for building one? Haven't found them all for free (like me :)? No worries, since as long as you already own a drill and a table leg, pretty much all you need is some spare change :)
Technical Specs that can be modified easily to fit your needs:
- 15.5" (40cm) Drilling capacity
- Lightweight (7kg/15lbs - compare that to a regular drill press! This will make it easy to carry from my room to outside, where I use it.)
- Can fit conveniently under a desk for easy storage. (If it's too tall, just shorten it with a hacksaw - simple!)
- Big table - really useful for all sorts of jigs and extra accessories! (You could even replace the whole table with a pipe clamp for additional portability, put a scale for measuring the weight of your drill task, or anything else. The possibilities are endless!)
*(Well, I actually do own a drill press. Unfortunately, it takes FOREVER to align it to a point where it looks like it's close to square, and even then the angle changes as soon as I apply a little too much pressure. It's just too flimsy overall. Perhaps useless is the correct definition ;)
Step 1: The Basic Plan
^^^This is the plan that I made^^^. (A quick edit in Pixlr improved it by about 10000%.)
The reason for why I called it "basic" is because I wasn't sure if what I planned out would actually work as planned (this step was typed out before I even started building the drill press). If everything actually would work out as planned, I would add the extra gadgets that I planned on adding in the first place...
I hope you'll forgive me if I use an incorrect term for a part that I don't think exists :)
The special plan was to make a cube out of wood. Or a box - I'm not sure what it should be called, but I wanted to make a 4 sided piece of wood that would slide up and down on the column. Pretty simple idea, right? I planned on making it out of plywood, with the pieces connected together with butt joints (screws). I'm sure better joinery methods do exist, but this is the only type of joint that I know I can make with a circular saw, and without too many difficulties. It's also easy to tighten, and easy to disassemble in case something needs to be modified. Any accidental inaccuracies would be corrected with the spacers, anyway.
The pieces of wood that are between the cube and the drill are spacers which increase the space between the chuck and the column, allowing for me to drill in the middle of a big board, using a big holesaw, or anything else like that.
If I don't saw the parts of the cube perfectly, which will probably happen, or don't attach the drill to the spacers perfectly, which will probably also happen, I will need to re-adjust the parts so the drill press will be able to drill perfect 90 degree holes. To do that, all I have to do is loosen the bolt that connects the column to the table, and stick a spacer between them. I don't think my cuts will be off by a lot, so to know where to add them, I'll use this GENIUS tip by Wood Magazine. This video explains it pretty well too.
Not very special, yet might be the best tip you've heard all day: My original thought was to drill a hole in my plywood table which stays outside, and connect the column straight to it, so my table acts as the drill press table. I would only take only the drill outside when I needed to use the drill press. The problem with that is that the column will rust from the humidity. I thought I'd take also the column inside too, but then it would be hard to store in vertically, since there wouldn't be a base. I would also have to adjust the squareness of the drill press before every use. That was enough for me to understand that I should drop the idea... Perhaps you could do that in your workshop?
Step 2: What You'll Need:
Want to make this project? Here's a list of what you'll need. You should be able to find the parts in a hardware store, on eBay, or maybe outside, on the sidewalk that's near your house! If you don't see something that you think should be here, or would like to know more about a specific tool/part that I used, feel free to ask in the comments.
I made it for FREE since I already everything that was needed on hand.
Hardware, Materials, Consumables:
- Table Leg - 68cm tall, 6cm diameter, 1.25mm thick (there are many different types, but mine has a 3/8" threaded part at one end, which makes it easy to use. If you're unable to find a leg like this, a threaded pipe might work too...
- 45X42X2.5cm Piece of particle-board (for the base table)
- 8mm Plywood (Birch, I think. It was salvaged out of a chair)
- 3 3/8" Bolts
- Beech & Maple wood
- Wood glue
- CA glue
- Silicone sheet
- Tension spring
- A small hook
- Measuring & marking tools
- Drill bit set
- Homemade wooden vise
- Circular saw
Subjects: Woodworking, Metalworking, Making Your Own Tools.
Approximate Time: 15 Hours
Difficulty: Fairly Difficult...
ALWAYS USE PROPER PPE.
Step 3: The Base/Table
I decided to start with the easiest part of the build: connecting the column to the base.
I measured to make sure I was in the middle of the particle-board board, and then drilled a 10mm hole, while doing my best to keep it at 90 degrees with my homemade 90-degree drill guide. I put an aluminum washer on the bolt before tightening it.
- If you drill the hole a bit oversized, it won't matter if the hole isn't perfectly vertical. I did both...
- When drilling, I took into account the fact that I might add some jigs in the future, so I left about 2cm away from the column.
Step 4: The Cube: Cutting the Pieces
Both of the internal sides of the cube have to be 60mm, since that's the diameter of the column.
They will be 80mm tall since that's the biggest part of my drill that I can attach stuff to. That means that I will be cutting a rectangle that's 60X80mm. I clamped the plywood tightly onto the table, marked the dimensions, and used a speed square to guide the cut. The two others will be 80X80mm, because of 60+8+8: the column + both pieces of plywood. Having them oversized is better, just to be safe...
Even though I had practiced a lot (my first time using a big circular saw), the cuts didn't turn out as well as I had hoped. With a table saw, they could have turned out perfect, but I obviously don't have one. To be honest, the cut quality doesn't even matter that much. Why?
Marking the pieces oversized, and cutting them out undersized and out of square was actually better than cutting them to the 100% correct size. Hooray!
Sorry for the lack of pictures, my attention had to be on the f̶i̶n̶g̶e̶r̶ ̶e̶a̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ circular saw 100% of the time...
Step 5: The Cube: Assembling the Pieces on the Column
I aligned the pieces together in the shape of a cube on the column, and clamped them together using the help of another person, as I needed another pair of hands.
The last thing I wanted to have is the wood splitting, so I made a WORST WORST WORST case scenario, testing both the plywood, the screw, and the pilot hole. See a picture of this here, where nothing went wrong (to my surprise). I drilled a pilot hole in both butt jointed pieces and screwed in the screw halfway. After all of the screws were tightened halfway in, I enlarged the pilot hole of the (first) outside piece, tightened on a teeny tiny clamp, and screwed in the screws with a screwdriver. Be gentle and don't force them in!
If the wood ever does split (I hope not!), I'll find a way to reinforce it... It should be too difficult.
Step 6: The Spacers
See step #1 for why these are needed.
I decided to use some pretty thick maple wood that I had salvaged from the same chair that I salvaged the plywood from. I cut two pieces of it to 80mm long, since it was already the correct width that was needed. I would have normally used the super sharp handsaw that I won in the Instructables Shelving Contest, but I didn't, because I wasn't sure if I had removed all of the staples, which could ruin the whole saw. I used the circular saw instead, since if there were any left, they probably wouldn't have done any damage to the carbide tipped teeth of the blade.
I then glued both pieces together with wood glue, added a few drops of CA glue, and clamped them together. I came back the next day to glue the spacers onto the cube. I wish CA glue would cure just a bit slower so I would have just a bit more time to move it around!
Step 7: Feet!
The bolt that tightens the column onto the table sticks out a little over a centimeter below the table. I needed to add some legs to make sure it was the drill press was stable, and could be clamped to my workbench.
I cut four pieces of beech wood to a length of 4.5cm. After that, I drilled pilot holes, and drove in 1 screw for each piece of wood, in each corner. To make sure the screw sat under the surface, I used an 8mm drill bit to counterbore (I believe that's not a countersink) a hole.
Now I can also put the clamp between my workbench and drill press table, allowing for easy clamping while drilling. Here's a picture of that.
Step 8: Try Twice, FAIL Twice! (̶C̶o̶n̶n̶e̶c̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶D̶r̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶C̶u̶b̶e̶)̶
First, I started by clamping the drill onto the spacers, as shown in the picture. I locked the trigger at "full speed", so I could push the clamp another centimeter up. I cut an inner bike tube in half, wrapped it, tightened it as tightly as I could, and then tied it.
I cut another piece of maple, the same type of wood that I used for the spacers, this time with my handsaw, to the length of 8cm, and then glued it to the back of the cube. What a nice surface finish!
I also cut a thin, yet extremely strong piece of beech plywood to 15 cm long, and drilled a 12mm hole in each end. I then cut a piece of regular beech wood, and repeated the same process. Both of the pieces were so hard that I didn't even think using my Japanese saw to cut them!
I used some really big bolts and hex nuts to tighten both pieces together, clamping everything in between.
The problem? When clamping hard enough for the drill not to move, the cube wouldn't be able to slide up and down, since it was also being clamped. The inner tube was a great rubber band, but it didn't really do anything :(
Didn't work, didn't work, didn't work. Argh!
A nice trick I've learned is when I'm stuck on something for a really long time, to leave it. I stopped and went to do something else, and as I was told that the idea would come out of nowhere, it did! The only issue was that I didn't understand how I didn't think of it earlier! ;)
Step 9: Success!: Connecting the Drill to the Cube (Spacers)
I cut two pieces of beech wood to 12cm long, used CA glue to glue them together, and drilled a 10mm hole in two sides, right on the line.
In the same length, I cut another piece of beech plywood (the same kind that was used before) and again, drilled a 10mm hole in two sides. I found two bolts and two washers, and then tightened both pieces together, so they sandwiched the drill in the middle, between them. To improve the grip on the drill, I put the back side of a silicone phone case that I had lying around between the wood and the drill, which increases the friction.
I slid the cube off the column, clamped it to my table, smeared a generous amount of glue onto the spacer, and then clamped it all everything together. I wanted to add screws which would connect the drill holder to the spacers with more strength, but didn't because I already tightened the bolts that held the drill, which blocked the way. I didn't feel like doing everything for the second time, but if I ever do need to remove the drill for some reason, I might screw in a few screws, though I don't think they're even needed. I came back an hour later, slid the cube onto the column, and added some more clamps.
Now, while typing up the Instructable, I realize that the drill holder is pretty much like Izzy Swan's $2 clamps.
Step 10: A Bungee Cord?
The drill obviously isn't going to spring back up like a store bought drill press because of a thing called gravity. Ever heard of that annoying thing? I can improve that a bit, pretty easily though.
My intention was to use a bungee cord that I had laying around. It was pretty long, so in its full length, it didn't do much, and when folded in half, if was way too strong. Luckily, the bungee cord wasn't my only option.
I drilled a hole in the top of the big plastic bolt thing that's on the top on the column (this bolt is used for adjusting the height of the leg +/- a few centimeters), and inserted one hook side of a pretty big tension spring into the hole. I then drilled another hole in the piece of the drill holder that was glued to the spacer, screwed in a small hook, and inserted the other side of the spring, making sure that it was being held properly.
Step 11: Fixing Some Play in the Cube
Play: Able to wiggle from side to side - not a perfect fit.
I noticed it earlier, yet waited until now. There was some play between both of the side (the smaller ones, tightening the screws doesn't change it) pieces of wood of the cube, since they weren't perfectly parallel. I made a plywood wedge, which fixes that perfectly.
I also made a video on how to make one:
I had to repeat the process because my first one fell, and disappeared somehow, and unlike what I showed in the video, I used CA glue to glue the wedge to the cube.
Step 12: DONE! | More Thoughts | Video!
Some more thoughts:
- I should've used a handsaw. The circular saw was too hard to use, and didn't produce nice results. Someone, please invent a razor sharp, carbide-tipped hand saw that sharpens itself!
- I can always improve this, as this is just such a simple plan. Modify EVERYTHING to your needs! If something breaks, I'll replace it with a stronger alternative. If something isn't accurate enough, I'll problem solve until I find a solution that will provide more accuracy.
- I don't have one, but I think a 4X4 post could work for THE WORLD'S BIGGEST DRILL PRESS - just make sure to seal it against expansion and contraction ;)
- Perhaps now that I have a drill press that can drill 90 degree holes, I can use it to build a more complicated, better drill in the future? I don't know. Even if I don't, I've gained so much knowledge during this build which I'm sure will be useful for more upcoming projects.
- The plywood that I used is really strong, but I recommend and would have preferred using thicker plywood.
- Do you think I should wax the column with something like car wax? I think a regular lubricant will make dust stick...
I will be giving away free Instructables memberships to members that make their own drill press with my design (+/- a bit here and there, you know what I mean...). Will you be the first one?
Liked the Instructable?
On YouTube, I upload quick videos of my projects in action, and more - Subscribe so you don't miss out!
I read ALL comments, and reply to as many as I can, so make sure to leave your questions, suggestions, tips, tricks, and any other ideas in the comments below! - Thanks!
kpieper876 made it!